Getting into DJing?

Tips to for getting started in DJing:


Back in the prehistoric days (roughly the late Cretaceous Era) when I started out, I would have told any aspiring DJ to get a hold of some Technics, build up a collection of a genre they are passionate about, record a tape and get out there, making sure you build up a network of people in your city in the music scene you want a road into… Now, as you may have guessed, things are a little different…

If you are one of the lucky ones, you won't have to deal with this… 

 

With the advent of (essentially) free music for all, sync buttons, the cost of DJ tech falling faster than Louis Van Gaal's popularity in the Home Counties, and streaming sites for mixes and music, there are an awful lot of things to bear in mind when getting started

 

You won't be a millionaire next week (unless you win the lottery)

Firstly, I would say, don't think you can do it solely for the money. It may come in time, but your first 10 gigs will probably fall a fair bit short of a downpayment on that Lambo you have your eye on. Don't get me wrong, DJ wages can be pretty decent, but remember that if you have come in and undercut someone by a few quid, chances are, it could happen to you in the near future. There may be lots of venues around now, but the number of aspiring DJs will always vastly outnumber them. The key is to stand out, and put yourself in the shop window. 

 

Learn your music. 

There is that much available at the touch of a button now that punters will expect you to know every genre under the sun. Recently, I was approached by a lad who requested Wham, and when I said no, he asked for Flux Pavillion. We are currently entertaining the first generation to have pretty much every song ever made at their fingertips. This doesnt mean that they will necessarily like the good bits of music you have picked out from years of learning, but don't be surprised if the same person requests a current top 10 dance hit and then a rock classic in the next breath. 

 

Put yourself out there. 

In cities at least, we are generally blessed with more than a few venues. If you are starting out mixing, go out for a few weeks, and actually pay attention to what the DJ is doing. You don't have to be in the booth looking over their shoulder, but make a mental note of what venues play which music, then narrow it down to music you like and could see yourself playing. I started out solely playing garage, but in Newcastle there were generally more people cheering for Sunderland in the Gallowgate than there were that liked going out to 2step, so after many years of going out to the RnB back rooms of Newcastles dance clubs, I decided to combine the two. I put together a few RnB and garage tapes (yes, actual cassettes, that are pretty terrible listening back to now) and started getting a lot of gigs. Today, its just as easy to get a free sound cloud / mixcrate / mixcloud account, make friends with the people you meet on your clubbing escapades online, and send them links to your creations. A lot cheaper, and can be just as effective. 

 

Learn production.

This is something I was never interested in until relatively recently. It would have been much easier if I had started years ago! The thing with production is it gives you a) something to play out in your own sets that no one else has, even if its just a re-edit or a blend of a popular track or 2, and b) it gives you something to give to other DJs to help you build relationships up over time, so its very very handy. 

 

Learn to use different equipment as best you can

Back in the day, there were 2 battered (but usually still working) Technics and a mixer of some sort, from the red behemoth in every Ikon/Diva around the country to decent mixers in some of the better clubs. Since that era, tech has obviously become one hell of a lot cheaper, and some venues will have invested in some great bits of kit. I am lucky enough to play on Pioneer CDJ2000's and 900 in most venues, mainly with a Pioneer mixer, but at some spots, there is little to no equipment, and even worse, some of it will have been broken over time. Even in some very busy venues, i have turned up only to find one 10 year old CD player, and a mixer with a crossfader that might as well not be there, and faders that crackle and fizz like popping candy over the system. I have since started carrying a midi controller around as a back up, but i don't really like using it in a club setting. If you can get onto any kit other than your own before playing out, do it. You don't want to be the divvy that turns up and has to rewire the entire booth and interrupt the other DJs on the night. Sites like DJ Tech Tools are there to help you, so use them, you don't even necessarily need hands on experience with the amount of videos that are out there talking you through the kit available, although i would advise to try to avoid playing out on something you have never used before if possible, it can make for a VERY long evening. 

 

And finally…

Enjoy what you are doing!

 

So there you have it, a few tips from me on getting started in this thing called DJing.