There are a lot of ways to answer this question. It would be easy for me to provide a list of equipment to buy and specific things to learn in order to become a DJ but that’s all pretty common sense stuff. Obviously, you need to get the right equipment and learn how to use it. Being a DJ is about so much more than that.
So, what do you need to do to become a DJ? Decide what your goals are and narrow down the path to achieving them. Focus on building a following, becoming a supportive member of the scene, and continuing to practice, practice, practice.
Why Do You Want to Be a DJ?
No matter what you want to do in life, one of the first things you should ask yourself is, “Why?” This is your chance to really explore the reasons behind why you’re pursuing DJing in the first place.
What are you hoping to accomplish? Are you hoping to DJ to make a living or is it a hobby you want to pursue? Do you just really love mixing music? Or are you hoping it will make you famous?
First of all, pursing DJing with the hopes of being famous isn’t really a great place to start. For one thing, achieving celebrity status as a DJ isn’t an easy thing to do. Plus, it takes a lot of time and money to get established in this business. DJing it’s by no means a quick or easy route to fame.
Say you want to make money by DJing. Are you looking to do it full time? Is it going to be your only source of income? Or will you be supplementing another job?
There are no wrong answers. Even if your whole goal is to get famous, being honest about it will help you determine the path you’ll take as you proceed. Do you want to play for big crowds? Start your own podcast? Open your own special events DJing business? Be on the radio?
If you know what your goals are, it’s easier to make them happen.
What Kind of DJ Do You Want to Be?
One of the first real decisions you’ll have to make is about the kind of DJ you hope to be. There are a lot of different options and the one that you pursue has a lot to do with your motivations.
Here are some different paths to consider:
- If you’re looking for fame, this is the probably the best option, though, of course, it’s not guaranteed. Turntablists are performers. They make a name for themselves using different tricks and transitions and people go to see them because they’ve built a reputation of being mind-blowing to listen to and fun to watch.
- Radio DJ. The role of the radio Dj has changed over the years. Now, it’s more about talking between songs, doing public appearances, and taking caller requests. If you work for a radio station, you probably won’t have much autonomy but, next to a turntablist, this is probably the next best way to get a lot of public exposure.
- Doing your own thing has become pretty easy over the last few years. With just a little bit of equipment and the right app, you can create your own podcast where you have complete control over everything.
- Club DJ. In this role, your only objective will be to keep the dance floor full and moving. Each and every club has a different vibe and if you can find one that suits you and your musical style, this is a good route to go.
- Mobile DJ. This is the DJ that’s hired to play different gigs, usually parties, weddings, or big events. Being totally honest, it’s a lot of work. In addition to doing all the record keeping you have to do to run your own business, you also have to transport, set up, and tear down all your equipment, incorporate client requests into every set, plan the playlist, and keep the crowd engaged and entertained. That’s not all, you often have to also act as an emcee, welcoming guests, announcing wedding parties or prom kings and queens, and keeping the mood and pace of the party. It’s not an easy job but it can be a pretty steady gig.
How Can You Build a Following as a DJ?
You can be the most talented DJ in the world but, unless you build up a following, it’s not going to get you anywhere. Talent and hard work are a huge part of being successful in this field, but you also need a little bit of luck and a lot of buzz.
If you’re just interested in DJing as a hobby and don’t really care about booking parties, getting club gigs, or growing a listener base, well, you don’t really need a following. Just do your thing and have fun. That said, if you want people to take notice of you and try to make a career of it, there are some things you can do to get noticed.
The first piece of advice I have is probably pretty obvious: create an online presence. Start small. Make yourself a professional Facebook page and invite all your friends to like it. You can share a lot with Facebook and engage with people through posts, polls, photos, and more.
Once you start to book appearances, you can use Facebook to tell people where you’ll be performing. If you’re trying to start a mobile DJing business, you can post pictures from weddings, proms, or other events you’ve done to help generate buzz and land some additional clients.
Start with one really well-maintained profile that you update regularly so you can show people what you’re doing in the real world. As you get more exposure, you can add in another social media site, like Instagram or Twitter. This stuff is important but should be used as a showcase for your work. It shouldn’t take you away from creating new mixes.
Here are some tips to get your social media profiles noticed:
- Stay active. Figuring out the algorithm that social media sites use for exposure isn’t easy, but one thing’s for sure: you have to consistently post and interact with your followers to continue being seen.
- Create different kinds of posts. Don’t just post generic status updates every day. Try doing a poll, posting photos, sharing artwork, and making live videos. The more variety your page has, the more interesting it will be, and that will attract followers.
- Highlight other artists. Look, it’s always nice to have support from other artists. Giving a shout out to the DJ that blew your mind at the club or posting an episode of a podcast you liked are great ways to give credit where credit is due. You want to have the reputation of being supportive of other artists because, if you are, they’re likely to be more supportive of you.
How do I get a following as a DJ? Yes, the internet is nice and cultivating a Facebook page can be done at home in your pajamas, but it is still important to get out in the real world. You should try to be a face in the crowd that people recognize and value. There are a few ways to go about doing that. Try offering your services to local bars and clubs or participate in an open DJ night. Keep showing up at the kind of places you want to play and befriend the right people. Find like-minded artists and try to put some collaborations together. Show up to support your friends at their shows. Jobs aren’t just going to present themselves to you. You have to get out there and make yourself seen.
How do I become a good DJ? Practice. Keep practicing and then practice some more. When you’re starting out, take any gig that’s offered to you, even if it doesn’t pay what you’re expecting. Every chance to play in front of a crowd is a chance to get better and a way to get exposure. Stay up to date with new trends and artists, keep your music and your performance fresh. Don’t get lazy. To be successful in this business, you have to work hard and keep putting yourself out there. But the most important thing is you need to know what you’re doing. Study the music and practice, practice, practice.