So, you’ve been DJing for a while now. Fantastic! You’ve also gotten to know your way around the decks. Great stuff! What you are probably wondering now is, “How do I take that big step from playing in my bedroom to my first club gig?”
It can be daunting, but remember – every DJ started somewhere. Sometimes, the most innocent interactions can lead to great opportunities. For example, every club needs warm-up DJs!
In addition, increasing your experience of playing live is one of the best ways to hone your skills. Why? Because you are discovering what works and does not work with a crowd. This is crucial to going from a competent DJ to a headliner.
It is probably understood that there is also an aspect of being in the right place at the right time. But until your magic moment arrives, you can arm yourself with enough tools to increase your chances of getting booked.
BEFORE YOUR FIRST GIG – FROM THE BEDROOM TO THE BIG ROOM
1. Do your research – If there is a venue that you want to play at, go there!
Figure out their sound, then put your own personal tweak on it. Tailor your set to that venue. Do not make one mix and assume it will work in any venue!
2. Put up a mix online – Back in the day, DJs would make mixtapes and later, mix CDs to demonstrate their skill. These days, it is much easier to put something online or on a USB stick. Mixcloud is a great website for hosting your DJ mixes. It’s also great to have something physical on offer. Consider this – it is easier to ignore an email than a USB on someone’s desk.
3. Get involved – Just putting a mix out is generally not enough. Most of the time, club owners and promoters receive so many demos that they hardly have time to listen to them all. Make yourself known. If there is a venue that you really want to play at, go to it and get involved in any way that you can. Work the door, give out flyers…do anything you can to get in with the organisers. There are many examples of famous DJs getting their big break by being on hand when the promoter needs someone in a hurry.
4. Maximise every set – Treat every gig as important. You never know who might be at your mate’s house party and might be able to get you a gig. Play to your best ability, even if you’re playing a 21st birthday party, where you might not be required to play your preferred genre or scene.
5. Create a unique sound – Playing anthem after anthem may seem like a good idea at first. But it takes no creativity and is no better than being a jukebox. To make yourself stand out from the crowd, put your own spin on a certain genre. Try adding a few left field choices (but make sure that they work in the mix). These will make your demo memorable. Your set should be a journey. If you keep the energy level at 100 all the time, people will get tired. Each drop will lose its impact. Build it up, break it down and repeat.
6. Hustle – If you are having trouble getting gigs, put on your own events. Build a following yourself. Build your brand, make a logo, a Facebook page, post mixes for your fans, and build your audience.
AT THE GIG – HOW TO ENSURE FUTURE OFFERS
1. Be professional – Get there early. Don’t drink too much at the gig! Remember, this is a job so treat it as such. Watch what the DJ playing before you (if there is anyone before you) is playing. What sounds are the crowd reacting to positively? This will help you to craft your mix and make a smooth transition from the other DJ’s set to yours.
2. Promote – Bring people to the club. If you have friends dancing to your set, the club will see a packed dancefloor. They will also see an increase in their earnings as they sell drinks or tickets. Needless to say, this is something they’ll be very happy about.
3. Follow up after the gig – We have so many different demands on our attention now. As such, you cannot expect a promoter to spend extra brainpower thinking about how to get you back in to play their club. So, check in every week or two, just to see how things are going and to see if there are any slots available.
4. Be flexible – Offer to play at any time slot. Be ready to alter your set to fit in with the headliners. Keeping a flexible and most of all, positive attitude will help you become the headliner much faster!