3 Proven Ways to Get DJ Gigs
DJ technology has evolved immensely over the last 20 years. Beat-matching is computerized, tracks can be found all over the web, and courses like the one on this page make it easy for beginners to master the technical side of DJing in a very short time. Finding paid gigs, however, still is a manual task and one of the biggest challenges for young DJs.
Before you go out hunting for gigs, make sure you are ready for it. There is nothing worse than finally getting the opportunity to play and screw up. Assuming you did your homework already, it still might make sense to go through this checklist:
- Are you perfectly familiar with the gear that you will be using at the venue you want to play? Did you find out what kind of equipment they have installed? If you want to bring your own controller, is there enough space in the booth to set it up?
- Do you have your mixing skills in place? Have you played a continuous three-hour set at home without messing up a single mix?
- Do you have enough material and sets together so you can react to the crowd? In order to be spontaneous, you have to be very well prepared. You should have at least three sets in place to pick what's best during the gig.
- Do you have a demo CD? When you go meet club owners, you should have a demo CD on you – a 30–60 minute mix CD with a printed label on it.
- Do you have name cards? DJing is a business and to leave a professional impression, you need a decent name card with your DJ name, email, mobile number and your web links.
- Do you have a website or at least a Facebook fan page which links to your SoundCloud or MixCloud profile so a potential customer can check you out online? Are there at least two or three mixes of yours available on your pages?
If you can answer all these questions with a confident “yes” then go on. Otherwise, your time is better spent on preparation.
1. The Network Way
Like in all businesses, when it comes to how to get DJ gigs, it's not about what you know but all about who knows you. Typically, in the beginning of your DJ career, not too many people out there will know you as a DJ. But that's OK. Every star was a beginner at some point without much of a supporting network. A network can be built up. Here is how to do that:
A. Scan your contacts
Go through all your current contacts and check if any of your acquaintances are related to the DJ scene. Reach out to them, be honest about where you are in your DJ career and ask them if they know of a gig opportunity for you. And if they don't, ask if they can introduce you to someone who does. You'll be surprised how many people, even if they can't offer you a gig, still know someone who might. Follow up with those introductions.
B. Get to know club owners and event organizers
This is easy to do because these people will be present and approachable during their club nights and events most of the time. Find out who is the manager of the club (ask the bartender), introduce yourself with a prepared little 30-second presentation, and hand over your demo CD. Find the people you met this way on Facebook and start interacting with them. One important thing to know about club managers: they don't care much about your music. This can be difficult to digest for enthusiastic young DJs, but these folks are mostly interested in the cash they bring home at the end of a night. No way to blame them – that's their job. So in order to cater to your clients’ needs – which is the essence of every service, including DJing – focus on how you can bring a spending crowd to the place rather than on how fancy your music is.
C. Follow up
Now that you have your list of potential clients, the most important part is to follow up. The biggest mistake you can make now is to walk away after the first "no". There is a rule of thumb in marketing saying that you have to get into your client's face seven times before he will consider buying from you. Be persistent. Come back again and again, always politely, of course. Establish a relationship. People are impressed with persistence. If you don't give up easily, they will know you are serious and determined and eventually will even help you get DJ gigs.
2. The Odd Night Way
Clubs naturally focus on making their weekend happen, plus other special nights like “ladies’ night" and so on. On these nights, they will be very particular about who gets to play the music because a lot of risk is at hand. It’s not easy to get in for a newcomer. But there are other nights – the odd nights. Normally during weekdays, not much happens there and mostly there is no DJ booking since it doesn't make sense economically. Targeting those odd nights and coming up with a proposal to play for little money, or even better, to bring a crowd, can be a very successful strategy to getting your first foothold in a club. As soon as you get in and make those odd nights a success – even a small one – chances are you will be offered a weekend night as well. And boom, here comes your residency. Check out how Kuala Lumpur based DJ Victor Goh applied this strategy.
3. The Producer Way
For most DJs this will be the hardest way, but it has the potential to get you right to the big international festivals, which is very, very hard to accomplish otherwise.
Look at the big DJ names out there – the international ones, making six figures per gig. How did they get there? Do they mix a hundred times better than the average club DJ? In most cases, definitely not. Some even do much worse. They had a hit at some point in their career. They managed to produce and publish a track which got some international attention. And when people around the world, even if it's in a tiny underground music niche, know your name, love your music and want to see you play live, that's when the bookers will start calling you and asking you to play in Ibiza. Production is not for everyone and is a topic to be covered in books rather than articles, but if you have some musical talent and a drive to make music, this could be very well worth the effort. A label deal will probably take years to happen rather than months. But if you can make it happen, this is how you get DJ gigs on an international level.