So you have been producing for while. You’ve made a couple of remixes, a few originals, and you think it’s time to show your tunes to the world. You live in a city where DJ’s play regularly, but they seem so far away. It’s almost impossible to break into the inner circle of DJ’s—or so you think. It may seem difficult at first, but learning how to book your first DJ gig is actually pretty simple.
Should you DJ?
If you do not know how to produce, you should not focus any time or money on DJing. Not yet anyway. Learn how to make music before you try to get booked. It is extremely easy to good at DJing and have false expectations that DJing will create your career. DJ’s who do not produce are often confined to the local bars & events in their town, and rarely see any opportunities outside of their city. It is far easier to go from producer to DJ than DJ to producer.
Logically, any time DJing is less time you can spend producing. Every time you practice a set or play a club night, you are sacrificing time to create. If you do not have a consistent production routine, and you aren’t releasing tracks regularly, DJing may not be for you. It’s not a substitute for your production, or a way to round yourself out as an artist. It’s a showcase, but if you don’t have anything to show, you become a curator. On the other hand, if you have your production routine down, and you’re constantly making music, showcasing your music in a DJ set is a good option.
A great reason to want gig bookings is to grow your local fan base. By playing gigs in front of local people, you can create yourself into a hometown hero. If you pay your dues to the people who come out and see your gigs, you will see them come back every time to see you at your other gigs. You will see them sharing your links on social media. They’ll start marketing for you.
[If you would like to read more about growing a local fan base, check this article]
A second reason to get booked for gigs is to have personal access to headliners. If you are opening for a big act, chances are you can meet them. It may seem intimidating at first, but as you will find out, most DJ’s are seriously chill. Don’t be too much of an askhole, but ask some questions about how they got big. Give them a flash drive of music, or ask for a promo email. Promoter’s pay a lot of money for headliners to come out, so don’t waste the opportunity to not meet them.
Lastly, playing DJ gigs allows you to work yourself up the chain. Starting to play small local gigs, can lead to festival spots, club residencies, and opener slots for headliner gigs. 20% of all DJ’s in a town play 80% of the gigs, so if you want to become that 20%, you need to prove your worth. If you kill it with both your sets and marketing, promoters will start coming to you. Make sure that you share events you’re playing on social media. If you have to sell tickets, sell more than anyone else. Build a name and reputation for yourself as a badass. Remember, the fastest way to get your name out in your town is to actually do.
Stalk & Shake
So if you have decided that playing out is for you, you will need to get the gig.
You need to first find out who books local talent in your town. They might be called promoters, talent buyers, or club owners. Do some Facebook stalking and backtrace their company to them. There’s two methods to doing this. The easiest way is to use the Friend Finder, and type the promotion company in the search bar. The best way to get someone to remember you is to meet him/her in person. Shoot a message that you want to meet at their company’s next show. Pay for a ticket and hang out in the crowd until the promoter comes to you. Shake the promoter’s hand, introduce yourself, and create the connection. It’s almost a guarantee that the promoter will go home that night and know you paid for a ticket just to meet them.
Once you have the initial in, you need to prove your mixing skills. Have a mixtape/demo mix ready. In your mix, make sure to include smooth transitions and a tracklist. Do not forget the tracklist. Even though it is a demo, showing your tracklist is a way to show you’re pro. Include your social media link your mixtape.
Landed the Gig
When you get booked, ask the promoter when it is ok for you to announce. If you can announce immediately, do so. If you have to wait, so be it. When you announce your set, make a blast on all of your social media. Share the event on Facebook, invite friends, post a photo of the flier on Instagram. Show how badass you are to the promotion company by helping market the event for them.
If you are nervous about playing your first ever gig, practice your set. Practice it inside and out. The worst fear for any DJ set is to have the sound stop–to trainwreck. This is very avoidable if you understand what parts of your setup can cut the sound (line faders, crossfaders, freeze effects). Even if you do trainwreck. know that you can just get on the mic with one hand as you try and fix the problem with the other. If you stay calm you can play it off like you meant to do it. Aside from trainwrecking, nobody is paying attention enough to see your mistakes. Everybody else is too busy rolling their faces off or worrying about picking up chicks. Nobody cares what your hands are doing, they just care about decent mixes and good music.
Become extremely comfortable with whatever you are playing on. Play on the same setup that you rehearse. Don’t try CDJ’s for the first time, or agree to use someone’s Serato laptop when you play in Traktor. Keep yourself familiar with your music & your equipment and you will do fine.
As the show gets closer & closer, try to keep pushing the event. Share the event on your personal and artist Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat—whatever your platform is, share. Make sure that you tag the promoters or the company involved so they see your hustle.
At the Show
Showing up on time for rehearsal or sound check is extremely important. You want to appear as professional and courteous as possible. If you aren’t 5 minutes early, you’re late. Easy. Once you’ve arrived at the venue, greet the staff, and ask if you can set up early. When Soundcheck comes up, ask where you should plug in. The sound tech will direct you to a channel on a mixer or a DI box. For your actual soundcheck, play a 4 bar loop of a drop of a song. This helps the sound tech know how bass & loud volume will sound during your set.
When your set time comes around, make sure you are ready to go. Dead air is lame. If you are following up another DJ, make sure to ask them when a good time to come in is. Be as courteous & professional (this is a theme) as possible when switching out with another DJ.
During your set, enjoy yourself. If you are prepared, you are prepared. If you are not prepared when you show up to the venue, then you won’t be prepared by the time you play your set. Rehearsing at the venue before your set won’t make up for the practice you should have done the weeks before.
After the Show
Use social media the day after to thank everyone who came out to see you. Now’s a good time to share any other bookings on your calendar. Make sure to thank the promoter before the end of the night that you play, and hopefully you’ll get a spot back.