We all know a good DJ when we see one. You know the difference between someone who can put a decent playlist together and someone who can actually inspire a crowd with their skills, their ability and their excellence. However, anyone who has tried to take their DJ abilities beyond their mates’ parties will tell you that taking the next step to becoming an in-demand professional is not as easy as showing up and asking.
It takes preparation, dedication and perseverance. Things might be especially difficult right now, as the music industry’s recovery from the pandemic is still subject to the government continuing to hold back lockdown restrictions in the face of new variants. That means it might be a little harder for up-and-coming DJs to get out there and flex their muscles in front of decent sized crowds.
However, there are plenty of steps that you can take that will set you on your path to becoming a professional DJ. Here are a few pointers to help you get started.
Know What Kind Of DJ You Want To Be
This may sound like an obvious thing to figure out but deciding on what medium you want to be working in will have a major impact on your next steps. Do you want to be on the ones and twos flipping vinyl? Or are you someone who wants to focus on digital? There is no reason why you should not pursue a hybrid approach, but if you are focused on vinyl then it goes without saying that you should get started on building your collection as soon as possible.
Get To Grips With The Latest Tech
Everyone needs to go through a learning phase and, given that we are not all flush with cash, we tend to learn on the equipment that is most readily available to us. If you are serious about taking the next step on your DJ journey and putting yourself forward to entertain a big crowd, then you should seriously think about educating yourself on the latest tech that venues will be using. Apart from anything else, this will give you versatility, allowing you to jump in as a replacement at a moment’s notice, and it will also teach you some new tricks.
Get Studying and Get Practicing
You could have the most expensive top of the line DJ equipment on the market, but that does not necessarily mean that you know how to use it. Flashy gear never impressed anyone who was worth impressing, so one of the most important things to remember about becoming a professional DJ is that you need to be able to deliver the goods. Inspiration is one thing, but practice will help you to hone the skills that you need. Spend as much time as you can learning about the craft. Study what your favourite DJs are doing and see if there is anything that you can learn from them. The good news is that even if you are starting from scratch, there are a wealth of online resources to help you find your feet.
Create a Name for Yourself
This is as true for DJs as it is for anyone looking to get involved in music: people need to know who you are. You are going to need to get used to putting your work out there online. First things first, you need a DJ name. This is easier said than done, and you can expect to spend a long time going over a list of choices and agonising over which one not only represents you best, but which is eye-catching and easy to remember. Consider the fact that a DJ name is not just for the audience. It is also helpful for you to have an alias and an identity as a DJ that is separate to who you are in your everyday life. Check out this blog piece entitled ‘How to choose a great DJ name’ with expert advice from Pirate. They have plenty of other blogs offering advice for up-and-coming DJs that could help you on your journey.
You are also going to have to learn how to network. A huge part of finding opportunities as a DJ is about knowing who to talk to. That includes promoters, venues, and other DJs on the circuit. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself and to get your name and your work out there. However, it is important to keep in mind that you never get a second chance at a first impression. Confidence is great but remember that you are still just starting out and arrogance does not impress people.
Get Used to DJing for an Audience
Here is one that you cannot avoid. Some people are blessed to be born without the fear of performing for a crowd. Other people can find it a lot more nerve-wracking. If you do find the idea of actually getting up on a stage and having people hanging on your every needle drop, then you really need to start getting acclimatised. Start by performing for your friends, and then start angling for some gigs at parties. There will always be times where it doesn’t work perfectly, and things don’t go as planned but getting over those nerves will make things so much easier in the long run. What you are looking for is the point where you start to enjoy your interaction with the crowd, because that is what it’s all about, isn’t it? The UK government may be trying to decide whether they want vaccine passports for music venues right now but there is going to come a time when everyone is back together to experience live music again. You are going to want to be ready.
Another note on performing for a crowd: even if you have no anxiety about it whatsoever and you can’t wait to get in front of the largest audience possible, you need to accept the fact that you are going to be playing warm-up for a long time. What you need to remember is that this is not a curse, this is an opportunity. Playing warm-up for a crowd that is waiting for a bigger act is no easy task, and this will help you to develop your skills.