How To Be A Dj | 5 Key Tips To Get Started
Learning how to be a Dj will require some dedication, hard work and some patience. I’m not going to tell you it’s simple and easy. Because, well it’s not. You will need to give up your weekend, learn the business, network and learn to DJ.
Table of Contents
1. What Type Of DJ Do You Want To Be?
This might sound silly, but this can change your strategy on how to be a good DJ.
Do you want to be a party DJ for like birthdays and weddings or do you want to be a night club DJ? Maybe you only want to be a bedroom DJ.
There’s a number of different type of DJ’s, and knowing which one you want to be can help get you on the right track.
A club Dj is one of the most desired DJs. They usually have some local residency gigs, have no equipment to move around, play the music they like and often times use the best equipment.
A club DJ is usually very experienced. In many cases they will DJ for full a time profession. By full time I mean not your Friday or Saturday DJ, but will play at least 4 nights a week or more.
It can take a couple of years to get the reputation and experience to get these type of gigs. It can also require some good connections and networking to get these type of gigs.
A mobile DJ will be in new location for each gigs. Their gigs will require some travelling gig to gig.
Most mobile Dj’s would do parties and weddings. A full time mobile DJ would focus primarily on weddings and can be quiet well paid for these jobs.
There’s plenty of mobile DJ’s out there making a full time living. Especially the ones who are professional wedding DJs. These guys can get paid top dollar.
In the US, a wedding DJ makes an average of $1000 a gig. You can expect to earn $750 – $1400 a gig. As your experience grows and you build a reputation, you can charge more.
Self explanatory here really. A radio DJ will work with a legit radio station and work their way up through the ranks. Some of the best DJ’s might start off in college radio station or local pirate radio.
It can be hard to break into a top radio station. You will need to put yourself out there and try and meet the right people in order to progress your career in the radio business.
2. Find A Mentor
This is the single best piece of advice I can recommend to anyone who wants to know how to Dj. Finding a good DJ mentor can fast track you to successful djing.
Why is finding a mentor so important? A mentor will teach you everything you need to know about Djing.
Having the right mentor will show how to set up the equipment, how to play, how to work with the crowd, tips on the right music to play.
Having a mentor will not just how to Dj, but the ins and outs of the business. Because that’s what Djing is, a business.
How much to charge for gigs, how to network, how to speak to bar owners, managers, wedding couples, etc.
A mentor can also set you up with some gigs to get your started. As they are likely already playing a lot of gigs. You can get a knock off affect from them.
For example, he’s asked to do a certain gig, but he’s already booked. You can sub in for him and do the gig for him. This opens to doors for you for some cash and more importantly more gigs.
However, be prepared to work for free in the beginning. You will be following along, helping out and observing. You most likely will not be paid, unless it’s a high paying gig.
That’s just how it’s always been done. They did when they started out. (I mention this in a little more details later on in this post)
3. Get Your DJ Equipment
If you want to be a good DJ, you should get yourself some decks. Again, the type of decks you buy will depend on the type of DJ you want to be.
If you want to be a wedding DJ, don’t go away and spend $5000 on a Pioneer CDJ’s. You just don’t need them, trust me. You are better off buying a DJ controller for about $1000 and invest in a good PA system.
If you want to be a club DJ, and a good Club DJ, you should invest in some decent DJ equipment. A good club DJ needs to be a talented mixer, and needs to put in the practice.
They need to experiment with some songs and mixes at home and then bring them to the night club.
Before you run out and get the latest Macbook Pro, the laptop you have might be just fine, or require a small upgrade.
The key thing your Dj laptop needs in good ram and a decent processor. A least 8Gb of ram and an i5 processor. Ideally, I would try and upgrade the ram to 16Gb.
Ask a techie friend of your or local repair shop about upgrading your ram. It’s relatively cheap and easy to do. In fact it’s actually the cost of the ram itself is the most expensive part.
However, refurbished parts are commonly used as spares nowadays you can pick them up quiet cheap on eBay.
You’re DJ laptop will need to reliable. Simple as that. Don’t cheap out or neglect the importance of a powerful laptop. Hold off on buying the fancy Beats by Dre, and put that money into your laptop.
It’s a better investment. You’re headphones will be no good to you, if your laptop is crashing in a nightclub.
How Much Does a DJ Laptop Cost?
Well to be honest it’s hard to tell you right now. It will depend on the brand and spec you buy. Is it brand new or used? Anything around $500 will pick you up a decent laptop, but that could be minimum specs.
If you’re budget is tight, you can find some great used laptops on eBay. You can literally search by the specs, and pick from there. For example filter by 16GB Ram, i5 & i7, and go from there. Find a seller with a great feedback score and you are good.
A new laptop with these specs will set you back between $1200 and $2000.
Mac Or PC For Djing
It doesn’t matter. You might’ve thought I said, go out and there and get the new Macbook Pro. It’s not the case. It’s more about preference. Work with what your most comfortable using.
Macbooks are very popular and work great with DJ softwares. One thing I will recommend however with windows laptops. Keep them updated or set to manual update.
I was doing a gig one time at a college bar and my laptop went into automatic update. This update took over 2 hours. Luckily, I was prepping before hand and managed to get the update complete before the gig started.
What Dj Laptops Would I Recommend?
I Would Recommend these as some of the best laptops for Djing:
- Ninth-generation 8-Core Intel Core i9 Processor
- Stunning 16-inch Retina Display with True Tone...
- Touch Bar and Touch ID
- Processor Manufacturer: Intel
- Processor Type: Core i7
- Processor generation: 8th Gen
- 15.6" 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge...
- 9th Generation Intel Core i7-9750h (12MB Cache, up...
- 16GB DDR4-2666MHz, 2x8G
You can also find some refurbished or used versions of these laptops on eBay & Amazon. I did a full post on djing with a laptop here.
The oldskool mentality of laptop DJs and sodtwares starting to fade rapidly. Before you’d have your Vinyl or CD dj who says laptop DJ’s are a not DJ’s. This is opinion of DJ softwares is no onger the case. Dj’s ahve realised the benefits of using Dj softwares versus using CD’s, Vinyle or even USB keys.
Using DJ software has so many benefits that every DJ acn benefit from using. You can stores 1000’s of songs on your software, create different playlists for different gigs, mix better, and plug and play for almost any DJ set up.
What Are The Most Popular DJ softwares?
- Traktor Pro (Link To Their Website HERE)
- Serato Pro (Link To Their Website HERE)
- Virtual DJ Pro (Link To Their Website HERE)
- Rekord Box (Link To Their Website HERE)
Serato D& Traktor Pro would be the most common these days. For new younger DJ’s they tend to side with Traktor or Serato depending on what controller they choose. Most controllers will come loaded with one of the two.
Rekord box is for pioneer lovers and designed to work with pioneer CDJ’s and controllers.
Virtual DJ claims to be the most downloaded software of all time, and it probably is due to it’s age. However, this software’s popularity remains intact.
It’s a popular favorite among mobile DJ’s and it’s video Djing give sit a unique edge over the rest. What I like most about it is the plug & play set up. It works with pretty much any controller out there with such ease.
If you are just starting out, I’d buy a decent DJ controller like the Tracktor S4 Mk3, Denon Mc8000 or Pioneer. They are brilliant pieces of tech that you can use for years.
Dj controllers offer most of the same features as your standard CDJ & Mixer combo , accept it’s molded into one device and sold at a fraction of the price.
For example, a set of x2 CDJ players and a good mixer would set you back over $6000. An excellent Dj controller that can do the same job just as well, take up less space, looks great, sounds great and more, can be bought for about $1000 or more (depending on the model). That’s crazy right.
So if you are starting out and want to know how to dj, DO NOT spend oyur money on a $6K set up.
I recommend the following DJ Controllers for beginners:
- The Denon DJ Legacy - Solid and compact 4-Channel...
- Dual USB Audio Interfaces - Connect 2 computers at...
- Liberated Performance Capability - New dedicated...
- New large motorized jog wheels with haptic...
- RGB LED Ring surrounding each jog wheel visualizes...
- High-resolution color displays show track ID, key...
- Three mic inputs, plus mic FX
- Dual USB ports; Frequency Range: 20 - 20000 Hertz
- Sound color FX including filter, echo, jet, and...
4. Network, Network & Network
Finding a mentor and networking go hand in hand together in learning to DJ. Through your mentor, you will likely meet fella DJ’s, bands, sound engineers, bar owners, managers, etc.
You need to mingle with these people. Don’t be afraid to approach these people or reach out to them.
Most of the time they appreciate the effort. As some DJ’s if you could tag along with them to some gigs to learn from them, get some tips, etc.
You’ll be surprised how many gigs you can get from networking, and these gigs just snowball from there.
If you want to be a wedding DJ. I recommend you reach out to some wedding bands in your area. A lot of couples will spend most of their time finding the right band, and the band offers to book and organize the Dj. This creates an opportunity to get some regular gigs. Reach out to some bands and offer to do some gigs with them. If it works out you can offer them a cut from every wedding gig they send your way.Tips – Instrumental Global
How Networking Worked For Me
This is what happened to me when I was starting out. I was doing a lot of bar gigs but wanted to do a lot more night club gigs (especially while in college). You can make more money as you could play any night of the week.
Anyway, I tagging along to a few gigs with this DJ who was a resident night club DJ. I was originally introduced to him through my mentor.
For a few weeks I went with him to this regular gig he was doing. After a couple nights I would do the opening hour and let him take over for the last 2 hours or so.
What Happened Next?
A regular spot opened up on Friday nights at this place. The bar manager was very impressed with how I played, the type of music I played and actually offered me the resident spot.
That residency was my starting point for a lot of gigs for me. I had a regular spot every week and a consistent cash flow. What’s even better is, I got a lot more gigs from being noticed at this gig (the snowball effect).
When you tag along to gigs with other dj’s, don’t expect to be paid. I know you are there with them to whole time, but in most cases you wont be paid. They were likely in your position and didn’t get paid either. This was the case for me, but in the end it was the best investment of my time.Tip – Instrumental Global
5. Build A Following
Starting out can be the hardest thing when learning to Dj. Gigs don’t just come to you right away. You need to put yourself out there and promote yourself.
Create A Facebook Page
If you are plan on being a wedding DJ or nightclub DJ, you should create a Facebook page. Ask all your friends and family to share. It’s awkward at first, but worth it. This can lead to your very first gig, maybe a wedding or a party.
You can also use your paid Facebook ads to boost your page. Target peoples who’s key birthdays are coming up (21, 30, 40). If you want to do weddings, target people who are engaged.
This is more for your night club DJ enthusiasts. DJ YouTube channels have become very popular. Sound cloud was the one most DJ’s turned to, but YouTube seems to be becoming more popular.
Upload your mixes, record sets, show off your DJ skills using decks. But, you don’t necessarily need to record yourself doing it if you don’t want to. Just upload the recording.
This DJ below in YouTube clip is called DJ BL3ND. He started off uploading these crazy mixes from this bedroom and now he has over 1.6 MILLION YouTube Subscribers.
Now that’s crazy. So it does actually work. This guy has a huge following now and tours regularly.
Start A Podcast
Definitely one of the most popular ways of getting yourself out there right now. Podcast are cheap and easy to do. All the top DJ’s in the world still do these like Armin Van Burren, Tiesto, Above & Beyond, and Hardwell.
They create a weekly podcast show that usually lasts an hour or so and upload it to their website, YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and more. These are all free to use and upload to and takes an hour or two of your time a week.
Armin Van Burren has just released his 900th episode of his State of Trance Podcast that has millions of followers and to over 3.3 Million YouTube Subscribers also.
How To Be A Dj
I hope this article will help you learn to Dj. It requires some hard work, determination and patience.
Don’t expect to be rolling in cash playing Tomorrowland festival in 6 months. It will start slow but can quickly snowball from there.
Each gig and opportunity can lead to the next gig. Get yourself out there. Find a mentor, networking and learn from experienced guys.
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