To continue to obtain and maintain DJ gigs in today’s market is not an easy task. The scene is flooded with many talented DJs and standing out can be difficult. I’ve have come up with five simple best practices for DJs that will always keep you in the game:
It’s very simple: face-to-face networking is invaluable to your career. This can apply to anyone starting out as an artist in the music business; there are no real exceptions to this, be you a DJ, songwriter, producer or act.
Your online presence – as important as it is – should be viewed as support to who you are as an artist. Sure, you can get noticed online, attract some attention, but in the end, this will need to be supported by face-to-face networking.
Of course, you may know this already, but what we are talking about here is reaffirming what needs to be done to help you achieve this; and it needs to be hammered home because it can be hard, thankless work that takes a long time.
People have had success just via what they do online, but they are the exceptions and not the rule, and should always be viewed as such. Besides, the stories of those online successes have to be taken with a fairly large pinch of salt.
Beware the patter of the PR people, everyone loves a bottom to top solo success story, but scratch the surface on a lot of them, and there were teams of marketing types and A&R agents helping them along almost from the start (hello, Arctic Monkeys, Lana Del Ray, Lily Allen).
It is the act of getting out there and meeting people, those of a like mind and those who nurture those talents, that will be of huge importance.
In an interview with The Ransom Note, Ellen Allien talks of how the time spent working in Record Store, Delirium and visiting Hardwax in Berlin was so imperative to her: “Later I started to hang around studios making music with friends but the journey started in my room when I was a kid. Thatʼs when I started to get a real buzz out of music, which is an element that I still strongly feel until today. Then I learned to play the organ, that all came learning by doing, following my feelings and my dreams. The mighty Hardwax and the period I used to work selling records at Delirium Berlin both influenced my life as a DJ especially in terms of musical knowledge.”
Now, I’m not expecting anyone reading this to now go out and get jobs in record stores, but it is these little things, visiting record shops, meeting and talking to people, that help expand knowledge, introduce you to new people, genres, events and scenes.
5 IMPORTANT STEPS:
- Remain humble & do not over do your emailing or inboxing, no Artist likes to be over contacted
- If utilizing social media, do not continue to send over and over if this Artist is not replying quickly
- Give people space and time, this industry is very busy & each Artist is always on the move
- Don’t expect to get in touch with every Artist in the world just because you have a full solid releases on respectable labels
2. Network with a circle of Artists that you’re close with
- Start developing a group that will be your go to contacts from here on out
- Find Artists you can trust, don’t try to network with Artists that you already know are really stubborn and full of them selves, these Artists won’t help you
3. Develop a relationship with Label A&Rs
- The more in you get with an A&R or label owner the closer you may get with their Artists within the label they own
4. Make great records
- This is self explanatory, right? No, a lot of guys over look the importance of this
- You need to have a strong back catalogue, strong releases & a wide array of support from big Artists
5. Go to a Djs show that is in your city/area
- Try to meet them face-to-face and shake there hand, this is much better than setting emails/inbox
Identify what defines you as an artist and be true to what your tastes are. It is no good checking out what is popular and trying to shoe-horn that into your oeuvre. It will come across as phoney. Once you know what it is that you’re about, then find out where that scene is. Find the nights – not the huge nights, where thousands descend on superclubs but the local nights, run by smaller promoters, that attract up to around a thousand people.
DO NOT DO:
1. Do not pull the “Hey lets collab bro” inbox or email
- I know this is funny or self-explanatory but it’s still used way over the top today & must stop!
- You need to approach your Artists or Collaborations professional as possible, treat the Artists with respect
- They are not your boy or your brother just because you now are in contact with them, remain humble
2. Do not think because you have this contact they will want to automatically collaborate with you
- Prove yourself to your circle of Artists
- Show them they can trust you & that you’re a great contact for them to also have within their circle
- Let things settle, get in touch but do not over do it, don’t contact them daily, give them space
3. Do not ask them to let you play a show with them
- Some people this may be possible, to most do not annoy Artists with the fact that you’re an amazing opening Dj for their next headline gig
- Let this Artist or Dj come to you & ask you to play an opening or supporting gig for them
4. Do not beg
- Never show that you’re desperate or need something
- Always remain positive & don’t ask for contacts or signings, bookings, favors, etc.
- Let the relationship between you & the Artist(s) build organically, do not force it and be over the top
- Contact them frequency & chat
- Email them with your new promos or tunes
- Don’t text them daily b/c you got their WhatsApp
CHECKLIST TO DO:
1. Focus on a small network that you can build
- Connect with Artists on a label
- Build a 5-10 person circle you can rely on
- Start slowing trying to collaborate with them over-time
2. Connect with labels
- Connecting with labels will organically get your name to the Artists & Djs that own or are also signed with this label
- This will help get your foot into the door for building a relationship long-term with these Artists
3. Go to local gigs
- Try to get out and shake someone’s hand
- The old school way is still the best way, trust me
- It may be tough to meet people during gigs and traveling, but it’s possible – give it a try
- One on one interaction is better than random inboxes or emails to Artists you barely know
4. Social Media
- Try to connect with the Artists on every Social Media
- Do not over do it though, keep this slow & steady
- Do not go like all their photos or comments it’s not necessary, do this process slowly
5. Make great records
- Most importantly here, have a back bone, meaning your music – you need something to back you up
- You can’t just try to connect with tons of Artists & always expect them to want to work or chat with you frequently
- Bigger resume/catalogue you have, the better
In summation, it is the legwork that you need to do. It should go without explanation, but it is surprising how it can be neglected when you’re home working on your online profile.
Get to the nights, get noticed and introduce yourself to people. Polish your skills; DJ at house parties, if you’re any good, someone will ask you to DJ at theirs, then another person will, and then another, until you’ll be called to perform at a night.
Yes, life isn’t always as simply as that, but unless you start off with the perfect contacts and connections (and really, who does?) graft is what you need to put in. It may take a long time, but it will be worth it.