The 25 Secrets to Becoming a Better DJ
DJing is not just an art form, it is a discipline one can spend a lifetime pursuing. These secrets are what the separate the best from the rest.
1. Establish a daily practice time.
Make practicing a habit. Establish a time, every day, that you will put focus into improving your craft. If you don’t, someone else will. Even if it's just 30 minutes a day, you'll be surprised at how much you can improve in just one week.
2. Set a goal of reaching out to 21 potential clients every week.
Set a weekly sales goal. It doesn’t have to be 21, but that’s a pretty good number. You'll only get meeting with a portion of the people you contact, and you won't gigs with every one you meet with; seek to increase your contacts to increase your meetings and in the end, increase the number of gigs you play.
3 Make a mixtape.
Having recent examples of your work is a MUST. Be ready anywhere at any time to showcase your talent and value. You might even go old school and burn an actual CD. Nonetheless, you need to be ready at any time to showcase your talent.
4. Try a new music service.
This one is easy and can lead to great discoveries. Try a new music service this month. You may like it, you may not. There’s not much to lose and you may just discover tracks or edits that stay in your sets for years. That ONE song can change everything.
5. don't forget: Music is to be enjoyed
As DJs we listen and play so much music that we often forget to just relax and actively enjoy the experience of music. Be sure to get out of "track finding mode" every week and listen to some music just for you. It's essential that you get back to square one and remember for yourself what good music is all about.
6. Listen to other DJs as often as you can.
I confess, this one is hard for me. I keep a busy schedule but at the end of the day there is no excuse. You MUST listen to other DJs to stay relevant. Live life OUTSIDE of the DJ booth once in a while. You need to be inspired by other styles and talents.
7. Take a DJ to lunch.
Your network is your net-worth. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. Every meal you buy for another DJ will come back to you 5 fold. Take another DJ to lunch and be completely transparent about your intentions to meld minds.
8. Delete your unneeded songs.
Don’t be the “I’ve got a million songs in my song library” guy. That guy sucks. No DJ needs more than 20,000 songs. Music is increasingly disposable, and denying this will only harm you. Nearly everywhere you go in today's day and age has access to WiFi, and your record pools along with it. Get out your music collection and remove all the static. You don't need all 18 edits of Avicii's, "Levels" for crying out loud.
9. Clean your equipment.
I’m guilty of being a bad equipment owner. Rarely do I take time to give my equipment the love it needs. If it’s been a while since you gave your equipment some cleaning and maintenance, do it TODAY.
10. Update your website.
95% of DJs either don’t have a website or have a website they haven’t updated it since they launched. Use it or lose it. Get on your website and add some content. It’s easy once you get going.
11. Set income goals for each month and year.
Not only is it important to make money, it’s important to increase what you make. DJing is an expensive hobby and it’s only getting more expensive. Like all things the golden rule applies: he who has the gold, makes the rules. It’s not my favorite law of the universe, but it’s true whether we like it or not. Take time to put focus on your income and INCREASING your income. Stagnation leads to death of any person, system or pattern.
12. Record a set and put it on youtube.
When was the last time you put some VIDEO you DJing on the internet? If it’s been more than 30 days, then this applies to you. Don’t be scared, just DO IT.
13. Produce music.
Having a strong familiarity with the modern production process will benefit every DJ. Being able to make good music can separate you from 99% of the crowd. Even if you never get good, it will still benefit you in 50 different ways to know what a DAW is and how it works.
14. Take music lessons.
If you’re unfamiliar with music theory then you really need to start taking weekly piano lessons. Piano is the root instrument to western composition. Taking 12 weekly piano lessons can change your life and your entire outlook on music.
This one is true of anyone, anywhere trying to do anything, but it’s especially important for DJs. DJs at large are entertainers. Exercising will make you more attractive, and boost your self-esteem. As a DJ you must spend your life asking people to give you their attention and being unattractive and having low self-esteem is a non-starter.
16. Back-up your computer or music collection.
We’re all guilty of going more than 30 days without backing up. Starting over the beginning is a trial you don't want to go through. Your future self with thank you.
17. Practice with other DJs.
Get together with other DJs and let your skills rub off on one-another. There is no better way to learn and grow. Leave your ego at the door and be intent on having a beginner's mindset, no matter how much time you've spent in the booth. First year DJs can learn plenty from everyone, and often more experienced DJs can learn much from the beginners.
18. Set talent goals.
Can’t flare scratch? Set a date to get it done. Treat your skills like you would a grocery-store shopping list. Decide what you want to be capable and then set a deadline to acquire that skill.
19. Save a portion of your income for new equipment.
This applies to anyone in any industry but it’s just as true for DJs. As of this writing, I am currently setting aside money for the Rane Seventy Two. The DJ world is constantly bombarded with never-ending innovation. It’s painful to buy equipment only to have your investment be made inferior less than six months later. In this sort of consumer environment it’s imperative to make your purchases shortly after an item becomes available to the public lest it be made obsolete. The exception here is legacy equipment such as Technic 1200s or Shure microphones.
20. Get professional photos taken.
It’s actually amazing how many DJs have never taken the time to get good photos taken. Your marketing can only be as good as the images you have available. Call up a good photographer and get some photos. Bad photos make bad flyers.
21. Invest in education.
22. Take notes during your DJ sets.
Get in the habit of taking notes during your DJ sets. If you DJ with a laptop you can do this with a simple text editor, if you DJ with other media, you can always use your phone. When something works, write it down. When something doesn’t work, write it down. When you think of something that needs to be done in your own time, write it down. You’ll be shocked by how much good this will do for you.
23. Reach out to DECISION makers even when you don’t feel like it.
Get in the habit of expanding your DJ business even when you don’t feel like it. Call that club promoter or party planner. You’ll soon discover how many opportunities lay just beyond where you think they might.
24. Set new minimum-price goals.
What is your current lowest paying gig? Set a goal 3, 6 or 9 months from now to stop accepting gigs at this price. High paying gigs get you other high paying gigs. Low paying gigs get you other low paying gigs. Stop playing in the mud and come eat caviar with those of us who have learned this lesson.
25. Focus on the business of your business.
There’s so much more to DJing that just DJing. Set aside time (nearly) every day to run the rest of the machinery that keeps you behind the decks. This includes sales, accounting, networking, marketing, maintenance, equipment shopping and everything else.