Guest post by David Michael, creator of The Passionate DJ Podcast
As a new DJ, one of the first questions many will ask themselves is how can I start actually getting DJ gigs?
Maybe that describes you: you’ve learned how to become a DJ, but you’re not sure where to go next. How can you utilize these new skills, and share your new craft with the world? How can you find your audience?
We hear your cries! This article contains 8 suggestions for beginner DJs on taking that next step, and playing in front of more real people!
1. Build an Appealing Website
As a DJ or any other kind of artist, it’s important to have a home base. Though much of your promotional efforts will happen on social media, it’s crucial to have a centralized location for all of your work and important information.
This will be a hub where potential fans can listen to your mixes, learn about your style, and find out where you’re playing.
A good DJ website might have:
A gallery of your best photos.
Connections to your important services (such as SoundCloud or Bandcamp) and ways to hear your mixes.
A way to sell anything that you’re offering to your fans, such as merch.
A gig calendar, so people can find your shows.
A way to capture email followers.
By having your own website, you’ll be able to create an extension of your own brand. It’s a place which is entirely under your control (unlike Facebook, etc.) and allows you to decide how to present yourself to the world.
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2. Power Up on Social Media
Don’t treat social media as a bullhorn. Treat it as a portal to interact with your current and future fans.
The way you act on social media is part of your personal brand!
Of course, it’s hard to find a balance: you want to promote yourself, but you don’t want to be known as that spammy DJ. We all know that spammy DJ.
Besides, modern social platforms will reward unique content that gets engagement from your followers.
So how do these platforms determine “engagement”? By measuring how much other people interact with you and your posts. Likes, shares, follows, hearts, views… all of these things contribute to the way your posts rank.
Posts that get a lot of engagement are often boosted in the algorithm (on platforms such as Facebook). This means that it will get seen by more people, without you paying to boost it.
This is why it’s important to mix up the types of posts you make: different people will engage with different types of posts!
Another big tip: app companies want to keep you on their app! Use this knowledge to your advantage, by trying to utilize all of the features it provides you.
Fill out every field in your profile pages that you feel comfortable and safe sharing. Make different post types (images, videos, text, polls, live streams, etc.). Interlink and share things within the same social network. And be sure to engage back with your fans!
3. Prepare an Electronic Press Kit
A page with dedicated press kit elements is a great way to impress potential bookers, especially when reaching outside of your network.
What is an EPK? An Electronic Press Kit is a page which is hyper-focused on the specific promo things needed by the media, or a promoter.
A good EPK contains a couple of your best photos, a short bio, a few of your very best tracks or mixes, social media and contact information. If you have one, a promo video would also be great to include… more on that below.
You can also spice it up a bit by adding a short quote, especially something from the media or a previous booking agent that describes your sound.
Check these great examples for ideas: Website Design Inspiration: Best Electronic Press Kits (EPKs)
4. Create a Promo Video
A short video which showcases your talents and exemplifies your brand can be a great way to stand out amongst a sea of attention-seeking DJs.
A great promotional video should be quite short (30 to 90 seconds) and might contain:
an introduction to you and your sound.
up to three killer facts/endorsements/accolades (if you have them).
testimonials (especially mobile/wedding DJs).
social media info.
a strong call-to-action (follow, subscribe, etc.)
This gives you a sort of “video bio” for potential bookers or fans to view quickly, which tends to get more engagement than text in today’s world of fast-moving social media feeds.
5. Do Your Research
DJ gigs don’t just fall out of the sky. You’ve gotta think ahead!
There are other places to invest your “DJ time” outside of the actual booth, to ensure that the gigs continue to roll in.
Scout Out Other Nights
If your aim is to play clubs and bars, make sure that you’re actually scoping out what your city has to offer. Without inner knowledge of your local music scene, there’s little hope of participating in that community.
Find other nights and venues which match your sound… or may be open to new concepts. Discover the movers and shakers in your area. Make yourself a resource to them.
When you are hired to play a show, it’s normally in your best interest to arrive early… instead of 10 minutes before your time slot.
Arriving early allows you to:
observe the energy in the room and decide where to take it.
interact with patrons or staff.
show willingness to support.
Another huge plus to an early arrival: it gives you time to react to disaster, like forgetting your headphones, or another DJ not showing up!
Speak to the Promoter (manager/wedding planner/etc.)
Don’t forget to actually interact with the people who have the ability to give you gigs!
Whether you’re actively playing a show for them, or you hope to in the future… it’s important to continue fostering positive and mutually-beneficial relationships.
Not only that, but it’s important to communicate with the person who hired/booked you to ensure that you have the same expectations.
6. Think Outside The Box
DJs sometimes limit themselves, by only considering the same kinds of gigs they’ve always played. Let’s get out of our comfort zone!
Many people get their feet wet by “opening up” for more established DJs. This is a great way to provide yourself as a resource, while getting great experience during those earlier hours where things are lower-pressure.
Over time, you will begin to see your name on higher and higher billings… providing a certain level of social proof, and helping you score even better gigs in the future.
But since we’re thinking outside the box… what are some other scenarios which may benefit from your warmup music?
For example, I play an annual fashion show which is preceded by hors d'oeuvres and a photo shoot. It’s become a tradition for me to play this “show before the show”, and provide laid-back vibes for the models and workers to enjoy.
Not every booking has to be a typical bar or nightclub gig. There are lots of events that can benefit from the services of a DJ!
Do the independent coffee shops in your area play music for their patrons? How about the Crossfit group at your local gym? The local school district’s sports team?
I’ve played at consignment shops, street fairs, state parks, and dirty warehouses. It’s all about finding that group that didn’t know they were missing your services.
Choose Your Own Adventure
For many DJs, success with gigs has come in the form of starting their own night. For those who are willing to wear the promoter hat, this can be a great way to bring your sound to a new audience… while helping other DJs share their own.
7. Perform Outreach
If you’re not actively pursuing gigs, they aren’t going to come knocking at your door. That’s just not how it works.
Whether you’re a wedding DJ, or you’re playing shows in clubs, the adage is true: a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.
When speaking to an event planner, promoter, or venue owner about a potential gig, there are a few tips to keep in mind:
Be able to explain the full concept for your night in less than 5 minutes.
Identify any holes/gaps in their musical programming, and explain how you can help remedy it.
Demonstrate knowledge of the venue’s typical crowd, and explain how you would be an ideal fit.
Don’t forget to have any necessary promo materials with you (such as a business card), and have your website ready, so they have somewhere to land when they think about you later.
Remember the Follow-up
Not every gig will be scored on the first ask. One huge mistake that many DJs make is to never follow up with people, after “networking” with them once!
Continuing to stay in contact with each other (and eventually, providing repeat value) will help you to see increased results.
Learning how to network with other DJs, especially when working within a local music scene, can be one of the best ways to increase the amount of gigs for both parties.
Reaching out to the people within your network can enable you to break into new markets, and to build on the trust that each party brings to the table.
When collaborating, try to identify the strengths that you each have. Determine what your common goals are, and why you’re working together.
Be patient with each other, and learn to put aside your ego. Develop strong communication skills (err on the side of over-sharing), so that you can truly work together as partners.
Adventures in Networking (The Passionate DJ Podcast; Ep. 137)
Final Bonus Tips
Getting more gigs requires you to take more action! Here are some final tips for scoring those shows:
Show up for recurring events that you want to play. Out of sight, out of mind. People begin to notice when you’re supporting their nights on a regular basis.
Don’t be afraid of the word no.
Always keep your thumb drives or music libraries ready… you never know when you can scoop up that last minute gig where someone doesn’t show up!
In today’s social media world, don’t underestimate the power of an actual phone call or face-to-face meeting.
Throwing proper house parties, or simply owning a decent sound rig, can easily give people a reason to look your way for a booking.
Utilizing the tips in this article will undoubtedly help you score more bookings, and become a happier DJ in the process.
Keep up the hustle, and bring in those gigs!
David Michael is a DJ, producer, and creator of The Passionate DJ Podcast: a weekly talk show dedicated to the art and science of mixing music. "Together, we're becoming better DJs through passion and purpose."
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