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Growing within the market and protecting it

So it's been a while since I talked to you guys, but I think this is an important thing to touch up on; I noticed a lot of bedroom DJ's (including myself) having trouble getting to the next stage in their careers. By that I mean taking your skills and training to the clubs, getting booked, networking and starting to treat DJ-ing more as a career than a hobby.

I've had this problem as well, and I must tell you: getting in the market might prove itself to be one of the hardest tasks in your entire career. It is important to develop branding, social media and a network of club owners and promoters who know you as a DJ.

Now in theory this sounds pretty easy; you just hit up some clubs with them sexy professional e-mails, linking them to your Mixcloud and social media, hoping they would invite you over for an event. Now unless you know the club's owner or manager, there isn't much hope that they would come back to you with a response. Truth is, they are not in the chance-giving business, but in the entertainment business. Now, in this business there is not much room for error. Get one bad performer for 45 minutes on the stage and your whole crowd can go home within seconds. The crowd going home isn't only the DJ's problem though. That also means there is no one buying drinks, jeopardising the entire night's finances. Also, in that crowd there will be some straight faces who will refuse to come back because of a negative experience. Out of these straight faces, you'll see a couple of "professional Facebook reviewers" who are already leaving 3 star reviews before they even saw the venue. Bottom line, new artists that aren't vouched for are a risk. Risks are bad for business. That doesn't necessarily mean you are a shit DJ; that just means no one has seen you perform like a beast yet.

I mentioned protecting the market in the title and to be fair I hate to say it, but a lot of young DJ's will do this without even thinking about the future. Getting to play isn't all that matters. It's your whole professional package that is on the line here.

please do not play for free, for drinks, or exposure

It seems tempting to think that the risk of business can be alleviated by simply not getting paid for your performance. 9/10 times if a club accepts a free DJ it's not that good of a club; which means you have next to NO chances of meeting actual industry people so you'd probably end up with a non paid residency in a club 30 locals have heard of and frequent due to lack of options. Now in the delusional hope that a good performance will get you paid gigs you need to know that a club owner who had you play once for free will most likely refuse to pay you later. There are always other bedroom DJ's seeking the opportunity and subsequently you end up back at square one, while the club has already profited off your work and has nothing to lose if you move on.

The fault in playing for drinks is that for the club owner that is most profitable. Basically you become a client with an open tab; the second your people are out, you'll be on your way too, and usually you shouldn't get smashed as a professional; unless you're Irish, I suggest you get your shit together, water is free and healthy.

Last but not least I've heard DJ's playing "for exposure". I follow up with the question: "Exposure to what?". Think about it; any performance is exposure to your crowd. The fact that you perform in the first place, by definition, means you EXPOSE your skills to a bunch of people. Calling bullshit on the semantics here, but guys P L E A S E keep in consideration that these situations are what kills the market. The more DJ's willing to work for free, the less professional DJ's will be able to get paid for their work. Do yourself and everyone else a favour and do a bit of market research. Spend a night in every target club around the area. Ask the residents how much they charge for a show, and figure out where you stand in the market. Some might charge exorbitant amounts based on the fact that they already have a steady audience. Come up with a decent offer based on crowd, venue size, and duration of the performance. Force the market to circulate finances because that is a way for you to grow and for the market to live to see another day.

I might have lost you in this previous paragraph; I said what not to do and then jumped straight to pricing. Clearly you still need to build your network, audience and portfolio in order to get booked. This is my two cents on that:

  • A good place to start is a website to showcase your work.

  • Put your FACE out there because as a DJ you need more than a logo and a Mixcloud profile. You are a performer, hence you're the brand. (You can get a basic photoshoot for pretty cheap. Simple compositions do not require expensive equipment or particularly talented photographers).

  • Add an events section - This showcases your past events and allows promoters to gain a little bit of trust.

  • Always document your events: selfies on stage, Snapchat stories, tweets, Instagram posts and preferably promo videos (these prove to be most effective in reach and engagement).

  • Try to promote your events on social media. This way you make the audience of a club/festival/event turn their attention to YOU. Promoting posts related to other established brands will quickly bring up your following.

  • Attend DJ competitions. It is a very good place to meet new and experienced DJ's alike.

  • Hang around at other DJ's gigs - You never know when something goes wrong so be sure to always have a USB on the go. You might even get lucky and score an impromptu gig just because you were there.

  • Network, Network, Network. Don't be pushy trying to get gigs. Making friends gets you further.

  • Try coming up with new, consistent, and original content, and once you have an audience and following;

  • HIT UP SOME BOOKING AGENCIES. They are there to work for you, you just need to prove that you are good business.

Last but not least guys, do not forget that being a DJ is more than being a superstar. It's being an artist, a businessman, a networking guru, a music specialist, a make-shift sound engineer, and in general a good crowd leader.

Thank you for reading and catch you next time!

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