Taking your dj hobby to a professional level, which means being paid, is not easy.
If you start this as hobby and you think that is the same as djing as professional, you’ll probably be disliked soon, as the career of a dj, as any other professional career, is not all fun and laughs. It has to be taken seriously, and you need to take your time planning your work as a business.
Why should clubs pay you?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. Internet is full of djs complaining that they are not PR, which is technically correct, but if you want to get further in the business you need to understand that PRs and promoters cannot sell a product that doesn’t work.
Is not all about the music in the music business.
You need to think that you want to get paid in a system where the greatest value are the people, people who wants to invest their money (maybe a lot) to have fun. Nowadays people don’t go out so often like 15 years ago, prices are higher, clubs are less, and for some friends to go out may be a decision taken wisely.
For example, here in Ibiza, the prices of the clubs is very high, we are talking about 50 to 70 € a person to get into a club, without including any drink. This means that if the public is not sure that will have fun, will not buy the ticket.
This is the context where you want to work, get paid, and where the PR needs to sell the product.
With this in mind, ask yourself, how can a promoter sell a ticket with my name on it?
How can I represent a “product” good enough to attract the people? Because, sad enough, when it comes to the money, you need to treat yourself as a product, and not as an artist, even thou the people needs to keep on thinking all the way around.
So how can you become a professional dj and get paid to do what you love?
You need to become an attractive product for the target audience in order to get hired and get paid for djing, and this is not simple, but we can analyse what makes a product desirable enough to convince people to go for it.
What you need to offer is:
- Quality: the music is your main thing, but is not enough. People want to have fun! So you need to be more than a jukebox, you need to be an entertainer, to delivery a good time to the people.
- Reliability: promoters needs to trust you, and unless you bring with you a cool resumee represented by previous gigs, or you are very well known by the organizers, you need to work on letting your reliability stand out.
- Desirability: the crowd needs to want to come to your party. The PRs will never be able to convince people to come to a party where the dj is a complete stranger with no history.
These 3 aspects of your dj figure can appear complex to achieve, but let’s analyse them one by one and you will see that is just a matter of prefessionalis, perseverance and good planning.
And in case it still seems a hard objective to achieve, let’s start from the rule #1: define your target.
#1: Define your objective
A good rule to achieve an objective is to avoid choosing objectives impossible to reach, as your moral will be killed by the failure and you won’t achieve what you want. Every dj wants to become the number one of the world, but start with something more simple: play at a local venue, in a good gig, for real money.
Find an objective you can reasonably reach, like playing in a cool club in your town.
You have all the cards in your deck to achieve this: you know some people, you know the taste of the crowd, and you can easily reach the area.
This means that the work you need to do in order to achieve this simple objective needs to be very focused, will not be too expensive and can represent a challenge you can easily win.
You can also pick a more far city if the venue is worth the work, but is gonna make the game more complicated.
So which are the actions you need to perform to make this goal come true?
- Frequent the club, often. You can choose to be a PR, but avoid taking any sire job as bartender or light-j if you want to dj, otherwise you will always be the barman who occasionally put some tracks, and noone will take you seriously.
- If you have a good crew of friends in the city, you’re half of the way: book tables and sell tickets to your friends, show to the owner that you have some followers already.
- Let the people know you in the area: talk with the people and give away promos of your music (usb keys/cds).
- Be professional: pay a designer or a friend for a logo and a business cards. Make them good.
- Cure your personal outfit: to be an entertainer, you need to be a “model” for other people, to attract girls and friends with your appeal. Spend some time looking for your style, choose cool clothing, and go for some charismatic accessory, like sunglasses, a hat, some colorful shoes, or simply go all black. Create a memorable character that people will easily remember.
- Be friendly, talk with anyone, be honest and try to meet as more people as possible in your area. Gather their phone numbers in case you want to invite them to your parties. Gather also emails to promote in a cheaper way.
- Always be professional: avoid going around drunk and high. If you want to work in the wold of the entertainment, you need to be professional among endless distractions, noise, music and drunk people. But you are not out to party, see going out as a work, and take care of your presence every minute as you never know who will be the next promoter that can introduce you to a good gig.
#2 Spread your quality
Focus more on the music. This is the main thing, and you need to spread it everywhere and gather every suggestion and comment from your friend. Ask someone you trust to be sincere with you, and make constructive critics to improve your style.
Spend time making quality playlists, and take care of creating a 360 degrees performance: your presence on the stage needs to be powerful, energetic and entertaining. Practice in front of a mirror when you play at home, or film yourself to see how to improve. Is the same thing as when you were trying poems at the mirror for school, or looking for the right words to conquer your soulmate.
Look yourself from the outside, and improve music, gestures, outfit, appeal, dancing and moves.
Understand the tastes of the crowd and delivery only exceptional music. If you performance is cool even in a very small venue, people will notice it. Be a professional always!
#3 Communicate your reliability
Do you know why most of rookie djs doesn’t make it out? Because are unreliable, inconsistent and take their activity as a hobby, thinking to the party first and to the work later. Everybody loves to party, but if you forget appointments, skip small gigs, or in any other occasion of your life you are inconsistent, your bad reputation will always forerun you.
And the last thing that a promoter wants is to invest time and money to an event being in doubt if the dj will come to play.
“When the wise man points at the Moon, the idiot looks at the finger.”
This means that you need to be reliable in all what you do, not only when you play, because this needs to be your way to be. If you want to be a professional, you need to be it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Like a doctor, you never stop working, specially if you are a dj, as your work is to build a good reputation.
- Avoid skipping appointments, whatever it’s for
- Avoid accompanying yourself with bad reputation people
- Don’t talk behind other people
- Don’t post stupidities on your socials
- Honour your duties
- Be respectful and humble
This is one of the most important selling points when it comes to the commercial point of view. As dj, when a promoter needs to create a party, you become a product.
And shops wants products that sell.
Your goal must be to become a product that PRs can sell to their friends as a cool entertaining night of fun and music. Once you achieve this, is basically done. The most simple explanation to understand this, is to imagine when a PR tries to sell a ticket for a party with your face on it: what will people think about that? Will they find informations about you on their iPhones? Do you have a good reputation? Did the people already saw your face in the club and how did you behave?
The PR needs to have in his hands a name that sells, and you need to work hard on this.
But going back to the point #1, working locally makes things much easier.
Already, if you met lot of people and gave away promos and business cards, people may know you. But after, they need to support you, share your posts, like your music (for real) and you need to be percieved as a professional.
For this reason, if everybody saw you giggling around drunk for one year in that club, being annoying with the people and behaving as a party animal, no one will ever pay to hear you playing.
You are the pilot of the fun plane: who wants a pilot that can’t trust?
What to do:
- Support your local djs, attend to their gigs, support them online
- Give away music for free
- Ask the opinion to the people you don’t know: you can improve and people will love to have voice in chapter
- Be very active on Facebook and Twitter
- Make Pay per Click facebook campaigns targeted in your area to increase tracks downloads and fans
- Frequent other clubs and take pictures with as many big djs as possible
- Frequent nice good people, create a team of supporters
- Make the music that people in that club will appreciate
- Keep the social networks updated and cultivate a good followers base
- Do remixes and collabs for big djs appreciated by your same crowd
- And very important: avoid telling bullshits, pretending to be who you are not, and faking things about you and your career: the only result will be that people will tease you and perceive you as a big fake instead of the professional you want to be
But don’t forget that you need to be desirable also fro the club that has to hire you, and how to do that?
of course, clubs want people. How do you persuade them that people will come for you? Very simple, if you red the previous points, as part of your activity is to grow a healthy and honest friends circle, and you spent time going out and gathering names of people, you already answered this question.
If you are not famous but you have a huge group of people you can invite, every club owner will let you play. But at this point you will need to go for the final step of being a professional:
#5 Understand your value and get paid
If you arrived to play at your favourite club by doing all the steps above, you really deserve your position. You are offering a great show to people who wants to see it, you play good music and you are professional and reliable enough to represent a valuable asset for a club.
For this reason, as you are a professional for all your achievements, you need to be a professional also when it comes to talk about money.
Being a professional dj needs a great time and money investment, and is unfair to play for a small price or for free once you get there.
If after all your good work to get booked you get paid crap, this will be the failure of all your career, as you won’t get back the investments you did and you won’t be able to grow, buy music, gear , clothing, advertisement, go out and keep on doing what you want.
You created a professional out of yourself, so get paid as one.
How to calculate your cachet?
There is no precise formula, but is a good practice to start from the capacity of the club, and from an analysis of the target. For example, if you play in a club with 500 people and the entry fee is 20$, is fair to think that they can pay you at least 200$ (assuming is one of your first serious gigs).
When your fame grows, you need to adjust your cachet dependently.
Is not true that you can work for free because djing is fun. Otherwise, only people with a horrible work should be paid.
Always remember the efforts you made to get there, as your work is not pushing beats for 2 hours, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. You need to be paid for all the work you do daily, and you should be conscious about that and clearly explain to the people why they should pay you what you ask.
A good practice is to start thinking about yourself as an entrepreneur, instead of an artist, as this can guarantee a healthy income needed for your growth. But we will see it in the next post.