The Two Simple Secrets Of Every Successful DJ

Success or failure

DJing success isn't about rolling the dice, it's about deciding how you're going to play the game, and how you're going to deal with the voice inside that says 'you can't do this...'

We spend a lot of time here helping you to move forward in your DJing - it's our stated purpose, after all, and it's why we have our learn to DJ free training course. But I'm going to level with you today: all the training in the world doesn't count for anything without the two simple secrets we're going to reveal below.

Do these two things, and you will succeed. But while they are simple to state and understand, they're hard to do - you need to literally work at it every day. And you need to do both - one alone isn't enough. So without further wait, here they are:

The two simple secrets of every successful DJ

1. Put the hours in
There's no way around this one. You have to show up and do it. Day after day, year after year. Practising, discovering new music, learning skills, recording sets, playing out, networking, producing, scratching, mixing, mapping - whatever the things are that are important to you where you are in your DJing, you have to do them regularly. (I wrote about it for Dubspot a while back, and it's as true now as it was then.)

It doesn't matter whether you've just unboxed your first ever DJ controller, or you're discussing the details of your biggest-ever worldwide tour with your agent - whatever it is that fills your time as a DJ, you have to be committed enough to actually make that time available, and on a regular basis. Practically, that means less TV, Facebook, non-related socialising, sleeping, procrastination. Less checking your email every two minutes. Less of anything that's secondary to your primary goal.

We all know people who make it look easy, who we might even think are lazy, who it appears get their success overnight, and with little effort. But if you see someone like this, chances are they were doing a lot of hard work before you started watching them.

There are no shortcuts, and it isn't easy. But this one is simple. Do the work.

2. Keep playing a bigger game
This vital rule is what makes the first one worthwhile. You need to work harder, smarter. Keep on growing. Work out ways to do the work, but more effectively. Make it so that every time you look back a couple of months, you realise how much poorer your methods were back then. Keep improving in everything you do.

DJ booth

Scared of getting your first gig? Then you have to step outside your comfort zone and make it happen. And keep doing it, whatever your next challenge happens to be...

Successful DJs keep stepping into a bigger vision of themselves. They chase and land that first DJ date, when all their friends are happy being bedroom DJs. They learn to promote. They snag that gig in another town, when all their contemporaries are happy with their local residencies. They become expert Midi mappers. They work out how to start a video mix online webcast, when all their friends are just putting mixes on Mixcloud. They knuckle down and spend six months learning how to scratch, when all their friends are using lame digital "spinback" FX to "pepper up their mixes". And so on and so on.

Only by continually operating on the edge of your comfort zone will you make count those hours you've committed to this, and actually grow as a DJ.

Remember...

I said at the start these things are simple, but they're not easy. We all have doubts and fears. We all have the little voice that says "you can't do this", pulling us back. It's not only in DJing, it's in all areas of life. But it's up to you how you deal with that voice. Will you let it rob you of your potential, or will you fight it? Because trust me, if you "turn up for work", and if you then spend that time operating where all growth really happens - at the edge of your comfort zone - you will, step by step, become the successful DJ that you want to be.

And how do I know all this? Quite apart from that fact that it worked for me in my DJing, over the last nearly three years since Digital DJ Tips started, we've already seen it happen for so many who we've taught in this community - and so we know it can happen for you, too.

Indeed, it's watching you succeed that motivates us to turn up for work ourselves in the morning, and it's that which motivates us to continually challenge the way we do things round here, too. So trust us, we know what it's like. And we know this stuff works.

What have you done to free more time up for you DJing? What breaks have you had as a result of being bold and stepping out of your comfort zone? What single thing do you feel is holding you back the most in your DJing? Please let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. It should go without saying that this goes for music production as well.

  2. Great motivating read at this time of the morning , top advice guys.

    Thank you.

  3. Jam-Master Jake says:

    Good points, Phil. Thanks for the reminder, inspiration and motivation!!!

  4. excellent, can’t wait for the scratching tutorial to drop…

  5. Wow, such a simple but true article! Thanks for taking the time to bless us w/ such an inspiring piece of advice Phil! The natural feeling for most DJs is to hide your secrets of success, but w/ the constant feedback and informative articles, anyone can tell that you want to raise the bar and advance the DJ culture! For that I salute you Phil! I admit I was definitely one of the guys to keep whatever I learned to myself, but after you featured my experience on DJing on cruiseships, that has opened me up to share all my knowledge on DJing, equipment, tips & tricks, etc. It actually teaches me more revisiting the knowledge I’ve obtained by sharing it w/ others. I will definitely continue to grow w/ this method of sharing and anyone can really benefit from this!

    Thanks again Phil!

    Keep continuing what you’re doing man… Really inspiring and motivating to know that we have positive people like you in this cut-throat industry!

    Peace & Love,

    Ollie

  6. Very important term used above to define any career: “edge of comfort zone”. Operate there. When the edge is no longer the edge, step further til you find it, your comfort zone gets bigger this way. A mantra I was taught a long time ago: if you always do what you e always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Push push and keep pushing. Sit at home and review a set from the night before, how good was it, even if it was a 9/10 could it have been a 10/10 if you’d played a different track at the right time. Could a random home brew mash up off YouTube of a tune be the right version of a track to drop in? Is good enough, good enough for you?

  7. Precise, on point, and true!

  8. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Yep … true words!

    I remember going pro … or the moments leading up to it. Sure I had DJ-ed, class and school parties, small bars, some mobile stuff. The ad in a national paper said “experienced DJs wanted, fluent in English and German”.

    English not a problem (bilingual, so nailed that one), but German …. apart from some high school German not a whole lot. And experience … well yes … and no … ahhahahaha.

    I called a friend that was great in German, told him the 4 lines I wanted to know, memorised them. Went to the store, got the hottest clothes I could find (image is everything right?) and went to Club Juliana’s to audition.

    Used all 4 of my german lines and it sounded sweet. Did some quick DJ stuff and … landed the job. 3 weeks later I was the resident DJ for the 5-star Sheraton hotel in Essen, Germany.

    Trust me when I say I was WAY out of my comfort zone going into the audition. It was a great example of fake it til you make it. But I made it and did four pretty succesful tours for the company.

    And still, even with 35 years of experience, I went to a DJ School recently to get some more training in fields I felt inadequate in (Go Bo Risky! ;-)).

    So, all you kids out there, listen to Uncle Phil’s wise words, put them to practice and we’ll soon be running into all of you out there in the real world.

    Greetinx,
    C.

    p.s. to aid in your quest for efficiency, determination and setting and reaching goals, and since I realise DJs are not by nature avid readers, take a look at this audiobook http://zenhabits.net/zen-to-done-ztd-the-ultimate-simple-productivity-system.

  9. True. and this does not only apply to DJing. it applies to life and relationships too… mediocrity is the killer of greatness.

  10. You definitely need to put in the hours. And you need to LOVE putting in the hours. If you are only in it cause you think you will be a celebrity or get rich, you should pack up your shit right away. That’s not how it goes. But if you live for digging through music, making mixes, practicing, meeting new people and working hard, then you will have fun. DJing is’t just playing music for a crowd. The job of a DJ is all the stuff leading up to the show as well.

  11. DJ Socrateez says:

    I’ve said some of these things a million times. In college, I annihilated my competition and I know the only reason why is because I practiced all the time and they didn’t. I used to practice by making cassette tapes and every time I screwed up, I would start all over. It forced me to learn the material and by the time I got to the party, I mastered it. Great advice guys!

  12. Absolutely. This is how everyone should live their lives in general in my humble opinion. Work hard for your passion and happiness will follow in whatever realm you choose for yourself !

  13. Save Yourself says:

    Great article Phil, always pushing us to do better

  14. Great motivating article… all about Progression.

  15. complacency is my killer, experience keeps me employed

  16. Great article. Every point is so true. Even for more experienced guys, it’s good to read an article like this. It just helps us stay focused. Thanks Phil!

  17. Good advice, obviously personal goals come into play with your second point and add a bit of variety.

  18. It’s about who you know, and not much more.

    Now get out there and blow fluff up all the promoters butts.

  19. These words an comments from everybody are great an I love this website, where dj’s from all over can come an give pointers, tips, lessons. Things that a younger dj as myself would need to know. Ty to everybody that supports this site. You all keep a guy on his toes. Success is the best

  20. DJ Forced Hand says:

    Sage words. I will have to get back on track to performing again.

  21. So much truth in this post. In 2009 I was brave enough to leave Hollywood where I had a lucrative residency. I left all my friends and everything that was comfortable to move to Ibiza in the summer of 2009. It was one of the most life changing summers of my life. Amazingly I got 2 residencies on the island and a Radio Show on Ibiza Sonica 95.2FM. I feel so blessed to say the least. 4 years later I got my first remixed signed on Beatport as a result of that daring move all those years ago and the lifelong relationships I formed. Never be afraid to take what other people deem “risks.” Work hard, practice and never stop believing in yourself.

  22. I’d like to add that while it is great to step out of your comfort zone, make sure not to change what makes you an individual. Have a solid core and a vision. You don’t want to gain a fan base and lose them by doing something that is too far from why they liked you in the first place.

  23. I will admit, when I stumbled across this article I instantly thought it would provide canned advice by someone who probably hasn’t done any of it. But after reading I was pleasantly surprised at the unpretentious and inspirational advice. I agree with many, if not all, the points mentioned. Great job. I am now a subscriber.

  24. Nice article Phil but how does one balance the first point with their day job or demanding carrier, like law which requires the same dedication if not more. I have read the article on dads behind the decks but I am now a bit confused.

    Thanks!

  25. Church… man a real BIG one at least for me is turn off the Internet !!! I could learn how to speak Japenese as well as get better at my craft if I could learn that!! GREAT ADVICE.

  26. Awesome tips right to the point thanks man.

  27. DJ Radikal says:

    Right now i’m in the embryo stages of DJ’ing, i have no equipment or software to begin anything oh and most of all NO MONEY! So i’m looking for a way to get started in my most frugal way possible.

  28. Chris Mann says:

    Phil, this is great stuff. I’m not a “career” DJ and I’m not sure I ever could be, even if I were 30 years younger. However, I take my gigs very seriously (too seriously?) and I prepare like crazy.

    I had a private party just over a week ago and, if I’m honest, I was dreading it. The same client had given me some serious grief a year ago when I was less experienced and less confident. A lot of what’s in your post was going through my head as I drove to the club and set up.

    By the time I started my set, I could sense the mood in the room, I was up for it and except for a couple of shaky fades, I nailed it!! I had to work around two live acts, some announcments, gear being plugged into my mixer while I was playing and I still had a great session, with dancers on the floor beyond the time I should have finished.

    It felt good.

  29. I can honestly say that in the 4-5 days I have been a member of this site that I
    a) visit daily and love reading the articles as well as comments
    b) have become a better DJ by at least 100% of my former self.

    I can finally see the light. Not the light at the end of the tunnel, but at least I can see the light.

  30. I spent a long time talking about, and telling friends I was going to get the proper equipment to start producing, or at least remixing, for a “hot minute”. Finally buckled down, invested money and time, and got what I needed. Now the enjoyment and inspiration has multiplied. I actually stumbled across this site recently during a “taking myself back to school” session as I have referred to it. I continue to push out on that edge as often as possible! Before, I had honestly gotten so stagnant I was boring myself essentially. Now that I have started, and made progress, on the never ending journey of being a DJ that performs his own music, I’ve realised and agree with you “110%”. I wasn’t getting any closer literally not doing it, and the problem can’t be solved until you start doing something!

  31. That statements are true for everything you want to be successfull at, as well as for becoming a top dj for sure

  32. Dj Levencci says:

    God bless you!

  33. Thank you Phil for this inspirational post. I have renewed zeal!

  34. Thanks am inspired….will use this to inspire more Ugandan Djs

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