Your Questions: How Do I Pick Myself Up When My DJ Event Bombed?

It's disheartening to play to an empty dancefloor, but a wise DJ/promoter sees the bigger picture, learns from failures and dusts of to do better next time.

It's disheartening to play to an empty dancefloor, but a wise DJ/promoter sees the bigger picture, learns from failures and dusts off to do better next time.

Digital DJ Tips reader Dre writes: "So I'm 20, and I've been DJing for about three years now. I've had more bad parties then good but I've still had some pretty good ones! Recently things haven't been working out for me in life (I've gotten fired from my job, no money, bills piling up...) but I never once thought about quitting DJing - until now."

"I've been working hard promoting, designing flyers on PhotoShop, making funny memes etc for an event that was gonna be every Thursday at this lounge close to where I live. Long story shot the opening night didn't really work out at all and it's brought me down, a lot. I was so upset with the turnout for my the event that it even affected my DJing. It's only been one day since the party but I'm now questioning if I should keep going or if I'm just wasting my time. Has this happened to you? What did you do to pick yourself back up?"

Digital DJ Tips say:

This is where you call on your passion for it, because it's the passion that gets you through the hard times. That, and knowing one thing that most entrepreneurs learn early: Failure teach you more than success. It's a necessary step on the path to "making it". One thing about starting out is that you will have zero consistency. You may promote one night that gets a few people in, and think you're on a roll, then find the next couple of events completely fail. As you get more established and experienced and become a better DJ/promoter, the consistency starts to come - but even then you can still fail!

When I started DJing, I was so poor I used to turn up to people's houses when I knew it was dinnertime. I remember living on bread and tinned food and other handouts. We'd promote a night that got 150 people in, and the next night (same venue, promotion etc.) got 15. This didn't go on for weeks or months - it went on for years. I played bars for free, for beer, for a lift there and back, in between bands, at urban festivals, on the radio, at countless club nights we invented and promoted - and progress was made, but it was far from easy or clear at times.

In fact, it took about four years for me to get any consistency and start actually making real money from my club DJing - and even then, we'd have failures. You keep learning, and enthusiasm isn't the same thing as experience. To put it into perspective, I started mobile DJing at 17, and club DJing at 23, and didn't make any real money from it till 27.

Be clever, always ask yourself what you've learned from each event, and try to enjoy the ride - if you don't find a way to enjoy it, you won't last the haul. And try and find a partner in crime to do this with - you'll be able to help each other rather than facing your failures (and successes) alone. I wish you good luck!

Have you faced a similar challenge? How did you deal with it? Please share your thoughts on the comments.

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  1. Ahh that old chestnut. I've done several gigs that have had only a few punters but to be honest I look at it as a chance to get out of the bedroom and play on some big speakers with a different atmosphere. Enjoy it and one day someone will go "I love what that DJ's doing" and maybe enquire for you to play at their gig or party. 😀

  2. Dre,you didn't mention few things about the opening night.

    Were there any visitors and you couldn't make them to dance and stay or was the lounge empty.
    Because you can always improve your djing and music selection but you can't make them dance if there's no one in the room.

    Don't let the empty place affect your performance,try new things and entertain yourself.

  3. I definitely second the idea of getting a "partner in crime".
    Also check what else is happening on the night of your event - both locally and on the TV. If the night is slow, and you have your partner in crime, one of you can "hold the fort" while the other goes out and has a look round town - chats to the bar staff see if they're busy or not, if this is normal for a Thursday or just a "blip". It may be you have some strong competition somewhere in town, or it maybe things are slow everywhere - X Factor final or a big match on the TV can have a big effect.
    Putting on a successful night is as much about timing as anything.
    Armed with all this knowledge you can plan your next event better.

  4. As a DJ, You will encounter such unfortunate circumstances that you have no control over despite all the careful planing that goes into it. The management of the place and their own advertising if any, the type of crowds that typically show up at that venue, the music the regulars are used to, the general mood of the attendees on that day and the reason for them being there, lack of business in general at that location, time to build up a crowd, I could name many more. Your personal love of the music and the art of DJing has to keep you going if you are going to survive as a DJ. Did you scope out that place on other nights before booking a gig to see if it was the type of venue for you?

  5. İt took me 2 years to even achieve some consistency and my aim was only a 100 people on a monthly basis! Dont give will regret lt later....chin-up...

  6. The important thing to remember is to figure out where it went wrong and do it differently next time. Learn from your mistakes, Find a mentor ... someone that's been in the business and is successful. Volunteer to be his assistant for free. Watch him carefully and learn how he controls a crowd/gets the word out about gigs/handles himself. Being a successful DJ is so much more than just playing music.

  7. I'm looking to put on the first night of my own next month, and I've been DJing on and off since 1999!

    One thing I will make sure of doing, is to not start with too much energy. It will usually take 40 or so people to turn up before anyone dances, and everyone will want to get a few drinks down them before breaking out any moves! So start easy, start slower.

    I'm doing a house and tech night at a club. It'll open at 10, dont expect anyone to be dancing before 11-11:30 so for the first couple of hours I'll be playing straight-up house, bit of funk, etc. just create a bit of ambiance whilst people chat amongst friends and get fuelled up. As the night fills up and heads towards the a.m I'll ramp up the tempo, volume up to 11 and start dropping the techno bangers! lol

    A sample of the "early-doors" sound I'll be going for can be heard at :)

    So really that comes down to taking in the plethora of tips found here, and learning to read the dance floor. No one wants to walk into an empty bar/club to 130bpm music at full volume!

  8. Giving up djing isn't a solution to anything. Of course you have to get some way to make mmoney and get a roof, but it's just not possible to get stable income from djing in low scale. Those small gigs that pay off might just ease the situation a bit. Playing pop music gigs in the beginning was a good extra money, but it took me 10 years from the start to get any payment of this club thingy and even now it's just +/-0, covers most of my expences.

  9. I've played to many an empty dance floor. I go up there and jam like it's a packed house. Mixing on loud speakers (which I don't normally have access to) is totally different from mixing on my monitors and I just use it as a learning experience. I've had an absolute blast on nights where myself and a few friends were the only ones at the bar.

    That being said, DJing is a passion not a profession for me and it ends up costing me to play most of the time. I would probably feel differently if I was counting on people to show up to pay the bills.

  10. Running an event and being a dj are 2 completely different things.
    As an organiser you have to take risks, as a dj ... you get asked to play some music & you get paid.

    • "you get asked to play some music & you get paid" - easier said than done though, and often organising your own events is a great way to "get gigs".

      • Correct ... but when you organise an event and want to dj at it, you need one or more partners in crime you can rely on, to take care of all practical issues and questions, while you dj.

        Only if "organising an event" is the same as putting your girlfriend at the entrance and paying the venue for everything else ... you have your hands free to dj and maybe start a succesfull event.

        But still you need a network that will show up at your event. As far as I see in Belgium, you cannot rely on flyers, ads, an exclusive venue, a facebook event and even some established dj names to fill up your night.

  11. Wow. So odd that this happened to me last night! I promoted for a week handing out fliers for a stop light party on my campus.Everyone I gave a flier to said it was a great idea and they were definitely going to come. I got to the club all fired up ready to play to a packed club. I jammed out to probably one of my best sets for 3 hours and watched maybe 10 people walk into the club. It made me feel like shit last night and betrayed by all the people that told me they were going. Why can't djing be consistent... Fml

  12. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    I think these days we are all a bit too indoctrinated with the "big names" out there. Those that fill a 3000 head venue in the blink of an eye.

    The reality is, that most clubs/venues are not like that and very few artists (I don't consider them DJs) have that kind of pull.

    But if you make that your goal, you will thoroughly disappointed every time until you get there, IF you get there at all.

    When I did my residencies in 5-start hotels and worked 6 nights a week / 6 hours a night, 2 out of 6 were busy (and the first place I worked at, which could hold 120 people at once, had only 120 over the entire night, never more than 60-70 at any given time), the rest slow to empty. Sure I got paid regardless of the crowd, but this job/hobby/career isn't about money.

    It's like Phil says, you do it because it's what you love doing.

    Use the time with few people in the house. Try out stuff. I actually would get on the mic and tell people I would play some new tunes and ask them to tell me how they liked them. If there is 10 people in the house and dancing, you can get VERY PERSONAL with them. I would ask them what they wanted to hear most and work that into my "set" (not that we knew what a set was back in the day lOL).

    There is no better place to have a new mix trainwreck than an empty club, you can actually go back and try 10 more times til you get it right.

    Just keep the faith, the passion and enjoy where you are now, cause apparently for some unknown reason it is where you need be now.


  13. The venue I play at has a crowd with an extremely mixed taste in music. This makes it very difficult to keep a full dancefloor. Often at the end of the night, I leave feeling unsatisfied & questioning myself as a dj/entertainer.
    Having a "partner in crime" really does help to ease the blow - I recommend this!! Unfortunately there will be times when you have to face the gloom on your own. I have experienced this many times in my career (and probably will many more!!) Usually when I get home feeling deflated, I have a solid jam session on my headphones. Mixing all the tunes I love rebuilds my passion for what I do & gives me the need to go out there & try again. If you truly love what you do, giving up isn't an option, and because of that, you will get to experience the full euphoria of the party that really does rock!! Then it is all worth it. Keep the faith bro!

  14. Too many times i played in front of empty club, to the point I have enough, and learn from it, you felt empty inside also when you looked up all you see is an empty dance floor.
    Here's a few tips that might work,

    1. Collaborate with your local DJ heroes, any "celebrity" who happens to DJ, a singer than you can duet too to do some live singing performance, a well known guitarist in your well known local band
    If those too expensive, maybe collaborate with other event organizer who can provide with their own talent DJ's, that way next time around they have their own event maybe they can invite you to participate also, ya know I scratch your back I scratch yours deal
    2. Once that established, ask the club/manager event of the club see if you can get a weekend gig (be it Friday or Saturday)
    3. Maybe get a few dancers to spice up your event
    4. Get a group of females to be a "host" at your event, promised them 10% cut if they bring a spenders that will open up at least a bottle of Jack Daniels in your event
    5. Pray

  15. We live in the "instant reward" society and times. But nothing has changed so those who persevere, work hard, ask little and give lots, fall and rebound, are still the ones who get to the top. Or, more important, get to where they want because the top isn´t always the bast place to be LOL. But still, real work takes years to start paying back. As Phil said, gotta have passion, gotta persevere and gotta have faith. It´s worth it, as odd as it seems (especially at this point when everything seems going bad) this part of the trip is usually the best. Good luck!

  16. Dude, just keep at it. I went through the same thing at my residency. Lasted a year because I moved, I haven't DJ'd in over 2 months :( . Well one Thursday, our slow night, a group of 5 people (4 chicks 1 dude) came in and I tried to keep em dancing. I would get em, then they would request something different, after a while they would just leave the floor. Eventually they left the place after 1/2 an hour, most definitely because I didn't play the right music to them. I was trying to read them, but it's tough sometimes. I honestly felt like shit and was upset about the whole incident. But nonetheless, I went home, updated the shit out of my crates, practiced my ass of for a few hours. The Saturday(Really busy nights) after that Thursday I went in with the mentality of "I'm going to rock this joint tonight, gonna read the crowd and adjust accordingly." It was probably one of the best if not the best night I had in my 1 year residency. I played a dope set and even got to throw in fist pump tunes and electro house, which is something the crowd really isn't used to.

    So.. a tldr, channel your failures into something positive. Learn from your mistakes. There were tons of nights that were so mediocre I wanted to leave the venue at like 12:30. Eventually, towards the end of my 1 year residency at this place I was getting a consistent dance floor. Unfortunately that period of consistency only lasted a month since I had to move. Good luck bro.

  17. Man, this happens to everyone. In May 2013 I started a regular monthly Sunday Event that is a consistent money loser or I just broke even, but worse the very first one was held on a Mothers Day (unbeknownst to me or my partner) and it was a disaster. But my regular event led to another regular event that is a HUGE money maker for the restaurant, the promoter and especially me. These 2 events led to some pretty sweet One-Off Parties that led to a regular Sunset Set at 2 different venues (one in Austin TX) which led to being booked for an F1 party (Ill let you know how that goes) and bookings for some great festival gigs coming in 2014. So While you night may not be a success, you never know where it will lead you.

    Here are some tips.
    1. For every Event I would record hour mix on CD use the event flyer as a label and pass these out to promote my next event. People started coming just for the free CD's.
    2. Every event gets its own Mixcloud Cloud Cast (and now a Sound Cloud cloud cast) I use Just Go Music to promote my stuff on FB, Twitter, Youtube and Mixcloud.
    3. I promote other DJ's events on all my social media sites. This good will pays off dividends. Most DJ's really appreciate the free publicity, and they will in turn promote your events. Which leads to...
    4. Go to other DJ Events, this shows you care about the community you are trying to create by supporting other DJ's. If you do this enough, they will start passing out your flyers and CD's, talking you up to other promoters and you may get a guest spot or too. (I am doing a Movie Premier this Saturday because I was recommended by another DJ).
    5. Most of all don't stop trying, it took me 2 years before I got my regular (not very profitable) event that lead to some great opportunities.

    Good Luck and have fun

  18. I remember being hired to play a weekly slot at a large rugby club. They had a problem in that no younger people were interested in the club anymore and they wanted to attract some new interest. The first week was spent playing dance music to a few flat cap old chaps in the corner as I was instructed (no joke) I felt I was completely wasting my time and it was a very long night. The second week a few people had heard about the gig and actually turned up and I think at one point I might even have had 4 or maybe 5 people on the dance floor lol. Week 3, the people from week 2 had gone out and told all their friends and I had about 50 or 60 people in there. From there it grew into a pretty good gig that ended up with hundreds of people every week.
    My point is, that as with every business, it takes time to build things up. Even if you think no one is listening, always do your best and put on a good show, word will get round that you do and people will get interested. Sometimes that really bad gig can lead to great things if you stick at it.

  19. 1. Whether you are playing to two barstaff or 200 fuelled up ravers, ALWAYS play to the best of your ability. You never know who's watching.
    2. Give it a fair chance - OK, your first night was quiet, but let it become established on the local calendar before giving up.
    3. Make an effort to build a mailing list of those who do come - however few - so you can keep them informed of future events.

    I started my own monthly night to get myself a regular gig! While never a raging success, and financially unrewarding, I did build up a small following and a reputation that led to the offer of a residency (paid!) elsewhere. Eventually I stopped doing my night as I just didn't have time to promote it properly.
    Always try to keep positive and find the good in every situation,however small!
    Good luck

  20. craigDPea says:

    I did a gig tonight sorta like this. Iv been djing for around a year and a half. I find some times im shit hot in a good mix other im like a fish outa water. Tonight anyway was my first live gig. I was on almost 4 hours. Started of dead, put then picked up, the doorman who was guarding my booth said it was dead all over town n not to worry. My high point was mixing my style and id say well. Peaple was liking it but not evryone sadly. Mixing to a club for well over 100 guests was hard but im not going to give up and be more prepaird for next time if i get it. Coz sadly it was really a top forty cheese sorta night. N i dont mix with that stuff. So im going to practice with that top40 have a better play list and be set for the night with plenty of top 40 than just the 200 tracks i had n hardly knew lol. But as phill says and will agree practice on what got you wrong n fellong as u faild n next time you will be better. Dont get me wrong it was not a washout but i still had fun n thats the main thing n next time ill truly be ready. Thanks for reading my long post. CraigDPea.

  21. so far I had only one night that bombed, or so I thought. Was DJing on the military base for a group of about 70-80 higher ranking Navy personnel. they loved my dinner music and got compliments, but when it came time to dance, it was hard to get anyone out to do the Cupid Shuffle. I thought I was sucking big time. but I kept moving on with some more floor fillers (that really didn't fill the floor) and played to the few that wanted to dance. (bachata and merengue salsa had a few people out there as well) At the end of the night I was sweating it a bit....Christmas time is around the corner and x-mas parties are a big thing around here and I really wanted the gigs. At the end of the night I had folks asking for my business card and thanking me for a great night. Some of these folks just made rank and were afraid to embarrass themselves. I did enjoy myself though and got paid well for the night and in the end, that is all that mattered to me.

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