Over To You: Breaking Into The Scene In A New City


Big city, bright lights (this is Toronto, Canada): But how does a DJ new to a big city such as this break into the scene there? That's what our reader today is asking for help with.

Today's reader I'm going to keep anonymous, and his query is this: "I write this email because I've been facing a problem in the past few months. I started DJing back in Brazil in a big city, but in a small scene of bass music fans, DJs and parties. Last year, I moved to Canada and I'm surrounded by a much bigger scene, but so far I haven't managed to get into it.

"I'm pretty confident about my DJing abilities and I even started DJing in some good events back in Brazil but, as I don't know many people in my new city and don't know the details of the bass music scene here, I have a big disadvantage."

"So I just want to know how I could face this challenge of being new in the city, getting used this huge differences from the scenes I was part of and start again playing in some underground events. It's so new and different that sometimes I have no idea what to begin with."

Digital DJ Tips says:

I feel your pain, having moved from my home city (Manchester, England) where I had been Djing and promoting for over 10 years, to a whole new country some eight years ago and trying to "re-establish" myself (in all kinds of ways, not just DJing). For me, just taking the time to hang out before trying to get gigs etc worked; it actually took me two years of hanging out at this certain place I wanted to play at, and a year of dropping hints, before I finally got booked.

Rather than reel off the usual advice I give people, which to do it justice would take a whole series of articles, what I'd like to do in this instance is ask our readers for specific tips. Maybe we have some Canadian readers who can offer Canada-centric advice? Maybe we have other reader who've made the country switch recently and have some fresh words of wisdom that are bang up to date about how to do this? That's the beauty of having such a large readership here - I reckon there is someone or even a few people out there who've done this really recently and who can share a few tips with you. Fingers crossed!

So, over to you: Have you moved country recently and tried - and managed - to break into the scene in your new country / city? How did you do it? Please share your stories below...

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  1. BoomDraw says:

    Wow, the irony of this. I made the move from Jamaica to Miami in October 2013 and I'm in more or less the same predicament. My advice is, don't be afraid to speak to random people. Always bring up the fact that you're a DJ and what kind of music you play. Just.. Socialize with people and be friendly and confident in what you do. Secondly, a lot of leg work has to be done. You have to learn the scene for your genre of music. Do some research and ask around about places in the area(or a reasonable distance away) that play your kind of music or would be open to it. Try to avoid clubs just yet as they tend to stick to locals who are relatively known already (UNLESS you happen to befriend a fellow DJ and then you can start going with him to gigs if he would let you). Then you patronize these places a couple times, learn the scene. Print some business cards and hand them to the owners/managers after you pitch the idea of you DJ-ing to them. There are other small things, but you'll learn as you go. Stay Positive and Persistent!

  2. Find a way to throw your own parties. They don't need to be huge but it will gather people around you with similar taste. Ex: If your city's clubs close down early do an after party.

  3. http://www.torontojungle.com/forum/

    if you are into Jungle/ Dnb Toronto has a huge loving underground scene. Im sure you will be able to go from here. Too bad you missed out on Bass Week. Every year spring break its an epic week long lineup at different clubs and venues every night.

  4. I imagine this is Toronto the OP is referring to. If so, I live in Toronto and yes, the scene is huge and varied. There is a scene in pretty much any genre. The bass scene is a little more underground. Using tools like Facebook and meetup sites, you shouldn't have a problem. Go to events. Socialize and network.

  5. Hit the street and meet the people. In toronto, there are lots of underground dance nights...start checking them out and get to know the promoters. Don't push that you're a dj at first, that usually comes across as you only being interested in using their event to get yourself a gig. Show that you're interested in supporting their night's growth, not just your own.

  6. I agree with all the points made by the guys above.

    I have been in this situation a few times. I’v lived in a number of citys in the UK, I also moved to Canada (Whistler) in 2005 and then from there I moved to France (Val d’isere) a few years ago. I’v worked as a DJ in all of these places and with each move my DJing and my ability to get gigs have improved.

    Its fun getting to know a new scene, the people and the venues that make it tick. Some times it takes a while to find the right people but while you are looking for them enjoy the ride. Make friends with the bar staff, the door men, the guys who work the coat check, and the other movers and shakers (it is all about moving and shaking after all!) as well as trying to meet the DJ’s, Promoters and Venue management.

    When you do meet the desicion makers you need to be thinking “win win”. offer to help them distribute flyers and posters or help with Face Book promo etc. Case in point; A good friend of mine from France 'DJ Kujio’ (google him) got him self a cool residency at ‘Collect' in Sheffield UK by offering to help the promoters put up decor and lights at the warehouse parties that they were staging when they were started out. Four years on Kujio is now a go to DJ’s for promoters in Sheffield staging house and techno nights. "You will reap what you sow"

    It should go with out saying... but you also need to have some mixes up on line to show every one what you can do on the decks. no ones going to book you with out hearing what you can do first. I’v used tapes and CD’s in the past, but now a professional business card will do the trick.

    When you start asking for gigs, know your place ask to do warm up slots first, do them well and you’ll move up the ranks to the better time slots eventually.

    good luck. its worth the effort.

    • Thanks a lot for tips man, I'm in Whistler and thinking about same problem :-) Now I'm playing at most on house parties and hope there should be some employer of any club in village and give me recommendation who should am I talking to.

  7. Wow, great timing. 3 months ago I moved from Los Angeles to Oakland and I have been trying to break into the scene here. I first tried going out to clubs/bars every weekend just to observe what others enjoy listening to here. Then if I liked the club/bar, I would talk to the owner/manager and inquire about playing there. After a few attempts of giving them my dj business card and such, I didn't seem to get any response back from them. Can't let that discourage me though. I was also checking craigslist every so often and their 'gigs' tab to search through gigs that were sometimes posted. I eventually replied to one where a local dj who had club residencies and mobile gigs often and was looking for an apprentice to take under his wing. I figured this would be beneficial to me, so I responded and we've been friends ever since. I have only known him for just a little over a month now, but I have accompanied him to numerous gigs already, and learned much more. I haven't played a set as of yet, but considering I have been networking amongst many other local djs who I have met through him here and showing support at their events, I know it will come soon. So if I could give some any advice, just don't give up on trying to break into the scene in a new city. What I have learned thus far is sometimes its just who you know (Not to sound negative). Therefore, getting to know other local djs and club owners helps. So keep yourself out there, and eventually it'll happen.

  8. MarkQuest says:

    Well, it wasn't from one country to another but from one side of Australia to the other, some 5,000+ kilometres/ 3100 miles in distance, away from everything and everyone I knew & grew up around. I'm sure the principles would work anywhere though.

    RESEARCH: Try find out as much as possible about the area you are moving & read everything you can. Maybe even join some social networks in your new area to keep up on whats happening. Also try to keep note where the local DJ/Production shops are.

    NETWORK: Knowing somebody from your home country will definitely help you fit in quicker, meet new friends & find the right places for you. If this isn't possible, then another traveller who has been there a bit longer will do. You basically just want to find out how to stay safe & what helps with fitting in. Get to know the people at your local DJ/ Music shop as they can probably help you out a lot.

    BE A SUPPORTIVE REGULAR: After you've settled in and know a few people (or not), then it's time to find a place that plays your style to call your own. This could be either a dedicated night or dedicated venue to the style you like. When you find somewhere you feel comfortable having a good time, get to know the locals and do more Research & Networking. Honestly, it will be a local who introduces you to the person, who introduces you to another person, who ends up hiring you as a DJ.

    And of course, PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! keep those skills sharp & keep improving on them!

  9. I say one of the best things you can do is start promoting yourself and stop relying on others to just "accept" you. Rent a hall, or a club venue... promote the heck out of it on social media... No cover.... and play for free... promote the crap out of yourself that night with banners, live branding, announcements, etc... Break ground by being better than the club guy down the street whom they are paying a cover charge to get in to see. Then, you create your own buzz by people talking. It doesn't take too many times of doing this before the gigs start rolling in. Also, maybe check into a local promoter. Good Luck!

  10. Hi,

    0- Produce (make your own tracks) good music and put it out there. With this one you will need much less of the following steps!

    1- Facebook/ResidentAdv is your friend: check club fan pages / find-follow djs you like in the city/ parties you like... Add some promoters/djs in fabebook, and why not, start a conversation with them. It might be possible that most of those does not reply, but maybe one does. Be real...

    2- Attend events/venues you would like to play at.

    3- Talk to people in those events, make friends maybe... be lucky some of those friends know someone that knows......... SOCIALIZE. Those friends want to celebrate their bdays, offer yourshelf as a dj for that house bday parties. it is about to create a small snowball and try to make it roll somehow, everything count!

    4- Do not get obsessed (very important) and be possitive, just let it be... enjoy the party scene as a clubber and the booking will come sooner or later :)

    Good luck everybody!

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