Digital DJ Tips reader Paul writes: “I’ve recently started DJing and have a monthly gig at a bar in south-east London. I was surprised at the popularity of my music and am loving DJing, so I want to gig here more frequently. How would you suggest I promote myself so I can get more frequent bookings at this bar? Do I send the owner a CD with a five minute sample, or a full DJ set mixtape through a Mixcloud link?
“I’m guessing venue owners get inundated with this all the time, so how can I stand out?”
Digital DJ Tips Says:
Sure you can make a mixtape (more on that later), but to get more bookings at that venue, the number one thing is to build a relationship with the bar’s staff and promotion ecosystem. You’re in a unique position: You’ve already started DJing there, so you’ve already got one foot in the door, and you’ve already got a leg up compared to the rest of the DJ population still waiting for a chance to get behind the decks at that venue.
If I were you, I’d use that as an opportunity to nurture this relationship. How is this done? You do it by adding value to the bar, its network of promoters, and its patrons. Let me explain…
You fulfill your obligation to the bar by getting to your slot on time and spinning a good set. You do your duty to the promoters by spreading news about your gig on social media and inviting your friends. You do your job as a DJ by making sure the crowd has an amazing evening. These are all standard – you’re not standing out from the pack by doing these things. Other DJs might even say that you just “got lucky” and had the right connections to land the gig, because they do all this too – maybe even better than you!
So how do you set yourself apart? You do that by becoming exceptional. You do that by moving past “going through the motions”, and delivering over and above what’s expected. That’s how you truly add value.
Adding value is all about exceeding expectations: You add value by researching music and going crate digging (offline and online) to really hone in on your sound and to give your sets a unique flavour that people can only get a taste of during your sets. Or you create unique edits / mashups / remixes that can’t be heard anywhere else except when you DJ. Or you can make special preparations for your DJ set, whether that’s through a visual experience (eg VJing, projection mapping, using a system like Soundswitch, and so on), or an aural / emotional one (bringing in an extra pair of subs to augment the bar’s system for a really huge sound on the dancefloor, for instance).
Since you asked about mixtapes, you can hand them out at the door to every punter who was there during your DJ set as a way of saying thanks for being at your show – going back to your question, it doesn’t matter if it’s a CD or a Mixcloud link, long as it’s a mix (I wouldn’t give a CD that only had a five-minute track in it just because it isn’t maximising the medium). Give the owner and bar staff copies as well – they’ll remember you for it.
These are all things that get you noticed and, by association, the bar and the promoter whose night you’re spinning for also get noticed. It then becomes this cycle of people appreciating you for being generous with the one thing that everyone squanders regularly: time. All of the things I mentioned don’t cost thousands of dollars, but they are time expenses on your part, and not every DJ is willing to go the extra mile to cover that cost.
Give, give, and then give some more. If you take only once you’ve given, you’ll be miles ahead of every other “jobber” DJ who just wants to spin, take their fees, and head on to the next gig to repeat the process. This applies in life too!
How do you think our reader can set himself apart from other DJs? Any tips on how he could get noticed so he can play more shows? Share your thoughts below.