Your Questions: How To Convince The Bar Owner To Give Me More Gigs?

Your Questions

Our reader wants to know how he can get even more gigs at the bar that he's currently having a monthly show at.

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.

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  1. No Qualms says:

    I have got all of my residencies the same way, it works everytime:

    Be well dressed.

    Be polite (always no matter what weird politics is happening between the bar staff).

    Be early.

    Be technically proficient (the gear will never be set up properly when you arrive, gear will always glitch during the night, you need to be able to fix it without bothering the manager. In fact nobody should know that it happened at all).

    Play songs for the crowd, not for yourself.

    Play the favourite songs of the staff throughout the night (even if you don't like them).

    Play songs for the ladies, not the men. (A bar full of ladies brings in the men, are bar full of men is a boring gig. Unless it is a gay bar of course).

    Once you have been resident for a little while you can experiment with you cool DJ tracks and do a bit of education, but that's not how you get the gig. People like songs that they know, remember this is a bar not a rave. It is filled with the general public not electronic music nerds.

    If you do all the things above you will be seen as a professional and the management will trust you, and the regulars and staff will love you 🤘😉

  2. Ron Browne says:

    A bar owner makes money from cover charges and beverage sales. If you want a regular gig you need to get more people in his bar and keep them drinking usually by dancing their asses off (but not always). I've done bar gigs where I've played classic rock all night because of the crowd that was in the bar. Very little dancing but at the end of the night the owner was begging me to come back because the bar sales were fantastic. I've done other nights where the floor was packed all night and I had to fight to come back because the crowd was drinking water and coke all night. It's a weird business we're in.

    • Thanks Ron :) Indeed, DJing (and the music industry in general) is strange biz!

    • DJ Vintage says:

      Yeah, been there, done that. Had one particular night (great night btw) where the manager came to ask be to play something un-danceable because the bar had been empty for almost half an hour. The record I tossed on forced the last three people seated onto the floor. Didn't matter what I played. Ended up playing something like a Waltz after that (still left about 10 couples on the floor LOL).

  3. Jean Roos says:

    Good morning, thanks a MIL FOR THE TIPS, just want to say I went to a bar and herd they busy playing a nice song that's why I went in, it was not even 5 minutes I went out again. The song I herd was not even finished and stopped not mixed with a other it was just stopped, the first one was a very nice dancing song but the second one was made in the 80's. Everybody just walk off the dance floor. So yes you can use a old song but leave the first song beat at the background then the people will like it. maybe I am wrong.

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