DJ Tech, Tools & Tricks, DJ Culture, Music Discovery…
Digital DJing is an exciting new world for both new and established DJs. In the same way as digital photography revolutionised taking pictures, so digital DJ gear is revolutionising the art of DJing.
Whether you’re a new DJ, a non-digital DJ who’s returning to the art, or you’re just ready to make the switch, Digital DJ Tips is for you. If you want to perform in public using modern DJ gear – for profit or fun – we are here to help. Here’s how we’re set up to help you to fufil your needs:
- You need to be able to trust what you read – Every get the feeling you’re being sold to? As we’re completely independent, with no affiliation with any manufacturers and no hardware of our own to sell, you can always believe what we say about hardware and software. It’s your money your spending, so we believe the most important thing is to tell it exactly as it is
- You need the gear that suits you best – so we review it all, quickly, independently and thoroughly. Our business isn’t about trying and sell you high mark-up, expensive products come-what-may; we tell you what’s best at all price points. That includes software as well as hardware, plus headphones, speakers, audio interfaces and all manner of digital DJ controllers
- You want to understand how digital DJing fits in to DJ culture – so we regularly explore the burning questions. How has digital changed the job of the DJ? Where do digital DJs fit in with CD and vinyl DJs? How does digital fit into the DJ booth? How do digital DJs deal with prejudice and resistance to the new tools of the trade? What’s different about DJing with computers compared to the old ways?
- You are passionate about getting better – so we offer tons of tuition including our hugely popular Learn To DJ Free course, plus regular blog tutorials on everything from DJ etiquette to beatmatching, mixing in key to conquering “DJ’s block”. Our paid-for courses and books are industry leading, with How To Digital DJ Fast in particular having sold 1000s
- You value practical advice over theory – We are all working DJs. We play out, to real people, regularly. We are not bedroom twiddlers – we’re DJs with decades of experience in clubs, on the radio and mobile. We believe DJing is done in public, not behind closed doors
- You want to be part of a friendly, inclusive community – We welcome all DJs at all levels into our fold. We are here to help. Our carefully moderated community of tens of thousands of DJs is welcoming and eager to help new members
What to do next…
To fully benefit from Digital DJ Tips, we strongly advise you to join our thousands-strong community by signing up right now for our 50-part weekly Learn to DJ Free Course, and subscribing to us on Facebook (chat), Twitter (upfront news), YouTube (weekly video content), and via our forum (in-depth DJ community discussion).
If you make these commitments to us, we promise to help you on every step of your digital DJing journey, in each and every way we can.
A note about advertising and affiliates
- Digital DJ Tips is partly paid for by advertising (managed independently by Google DoubleClick), and by affiliate links, mainly but not exclusively through Amazon. When we link to products, we sometimes get a small sales commission. If you like a product on Digital DJ Tips, by buying through one of our links, you’re helping to fund the site, so please consider doing this
We donate a percentage of our profits to UNICEF, supporting children’s rights, survival, development and protection.
Personal note from the editor
I gave up DJing at 14, when a lad from the next town “borrowed” my very first mixer, to play electro and practise breakdancing with his mates.
Until then I’d been risking bollockings from my dad for cueing up tunes on my belt-drive turntable to compile mix-tapes that didn’t miss a beat, or (and I kid you not) physically editing cassette tapes by cutting the tape on the diagonal and splicing it together with Sellotape just to cut the talking out of the top 40.
Yes, you could say I was born with an innate desire to mess with the music I was playing, and to play it to as many people as I could find who’d listen. (Bedroom door open or shut when playing pop music as a teenager? No contest. Wide open.)
At 17, when most of my mates were listening to AC/DC and Erasure, I was in my mum’s car every Thursday, hot-footing it down to the Hacienda club in Manchester, England, to get my fill of indie/hip hop/early dance, stoked on a beer-and-a-half and starry eyed with the heady history being made all around me.
Meanwhile, my DJ career had kicked off again – this time in the guise of a mobile wedding DJ, complete with lightbox, rope light, two decks with no speed controls, a tape player and a pile of 7″ singles (we used to bunk off school to buy them from the local mom’n'pop record store at lunchtimes).
Gigs and journalism
Fast-forward three years and I’d graduated from Sheffield University, having blagged my way into countless gigs (indie bands mainly, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, New Order, Sundays, Wedding Present, James, Man From Delmonte, Ride) and music festivals (a couple of free Glastonburys spring to mind). I’d been editing the student music pages for a couple of years, and collected an already inordinate amount of vinyl, mainly from freebies and writing off to record labels from the back of the NME telling them what an “influential” DJ I already was.
Come 1993, and I’d been back in Manchester for two years, fully immersed in the city’s rampant and world-famous nightlife as a clubber, a writer, and now a “proper” DJ (“proper” as in my belt-drive turntables now had sticky speed controls, and I was playing local bars five nights a week). My newspaper editor boss (I was a music writer) said: “Phil, give up the day job or the night job.” I quit the next day and finally took up DJing full time.
Thirteen unforgettable clubbing years
They say momentous days start like all the rest, and so it was the day I tentatively started a small club night with my best friend, playing what is now classed as “old school house” (we just called it “what we like” at the time).
Over the next 13 years, “Tangled”, as we named our new event, became an absolute Manchester institution and the longest running club night in arguably Britain’s most influential music city. We packed three generations of Manchester clubbers into a succession of nightclubs, always small (no more than 800 people), always so sweaty that the stuff literally dripped from the ceilings, always dark, always loud, and at times utterly unforgettable.
We had a membership list of 5,000, clubbers who came regularly from as far away as Germany and San Francisco, a guest list that had to be halved and halved again every week just so we could make some money to cover the guest DJ fees, and celebrities (the charming Damon Albarn springs to mind) paying on the door with everyone else and enjoying the underground anonymity our non-fuss little club and Manchester’s thoroughly cool take on celebrity allowed them.
Never go to them, let them come to you
And what a great succession of guest DJs we had. It was a residents’ club, we only booked once or twice a month, but when we did, we explored every nook and cranny of our record collections.
We called random producers, flying in agents with their Belgian, Dutch, German and Scandinavian DJ proteges to spin in our underground intimate madpit. We persuaded the London DJs to drive up north for a night and stay in grotty, shared-bathroom hostels, the only thing that was within our small budget.
We talked the early superstar DJs into slashing their fees to give them what many freely admitted were some of the best nights they’d ever had (“You can play what you want here! If only we’d known earlier we’d have been coming here for years!”).
Over our 13 years of once or twice a week events, we embraced old school, house, progressive, trance, minimal, techno, breakbeat, even a bit of rock. We booked Groove Armada (they were called Beat Foundation back then), Way Out West, Lee Burridge, Tomcraft, Utah Saints, K-klass, Yves Deruyter, Meat Katie, Alex Gold, Rennie Pilgrem, Danny Howells, Plump DJs, Lee Coombs, Binary Finary, Gareth Emery, Adam Freeland, Hybrid, Above & Beyond, and many, many more.
Kicking down the doors
Personally, our DJ careers and seminal club night took us all over our city, and to London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Ibiza… We span many happy times at U2′s The Kitchen, and played from a DJ booth suspended over the swimming pool of Privilege, the biggest club in the world. We guested on radio stations from the local pirates to Ministry of Sound. I wrote a set of articles for IDJ magazine on club promoting that became one of their most popular series of all time. We headlined in front of 10,000 at our city’s biggest open air festival ever.
And of course, as all living-the-life DJs do, we played countless, truly countless, grubby kitchens in student houses and squats, always for free, always until someone kicked us off the decks.
As well as DJing we learned business and promoting, never letting a minute go underused and turning every corner strong and with our heads high. It felt like a film. I wouldn’t change a second of it even if I could.
New life, new ways to play…
In 2006, 22 years after that lad nicked my first mixer, I upped sticks to get married and take up a career in writing and marketing in southern Europe, working at cool web agency on the Mediterranean coast of Spain, promoting low-key sunset nights in beach bars and playing at hard-to-find private parties and events.
Only taking a rucksack and a suitcase with me, my music was all painstakingly ripped to laptop, and indeed the last six months of my Manchester club DJing life I played exclusively from a cheap Fujitsu-Siemens and a copy of Virtual DJ, at a time when even CD decks were still seen as cheating in some people’s eyes. I, on the other hand, saw the potential of digital DJing straight away, embracing it before anyone else I knew, even those superstar DJs who regularly played our club.
Fast forward to now, and iTunes, a DJ controller and a MacBook is to me quite simply what DJing is all about – and as Editor of Digital DJ Tips, I’m proud to be right at the heart of it.
The world of DJing today – post superstar-DJ, post-vinyl, post genre-snobbery – is very different to when I started. It’s a world where DJs and bands not only don’t see any conflict with each other, they’re often the same people. A world where a dance party can go off in a beach bar or lounge as easily as in a traditional club. A world where music is changing, fast, and where the old order, established rules and traditional DJs are fast becoming history.
Digital DJing is here to stay. This website is here to document it all.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.