If it wasn’t for the public, you wouldn’t be able to DJ, because you’d have nobody to play for. That means no chance of ever DJing for a living, no chance of making a career out of what you love, no chance of escaping the humdrum 9-to-5 existence that might otherwise snag you.
DJing is a dream for so many people, so if you’re lucky enough to get to the point where you’re earning money from it, it would do you well to not repeat some of the errors I’ve seen DJs commit over the years (myself included at times). Here’s five of the worst:
- Being rude to your fans – Some guy who’s been dancing all night and obviously loving your stuff finally wobbles up to you to ask you for a record you’re not going to play. Do you shake his hand and smile at him telling him you’ll try, scowl at him and say “no”, or just ignore him? If you don’t shake his hand, smile, and tell you’ll see what he can do, you’re going to upset just the kind of person who may otherwise wake up in the morning and immediately tell 10 of his friends how great you are – whether you played his tune or not!
- Looking like you’re not having fun – If you’re in “I’m a serious artist” mode, or you’re in a mood because the equipment in the club isn’t what you would have preferred, or you’re just shit scared of messing up, you may well DJ with a long face, rooted to the spot and never looking up to the crowd. Get over yourself! It’s your duty to act like you’re enjoying yourself even if you’re not. So put some effort in. Smile and jump around! Interact. You’re a DJ, not an undertaker. Act like it.
- Playing for yourself, not your crowd – DJing is half education, half entertainment. Sure, play new stuff. Sure, be adventurous. Sure, sometimes get it wrong. That’s all fine. But if you don’t play the music that at least most of the people have come to hear at least most of the time, you’re not getting another booking and you’re not getting any new fans either. Don’t disappear up your own musical arse. Play for the people. There’s a difference between playing popular records and playing predictable rubbish, and good DJs make it their business to understand it.
- Not replying to emails, tweets etc. – If people are good enough to get in touch with you, does it really take that long to say something back? Taking 15 seconds to answer an email or a tweet can really make someone’s day, and it’s surprising how few DJs do it. Some really big DJs on Twitter make a point of doing this, and you should too. Of course you can’t always answer everyone about everything, but do as much as you can. People always remember when you reply – and always remember when you don’t.
- Not laughing at yourself – You’re a human, not a God. If you f*ck up (turning off the wrong tune, dropping an awful record by mistake, accidentally turning the PA off, slipping over on your arse on the way into the club), then laugh at yourself – loudly. Show you’re human. People don’t warm to people who take themselves so seriously they can’t even acknowledge their mistakes. Smile and move on, and you’ll win a few more fans.
While some of this is just being nice, some of it takes effort. You may not mean to ignore weeks’-worth of fan emails, or forget to thank the guy who comes to every gig you play at, or bore the pants off the whole club by playing a load of self-indulgent tosh with your head down in the DJ box, but the damage will be the same. So try harder, and you’ll be rewarded with genuine fans and a more successful career.