How To Succeed At DJing, Part 13: Think Beyond Gigs

| Read time: 9 mins
Pro promotion
Last updated 10 April, 2018

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Store DJ
Can’t get a club gig? Get a gig in a store! It’s all exposure and it could all lead somewhere for you.
Pic: Zimbio

Throughout this series, I’ve tried to show you how to understand the industry and marketing as well as how to set up yourself as a self-promotion engine for your DJ business. You’ve learned the harsh realities of this line of work, developed a brand, created your marketing materials, and networked yourself in the name of getting ahead.

What if it’s not enough? What if you made great demos, a beautiful website, press kit, and have the gift of gab, but promoters and would-be clients are still not impressed or interested. The solution is to go beyond gigs. The idea of taking things beyond playing in a bar, club, or event isn’t new. DJs since even before the birth of hip-hop have always gone beyond playing gigs to make their mark. You look at any success story now in DJing, and you’ll see how they do many things beyond showing up at venues to play.

Here are a few ideas:

Producing music

This is the obvious one, and I’m sure practically every DJ reading this has heard it before. With the DJ industry now fully in the same world as the music industry, it’s become practically essential for any DJ who wants to become a major headliner that he/she has to be producing music. He/she has to make and release tracks so there is something more than mixes attached to their name. It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but look how many major names were first noticed for their productions. Now before you go invest in Ableton Live or Logic, ask yourself if you really have any solid ideas. The worst thing you can do as a DJ is to bastardise the music by releasing shoddy tunes purely for the sake of getting noticed. We all see this happen daily with the many gripes about the vast amount of garbage that’s released.

Many are producing music hoping it will be their step into the big leagues, but it takes someone who is passionate about their music and has great ideas (or knows how to fiddle and play with stuff to accidentally come up with great ideas) to do this job well. If you have no real ideas or concepts in your mind for great tunes, then don’t do this, or look for another avenue to build your creativity. Try remixing tunes you love instead, or making mashups. Use that SoundCloud account that’s collecting dust now. Post them and let those creations be the lead-in for many to find out about you.

Throw and/or promote events

Perhaps you don’t have it in you to create music, but the networking lessons you learned rewarded you with many new friends who keep asking when you’re going to play somewhere. Why not take a risk and throw an event?

Flyers
Promoting your own events is a great was to always be guaranteed a DJ slot.

Throwing and promoting events is a lot of work, and often times you have to put aside yourself as a DJ for the sake of making a successful night. However, the two greatest benefits of throwing and/or promoting events is that you not only learn how the other side of this business operates, but you can make a name for yourself that could carry into gigs with bigger promoters. If you know nothing about throwing or promoting events, then try to connect up with a crew and help out. Hand out flyers, push on the internet, and come up with ideas. I think it’s ideal to get with a group and learn the business, especially because these guys are always hungry for ambitious, dedicated, and responsible people whom they can trust. I will say many residents in many known events and crews got their start this way. Get your foot in the door.

Think outside the club

Ever walk through the mall, pass a clothing store, and see a DJ in there spinning? How about at some street fair, you see a booth with a DJ spinning and perhaps selling T-shirts? Did you ever fathom setting yourself up in a park with a stack of CDs and a tin cup the way you see street musicians do? Why not? Sometimes the best opportunities can happen outside of a club, bar, or event. I remember taking a walk-a-thon for charity, and saw a booth set up at the “fair” they held. It had a DJ in there spinning crowd favourites and pushing himself as a mobile DJ. Think about it, this fair was full of women who may be getting married sometime soon, or know someone getting married sometime soon, or would need a DJ for something. His investment in a booth and banner probably paid for itself.

How about the store example? You see the DJ in there, go in with a demo and ask the manager how you could get in there to spin. Offer it for free and show up to play for a few hours. Bring demos and such to give to people. If you’re playing at a future event, give out flyers.

There are many more places for a DJ to get out there than just clubs, bars, and paid events.

Go online

I explained in the last two weeks on promoting yourself online and why you should build a website, but the internet is one of the easiest places for a DJ to play without having to do much other than give up some time.

DJ Culture Podcast
Podcasting is a regular gig, and done right it could get you a regular set of fans too.

You go on web forums and you’ll see someone popping up every few weeks saying they run an internet radio station and they need DJs. Go on YouTube and there are loads of DJs posting videos of them mixing, showing off tips, or even just podcasting. iTunes alone is loaded with DJ podcasts from all over the world. Now I’ll say it’s easy to get something going online, but it’s much harder to get a strong following. If you decide to try an online radio show, be sure to find a station that gets some measure of a following so you’re not struggling and playing to only two or three people. Also try not to take on a spot where no one is tuning in. Playing at 10am in the morning isn’t going to mean anything if no one else can tune in.

Podcasting is an easier method that I more recommend and practice. While I don’t post an XML file for anyone to “subscribe” to, I have been posting mixes online since the 1990s. Even when I got involved in the online show TheMovement.fm, I urged the owner to go for audio you can upload. The reason is that while an online radio broadcast is live, it’s also that only time one can hear you. An uploaded podcast means anyone can listen at any time, and you can archive old shows for prosperity and new fans that want to hear more. YouTube is another opportunity that many DJs have jumped in on. If you have a flip cam or some small blogging camera (or even your iPhone camera), use it. Bring it to gigs and have a friend make short videos of you playing and of the crowd.

Post videos blogging about information, tips, and tricks. Do the typical 10-minute mix that you see others post. Make a video of your top 10 and intertwine clips with the song information appearing. This might seem like a lot of work, but look at the hits many of those videos get. It’s worth it and even I’m looking to see what I can do in video.

Blogging

If web radio, producing and/or promoting events are not your thing, try blogging. Content creation is a big industry on the internet, and those who can write well can go places in blogging. It’s why I write for this site, my own blog, and two other blogs that have nothing to do with DJing. The advantage of blogging is every new entry puts another marker on the internet with your name on it. Lord knows there is plenty one can write about. Start a blog on your website and review music, gear, or events. Talk about social issues, industry issues, or post stories. Eventually you can get noticed and other sites will want you to write for them. I’ve seen even some events where the entire DJ lineup was made up of bloggers.

Blogging
You already know how blogs work, as you’re reading one! Why not set up a blog promoting your local scene, or something similar?

Now many blogs are illegal. You know what I mean. They’re the ones posting music illegally for download. I would not recommend this. Eventually you can get busted unless you’re located in a country that doesn’t prosecute. You can though write reviews and even post promotional clips, or link to a YouTube video of the track (since it seems practically every track is on YouTube).

Even if you can’t write lengthy articles like this one, try Tumblr. I have a Tumblr page separate from my regular DJ blog. In it I simply post links to my mixes, articles I post on my blog, and interesting DJ-related articles I come across. I also post two-minute clips of new tunes I really liked. It’s such a simple thing, but it can be effective in the long run. Just post something once a week and then post the links to it on your other social media pages. It’ll at least maintain interest.

The big rule: Stay consistent

This is the ultimate key to making this ideology work. It’s the cardinal sin I’ve committed many times in my past. No matter what options here you take on, you have to be consistent with it.

Imagine if this site only had a new article once in a while? Let’s say we get a new article every day for two weeks, then it slows down to every other day, then every few days, then eventually every few weeks. Would you come here regularly? I wouldn’t. How about if you listened to a cool podcast, but then it suddenly stops and you don’t see an update for weeks? Would you stick around? I wouldn’t.

I’ve tried many online shows in the past, but found with my busy career and even way back when I was a busy student, it was just very difficult for me to be consistent. So I’d get done with a load of homework, and then I’m too tired to record this week’s podcast, or I’d get very busy at work, and suddenly can’t promote or even attend events I was helping push. This goes back to making a full-time effort in this world of DJing. If you cannot remain consistent to a degree with whatever outside activities you try, then don’t try them. Don’t get an online show going if you think you’ll be too busy for it in a month. Don’t start blogging if you aren’t going to post something new at least once a week. Even if you get into promotion, be realistic in what you can or can’t do.

Whether it’s your fans, customers, or even business associates, they want reliability and consistency out of you. If you can’t provide that, then don’t get into a venture where it’s required, or set limits that you can attain. Suddenly vanishing from an activity can hurt your brand way more than help it. Look at the fight Avid is going through trying to make-up for M-Audio’s inconsistency in updates and communication when it came to Torq.

Is this the end?

Well my friends, we’ve come to the last chapter in this series on How to Succeed at DJing. While this is the end for this particular series, this isn’t the end of the knowledge.

There will be articles coming that might dive into greater details of topics discussed in this series, but could not be expanded upon. Thank you for reading and I hope you see success in your efforts through this information given.

• I’m sure you’ll all join me in thanking D-Jam for the last three months’-worth of great articles on promoting yourself as a a DJ. Look out for more from him in the near future here on Digital DJ Tips. – Phil Morse, Editor.

Check out the other parts in this series:

How do you keep your DJing up when you haven’t got gigs in bars or clubs? What do you do to keep involved in the industry that maybe isn’t DJing at all? Let us know in the comments!

DJ Census 2019