We keep going on about how important it is to get gigs (or shows, or live DJ sets – whatever you want to call them) in order to improve as a DJ – and for good reason: More than half of our readers (according to our latest reader survey) are still only DJing in their bedrooms.
Each day we receive scores of email, PMs, tweets and Facebook message from bedroom DJs who know they want to play “real” DJ sets in public, but are stuck doing it behind closed doors, all asking the same questions about how to break out of practising and start performing.
So today we list the top seven real-life lies bedroom DJs tell themselves and that mean they continue to fail to get shows – and what you can do about them if you’re guilty of any of them yourself!
1. “I can’t get a booking”
I’m just going to list a load of possibilities here. Your birthday party. Someone else’s birthday party. Friend’s leaving party. Work Christmas party. Wedding. Anniversary. Pool party. Barbecue. Beach party. House-warming party. Christening party. Sports party. Quiet night in any local bar. Party at your home for no reason at all. Public holiday house party. End-of-semester party. University dorm party. DJing before a friend’s band.
Never mind “can”t get a gig”, I’ve just given you enough ideas to get a booking every month for the next five years. Now stop pussying around and get something in the diary. Look at 7 Easy Steps Towards Your First DJ Booking for a step-by-step guide to doing this.
2. I can’t get a gig playing my type of music”
Grow up, bro. Do you think Tïesto really wants to play just trance all the time? Do you think the guy in your local superclub enjoys every record he plays? Do you think the underground rave DJs who are expected to drop the latest, greatest exclusive tunes from the hottest producers in their scenes always personally think they’re the best tunes every written? If you’re expecting perfection, you’ll get nothing. First gigs practically always suck anyway. Get used to the idea.
What’s more, DJing is about entertainment as well as education. It’s about playing as much of your stuff as you can get away with while at the same time keeping your crowd happy. Are you really telling me that a full, happy dancefloor won’t itself make you feel all warm inside, even if you’re playing a mix of what they want and what you like? If so, maybe DJing really isn’t for you.
Of course, try and get a gig playing to “your” type of people. But you’ll still get requests for songs you’d rather not play – and they might be the exact songs that are going to drive the dancefloor wild. You’re not always right, even if you are the DJ. Take a look at the replies to the post How Do I Get a Gig Playing My Type of Music? for a wake-up call on this one.
3. “I’m not good enough”
Duh, hello? If you were good enough, you’d be Tïesto already! So you’re not good enough to play the Olympics opening ceremony. So what? You are good enough to want to be a DJ, to collect music, to be reading this. Take a look at 7 Tell-Tale Signs You’d Make A Great DJ: I guarantee that if you tick more than half of the boxes, you’re good enough.
It’s about good music, not being “good” at anything that you can’t learn in just a few weeks. Sure you’ll spend years going from alright to excellent as a DJ – but I’ve got news for you: that bit only happens once you’re already playing gigs. So get some. Now.
4. “My gear’s not good enough”
Rubbish. My good DJing friend, James Timmis, DJed a six-hour set to a packed tent at my wedding, on an iPod and a MacBook, no DJ software, the audio outs from both plugged through a borrowed cheap mixer. He rocked it. People still talk about it. I DJed professionally in clubs for years with just a cheap laptop, Virtual DJ, and a little Echo Audio sound card.
If you have DJ software (any DJ software) and a laptop, you can DJ live. If you have a controller too, any controller, you’re already ahead of the game. Don’t hide behind the gear excuse.
5. “I’m too nervous/scared”
Grow some cojones. DJing is nerve-wracking. My girlfriend used to avoid me for two hours before any gig because I’d have an involuntary nervous cough and be in a terrible mood, all through being scared witless. By that time I’d already been DJing for 10 years as a pro! The first hour of a gig is horrible, as you secretly hope nobody is going to turn up because you’re so scared. When they start to turn up, you may even resent them as you know you now can’t pack up and go home, blaming it on poor turnout! But the next hour is better, and I guarantee you that by the end, you won’t want to stop.
Think of a child crying as it’s dropped off at nursery. Now think of how that same child cries again at the end of the day because it doesn’t want to go home. That’s you DJing your first gig. If a two-year-old can conquer “the fear”, so can you. We’ve got an article on the blog next week that’ll help you with this – watch out for it.
6. “Other DJs will laugh at me”
Personally, it took me five years to feel that I was a real DJ and not a fraud. Five years of insecurity. We always think everyone else is better than us, that just because we’re involved, it’s bound to be worse than if we weren’t – whatever “it” may be. It’s human nature. What’s worse, nobody is going to tap you on the shoulder, give you a framed certificate, and say “well done! You’re a DJ now”… You’ll always feel insecure as a DJ. All creative people do. It’s in our DNA.
And other DJs are the worst at criticising DJs who are actually playing a set. They do it all the time. But you want to know why? Because with every single fibre of their bodies, they wish it was them DJing, not you. They’re jealous, pure and simple. Nothing more. Forget them. You’re there to play to the crowd anyway, not to other DJs.
7. I don’t know how to learn
Look, it takes effort, but so many people miss the bleedin’ obvious here. So do the one thing so many DJs fail to do – put aside an hour a day and practice.
Work through every word in your DJ software and hardware manuals. If you don’t understand something, don’t skim over it – come back to it the next day and try again. Go through all the configuration options. Write down what’s confusing you and look at what you wrote down tomorrow.
Talk to other DJs you know. Go on our forum. Of course, read our back articles (there are 500+, and you can read tutorials by selection “DJ Culture” at the top and just working through the list). Most important though, book that first show – now. Once you’ve done that, the pressure of not wanting to make a fool of yourself in public will be all the motivation you need to put the time in that’s necessary, believe me!
When I want to improve my fitness, I book myself in for a marathon. I do not want to stop half-way round unable to finish, so it gives me the drive I need to go out training in the cold and wet. Otherwise, I know I won’t do it. Same thing applies to DJing. Truth is, the only thing keeping you in the bedroom is that you haven’t organised or booked yourself a gig. So do that. You secretly already know the rest of these reasons are just excuses. So if you’re guilty of any of them, take a deep breath, and do something about it – now.
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Are you a new DJ who’s struggling to break out of the bedroom? What are you finding hardest to conquer? fear? Lack of opportunities? Skills?¿ Getting the right music? Please let us know in the comments.