Your Questions: Do DJs Need Business Plans?

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Last updated 26 November, 2017

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How much do DJs need to plan their way to success? Pic from: cce.clark.edu
How much do DJs need to plan their way to success? Pic from: cce.clark.edu

Digital DJ Tips forum member LoveLandz asks: “Do DJs, more so, yourself, have a business plan of any sort? I guess one of the messages that comes out to me from the Digital DJ Tips site is: ‘If one wants to take DJing seriously and fundamentally make a decent living, a systematic approach has to be applied.’ So, is there any advice on how to go about knocking one together? Any specific industry bits out there? Any help/links/wise words would be great.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

It’s a great question. Don’t take any of what follows as business advice, by the way, just as my personal feeling on this.

Let me tell you a story. When I was a young DJ (like, just into my 20s), I was ambitious – I was involved in a club night, was DJing all across town, making contacts with agencies, record labels, promotions pools, and focused on DJing full time for a living. However, I was still young! I didn’t want a business plan, targets, forecasts, Excel spreadsheets, an accountant and so on. I wanted to DJ, make money, and be recognised. It didn’t help my long-term planning that the whole scene I was involved in was young, really young – none of us knew if it would even exist in a year’s time, so planning wasn’t high on our agendas.

Now, I “got there” in the end as a DJ, but it took five years of truly hard slog – and ten years after that, I was paying professionals thousands to unravel my tax situation because I’d not taken all that side of things seriously enough in the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change any of my “rock ‘n’ roll” years – I DJed in some of the best and biggest clubs in the world, made more than enough money, was involved neck-deep in the music I loved, met a whole load of my heroes and DJed alongside most of them. We had great, great times – which is why I encourage any young DJs to work hard but follow their dreams.

However, I now know that a bit of planning does go a long way, and for me it boils down to the following. Apart from as soon as you start earning money as a DJ, get an accountant, here are my recommendations to the renegade modern DJ/entrepreneur:

Four steps to achieving your DJ dreams

  1. At the start of each year, decide what you want to have achieved by the start of the next year. Be ambitious, but realistic. List four to six things; that leaves you room for the unexpected things that will definitely crop up in the year (often the best!). Write this down, tuck it in your wallet and refer to it often. Include personal things as well as professional
  2. Every Sunday (for instance), plan the next week – back-of-beermat style, no need to write loads – to ensure you’re doing at least one thing towards each of your four to six “projects”, as well as towards anything new you’ve decided to take on along the way
  3. Reward yourself with non-planned downtime. After all, if you do just one thing a week towards four to six projects, that’s 50 steps towards your dreams in six areas you’ll have achieved by the end of the year. More than most people, I’ll wager. Free time is important. All work and no play will make you a dull DJ
  4. If a project doesn’t work out, or you’ve taken on too much, don’t be afraid to drop it – but at the same time, only give up after serious thought. Don’t take things on easily, but don’t give them up easily either

The trouble with business plans
The trouble with business plans is that you have to constantly revise them, as your numbers are usually out of date as soon as the ink’s dried on the paper. I think many business plans are pretty much universally destined to sit on shelves for that reason.

Of course, if you have full-time employees, want to convince someone to fund you, or if you’re the kind of person who is aiming for superstardom or to control an empire (nothing wrong with that), then you should get a business plan. Otherwise, I think as long as you’re working hard to achieve your dreams, the journey is more important than the cold numbers. For me, it’s always been about health, family, music, writing, teaching and travel. I don’t need a plan to achieve in all of those areas – just a clear idea of my next ambition in each area, and a few notes to keep me on track.

If you’re really interested in the way I think on this, I can recommend a good book to you. It’s called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s a long and pretty heavy read, but it’s also an international bestseller so it’s clearly onto something. I have it permanently to hand.

Are you an ambitious DJ? Do you have a business plan? Are you someone who’s always worked in such a way – or hasn’t but wished they had? How much should DJing be taken “seriously” and how much should it be for fun? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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