5 Things I Wish I’d Known About DJing At 18

| Read time: 3 mins
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Last updated 26 November, 2017

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The DJ booth in Pagoda Park, birmingham, in the late 80s.
The DJ booth in Pagoda Park, Birmingham, in the late 80s. Things may have changed since then, but young people deciding whether to follow their musical dreams still face similar questions and pressures.

As a digital DJ who’s older than most here, comfortable in my skin and happily practising the craft, I have learned a thing or two about what’s really important when you’re weighing up the part DJing should play in your life.

It’s a question that often features here and on the Digital DJ Tips forum, mainly framed by younger (often teenage) readers, who are grappling with where their careers should take them. It surfaces in questions like: Is DJing a reliable career? What can I do about my parents not supporting my DJing? How can I get a full-time job as a DJ?

In my time on the planet, and now with children of my own, I have been blessed enough to see this from both sides. So to hopefully help readers of this who are just starting out, I’d like to share five things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Quit worrying about what other people think! – You cannot control it, so why worry about it? Worse, you will drive yourself completely crazy trying to figure out how to behave to make even one other person happy. The only person you should try to make “happy” is yourself
  2. If you love DJing, that’s reason enough to go for it – Or putting it another way, if you don’t love doing what you choose for yourself in life, you should try not to do it. (You certainly shouldn’t do anything for money alone.) While money is essential to get on in life, this quickly becomes a soul-crushing existence. (Trust me, I know all about that…)
  3. Look at yourself as a business – Figure out what sort of money you need to be able to provide the essentials and be able to support your passion (ie DJing) until you start to make money at it. Then, go out and ruthlessly organise your life around making that happen. Decide what objects, activities and so on have value to you and and keep/do those, leaving the rest. (Just remember there is slightly more to life than DJing, so make time and room for friends, family and so on. Don’t be a dork about it…)
  4. Don’t automatically reject “commercial” gigs – Many DJs do this because they think commercial gigs violate their artistic integrity. I am not saying take every one, but there are lots of DJs out there who play commercially oriented music to make a living and then jock in the “underground” scene to work on their art. Getting out there and playing has value in itself, and will probably make you more money (at least at first) too…
  5. Whatever your parents say, they only want you to “have it better than they did” – Parents have aspirations for you. Mine did. My family doctor said I should become a doctor, and my parents agreed. While that might have been nice, it did not work out. It took them a while to figure out that their Dennis was not going to practice medicine! Once you start making a few pennies jockin’ your parents might come around… or maybe not. But their support is not the critical factor in your achieving success (however you define it) in DJing. You, yourself, are the critical factor

Let me tell you a story. My younger daughter started out wanting to be a punk musician, but when confronted with a close up look at that lifestyle ended up morphing through photography and into art gallery work. (She also DJs, like her dad!) She followed her path, adapted along the way, and ended up in a place where she’s content.

This is the kind of thing I hope for for you if you’re just starting out as a DJ. Believe in yourself, keep an open mind, find the courage to follow your own dreams – and as the shoe commercial says, “just do it”!

• Dennis Parrott is a Digital DJ Tips reader, working digital DJ, and regular contributor in our blog comments. He’s nearly 55 years old and proud of it.

Are you trying to find a way to make DJing your career, or an important part of your life? Do your parents support you, or have they got other plans for you? How realistic is following your dreams of DJing full-time where you happen to live? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments.

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