I recently read a post on a completely-unrelated-to-DJing website based around the “seven deadly sins”. It occurred to me that the “seven deadly sins” can be applied fair and square to DJing too.
So here they are: The “seven deadly sins”, as they apply to DJing. See if you recognise yourself in any of them – and if you can say that you don’t, please treat this as your opportunity to wise up to avoid falling into one of these ungodly traps! (If you want to make sure you get off on the right track from the start, take a look at our How To Digital DJ Fast video training.)
Of course you should be proud of your music, your DJing, and your achievements, and you should strive to appear outwardly confident about what you do (after all, if you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect anyone else to – see Why You Need To Hustle To Get DJing Success).
But arrogance is not cool. One way this comes across is when you claim stuff for yourself that’s patently untrue (like passing off other DJ’s work as your own, or taking credit for other people’s tricks, or miming DJing moves on your gear in front of a crowd).
Or ever seen people claiming they personally “invented” a scene? Not cool, and not necessary if you really did (your peer group will credit you). Music movements of all types are generally populated by humble, creative people who can be the nicest folk you’ll ever be lucky enough to meet and hang out with – but get arrogant and you’ll run the risk of losing friends and respect fast.
Yet another way arrogance and pride show is in thinking you know best all the time when it comes to music. DJing is not and never has been about putting your head down and ploughing through a pre-arranged playlist that is being enjoyed by precisely… nobody.
Look up. Engage your audience. Vary things to try and please them. Never forget that it’s two-way. Keeping everyone with you is one of the most hallowed and hard-to-learn skills of DJing, and is something to be sought continually, not disregarded because you’re too proud to learn from your mistakes and keep trying.
The bottom line: Be confident but stay humble. It’s ultimately about music, not business. Your crowd are your friends so try and please them.
Whenever anyone gets any success, about 500 other people try and replicate it.
If you just lamely try and copy what someone else is doing, you’ll never be better than they are at it, and you’ll never find an audience for yourself, because that person has already got that particular audience stitched up.
It is absolutely imperative to have the cojones to follow your heart, follow what makes you happy, and work on being different to everyone else, trusting that when you’re good enough, you’ll start to get the success you deserve.
The bottom line: Worry about your own game, not everybody else’s.
Another thing DJs sometimes do when other DJs get some success is bad-mouth the person who’s doing well for themselves, claiming they had some unfair advantage, or that they’re somehow not “the real deal”, and so on.
Please don’t be one of those people. If you spend all your time badmouthing other people, constantly belittling other people’s achievements, not only will all that negative energy in the end get to you, but be aware: People don’t forget.
Precisely those people who could have helped you to reach the heights you dream of will instead treat you with suspicion or downright hostility. It’s not worth it in the long run: Help others, and they’ll help you.
The bottom line: Don’t bad-mouth others. Accept that they deserve their success just as much as you do.
DJs can be lazy folk. Try to resist expecting success without putting any work in, or slacking off once you get a gig or two.
If you work hard, you are immediately putting yourself at an advantage. It takes, so they say, 10,000 hours to get good at something. So are you out there, playing any gigs you can, to get your time on the clock? Are you learning how to be more productive, so the time you have to spend on DJing gets used wisely? Are you doing music discovery in your lunch hour at work, or getting an hour’s headphones practice in before anyone else is up and out of bed?
No? Well, those who are hungrier than you for success probably are.
The bottom line: Those who do the work get the rewards.
Do you fight for DJ slots, doing all you can to get one over on other DJs on the bill? Do you jealously guard tracks you’ve found, and not share the names with other DJs or your audience? Do you spend all your time promoting yourself, and none of it promoting others in your scene? Yes? Well, that makes you greedy, and the truth is that greed won’t get you far. Here’s just one example: Go and take a look at the mixes and music section of the Digital DJ Tips forum. Notice how many DJs arrive at our community, and post their mixes as the first thing they do, asking people to comment on them. Now look at home many DJs actually do get feedback. It’s far fewer.
The difference between the two types is that those who get useful feedback on their work are the ones who – rather than simply demanding people spend the time to listen to their mixes – have first taken time to listen to and comment on other people’s. Give, and you’ll get.
The bottom line: Help others and they’ll help you.
Traditionally, we think of gluttony as eating too much, but this term can be used to describe any kind of excess. And here I’m thinking squarely of drink and drugs.
A famous DJ once said to me: “You can take two routes: The drink and drugs route, or the other route. Very few who take the first route last the course.”
Look at the big DJs of today. Most of them hit mega success in their 30s or 40s. What do you think 10 or 15 years of week-long partying would have done to them, had they made that lifestyle choice? You only need to look at the countless other DJs who didn’t make it, who got burned out, who ended up with mental health issues or worse, for your answer.
I don’t want to preach here: I enjoy a good time, and I’ve done most things in my life too. But if you want to make a career of this, you owe it to your craft (nobody DJs better when “under the influence”, they just think they do) and to your health, to moderate what you do.
The bottom line: Go careful around drink and drugs.
Hey hey, it’s everyone’s favourite sin! But seriously, lust is destructive. What I am talking about here is not shagging the promoter’s girlfriend (although that’s usually pretty inadvisable), but rather: Gear lust.
Here’s a big truth: You can DJ on pretty much bloody anything. Never forget that the scene you know and love was built on gear that didn’t change for decades. It’s only recently that people have begun to believe that you need the latest and greatest gear just to get your foot in the door.
Sure, gear is good. Sure, you can do cool things with it. Sure, we love it as much as the next DJs do. But “real” DJs settle on what they’re happy with, then concentrate on their craft. Hint: It’s about music, not Midi. It’s about people, not products. It’s about feelings, not functions.
The bottom line: Pick and set up your DJ gear carefully, then forget about it. Only change your gear when you really have to. Concentrate on the real skills, not the “next big thing”.
Hands up, are you guilty of any of the above? I’ve been guilty of more than one at some time or other (don’t think I ever shagged a promoter’s girlfriend though). Do you agree with me, or do you think some of the things above are OK? Please share your thoughts in the comments!