The Burn Residency is all over the place right now, and this is one DJ competition that’s definitely the real deal. You can win a €100,000 DJ contract, bag a residency at one of Ibiza’s best clubs all summer long, and be coached by the likes of Carl Cox and Pete Tong. In short, it really could be your leg-up to becoming the next big DJ superstar. It’s no easy ride – there’s a full-on bootcamp and a shortlisting process, before a final winner is chosen – but wherever you are in the world, if you’re serious about your DJing, you should be planning your entry for this right now.
Thing is, you’re not the only one who’s gonna be interested! Luckily, we can give you an unfair advantage, which is what today’s list of seven tricks to getting ahead of the pack is all about. So take a look at the competition, and if you’re up for it, let us help you get the best entry you can submitted. You’ve only got a week or two, so it’s time to get cracking…
Our seven secrets to winning the Burn Residency
1. Listen to previous winners – and the most popular of this year’s entries so far
Don’t just go in without doing a bit of research. Go here where you can see who won last year. Check ’em out! What are their styles, how do they present themselves? While I’m not saying you should copy these people, being aware of what’s worked in the past can certainly help you shape what you want to do to have a better chance of your mix catching the judges’ attention. Maybe these DJs are playing more or less commercial than you were planning to? Maybe that means you can “get away” with more than you thought you could? (Or vice versa…)
Also, as this year’s competition has been running for a short while already, there are already some entries in there. Which ones are doing well? Which are not really getting any traction? Can you spot any trends? How does this relate to what you’re planning on doing? What mistakes are these DJs making in your view? How can you avoid them?
I’m not saying spend the next week researching all of this – you don’t have the time. But a couple of hours with a blank piece of paper in front of you to jot down any ideas that come to you is going to be time well spent, before you get going on anything else. You can rest assured 90% of other entrants haven’t bothered to do this.
2. Make sure your music is memorable
You’re going to have to be really, really good to mix the Beatport Top 10 and stand out. This is perhaps the hardest part of the whole process. Maybe you already DJ out and have a great set of original, surprising, upfront tunes that you simply know will smash anyone else’s set into bits – but I’m guessing you’re not quite so confident about your music choices. So here’s a couple of tips.
Firstly, cast your net a little bit wider. Sure it’s great to include those Beatport smashes you truly love – but head over to SoundCloud and listen to some of the sounds being offered as free downloads from your favourite producers, too; these tend to be more “exclusive” than stuff you can buy. Try emailing your favourite labels or producers to ask for tracks too – you’d be surprised what you can get if you’re polite. Try a trial month with a record pool like Promo Only or DJ City for some remixes or exclusives that are a little less “out there” than commercially available stuff. In short, take one step further than you’re used to in your tune hunting – this simple act will pay dividends.
Secondly – and this is a really big one – don’t skimp on the quality. Get your music from good sources, insist on 320kbps MP3s or lossless files, and trust your ears. Be hyper critical here – a great mix with muddy, inconsistent and generally poor sounding music files is going to do you absolutely no musical favours at all when you’re trying to stand out from everyone else. And trust your ears – if it sounds bad, it probably is. This goes for DJing as well as mixtapes, by the way – you need an extremely good reason to be playing with sub-par quality tunes, and there aren’t many reason that justify doing this. And master your mix well, too, which means tweaking the final mix to make it sound as good as possible, after the event (there’s a very simple, fast mastering tutorial as part of our popular Pro Mixtape Formula course).
3. Use your best mixing tricks
This isn’t the place to try loads of new techniques, but equally, if you’re good at certain things (and you’ll know this because it’ll be the things that people always tell you you’re good at), make sure you do them on your mix. This is no time for shying away from showing off a bit. Got a cue juggling trick? Learned a bit of scratching? A master at harmonic mixing? Then show the world!
Here’s another little tip: Don’t be scared to use mixes you already do all the time, even if they sound “old” to you. Your judges in the Burn Residency won’t have heard you doing those mixes. And mixing older and newer tunes on a mixtape is rarely a bad idea, either – do the stuff that makes you passionate, not what you think other people will want to hear (that’s why you don’t want to take point 1 too far – it’s guidance, that’s all). And practise – nothing wrong with going over it again and again until you’re happy. In fact, it’s essential.
4. Pre-create some mashups and edits for use in your set
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making your own mashups, re-edits and the like, especially if you’ve dabbled already – now’s the time to push the boat out and do something special. Maybe you’ve got Mixed In Key Mashup (it’s now at 2.0 and easier to use / more powerful than ever), which is a great way to get started in all of this. Maybe you’re already cutting and pasting your stuff up in Ableton Live. Or maybe you’re just a dab hand at Traktor’s Remix Decks, or throwing a few loops into your DJ software sampler and recording the results. Whatever it is, try and do a bit on your mix – it’ll really help it to stand out.
There’s another reason for this, too. There’s nothing wrong with pre-producing a bit. Sure, you may be able to throw together some live remixing with nothing more than two decks, a mixer and a lot of concentration. but prepping some of this stuff beforehand isn’t cheating – it’s common sense. Do you really think nobody else is going to be doing this, after all? Don’t let “being a purist” make your mix harder to make, or reduce the scope of what you try, or lower its quality. If you want to double a break length, edit an intro, throw a difficult vocal over something, then prep it beforehand and mix with the results!
5. Tightly edit your mix to fit as much as possible into the 15-20 minutes
Languidly mixing your tunes together to take a whole room on a long journey is all well and good – but you’ve got 15 minutes here to impress! How are you going to capture the feel of what you usually do in a set, in such a short time? One answer is to edit your mix after recording it, using a DAW like Audacity, which is free.
While we’re at it, editing is something you can do to make it easier to record your mix, too. If you’re scared of having to perform the perfect mix in one go, with all the chopping and changing you’re planning, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: That’s not how to pros do it at all!. They go for each mix sequentially, and when they’ve got it right, move onto the next one. Then, they edit the results together afterwards, to get the perfect mix. It’s what they were planning, only easier and quicker. And you’ve got 10 days. Easy and quick is very, very useful.
Our Pro Mixtape Formula video course goes into this step by step, and you could follow the whole course in a weekend if you went at it single mindedly: If you don’t own it, consider it; the time you spend learning how pros make mixtapes, probably more than any other advice in this post, will give you a truly unfair advantage.
6. Present your mix well
There’s a social media element to this competition (there always is nowadays). Presenting you mix and yourself well across all of your online channels is a must. Great images, a DJ logo, well written, pithy info about you – all of it will help you stand out. And trust me, you’ don’t have to look very far for easy ways to rise above some of your competitors – look how many of the current Burn Residency entries don’t even have an image attached to them, for instance (or of those who do, look how many are truly poor quality).
Our writer D-Jam is currently in the middle of a great series about how to create killer DJ promotional materials. Keep an eye on Digital DJ Tips over the next two weeks for further episodes that’ll help you to stand out from the crowd, both in the way you present your entry itself in the competition app, and the way you promote it outside to your friends, fans and followers.
7. Start now, and do something every day
If you’re all excited, you’ve got a great idea about your mix, and you’re sure that you are going to be the one who will wow the judges and bag that Ibiza residency, with all the cash and a career as a superstar DJ that’s gonna come with it – great! Now, don’t make the big mistake that consigns so many dream to the dustbin: Inaction.
If your thought process is going: “Well, obviously this is important, so I need to clear some time in my diary to do it. I reckon I can spend all next weekend and have it nailed!”, it’s time to wise up: There ain’t ever any perfect time to do stuff, and the days between now and next weekend are never going to happen again. I can guarantee you other things will encroach on “next weekend” (or whenever you’re planning your blue sky, distraction free period of creativity that is gong to propel you to the front of the competition).
So don’t rob your chances of the time you have available right now. The way to succeed in this stuff is by starting! It’s much, much better to spend whatever time you can every single day pushing important stuff forward than to plan it into your diary for the future. Moving your projects on a little a day is the best way to finish them, and if you want to slot creating a contending entry in the Burn Residency into your life, that’s how to do it: Scope it out, decide what needs to be done, and start – right now! This tip alone, which is nothing to do with DJing, will push you to the top of the pile of DJs who “planned” to enter but never got around it it.
Have the right mindset here. Sure, there will be loads of people entering. Sure, you need to be deft at getting your great mix out there as well as making it. But look at it this way: Learning to produce tight, lean, interesting 15-20 minute mixes in 10 days flat is a really, really good skill in its own right – if you don’t win, it’ll have been time extremely well spent anyway. As always, if you can enjoy the ride as much as the destination, then you’re going to be less worried about where things may take you, and more concerned about doing the best you can do, right now. And that’s the kind of thinking that wins competitions. Good luck!
• Here’s a link to the competition again: The Burn Residency
Are you planning on entering this competition? Have you already done so (if so, feel free to post a link below). What do you think of our seven tips? Please share your thoughts (and entry mixes) in the comments.