Today’s training article was inspired by an email from a new subscriber to Digital DJ Tips, Curt. Curt writes: “I do not consider myself a club DJ, but a mobile events DJ. I am a well-known DJ in my community, however I would love to start DJing in clubs. So any help possible I’d accept with open arms! I know how to keep people on the floor, but I do not scratch and mix like club DJs.”
While we often hear of club DJs who give up on the dream of being hugely successful DJ/producers (often, when a new young family means they feel compelled to “get a proper job”…) and make the switch in the direction of mobile DJing in order to keep in the game, what is less spoken about is moving the other way. So if you’re a mobile DJ who’s always hankered after club work, today’s tips are designed to help you take the first step:
- Start working on your “sound” – Club DJs have a “sound”. Mobile DJs are skilled at moving the floor, getting everyone dancing, keeping a wide variety of people happy… but club DJs are more focused. While it is equally inadvisable to pigeonhole yourself too much, even eclectic / multi-format club DJs have an angle, an edge. Decide what your “sound” will be and bear it in mind when crafting your sets for playing in clubs. Making mixtapes and listening to them will help you to hone your sound, and of course, this will also give you a “calling card” to give to people who may like to book you
- Learn some technical skills – You already have the most important skills (filling dancefloors, programming a great DJ set, performing, beating nerves etc.) But club-style DJs need to rely less on the microphone, more on mixing. The least is to be able to beatmatch, preferably manually (once you can, please go ahead and use sync. Only a monkey wouldn’t). You mentioned scratching, and that is a great skill to have. You could also learn how to use FX, or make basic re-edits, to use acapellas – don’t panic, as you don’t need to do all of these things at once, but good club DJs have a wide palette of technical skills to call on
- Consider using a new DJ name just for your club work… – There is an awful lot of undeserved snobbery out there around DJing, but nonetheless the truth is that your markets for your mobile work and your future club gigs are very different, so it may be better to have a new DJ name for your club gigs to keep them both separate. Many DJs use a company name for mobile work and a cool-sounding name for their club work. That’s not dishonest; it’s just marketing, and it’s fine
- …but definitely use your existing contacts to get booked – There’s no need to totally turn your back on your mobile contacts and gigs, though. At the very least have your “club persona” business cards with you at mobile gigs. Tell the people who book you that you also do that kind of event; an impressed venue manager when you DJ a wedding there might just ask you to fill in when a DJ lets him down for his Saturday night club slot – but only if you tell him! The same mailing list of contacts you build up for the mobile business could be emailed to tell them about your club bookings, or to offer them your services. Be careful how you do this – but don’t disregard this huge advantage you have over new club DJs with no contacts at all
- Don’t expect the same pay from club work – The best way to see club DJing is as a creative outlet. If you’re used to mobile DJ pay rates, especially formal occasions like weddings, be prepared for a shock in the club scene! You’re very likely to be asked to play for free (we advise you always at least ask for something, though), but you definitely won’t earn the same unless you become very successful. Bear that in mind so you can set your expectations accordingly
- Revise your requests policy – You’re used to being “the man that can” (or woman, of course), the DJ who can please everyone by playing all the tunes they ask for, right? That’s why as a mobile DJ you have such a large music collection. But as a club-style DJ, it’s more about the journey, your skills, about teaching the crowd as much as entertaining them. Sure, it’s a fine balance, and I’m not saying never take requests (because at the end of the day you still need to fill the dancefloors, and if you don’t you’d probably do well to listen to your crowd’s suggestions!). But a lot of the time as a club DJ you’ll be deflecting request suggestions rather than bowing down to them…
- Remember you already know more than you think – While you may see club DJing as totally different to mobile work, it isn’t as far removed as you may think. So many successful club DJ/producers started as mobile DJs. I started as a mobile DJ. It is the “rough end” of the game, and the truth is if you can fill floors as a mobile DJ, doing the same in a club (when remember, everyone has come – usually at the same time – simply to dance; that’s what they’re there for!) is something you may end up finding a lot easier. Don’t let anyone put you off…
I firmly believe DJing is a “broad church”. As you’re first and foremost a music lover, your career over a lifetime may involve some mobile work, some corporate gigs, playing in a local club, dabbling in production and getting a few gigs out of town as a DJ/producer, maybe some web radio or local radio work, possibly even teaching or writing (lots of DJs are also involved in these associated jobs, too). You may, just may, become a full-time DJ pop star!
But what binds all of these things together is a love of the music, and of people appreciating your work. So don’t limit yourself by thinking of yourself as only a mobile DJ (or indeed, only a club DJ); once you realise it’s all more connected than you think, the chances of having a long, happy and varied career playing the music you love to people who want to hear it increase hugely.
Have you made the switch from club to mobile DJ? What did you learn doing so? Do you do both successfully? Anything you’d like to add to my points above? Please share your thoughts in the comments.