New Digital DJ tips subscriber B. Sonny White writes in with a very common question we get asked by beginner DJs. He says: “One of the biggest problems I’m having right now is getting the capital to fund the startup equipment price.” Here’s our take on this:
Digital DJ Tips says:
Getting started in DJing definitely involves some expense, but the good news is that it needn’t be huge. It all depends on what you want to get out of this. Do you want to do it as just a hobby? In that case, you can start with an iPhone or Android app for a couple of dollars, or a simple free DJ program on your laptop. You can use any headphones, speakers etc you have lying around. And you can use the music you already own, or go scouting around on Bandcamp, SoundCloud etc. for free downloads. It really needn’t cost you very much at all to start to get the basics down. (See our 5 Tips For Getting Started On An Extreme Budget article for more.)
If you’re planning on “playing out”, then of course you’re going to need at least some basics: Most DJs like to have “real gear” to play on rather than pushing buttons, and so a DJ controller is desirable (DJ controllers are by far the cheapest way to DJ nowadays, and the skills are all transferable to other DJ gear, so don’t worry: you can learn “properly” on a DJ controller). Something as simple as the Numark Mixtrack Pro 2 will do, and the Denon DJ MC2000 is actually a very capable controller for not much more.
Rent, don’t buy
All of this is to say: Maybe you don’t need to raise much money, or at least as much as you think. But if you want to DJ as a part-time or even a full-time job, of course you’re going to want a reasonable set-up. If you’re planning on DJing mobile, you’ll need a PA, some lights, carrying bags, leads, spares etc. The good news is that you only really need to actually own a half-decent controller and headphones, because you can hire the rest against gig bookings you have. So if you get booked to play a birthday party and ask for 50% deposit up front, there’s your hire money for PA, lights, microphone and so on for the event.
As long as you’re disciplined to save a little of each gig’s earnings, and as long as you can get gigs (that’s another story, though!) you’ll soon have built up a fund from which you can start to buy your own such gear, reducing your hire fees as you go along. When I started DJing in public, this is exactly how I did it (although as it was in the turntable days and I only had really poor, cheap turntables at home, I also hired decent decks and a mixer, too).
What not to do
What I wouldn’t recommend is taking out a great big bank loan and buying “the best” of everything. Frankly, you don’t really know what “the best” is for you yet (you’re a beginner), and you honestly don’t need a load of expensive gear to get going, trust me on that. If you are tempted to buy a whole set-up, at least buy it second-hand so that you can hopefully sell it again for what you paid for it or near enough should you need to.
Finally, remember that thanks to the wonders of digital, it’s never been cheaper or easier to set yourself up to learn the skills of DJing. Just do’t forget that this doesn’t mean the skills have got any easier to learn: Smart DJs realise that and take the time to research and learn how to DJ properly, whatever gear they’re doing it on.
How did you fund your first purchases as a DJ? Do you think it’s best to hire rather than borrow the money to buy expensive gear? Please share your thoughts in the comments.