Your Questions: How Do I Succeed As A DJ Without Selling Out?

Phil Morse | Read time: 2 mins
Getting success Selling out
Last updated 3 August, 2017


selling out
Do you really have to compromise your principles, suck up to people you don’t like, and play music you like even less, in order to succeed? that’s the question our reader is asking today.

Digital DJ Tips reader Stefan writes: “I’m in a bit of a dilemma and maybe you or your readers can help me get through it. I’ve been a DJ for seven years now and although I have had several club residencies and felt like I was supporting the local scene a lot trying to cross the thin line between underground and mainstream music, I want to step my game up a notch.

“I’d like to be the DJ that tours to several clubs in other cities than my own while keeping my current residency in a quite successful club. I feel like I have to work on more than my general image or sound (I’d like to think that I’m the open format type of DJ), because the competition surely is tough. But the biggest issue I have is that I have to make friends with people in the business that expect me to rub their shoulders. What I mean is: how do I manage to get better known playing the music I like without having to give up my dignity or sell out?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

I am not sure what you mean by “giving up your dignity” or “selling out”. Do you mean playing music you don’t like? If so, definitely not: Playing the music you like has got you this far, that’s the last thing you want to do. Having said that, you’re right to think you need a personal “brand”, image or something you stand for, that helps people remember you. That doesn’t mean changing who you are, though, just figuring out what is unique about you as a DJ and accentuating it.

If you mean making friends with people you don’t think you’d normally “like”, that’s not what you need to do to get on in business (and this is a business). You need to agree on a shared outcome and mutual benefit from working together, and go for it! While it’s true that people generally do far more business with people who they like, surely this isn’t really an issue for you? After all, if the people you have to work with to follow your path to success have the same goals (in this instance, full dancefloors and tills; you can help with that), you’re probably gonna get on with them just fine!

But if you’re asking how to take the next step, usually making your own music is the best way forward, as it helps to differentiate you as a DJ. However, in your case, if you’ve held great residencies in clubs already, can you help “tour” the brand associated with the nights you’ve played, and be their “tour DJ”? Can you work with the promoter of one of those nights to help establish a new residency in a different town for his night and become its resident? These are definitely things you should explore. But “selling out” or changing the music you play will be counter-productive, I think.

What compromises are OK to make as you move up the ladder of DJing? What’s your experience? got any words of advice for Stefan? Please let us know below.

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