Your Questions: How Can We Build On The Success Of Our College DJ/Rapper Act?

Phil Morse | Read time: 4 mins
dj career Getting an agent producing music
Last updated 3 August, 2017


“Sometimes I feel like throwing my hands up in the air!” How can our reader graduate from playing his university’s social occasions to getting his DJ/rapper act bookings at bigger, better events?

Digital DJ Tips reader Evan writes: “I am a university student studying business in Canada, and your website has helped me turn my passion for DJing and producing into a job that has help fund my education, so thanks! The most important piece of advice I have taken from Digital DJ Tips is the idea of originality. In other words, find something that differentiates you from every other DJ.

“I had worked for a long time trying to get gigs at my school and other events around the area. Each of these bars/clubs had resident DJs and were hesitant to give me a shot. In the past I had focused on playing songs that no-one had heard before, only to realise that is what every other DJ is trying to do. I was no different from anyone else no matter what I seemed to play.

“Eventually I got sick of trying to get gigs through what was coming out of the speakers and decided to place my focus on my image. I asked myself ‘how can I make the crowd want to come back and see my play again?’. Finally my answer came in the form of a rapper. I believed that by teaming up with him, I could offer bar/club owners something that no-one else was doing. We wanted to expand our horizons and add my rapper’s meaningful lyrics and “hood” mentality to uptempo EDM and trap. We also branded our group and had T-shirts and sweaters printed that we gave to our friends as a marketing tactic.

“As soon as we did this the club/bar owners in the area were all of a sudden calling us and asking us to play at their establishment. We ended up opening for established artists, and were playing at two different bars a weekend. It got to the point that we were turning down gigs because we simply did not have time to play everything. This is where we are stuck now.

“We have reached a point where we are getting hired for every event at our university and have even received calls from other universities in Canada, but we can not seem to branch past here. We have no clue as to how to get the attention of promoters that matter. We have been told by other DJs that we have opened for that we are good enough, and have the ‘persona’ to expand to bigger and better things, but we just don’t know how to get heard by the people that matter. We have both contemplated giving up but we love what we do and both asked ourselves why we would ever do that when the money we are making from smaller gigs is still helping us pay off debt from school. If you have any advice on the topic it would be greatly appreciated.

Digital DJ Tips says:

Firstly, congratulations! You’ve achieved great success already. To have formed an act, are helping pay your way through college from what it makes you, and have people calling you up to book you, rather than you pestering them, is awesome. So glad we could help in some small way.

A few thoughts spring to mind. Firstly, you could simply charge more for what you do. That will move you “up” a gear, even if it only shows in your wallets! Having money changes your outlook on stuff, because it solves problems. For instance, if you were getting paid $5000 a gig (I’m deliberately exaggerating), how would that change things for you and your potential career? How much of that wold you spend on improving your act? What are you dreaming of that money could help you make happen? Money makes you think bigger, so even if you don’t have it (right now), how can you “think bigger” anyway? Often imagining yourself where you want to ideally be (“visualising” is the self-help word) can itself help you get there.

Secondly, and I don’t often recommend this, you may want to look for a manager or agent. The reason I don’t often recommend it is that most acts and DJs think they’re special and original and worth having a professional to promote them, but harshly, they’re simply not, and no pro agent is ever going to be interested. It sounds like you may have developed something that an agent might want to get on board with. You need to find local acts who are a step above you and explore who’s holding their diaries, handling their bookings and so on and identify a likely handful of people to approach.

Finally, have you thought about producing your own completely original material? If you start thinking of yourselves as an electronic group, and not a DJ and a rapper, everything changes. You actually mentioned producing, so maybe you’re already exploring this. This is more a change of attitude as much as anything else. Then your path to success, although not of course easy, is at least easy to outline: Get some successful tracks out there, people book you as an act to perform those tracks, you also offer DJ sets as part of your package. It’s what you’re doing now more or less, but it’s what will get promoters and agents who don’t know of you today interested in you tomorrow. Good luck!

Any more advice you’d like to add for Evan? Have you reached a “ceiling” and are looking for a way to break through it too? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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