During my long career in music (working on both the DJ side and the promoter side of bookings), I have picked up some valuable insights into the relationship between DJs and event promoters. There is a fairly large disparity between what many DJs feel promoters want and what the majority of promoters are actually looking for. Whereas many DJs feel that promoters are mainly looking for a well polished set of great tunes and technical skills (and although this can certainly help), promoters will often have a lot of things much higher on their priority list when choosing who to book for their events.
So for anyone who feels that they are not getting enough bookings, not getting the bookings they would like, or not commanding the fees they want for the shows they are getting, here is my insider guide to five of the most important things that promoters look for when booking a DJ. I would go as far as to say that most club/bar/festival DJ bookings that have ever taken place have hinged on at least three out of these five boxes being ticked, so always aim for that as the minimum:
- Put in work to get people to the event – This is something that anyone with a little time can and should do for every booking they receive. Bring friends, bring fans, tell people about the events you are playing at and keep all promotion nice and positive. Even if there are acts on the bill you dislike or aspects that you are not so keen on, keep your focus firmly on all the things you do like about the event
- Be a natural draw – This one generally comes with a lot of time and dedication and is often the biggest deciding factor when booking the headliner for an event. You will have a much easier time getting bigger bookings if you have an existing fan base or your reputation proceeds you through people knowing your music, seeing you perform at other events or seeing your video content online. Also, being seen as an up-and-comer who is quickly moving up the ranks can attract a lot of attention from promoters who want to book you before your fee gets too high
- Be promotable – A well put together press pack with good promotional photos, a nice logo, a clear bio listing your achievements/career highlights and (especially) some good online content (performance videos, online mixes or your own production) can really swing the decision of whether a promoter or club will book you. Anything you provide which can be used in their promotion of the event is seen as hugely beneficial to a lot of promoters. With promotability, even an act with no existing fanbase or friends local to the event can be an attractive booking possibility
- Roughly fit the musical style of the event – Of course, most promoters are looking to book DJs who will play music in keeping with the rest of their event. Flexibility of your style is a massively overlooked key which unlocks the possibilities of getting a lot more bookings. Being able to tailor a set to fit a specific venue or event is a huge plus for many promoters
- Dont be an a**hole to work with – This one sort of goes without saying, but you’d be surprised… Be nice to people. Simply being enthusiastic and remembering to thank the promoter for the booking can go a long way towards getting repeat bookings. During events, remember at all times that although a promoter may not look busy, in reality they are probably keeping their eye on certain situations, mentally juggling tasks they have to carry out or oversee, and generally trying to keep on top of any problems that arise – so always be understanding and helpful where possible
In my experience, the number of gigs you can get and the fees you can acceptably ask for all depend largely on the five points listed above. If you keep all of these points in mind while dealing with promoters, you should see a big improvement in the quality and quantity of bookings you will receive.
Remember, it’s only once you are getting these bookings that you will truly have the platform to blow away the crowd/other DJs/promoters with your excellent tune selection, technical skill and everything you put the hours into practising at home.
• DJ Chamber has worked full time as a DJ and promoter for the last four years (as well as DJing for eight more years before that). His club night (Bass Kitchen) has held events across the UK, Taiwan, Canada, Poland and Germany. Here’s his SoundCloud and Facebook.
Do you agree with this list? Could both DJs and promoters do better by trying to understand and help each other more? Have you have experience of your career being helped by realising one or more of the above? Please share your thoughts in the comments.