Your Questions: Why Have My Gigs Dried Up?

Phil Morse | Read time: 2 mins
djing success
Last updated 3 August, 2017

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empty dancefloor
Our reader is finding it harder and harder to follow his dream of being a full-time DJ. Pic: Paranosc

Digital DJ Tips member Sean writes: “So it seems I’m losing a few gigs now due to the bars I work in cutting budgets and change of management. What should I be doing? Obviously I need to get out there again and make sure I can network properly and not step on others’ toes, but what I won’t be doing is undercutting others as that’s what I feel is wrong with the new influx of DJs.

“I post mixtapes and give CDs to potential bars and clubs but I need some different ideas. What do others do in these situations? I’ve spoken to contacts in the industry, but there’s not much luck for new work anytime soon. With this being my only income it’s hard, as my dream of being a full time DJ is slowly fading away. Any advice is appreciated.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

You need to work out how to provide more value than the next guy, however that will be. I can reel out the lines about working harder, getting yourself out there, being professional etc, but at the end of the day, you need to provide something the others aren’t. That’s what people will pay for. You’re right that cutting your fees won’t help your career, the truth is that low pay is a function of not offering anything of much value – harsh but true.

I often trot out out my story here. I wanted to be a DJ full-time from the age of 21, having done it from 17 years old as a part-time job/hobby. By 24, I gave up my day job to DJ as I’d hoped. It took me until 30 to feel like I’d finally established myself enough to put a deposit down on my first house, so I felt like I’d “arrived”… and the rest is history (it’s all worked out well… so far, lol).

My point is that it took 5 or 6 years to get anywhere at all… and that it was worth it when it did! My exact route is to an extent unimportant (bars, then clubs, them promoting my own club), except that my partner and I delivered value – we built an audience, they came to our gigs, so people paid us / we made money. I have to also say it took us half a decade to become better than most others in our city so it was us earning the cash, not them. We rode our luck, got lucky a couple of times, and got good at things like internet marketing, but as they say, “you’ve got to be in it to win it”!

It is hard, and not everyone is cut out for it – but if you stay adaptable, flexible, and in it for the long run, you could just make it. There’s no safety net, true, but there’s no ceiling, either, in business (and it is business we’re talking about here). Did I mention enjoying the journey too? Without that, you’re finished. Stay cheerful. They’re challenges, not problems, and every one you conquer teaches you something that the next person maybe doesn’t know yet!

Really, really good luck, Shaun, and I hope our audience can offer advice too as there are plenty of people who are or have been right where you are…

Have you got your own rags to riches struggle going on? Anything you’d like to add? Please feel free to do so in the comments.

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