Your Questions: How Do I Move On From A Bad Gig?

| Read time: 4 mins
DJ/promoter Empty dancefloor motivation promoting
Last updated 3 August, 2017

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So only 20 people turned up to your gig? That’s 20 better than none! Our reader is disillusioned after a low turnout, but we think he should look to the positives.

Digital DJ Tips member Ethan writes: “I’ve been DJing for about a year now. Music and especially DJing have been my passion, but a couple months ago I hit a brick wall. At that time I decided to throw a party for my best friend and mines’ birthdays, and we were going to DJ for the whole party. We self promoted this show to all of our very good friends and everyone else we knew, and we printed flyers that we handed out every day. This was our first ‘gig’ and I prepared for it very well.

“When the party opened up, hardly anybody showed up. When the party started going more people showed up but nowhere near the amount that we thought would show up (we thought about 80, but only 20 showed up). My buddy DJed first and I guess his nerves got the best of him: His set was just OK, nothing special. Then I get on the decks to close the night out and I killed it! Everyone got up from their seats to dance as soon as I started and all the way till I ended the set. I never felt as good as I did at that moment behind the decks when people started to dance. It felt like I accomplished something special – well, almost.

“After my set, even though I did well, I still felt like I failed because no one showed up and a lot of people left before I started DJing. Ever since this I’ve been very discouraged. Every time I sit down to practise, experiment, or even think about DJing, that night pops into my mind and then the urge to DJ escapes me. I know I need to dust off the cobwebs and get over it, but I can’t seem to. Any advice you can give or anything at all I would really appreciate.”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Ethan, you need some tough love here. DJing success isn’t as easy as throwing one party and expecting to smash it. The fact that you got 20 people there is great – it could have been five! People danced to your music. Look on the positive side! This was your very first gig. Pick your bike up and get back on it: Book another one right away and get promoting like mad!

So what should you do differently this time? Here are a few ideas. Use a smaller venue (20 people in a small venue look better than 20 in a big one). Talk to your friend about the warm-up, and either give him a chance at doing a better job, or don’t use him (you have to look objectively at this, if the guy scares people away, why not do all the DJing yourself?). Did you collect the email addresses of everyone who came? If you didn’t, you should have done, it’s essential to keep in touch with your biggest fans, even if it’s only the half dozen people you kept dancing all night.

Maybe the realisation that this isn’t going to be easy is what’s stalling you. Well, better to realise early! The biggest thing to know about your first 50 or so gigs is that there will be inconsistency: inconsistency in the quality of your DJing (sorry, but however good you were on the night, you are not the “finished article” yet, and you have plenty of learning to do), and inconsistency in attendance (truth is you have no pulling power at all; if people come, it’s because there was nothing better to do or out of sheer luck; if they don’t, you can hardly blame them – everyone who goes to a night organised by an unknown DJ is risking a whole night of their life that they’ll never get back if the gig is rubbish).

Sorry to sound harsh, but you need a huge dose of blind faith coupled with the realisation that you have years and years of hard work ahead of you if you genuinely want to succeed as a DJ. Your journey hasn’t even begun yet. To give up now because of something like this either means you’re just not cut out for it, you’re trying to do it for the wrong reasons, or you just have a very idealised view about the reality of DJing and promoting your own nights.

As someone who made a full-time career out of being a DJ/promoter for 15 years, I can tell you all of this from first-hand experience: I started doing this full time in 1992, and it took until 1997 to pay back a single measly loan I’d taken out at the start of co-promoting my own event; but by 1999, my DJing partner and I were running an award-winning club night that was not only paying me a wage, but had paid for my house! But those “hard” years from 1992 to 1997 were when I learned how to be both a DJ and a promoter, and this is what you have to do now! Stick at it if you really want it, and please try to enjoy the journey by keeping a positive attitude – while being realistic about your results, and what work you have to do to improve them.

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Have you ever felt disillusioned after a por DJ set, gig or party? How did you pick yourself up again? What happened next time? If you have any advise to share with Ethan, please do so below!

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