Digital DJ Tips reader Kamil asks a raw question that is bound to resonate with many of our readers. He says: “Yesterday I played my very first gig, but far from being the great experience everyone says your first gig always is, I feel like I failed at being a DJ. I had trouble DJing tracks that people deemed ‘commercial’ (eg ones by David Guetta, Avicii, Martin Garrix etc) because I didn’t have many of the songs people wanted.”
“I know you’re meant to treat all gigs as a learning experience, but it left me feeling bad. Is this normal?”
Digital DJ Tips says:
First of all, congratulations on playing your first gig, you did it! The DJing world welcomes you into its sometimes harsh embrace. You learn more when things go wrong than when they go right, and this is actually the silver lining of bad gigs. DJing in front of others is much harder than it looks, it takes guts, and anything worth doing will be difficult at times.
This moment is important: you need to decide if you’re going to quit, or learn from your mistakes and book your next gig as soon as possible. I know the prospect is scary, and probably the last thing you want to do. Clearly you care about this or you wouldn’t feel like a failure.
You already learned something big (know your crowd, and try and bring enough of what they want to satisfy them while still keeping you happy as a DJ), and this is where you learn how to recover. Take it as an opportunity to improve on what you did wrong, and notice what you did right! “You are your own worst critic” is a cliche for a reason. The crowd probably didn’t mind as much as you thought, it boils down to perspective. Remember, even the best DJs are always learning. If you stop learning, I’d start to worry.
Use this botched gig as fuel for next time. Practise more. Play a small gig for friends and ask for feedback. Do recon at the next venue: what is the DJ playing? How does the crowd respond? Talk to the promoters and staff to find out what works. Most importantly, have fun discovering new music.
When you play that next crucial gig, your top priority is to interact with and entertain the audience. You need to learn your crowd in a short amount of time, and crowd reading is a lesson in body language. Are they smiling, nodding their head, moving towards the dancefloor, Shazaming the track? Good work, keep going. Conversely, are they turned away, talking to their friends, looking dull scrolling through their phone? Time to switch it up. A fundamental skill in DJing is adaptability. If you don’t have it, you can learn it, and playing publicly is how.
Tons of professional DJs have horror stories. Websites like worstgig.com exist for this very reason. Phil (our founder) often recounts how he was violently sick around the back of the venue before his first ever club gig out of sheer nerves. It happens! One truth about early DJ gigs is that you’ll be inconsistent – one good, two bad, one great, one so-so, etc – but consistency comes with time and experience. We all deal with failure at some point. Keep trying, and eventually your confidence will increase.
Now watch this video of ten DJ fails and cheer up!
DJ Fails video
What happened at your first gig? If you haven’t played out yet, what are your methods to prepare? Share your stories with us below!