If you dream of being a DJ/producer but live in a town with a small dance music-oriented population (or you feel like you’ve outgrown your city and are looking for bigger challenges), then moving may seem like a worthwhile career decision. Moving to a new city and climbing your way up changes you – it teaches you how to survive, how to become self-sufficient, and how to build a career and following from nothing. This alone is enough reason for many to make the move.
On the other hand, moving to a music capital comes with its share of downsides. Cost of living is a big one: if you live in rural America or a quaint European province, moving to the big city can prove pricey: Rent is exorbitant, food is expensive, and everyday utilities become luxuries. This is doubly so if you’re coming from somewhere in Asia, especially a third world country like the Philippines (our daily minimum wage is US$10, for example).
Any money you make from DJing fees could easily be blown on rent, electricity, or a single night out. The frustration and loneliness of being within touching distance of your dreams but financially and therefore socially so crippled that you actually feel further from them can negate any advantages gained from your big move.
So if you decide for these or similar reasons that you’re not ready to take the plunge and make the move to a dance music capital, don’t despair! There are still positive things that you can do to give your DJ career a boost from right where you currently are…
- Use social media to create a presence and tour – It’s not secret that DJs use their social media presence to appear “bigger” than they actually are. Since almost everyone is on their phones these days, you can get in front of people through their feeds even if you aren’t in the same country – you can target Instagram and Facebook ads to show up in specific cities, for example. Once you’ve built a small audience in those cities, you can then aim to visit them by creating a small tour (easier to do in the US and Europe), or perhaps you’d like to hop around Asia and do a couple of stops in the region
- Livestream your home DJ sets – Another way to reach audiences that aren’t in your hometown is to broadcast them online. DJs are turning to sites like Grooveo, Chew, and even Facebook Live to stream their DJs and to interact with audiences. Granted, it’s not as immediate or thrilling as having a mad-for-it crowd in front of you, but it’s still one way to play music for people across different postal codes and timezones. Furthermore, it isn’t as crowded at the moment, and regular live streamed sets by you could be one of the things that differentiates you from the other DJs in your area. Also, you can save your live streams and release them as recorded DJ sets on sites like Mixcloud, or as a regular podcast
- Stay in your hometown, but plan to tour regularly – Instead of moving to an entirely new place, why not stay where you are and use it as a headquarters, and simply plan to travel for DJ gigs throughout the year? That lets you maintain your current living and relationship situations, while allowing for out of town shows. This is especially important if you’ve got a family who just can’t move to another city with you.
- Do gig-swaps with DJs from other cities or countries – An easy way to play out of town is to swap shows with another DJ. Let’s say you’re a happy hardcore DJ living in the Cotswolds and you’d like to play for a different crowd abroad – why not do a gig-swap with somebody living in Amsterdam and arrange to play each other’s residencies? You get to stay temporarily in a new spot, and you also get a chance to learn more about the way people party in other parts of the worl
If you’re the “big fish in a small pond”, you’ve got to find a way to either move to a bigger pond (moving cities), or to “shrink” yourself – think shifting horizontally by learning a new subset / skill of DJing such as live performance or lighting design. Whatever you choose, what’s always important is that you try your best to exhaust all possibilities of getting your name out and improving your craft.
Having this mindset means that you’re going to hustle hard given your existing reach and resources before ultimately deciding on what your next step will be, whether that’s doubling down on your current location or making the big move to a new one.
Have you moved from your hometown in order to pursue DJing? If so, what has your experience been like? If not, what’s keeping you from making the move? Share your thoughts below.