Roadblocks and setbacks are common in any worthwhile pursuit. DJing is no different: you’ll come across numerous hurdles in a variety of shapes and sizes – and that’s just when you’re getting started.
Ask yourself these four questions if you feel frustrated because your DJing isn’t going anywhere.
Four Questions To Ask
1. Are you giving people a good reason to check you out?
Without something that sets you apart, it’s tougher to get noticed. This is known as a “unique selling proposition” in marketing, and it helps people differentiate one product or service from another. If you want to stand out, you don’t necessarily have to be “better”, but you do need to be different.
A simple (but often difficult) way to stand out is to become known for a certain sound or sonic aesthetic, which is better than just playing one very niche genre of music, as it is more “future proof” since genres tend to come and go. For instance, you could play a variety of styles between techno and house music that have a “deep, dark” motif or theme to them to weave a cohesive set.
If you’re already more of an open format / mixed genre type of DJ (such as a mobile / wedding DJ), it gets a bit trickier. You still can use music as a key way to differentiate yourself from every other jock out there, though it has got easier to replicate playlists these days thanks to track IDing services like Shazam and online stores like Beatport.
To hedge against “copycat DJs”, producing your own tunes and edits makes your sets more special just because only you have access to these tracks. You can also invest in a more immersive live show by incorporating lighting, visuals and taking along your own sound reinforcement.
Have a think about what you can do in your DJing that lets people know it’s “you” playing without them having to peek at the DJ booth, whether that’s a signature song or genre, or a visual element.
2. Are you practising enough?
We know you’re busy – we all are. But if you want to take your DJing to the next level, you’re going to need to roll up your sleeves and put time into getting better. New studies in performance have shown that there’s a right and wrong way to practise, and that practising that gets you results isn’t actually fun.
Pencil time in your weekly schedule for practising your technique – this includes mixing, beatmatching, EQ and effects tweaking, and so on. You’ll also want to allot time to crafting and updating playlists (so you don’t play the same 20 songs every gig) and working out how songs in these lists would blend with your set and style.
3. Are you promoting your shows and engaging on social media?
Let’s say you’ve got a couple of shows under your belt, or maybe you’ve even been gigging for a few years now and have had some success, but now your gigs have dried up and your weekly residency has turned into a private show between you and the bartender.
All weekly gigs and residencies have a life cycle – it’s human nature to seek novelty. It usually starts off strong and tapers, like a wave. This is natural, and is one of the reasons why new promoters are brought in to breathe new life into a club’s monthly programming, for instance, or club rebrands and relaunches happen.
While you can’t do anything about human behaviour, what you can do is ride that wave to the fullest by telling people about your shows on social media. It’s not enough to just upload a poster to Facebook anymore: try uploading video clips from your gigs, do a Facebook Live stream while you’re DJing, and spend a bit of time liking and commenting on photos on Instagram by clicking through a set of hashtags and locations. It adds a personal touch to your social media engagement, and could go a long way in slowly building a fan base.
4. Are you still holed up in your bedroom?
DJing is about sharing music you love with others. Facebook Live is great and making mixtapes is cool, but nothing beats an in-person experience between you and your audience if you are physically able to do so. Don’t use technology as a screen to hide behind, rather use it as a way to shout about that you’re a DJ who can rock a party, and then get out there and rock it!
Playing out also means you get to interact with people (you know, in the real world) and not only does this give you a happiness boost compared to being cloistered in your mum’s basement, it also allows you to get to know and build a personal connection with folk in your scene and community. These are the same people who can help you if you need it later on, though we always recommend that you add value first before asking for something from people.
It’s not all about having the most fans, followers and friends on Facebook and Twitter – you’re more than a profile picture thumbnail, after all. If this is a startling revelation to you, then you really do need to get out more.
Answering these four questions will give you a clearer idea of what needs to be done to go further in your DJing, and it’s worth asking yourself regularly even if you’ve already attained some form of success. Everyone can get their 15 minutes of fame (more like 15 seconds these days…) but continued success is the result of both persistence and patience. You’d be surprised how many “overnight success stories” are actually the result of years of toiling behind the scenes away from the highlight reels of social media, often with little monetary gain.
To be more than a flash in the pan, you need to work smarter, harder, and for longer than others in your field. This is why it’s so important that you love what you’re doing – this is what gives you a secret fuel reserve that you can tap into when the going gets tough and others are already running on empty.
What do you think of these questions? Any others you think you should ask yourself if you aren’t moving forward in your DJing? Share them with us below.