DJ/Producer Secrets, Part 1: Why There Are No Successful DJs Any More

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dj/producer music production Pro
Last updated 23 March, 2018

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Who doesn’t want to be a successful DJ/producer? Playing the biggest festival stages, adoring fans below you, spinning your own tunes all over the world. What’s not to like?

In this three-part series I will reveal the three secrets that all successful DJ/producers have in common. Things that even they can’t tell you, because a lot of the time they simply don’t realise that this is the stuff underpinning their success.

By the end of this series of posts – based on detailed interviews with successful DJ/producers, and also the compiled results of 32,222 completed census forms from our recent DJ/producer survey – you’ll finally be ready for action – I guarantee it.

OK, so today’s lesson. I’m going to start by sharing with you a couple of harsh truths: In this day and age, very few DJs who fancy themselves as artists achieve success above a certain – quite low – level. Put simply, it’s now not enough to have a pile of hard-to-get tunes and a set of decks, and to hit the road wowing the world with your musical tastes and technical skills. DJing is easy nowadays, and the tunes are available to everyone. Those days are long gone. Today, “DJ” doesn’t mean that type of person – not by a long shot.

The truth is, “successful DJs” don’t exist. When we say “successful DJ”, what we really mean is “successful DJ/producer”. Just take a look at any of those annual top DJ charts – Forbes, DJ Mag, and so on – and you’ll see that every one of the top names is also known for their productions.

Pretty clear on this point, right? But here’s the killer: Becoming a producer isn’t enough, either!

Again, the days of being known for producing music alone are long gone. Very few new producers achieve success producing alone. Laptops are recording studios. Sample packs are musicians. Making music is actually in truth quite easy nowadays. Really.

Being a DJ isn’t enough. Being a producer isn’t enough. The two skills come together nowadays: It’s expected. You are neither unless you’re both!

So if you want meaningful success as a modern electronic artist (and most do – 53% of DJs say their aim is to be a “touring DJ” or a “DJ/producer”…) but you haven’t made any, or much, music (only 17% of DJs say they “regularly make music”)… you haven’t even got to the start line!

This is true whether you’re an absolute beginner DJ who’s never so much as mixed two records together, or whether you’re still in your bedroom, or you’re just starting to get gigs, or you’ve been doing it for years. No matter. It is absolutely wrong to think “I’ll just get the DJing bit nailed, then move on to producing”.

To get started as a DJ/producer, you have to start producing (and finishing – we’ll get to that in a bit…) music. Now.

Ever heard the phrase “the obstacle is the way”? Well, producing music is your obstacle.

The DJing bit is easy: You get instant gratification, you see lots of small wins, you can measure progress. You can kid yourself DJing is giving you your first steps as a DJ/producer. It’s seductive. But it’s not enough. You have to produce music, and now.

I’m going to guess that producing scares you.

But that is precisely WHY you need to start right away. I’m going to put it to you that you’ve built producing music up into something it’s not. The scariest monster is the one you know you need to fight but you haven’t seen yet (remember Blair Witch Project?).

It’s the fact you haven’t really got the measure of it that scares you. You need to fight it and win.

You need to get started.

OK, lecture over. Hopefully you’re feeling a bit uncomfortable now – that’s intentional (sorry, but it’s for good reason). Now you realise that if you want to be a DJ/producer or a touring DJ, but you’re not making music, you’ve not actually started, we need to look at how to start.

If you’re not prepared to stop making excuses and start making music, stop here. The rest of this series isn’t for you.

But if you are, what comes next will be hugely helpful. Is that you? Are you ready to continue? Cool. 🙂

It turns out that the most common reason people don’t start is really nothing to do with worrying about the gear, or their musical background, or anything else around theory or technical stuff.

It’s closer to home than that. And you can fix it without recording a single note. That’s what we’re going to look at tomorrow.

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Here are the other parts in this series:

Have you always wanted to make your own dance music, but for some reason never got to? What’s holding you back from producing tunes? Let us know below.

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