In the last article we looked at the biggest mistake wannabe DJ/producers make – they start off working on the DJing bit but keep putting off the “producing” part. (If you haven’t read the previous post in this series, please do so now – as this won’t make the best sense otherwise.)
In this piece I’m going to talk about the biggest thing that holds back people who want to be DJ/producers, who want to tour the world DJing, and who want the success that we described in part one.
But some of you wanted to know a bit more about WHY you can’t be just a DJ, or WHY you can’t be just a producer… so let’s get that out of the way first.
It’s really simple: DJs don’t get booked outside their home towns or cities, because nobody knows who they are. You can’t physically DJ enough in places you’re not close to to get well known. The only place you can spend years becoming a “known face” is where you’re from.
But one thing that you can do is put music out there that bears your name. Music travels faster than the people who make it. Your own productions become your global calling card.
(Mixtapes used to do this, but they don’t any more. That all ended decades ago. It has to be music production nowadays.)
The flip side is this: When someone who can pay you money to perform your music in their town, city or country notices you and wants to book you, they rarely book you to come and perform as a “band” or “artist”. Nowadays, they simply book you as a DJ.
In other words, you go and play a DJ set. As part of that DJ set, you play your music. And the circle is complete.
So you see the two skills – DJing and producing – have to come together, not least because very few artists make enough money out of selling streams, downloads or physical copies of their tracks to survive: the DJ gigs are the payback. They’re the “victory lap”. They’re the cash cow.
OK, so with that out of the way, let’s assume you’re theoretically capable of making music. (You are, by the way.)
So, why then aren’t you making music?
From my interviews with hundreds of wannabe and successful DJ/producers, I’ve identified the single biggest reason people can’t find the courage or heart to take the first steps: It’s because they know the road is going to be long, and because they don’t know if they’ll ever actually feel they’re getting anywhere.
This sh*t is real. You’ve got to tell your friends, your family, your spouse, you’re now a “DJ/producer”. You’ve got to write those words on your Facebook profile and in your email signature. You’re gonna feel stupid doing so, especially at the start. Don’t discount how scared saying that’s what you are can make you feel. (By the way, this is even worse if you’ve ever actually started to make music and not managed to finish. Is that you? You know, right?)
But here’s the truth: Even when you start getting those bookings to play in other cities, and start playing those DJ sets with your own tracks in them, and start being flown around and wined and dined and see your bank account filling up with money earned from all of this…
You’ll still feel like you don’t really belong there.
There’s a name for it. It’s called “imposter syndrome”. And it’s rife among creative people. That includes DJ/producers, sadly. This is one of the hardest areas to coach people in, not least because I’ve felt it personally and acutely often in my own life.
Some point towards the end of the 1990s, I was DJing at a club I co-ran. It had won several awards. What I earned from it had paid for my house – in cash. I’d been asked to DJ at Privilege, the Ibiza superclub, on the back of the brand I’d worked to establish.
Yet – and I swear this is how it felt – if anybody had come up to me and said “dude, you don’t know what you’re doing! You’re playing at being a DJ. Why are you here? Go home!” I’d have shrivelled up, there and then, believing every word. I was six years into a successful DJ career at that point!
It’s even worse as a producer, because as you’re making music alone, you’re not getting the instant feedback and reassurance of having a crowd dancing away, showing you you’re doing something right. You do much of the “producing” bit alone.
But I can tell you this – what you’re not noticing along the road are all of the little wins, slowly piling up: The remix you made of a favourite track you played in your last DJ set. The joy of seeing your discography slowly grow on the online store you sell your music through. The email enquiries going from one a week to one a day about your music. The DJs asking for a WAV of a track you made via your SoundCloud. The people asking “what’s this track dude?” as you’re DJing – when it’s YOUR track.
The author Ryan Holliday puts it really well:
“Most of us who work very hard, or drive ourselves to do things have this idea that when we get it, everything will be different. We’ll feel more whole. We’ll be satisfied. We’ll feel the way we made up in our heads that the people who first inspired us obviously felt.
And when we get it? That’s where the awkward truth comes in: You really don’t feel anything different. You’re still you. And what you missed on your journey to get these things was your own gradual transformation. Your evolution.”
My job here at Digital DJ Tips is primarily to coach you to action. But you know what? I am just like you. I am constantly needing to be shoved down the right path too.
“Stop being a baby and get on with it, I don’t give a sh*t how you feel on the inside!” is how my own business coach bluntly socked it to me recently (He’s an Aussie, so I’m used to it from him), but he’s right. Nobody is going to pat you on the back and say “well done, you’re a DJ/producer now”.
There’s no career path for this.
So do you REALLY want to make it as a DJ/producer? Well, just like me, you need to stop being a baby, overcome your imposter syndrome and get on with it! 🙂
Agreed? Let’s carry on tomorrow…
Because there IS one other thing you need to do, too. Fail to do this, and the rest of it will fall apart – I guarantee it. And that’s what we’re going to look at in part 3 tomorrow. See you then.
Here are the other parts in this series:
- DJ/Producer Secrets, Part 1: Why There Are No Successful DJs Any More
- DJ/Producer Secrets, Part 3: Struggling To Finish What You Start?
Ever been hit by imposter syndrome? Why aren’t YOU making music? Let us know below.