Want to know what it takes to get booked to play at a big club? To be the person warming up for those main-room DJs who get flown around the world to be there? To be able to put the club’s name on your CV, to have flyers with your name on them, right next to the names of those world-class DJs? To be approached by promoters to play at their clubs having seen your name associated with a big club? How to finally actually get started in all of this?
Recently, when we were filming lessons for our Digital DJ Masterclass course, I visited London superclub Ministry of Sound as part of my research into exactly what’s working for DJs looking to get their first gigs in 2018.
How to get booked by a big club in 2018
Here are some of the key points that came out of the interview I did there with Deniz Hilmi, who is one of the key DJ bookers at the club:
- Forget about the the main room – Most decent size clubs now have several rooms. It is unrealistic to think that you can successfully pitch for a gig in the main room of the club. Instead, look at the smaller rooms, maybe the bar, and put together an idea for the club based on you DJing in one of those. You still get to put the club’s name on your CV and website, and if they like you, they may well elevate you to playing the bigger rooms (Deniz told me of two recent examples of this happening at Ministry of Sound)
- Show you can do it yourself first – Here at Digital DJ Tips we try to teach DJs this over and over again, but again, the truth is that you won’t get booked just because you’re a great DJ. You’ll get booked because you’re a great DJ who has proved that fact by building a following. You need to have played at least a few gigs beforehand, and shown that you can get people to attend them. For Ministry of Sound, they’re looking for DJs who can attract around 100 people when they play. So get entrepreneurial – promoting your own parties is the best way to get noticed by bigger venues
- Stop worrying about the gear – When we were last at Ministry of sound, nearly five years ago, controllers DJs were still frowned upon by many. Even back then though, Ministry of Sound told us that they want DJs who they book to play on whatever they’re comfortable playing on. And they told us exactly the same thing this time. The important thing for them is that you play great music professionally and competently – not that you’re using somebody else’s idea of what DJs should be playing on
- Don’t think you have to produce music to get booked – When I asked whether or not you need to be a producer to get booked, Deniz told me that it isn’t something Ministry of Sound considers at all when booking DJs. Sure, he said, it can help you leapfrog a stage or two on your way to DJ stardom, but for Ministry of Sound, it doesn’t matter: DJs, DJs who learn to produce later on, producers who learn to DJ later on, and people who are known for both – all are just fine for them
- Be confident and do a good job on the night – Your first gig at a venue is just that – your first gig. The whole idea is to get repeat bookings or even a residency. Deniz told me that Ministry of Sound has an artist liaison person who checks the quality of the crowd, the music and the DJing to make sure the brand is being represented well across the whole club, every night – so it’s important you conquer those nerves (“you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t deserve to be, remember that….” Deniz said) – and give it your absolute all
Once you have a handful of club gigs under your belt the rest come much easier, so it’s always getting that first gig or two that takes the superhuman effort. Hopefully one or two of the tips here has shed a bit more light on the task for you, if you’re still trying to do this. Let us know in the comments your thoughts!
• The full video, audio and transcript of this video are available inside Digital DJ Masterclass, our flagship DJ training programme that teaches how to get to club-ready pro DJ level. Click here to find out more about the course.