Let’s face it, success in the DJ industry is not 100% dependent on talent. In fact, at a BPM Latino forum I attended in Tijuana last week, one of the panelists said the top thing he looks at when considering a DJ hire is their marketing, not their skills. There it is — black and white! Mobile DJs don’t have booking agents, so learning to market and promote yourself as an artist is something most club DJs could learn from mobile jocks.
Apart from marketing, there are a few other things club DJs can learn from mobile pros, and we list them in this piece.
5 Things Club DJs Can Learn from Mobile DJs
1. Have a website that shows who you are as a DJ
Too many club and bar DJs have one page “shell” websites with little to no information about what they spin and what their career highlights are – some don’t even have photos of them in action. Hire a professional photographer to shoot you showing your range of gear proficiencies and venue experience. Have photos of yourself playing on turntables at one of your club residencies, on CDJs at your pub guest spot, and so on.
Next, craft some actual sales copy: career highlights, training, DJ battles you’ve competed in, your favourite music, list your corporate clients, or name drop the cool venues you’ve worked at. All DJs are passionate about music by default, so skip that and explain why you are unique instead: Who are your DJ influences? What are your favourite styles of music? Are you a turntablist? Bilingual? A professionally-trained speaker? If you need guidance, scope out some mobile DJ websites and take a look at how they market themselves, and apply to your own site.
2. Have your own gear that you can take to gigs
You should have gear at home to practice on, but it’s also helpful to have gig basics like a microphone, flight cases for your kit, and other essentials. DJ Raji Rabbit of the BPM Supreme DJ pool once told me that “every DJ is a mobile DJ,” and there is a lot of truth to that. Whether your home is the radio or the night club, a family member will, at some point, inevitably ask you to DJ their wedding, or one of your Friday night regulars will hit you up to play at their office’s holiday party. Why not? Renting gear is an option, but owning a basic DJ set-up that you know your way around 100% has its benefits: plus, you get to charge extra since you’re taking your gear to the show.
3. Show up early and be prepared
Be honest… how many times have you turned up at a club you’ve never played at without doing a sound check? Every club set-up is different. Simply downloading the drivers you need in advance is not enough. Gear that other people maintain always has its nuances. If looping the control CD works on the left CDJ but not on the right one, you want to find this out in advance instead of while you’re already playing your set. If club DJs treated every set like a wedding, there would be a lot less tardiness, gear compatibility hiccups, and “what should I play next” panic.
4. Know your worth and demand a decent wage
Unless you have raised to the ranks of a touring DJ with a full-time manager, it’s likely that most mobile DJs make more money than you do from club DJing. This didn’t happen by chance. Ever heard of Mark Ferrell? He is a club DJ turned mobile DJ who was getting US$5,000/wedding before he retired to become a full-time DJ/MC teacher.
His followers – DJs who demand to be paid fairly for their contributions – are called “worthers.” At a wedding, a DJ often gets paid only 5% of the couple’s overall wedding budget, yet statistics show that the DJ is the number one thing people will remember about the wedding. Most couples spend more on their dress and flowers than on their DJ. “Worthers” are on a mission to change this (despite already earning an average of US$1,200 for a six-hour wedding).
Club DJs are often expected to invest quite a bit in promoting their appearances and are walking away with only 10% of the bar sales far too often (or worse, “free exposure”). Many clubs know there are DJs who will work for just US$30/night on a Tuesday. The club can advertise that they have a live DJ every night of the week because DJs will stand in line to fill those “gas money” spots. Yes, everyone has to start somewhere, but don’t spend too long in the “10% of bar sales” zone.
5. Leave the hardcore partying to the guests
In line with clubs only paying DJs 10% of bar sales, most clubs will supplement a DJs pay with free drinks (“Here are your eight free drink tickets!”). Please don’t DJ while downing your eight free drinks. If the venue has a kitchen, ask for dinner before your set starts instead. Or use the drink tickets to help promote your night (eg give them to regulars or guests celebrating birthdays).
DJing is performing. Part of the show is you fist pumping, singing along, telling the crowd to put their hands up, and so on. This is part of the job, and you should not need to be intoxicated in order to bring that energy. Like mobile DJs, curate a reputation for professionalism, and that includes not being the drunkest person at the party!
As you’ve just read, there are many things even the most hipster of underground DJs can learn from the professional mobile jock. One more thing to add is to leave your ego at the door: all too often, club and bar DJs get annoyed by requests and irritating guests, but these are all par for the course fo the humble mobile DJ. It’s just part of the job as an entertainer, and from a macro view, all DJs are simply that: entertainers. We aren’t the party, we are there to serve the party.
What mobile DJ takeaways have you learned in the past that applied to your club and bar gigs? Share them with us below.