As a mobile DJ, it’s easy to get swallowed up in marketing, creating packages, following up with leads, and keeping up with the latest DJ gear. The artistry aspect can get dusty on the backburner from constant neglect. Often, mobile DJs won’t even put themselves in the same category as club DJs because they don’t think there is any overlap. Not true! Mobile DJs are performers just as much as club DJs are, and though the circumstances may be different, there are many things pro mobile jocks can learn from club and touring DJs.
1. Network online and offline
Club DJs get new job opportunities almost exclusively by word of mouth and networking. I’ve had a profile on Thumbtack & Gigmasters for years and never once seen a request from a nightclub looking for a new resident. That just isn’t how it’s done.
To connect with other local DJs, check location tags and hashtags relevant to your city and scene on Instagram and follow those people. Comment on their posts. Get involved. If your city doesn’t have a “DJ Friends” group on Facebook, start one. Or start a DJ meet-up via MeetUp.com.
To connect with DJs from your area and beyond, consider attending DJ conferences that happen offline which give you an opportunity to build stronger and more memorable relationships. Events like Mobile Beat Las Vegas and DJ Expo are good examples, as well as conferences like Amsterdam Dance Event and International Music Summit. There are also smaller local shows that you can attend such as a DJ City Link Up or a BPM Supreme Connect.
If you do a lot of weddings, go to wedding expos and conventions not only to introduce yourself to other wedding DJs, but to meet other suppliers and wedding coordinators who can be valuable sources of referrals through the years. (Editor’s Note: I DJ functions for an events coordinator I first worked with 13 years ago!)
2. Sharpen those mixing skills
Do you know how to beatmatch by ear? This is one of the most foundational DJ skills that any and every DJ should have in their arsenal. Do you settle for the same “gentle fade” transition between every song? If you are a self-taught DJ, check out mixing courses (Mixing Power Skills or Laidback Luke’s Creative DJing are especially suitable).
Ultimately it’s the music that matters, but if you’re a DJ who can drop tracks with style and control the dancefloor with finesse, you’ll give yourself a leg up over other mobile jocks who can’t.
Your talent and skills are marketing tools, too! We sometimes forget that the more skills we have, the more money we can potentially demand. Weave some fun wordplay transitions, tone play, scratching, and effects into your routine to create memorable dancefloor moments.
3. Know your way around other types of DJ gear
Most mobile DJs only ever perform on their own personal gear, which can make us comfortable (read: lazy). I didn’t even know how to power up turntables, but I knew that I needed to know how to use them so I decided to take lessons. Even though I don’t usually spin with vinyl or a DVS, it still is part of DJ culture and it’s something that is still used today, so I wanted to be proficient.
Fast forward a few months later: Guess where my first public performance on turntables ended up being? At the NAMM Show (ie the world’s largest music convention. Gulp!). The regular DJ had made a new contact at the show and wanted to step away briefly to meet with them, and I was asked to fill in. Good thing I took it upon myself to learn how to spin with turntables, right?
Because of that quite random event, I got to put “performing at NAMM” in my DJ press kit bio. What a cool opportunity that I would have had to pass on if it had happened only a few months earlier. Again, it’s just good DJ foundations to know how to use a variety of different software apps and gear. You never know what opportunities might present themselves.
4. Learn how to quickmix to keep the energy pumping
At clubs, songs are sometimes only played for 45 to 90 seconds before transitioning to the next one. This type of “quickmixing” helps keep the energy up on the dancefloor because you are switching things up every few minutes. Only uniquely special songs get played in full (eg anthems, songs of the moment).
Most mobile DJs play full songs, and while some argue that quickmixing is not appropriate for occasions like weddings, adding it to your arsenal can be a huge asset. I have had great success with quickmixing at weddings, and so have many of the top wedding DJs like Jason Jani and Brian Buonassissi.
If you’re using radio edits of songs, quickmixing can be challenging to nail cleanly – you might want to use songs that have been edited specifically for quickimixing. DJ record pools like Direct Music Service, BPM Supreme and DJ City have songs that have a “Short Edit”, which basically consists of a DJ intro, a verse, and a chorus, before going straight to the outro.
5. Listen to the mixes of other DJs online
Mobile DJs almost never see other DJs perform, and that isolation can lead to a narrow view of what DJing is. To counteract this, it is crucial that mobile DJs spend time listening to other DJs’ mixes to hear what they are up against. Mixcloud is an excellent resource and repository of DJ mixes, so start your listening there. DJing is a craft, not a commodity: If your skills are not currently solid enough for posting a handful of mixes on Mixcloud, then please re-read point number four.
What should you listen to on Mixcloud? I highly recommend the Direct Music Service “Mini Mix”, which is posted every Monday plus craft-conscious mobile DJs like the ones I listed above as well as DJ Washburn (New York), DJ Dayna (Ohio), or me! Like club DJs, focus on your craft, the mix, the music – which, again, are marketing tools in themselves.
As we’ve shown in this article (as well as our 5 Things Club DJs Can Learn From Mobile DJs piece) there’s a lot of overlap between mobile and club DJing, especially today as musical boundaries and DJ styles continue to blur. Innovations in digital DJing have opened the floodgates and levelled the playing field for more DJs to come onboard, so while competition has become stiffer, professionals need not fear amateurs: there’s room for everyone in our space just because different parties demand different music, different styles, and different DJs.
The DJ’s ultimate mission then, is to figure out what kind of DJ he or she really is, and to bring that truth to the forefront while constantly refining his or her technique through the years.
What other things do you think mobile DJs can learn from club DJs? Share them with us below.