Mental health for DJs is something much-discussed, not least since the death of Avicii. But while for most of us DJing is just an awesome hobby and not something that affects our whole lives, that doesn’t mean we’re immune. Indeed, “DJ burnout” is something everyone feels at some time or another.
The truth is, work in any creative field for long enough and you’re likely to go through burnout at least once. For some it happens early in the process when they don’t see enough progression happening. For others, it happens later when they are established and start to feel stagnant.
It can be demotivating and can even cause some people to stop doing something they once loved. So let’s look at some signs of burnout that you should look out for, and things you can do to avoid it (and, how to work past it if you are already feeling burnt out).
First, know that it happens to everyone…
The most important thing to remember when it comes to mental health for DJs is that burnout happens to everyone. I’ve personally gone through burnout quite a few times in my decade-plus years of DJing. Usually, it’s happened when I’ve been playing the same gig (venue or genre of music) for an extended period.
What makes this type of burnout feel even worse for me is that I am naturally very grateful for any opportunity that I am given. So when I feel like I’m no longer enjoying what I am doing it makes me feel down on myself even more for not being thankful, especially when there are so many other DJs out there who would love to take my place.
Are you suffering from burnout?
What’s helped me overcome burnout is learning to understand the symptoms of when I am starting to feel burnt out.
- Lost motivation – Many people start DJing out of a passion for music and the desire to play music in front of other people. When burnout hits, that deep-rooted motivation to share music with others can be one of the first things to go. You may notice that you don’t want to practise as often any more, or maybe you’ve lost the excitement of upcoming gigs. One of the challenges when it comes to mental health for DJs is trying to stay aware of how you are feeling in terms of practice and gigs because realising you are losing motivation is the first step of getting past burnout
- It starts feeling like “work” – When you make the jump from doing something creative as a passion to making it a job, you run the risk of it beginning to feel like work. While this can be a normal feeling once you’ve been DJing long enough, the feeling of dreading DJ gigs like they were a dead-end job is a real thing for many DJs. This feeling of something that once brought you so much joy becoming a job that you are not excited about any more can make you lose focus on why you began DJing in the first place
- You feel like giving up DJing altogether – If you’ve felt burnout long enough, the thought of giving up DJing altogether may have crossed your mind. This can come from the feeling of being “stuck” where you are in your DJ skill level or career, or just an overall loss of passion for the art
Burnout is the hardest to get over if you feel like you are at this point, but don’t give up, it’s possible to get through it.
4 Ways To Deal With DJ Burnout
One you know you’ve got an issue, it’s time to deal with it! Here are some things that have worked for me:
1. Watch/listen to DJ sets from other DJs
My favourite way to get through the feeling of burnout is to find new motivation from other DJs. Listening to other DJs’ sets, or watching videos of other DJs playing can be that spark of motivation you need. (You could even try learning a pile of new mix techniques from one of our transition-specific online courses such as Mixing Power Skills.)
One tip is to not only listen or watch your favourite DJs, but to look for newer or lesser-known DJs who are close to your level. Sometimes this can be the most motivating as it can reinforce the thought, “if they can do it, so can I.”
2. Try new things/take risks at your gigs
Usually, after listening or watching other DJs I am full of new ideas for transitions or mixes that I may have not thought of before. The excitement of developing these new mixes or skills have helped motivate me to keep pushing forward.
Once I’ve worked out a few of these new ideas during practice, the next step is to try them live at gigs. Now they may not all work for the gig or the crowd I am playing for, but the payoff when it does work exactly like as I’ve envisioned it is worth it.
3. Find new gigs
I’ve found myself feeling burnt out the most when I’ve been doing the same gig week in and week out for an extended amount of time without playing anywhere else. This can be taxing on any DJ as it can start to feel repetitive.
The best way to get around this feeling is to find new places to play. Even if it’s just at a house party or a smaller venue which may not pay much, if anything at all, breaking up the monotony of playing the same, or very similar, sets is worth it.
Playing gigs like these has renewed my motivation to continue DJing time and time again, and has encouraged me to try new things at my normal gigs that once felt stale.
4. Take a break
Take a break from DJing, whether it’s blocking off a few weeks or months, and keep your mind off it for the meantime. One of the reasons you may “dread” DJing is that it’s become something you “have” to do instead of something you “want” to do.
Although the phrase “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is a cliche, it’s the case when dealing with anything you’re feeling burnt out from. Distance yourself from your passion for a while, set a “return date”, and be disciplined enough to stay away from it as much as you can for that entire duration. When you’re back, you’ll see things from a fresh perspective and – hopefully – discover renewed enthusiasm.
Burnout is a real thing and has been the end of many DJs’ careers. Admitting to and talking about mental health for DJs should not be something that’s frowned upon or seen as a sign of weakness. Just remember that every DJ eventually goes through it and there are ways to get past it. It is not the end of the road, but rather just a bump in the road to get over.
If you are worried about feeling burnt out, try to keep the things I’ve listed above in mind to help avoid it. If you are already feeling burnt out, be aware of that feeling and use the tips I’ve mentioned to work past it.
Every time I’ve felt burnt out once I’ve overcome that feeling, emerging from it even more appreciative of the art of DJing and enjoying it even more. It’s a part of doing anything creative for a long enough time, and will make you a better DJ once you work through it.
Have you ever experienced burnout? What did you do to deal with it? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.