How To Throw Your First Party: A Guide For DJs

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
June 1, 2021

Get the free download: Party Planning Worksheet

Learning new DJ techniques, building a great music collection, becoming competent with DJ gear… they’re all important things when you want to succeed as a DJ.

But nothing beats actually playing regularly in front of real people… and the BEST way to get regular gigs is to throw your own parties.

Watch the show


Prefer me to talk you through this? In this video, a recording of a live show from the Digital DJ Tips YouTube channel, I talk you through how to throw your first party, and we take questions from our community too on the subject.

At the start of my career, I threw parties with my friends. Through running those parties over a number of years, I ended up booking many big-name DJs, one of whom also promoted huge parties at Privilege in Ibiza, the biggest nightclub in the world.

That’s how I ended up playing the main room at Privilege on more than one occasion, in front of many thousands of people. Those nights remain some of the biggest highlights of my professional DJing career.

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Now, my friends and I weren’t producers, or well connected, or from privileged backgrounds – we just put ourselves out there throwing our own parties, did the work, and stuck at it. Promoting our own events proved for us to be the single best way to improve our DJing, build great DJ careers, and have the time of our lives.

In this article, I’ll take you through the five steps to making a success of your very first party. I’ll also give you loads of tips, things I figured out from years of promoting club nights and parties, big and small.

Whether you just want to throw one party for fun, or you fancy yourself as a DJ/promoter, this guide will help.

Download the checklist

There are an awful lot of “moving parts” involved in promoting your own party, so I’ve prepared a special free checklist for you, so you don’t forget anything.

Click here to download your free party planning checklist.

(I suggest you also print it out a few times so you have a copy for each party you want to promote, or to fill in over again as your party plans develop.)

Why throw your own parties?

Parties that you organise yourself, where you’re in charge of everything including the money (assuming you’re charging, of course), can be stressful and are always hard work.

So why do it? Well, I’ve already told you my story and how this was my route to fame and (relative) fortune – but here are some other reasons:

  • It gives you the chance to “book yourself” – Nobody is likely to give a DJ booking to a DJ with no track record – so throwing a party gives you the chance to actually DJ in public
  • It gives you the chance to make a name for yourself in your town or city – When word of your event gets around (and it will), you’ll find it much easier to talk to the right people and land those gigs that were out of reach to you beforehand
  • It’s your opportunity to throw a great event for your friends – Many events start by DJs thinking “there is no night for me around here…” – this is your chance to create that night
  • It could turn into something regular, that you “own” and therefore control – No DJ is ever really secure in his or her job. Venue management changes, other DJs may undercut you. It all happens. But if you throw the party, you make the rules – and if your party turns out to be regular, that’s a secure gig for you (I played at my own event weekly for 12 years)
  • It can get you recognition in the industry, giving you the chance to work with people you admire – If your parties grow, you may end up booking DJs you love, bringing them to your city, getting to know them. Meeting my heroes was one of the most enjoyable parts of promoting my own events
  • You can make more money than just DJing – …but you can also lose more money, so it’s a double-edged sword, like any business! But I could never have bought my first house outright at 30 years old without having promoted a successful club night. And it all started with that first party…
  • Many of the biggest DJs have a background in promoting their own events – A residency that you control is one of the best ways to grow as a DJ, and it can lead you right to the top, if that’s what you want

5 Steps To Throwing A Great Party

1. Decide on a name and concept

What kind of music are you going to play? This should be your first decision, because the music underpins everything.

It will help for you to think through who you want to appeal to. Where do they go now? What music do those venues play? Is there a “gap” for something different? What exactly is it about what you are planning that’s different?

At this early stage, it’s a great idea to “test” your thinking on your friends. Ask them whether they think it is a good idea and would come – and if not, what would they come to instead? Make a mix and share it with people, or play it to them. Would they go to a night that played that type of music?

While you’re doing this, think about a name for the party. A “brand” is important, because if your event is a success, you’ll “own” that name and people will associate the word or words with what you do. (Our night was called “Tangled”, and became so legendary, there is even a book out there about it!) Use a site like Fiverr to get a logo designed – it should cost you no more than a few dollars.

Well done – your event now has a name, a logo, and a concept. It “exists”! But we now need to find somewhere for you to throw your party…

2. Find a venue

The rule here is to start tiny. Think of the smallest number of people you’d consider would make your event a success, the very smallest number.

Now, halve it.

I’m not joking – the truth is that 40 people in a 50-person venue is so much better than 50 in a 100-person venue, or, God forbid, 100 in a 500 person venue. Start microscopically small, and grow very slowly.

It’s also important that you do not pay a penny for the venue. Instead, promise the venue manager that you’ll bring people. Remember, they make their profits from the bar. They may push for a hire fee, but resist. Discuss it like a partnership.

Emphasise that you’ll be doing the promotion, providing the music, taking care of tickets and DJs etc. Basically, managers hate risk and want an easy life, so promise the crowd, and do the work for them. Make it easy for the manager to say yes. Do all of this a good two to three months out.

Finding a venue is a major hurdle, and you may need to think “outside the box”. Is there an outdoor venue you could try? Maybe somewhere that doesn’t currently hold events? Can you book a different day to a venue’s usual events? Use the venue at a different time?

For example:

  • I knew a promoter who threw parties for student nurses. The nurses all had an afternoon-only lessons on Wednesdays at nursing college, so he threw parties on a Tuesday night in a venue that would otherwise have been closed
  • We once threw a party at a university, where the small club on campus was (for some bizarre reason) closed on Saturday nights. We persuaded them to open it
  • One of the most successful events I was involved in promoting only happened on public holidays – so we booked Sunday nights (when Monday was the holiday) – a night nobody else had thought of booking at the venue. They became “ours”
  • A successful night in Manchester, England (where I’m from) targets ex-clubbers who are now “settled down”, usually with school-age kids. The event is conveniently held in a residential suburb, not the city centre, and it happens in “babysitter hours” (7pm to 11pm)

3. Prepare for the party

Once you’ve got your party’s name, music and concept sorted and landed yourself a venue, it’ll all start to feel very real – and you’ll want to start preparations for the big night.

Firstly, figure out the gear you may need, and source it. It may be that the venue has everything, or it may be that you need to bring absolutely everything – or somewhere in the middle. (Check out our Ultimate Checklist Of Things To Take To Your DJ Gigs article.) If you need gear you haven’t got, try to borrow it rather than hire it.

Also, think about decor – at least, some kind of branding for your night, like a full-wall logo you can pin up in the venue. Pull in favours. Talk to art students and see if they can knock something up in their college studios. Or just do it yourself (we once spent weeks tracing the letters and painting our “Tangled” logo onto seven drapes to hang in a venue).

And of course you have to figure out the business side. Unless your event is free for your friends, you’ll need to charge money for tickets. Will you be selling actual tickets? Using an online ticket site? Who will physically be “on the door”?

And finally (as if I had to say this), you’re now going to want to actually plan the music. Because you’re promoting the event, this is your chance to think about music for the whole night, and it could be the first time you’ve ever done this. It’s a great thing to do, but do start early so you’re not rushing to find music and practise in the days just before the party.

4. Promote the party

About a month before is usually a good time to start promoting your party, maybe five or six weeks – but you can do it in as few as two weeks if you have to.

The biggest home truth here is that nobody, but nobody, is going to come to your party who you don’t already know – and many of the people you think will come, won’t. Sorry, but best to lay it bare right now.

There is absolutely no point expecting the crowds to come just because you put the word out – if you take one thing only away from this article, let this be it. Basically, if someone’s name isn’t in your phone already, they almost certainly won’t come. (Feel free to scroll through your contacts now to get a realistic sense of how big your party could be.)

So your job is to mobilise your close friends, their close friends, your family, DJs you know, and so on. Do it every way you can. In person, using email, SMS, DMs, posting on socials. A rule of promoting is that somebody has to hear about something six times to take action, and those six times need to be different from each other (so six Instagram posts doesn’t count). So you’ll really have to be imaginative here.

You will definitely need an online presence (a Facebook Page for your event is easy enough to set up and promote), but do not rely on a Facebook Event with people saying they are “going” on it, to fill your party – they won’t come.

Now, just because in reality your friends will be your only crowd, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t promote your event wider – indeed, you must – remember the “six times” rule.

So do everything else you can think of too. Put up posters, including in the venue where your party is to be. (Get someone with a colour photocopier/printer to produce them.) Tell your local paper and music websites. Try and get on your local radio to talk about it. Find an angle for these and they’ll give you the time or column space – so get out there and do it.

Ultimately, you’re going to want to sell tickets, as this is the only way to even half guarantee people will come. So that’s your job – to get all of your tickets sold before the night. In short, treat your first party as the only one you’ll ever throw and make sure everyone is there.

5. Throw your party!

It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, even panicked, on the day of your party, as “opening time” approaches. Just remember all the work and preparation you’ve put in to get to this point, and try to keep your cool.

One thing is certain: It won’t turn out exactly as you planned. Almost certainly fewer people will come than you envisaged. Try not to apologise for or “talk down” your event if it isn’t as you wanted it. The trick is to make sure that for the people who are there, it’s great fun – and that starts with you, as the DJ.

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So always outwardly appear like you’re having fun, even if you’re preoccupied or worried about what’s going on around you – it is a trick all DJ/promoters know how to pull off! Soon enough, your nerves and worries will fall away and you’ll be able to enjoy your event like everyone else.

There are a couple of things you will need to do on the night, though, to help you when it comes to throwing your next party:

  • Gather email addresses from EVERYONE there so you can email them next time directly
  • Get material for social media – take photos, make phone videos (including of people saying they loved it) and so on

And finally, at the end of the night, make sure you thank everyone who helped, including all the staff at the venue, get out of there as quickly as you can (the staff will want to go home), and head home yourself to carry on the celebrations!

Now, having promoted events personally for nearly two decades, I have learned a thing or two along the way, and I’d love to share some of those insights and lessons with you. So for the rest of this article, I’ll give you my tips to help you succeed.

Download the checklist

As you now see, there are an awful lot of “moving parts” involved in promoting your own party, so remember to grab your special free checklist, so you don’t forget anything.

Click here to download your free party planning checklist.

(I suggest you also print it out a few times so you have a copy for each party you want to promote, or to fill in over again as your party plans develop.)

7 Tips For Throwing Great Parties

1. Be realistic

Start with just one event. If you want to carry on, sticking to a four-times-a-year party and doing it well would be much better than committing to something monthly or even weekly that you can’t keep up with.

Also, do make sure that realistically it’s possible to do what you want to do where you live, and if not, rethink things. If you live in a small town with one small bar, they really may not be ready for a dub techno night – and your friends may not be either!

2. Do it with someone else

I never promoted events on my own. Actually, I did – once. And I’d never do it again. My DJing partner “back in the day”, Terry Pointon, always worked with me to take half of the work. We both got to DJ, but we also both shared all the other tasks.

I have seen successful events where one of the partners is a DJ, and one a non-DJ. In this scenario, the non-DJ can help to free you, the DJ, up to do the music side of it.

I have also seen events promoted by “collectives”, and these can also work well (such events are much easier to fill, as everyone has their own circle of friends) – but just make sure everyone knows what they are meant to be doing, and that they all pull their weight.

3. Don’t overtly base your party around a type of music

Most people attending parties are not music fans like you are, and so pushing a style of music may well fall flat on them. Sure, you can call it a dance event or whatever, but even that is not really required.

Events overtly based around a style of music are not only going to alienate people who may otherwise have come (“I am not sure if I’ll like it…”) but are easy for others to copy should you succeed. Plus, music styles come and go – so be a bit more imaginative about the music, and don’t “pre-warn” people exactly what you’re going to do!

Finally, falling back on a style of music to help you fill the venue will take the urgency off of you to get your brand right – the name of your event, and how you present it to people.

You own your brand. You don’t own a genre. So plan the music, for sure, but push your brand.

4. Keep costs very, very low

All the way through this piece I’ve advised you not to spend money, to get people to help you for free, to cash in favours and so on. And for good reason – you will make very little, if anything, and may even end up out of pocket personally. So keep spending to an absolute minimum.

Get a graphic design student to produce your artwork for free. Never, ever pay for advertising on Facebook etc, until you know your event works and is bringing in cash, a long way down the line. (Online advertising can “fan the flames”, but it can’t start the fire.)

And don’t pay for DJs – firstly, you should be DJing yourself anyway, but secondly, if you want other DJs involved, get them involved in the night instead. If they want to, they become partners, if not – don’t use them. And no, booking a “big name” DJ for an unknown night (even if you can afford them) won’t guarantee success either. I’ve done it, and I can tell you that for certain.

5. Accept the ups and downs

You will have good nights and bad nights. The trouble with promoting your first party is you have nothing to compare it to. But if you stick at this, you’ll realise that inconsistency is just part of the game.

Especially early on, you will have events that flop, and other nights that do better. Achieving consistency involves turning up through thick and thin. You may have to be doing it for years, not months, before the majority of potential attendees trust the “brand” enough to actually come.

At that point – when everyone who may enjoy your party knows about it, and enough of them come to every event for it to be successful, you’ll have achieved that consistency – but until then, it’ll be a bumpy ride. Enjoy that ride.

6. Believe in yourself as a DJ

You’re good enough to DJ your own parties, so don’t convince yourself otherwise. Again, you absolutely do not need to book other DJs for money. They won’t be as invested in the event as you, and you don’t have the money anyway.

Also, you’ll improve rapidly. Take time to remind yourself that few people ever get to the point of doing this, so when you open the doors for the first time, you’re already way ahead of most DJs – and nothing improves a DJ like playing to his or her “own” crowd.

Remember that everybody learns “on the job” in this game – you can’t go to college to learn DJing, so it has to happen at real parties. (That’s why rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>all of our courses emphasise that YOU have to get out there and play in front of real people.)

7. Learn to hustle

If you do decide after your first party that you want to continue doing this, then book your next party – and hustle like crazy!

It’s actually best to book the next event immediately – preferably, before the first one is even over (so you can tell people about the second one at the first one).

Use all your photos and videos from the night on social media to make people who weren’t there wish they were.

Make sure you continue to gather email addresses of people – ultimately your event will live or die by its email list. Basically, try to do something to promote your next event and your brand every single day.

Treat your party-promoting like a little business and there’s no reason why, if you want to, you can’t turn your very first party into the start of a rewarding DJ/promoter career that helps you grow as a DJ and could lead… who knows where?

Download the checklist

Remember to grab your special free checklist, so you don’t forget anything.

Click here to download your free party planning checklist.

(I suggest you also print it out a few times so you have a copy for each party you want to promote, or to fill in over again as your party plans develop.)

Last updated 1 June, 2021

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