Gigs are to DJing what match day is to a sports team – the reason you do all the training, preparation, worrying, planning and everything else. They give you a focus, and help you figure out where you should be putting the work in to improve.
And of course, they’re where the most fun is! Nothing beats that moment where you and the crowd are all “in it together”, or indeed that second when the night ends and everyone stomps for “one more”.
But sometimes, we can’t get enough gigs, for whatever reason. Whether it’s because we’re unable to find regular events to play at, or for whatever reason this isn’t the right time to be “gigging”. Sometimes over all the years you spend with DJing as your hobby, gigs won’t be available to you.
So rather than letting this affect your motivation and morale, and allowing yourself to drift, why not consider doing one or more of the things on this list? These are all activities that can keep you enthusiastic and motivated about your DJing in those times when your diary does not have as many gigs as you’d prefer.
5 Alternatives to Playing Gigs
1. Make a mixtape
Mixtapes – recorded DJ mixes – are an important thing to make as a DJ. No, they won’t automatically get you bookings nowadays (it’s doubtful they ever did, to be honest), but nonetheless they show what you can do, they document where you are in your DJing, and they act a little like an “audio business card”.
Learn how the pros make and share mixtapes – Pro Mixtape Formula
Once you start to plan a mix, you will naturally begin to think about a musical theme, search for and collect the right music, make a playlist, plan transitions, and slowly turn your concept into the finished deal – ready to record, master, and share with the world. It’s a great way to stay motivated, and also a good way to promote yourself.
2. Promote your own party
Nobody booking you? Then book yourself! Hire a venue and throw a party for all your friends. This is exactly the way I started my club DJing career, and it eventually led to me playing at Privilege in Ibiza, the biggest club in the world. Essentially my friends and I just put on a party every month, then every fortnight, then weekly, for 10 years – and everything else fell into place.
Think small. Better to play in a tiny bar that only holds 50 people, get 30 people to come, and have a great night, than throw a load of cash at a bigger venue to get the same 30 people rattling around it, wondering what the hell they’re doing there! (I am speaking from experience.)
Read this next: How To Throw Your First Party: A Guide For DJs
Also, get a friend to help you. Promoting can be hard work, even at this tiny level, and having two of you (and someone else to share the decks with) is a wise move. Talking of friends…
3. Invite a friend for a back-to-back DJ session
“We don’t really need a crowd to have a party / Just a funky beat and you to get it started, and oh / We’ll dance the night away…”
So sang Inner City on their seminal 1988 hit “Big Fun”. I have had so many great nights with a friend, each of us with a pile of our favourite music, sharing the decks, chatting music, and buzzing off our mixing together.
Try playing from each others’ music collections – I guarantee you’ll uncover tracks and discover transitions you’d never have found otherwise. Back-to-back DJing is also one of the best ways you can practise, because nothing can be predicted, and you’re always living song to song.
Read this next: How To Find Time To Learn DJing (Proven Method For Busy People)
4. Do a livestream
I don’t need to introduce you to the idea of livestreaming your DJ sets, as of course especially since COVID-19, it’s something many DJs have dabbled in. But if you’re struggling to get to play “IRL” (in real life), a livestream can be a good alternative.
It gives you some of the buzz of actually performing live, and yet frees you from having to fill a dancefloor, so you get a bit more freedom to play what you want. And in some ways, you get better, not worse, feedback from your audience, as people can comment and you can chat back to them “in the moment”.
Check out the course: DJ Livestreaming Made Easy
Don’t worry about getting hundreds of people on your broadcast – even a handful is great. Do it right, and your recording can “live” online forever, clocking up listens, likes and shares into the future. Plus, you don’t need music gear – your phone and a couple of leads can be all you need to start with. Take a look at our Ultimate Guide To DJ Livestreaming article to learn how to start.
5. DJ for family or friends
If you’re really stuck for gigs, it could simply be that you’re looking too far from home. How many birthdays are there in your extended family each year? How many kids do your brothers, sister, cousins, friends have? Are there any special anniversaries or family events coming up where music could be just the ticket?
With a bit of thought, and by putting the word out among your relatives and friends, you ought to be able to come up with a gig or two you hadn’t thought about till you tried.
Sure, you probably won’t get paid, but you’ll get something valuable nonetheless: People who are already “on your side” impressed with what you can do, and able to now talk you up to everyone they know… this is how many new DJs get the ball rolling on their whole careers.
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One of the most important things with hobbies is to have goals. Gigs are the obvious goal in DJing, but as we’ve seen, they are not the only one.
Some DJs only do mixtapes. Others only livestream. Others only play two or three gigs a year, for family and friends. Others are happy just to hang with their DJ friends and play to each other. When this is your hobby, you get to call the shots.
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The important thing, I think, is to have dates in your diary that you’re committed to, looking forward to, and that involve you having to work on some aspect of your DJing to do a good job of. Hopefully today’s article has given you some ideas for things you could be doing, as well as (or instead of) any regular gigs you have.