International DJ Danny Rampling, who is behind Everything You Need to Know About DJing and Success, has done his dues and is in a good position to teach a thing or two about DJing. The fact that there are few books written by bona fide DJs who’ve “been there, done that” makes this book worthy of your interest right from the off.
But this is more than a DJing book, as the title suggests. As well as information on the skills of playing records for a living, Danny covers techniques for success, as well as throwing in a number of “DJ resources” (mainly web links and DJ charts) plus a 4-hour DVD of tutorials and interviews. That’s a lot of material for your money. Let’s see how good it is…
This is a nicely presented book, professionally produced in a large hardback format and printed on quality glossy paper. It’s a beautiful thing in itself, the kind of book you’d have on your coffee table or sitting on your desk. It wants to be your one-stop manual and something you’ll refer back to time and again.
Skills and techniques
It is thorough, covering the basics of DJing (if you’ve ever wondered what types of plugs are on the ends of DJ leads and what they’re for, you’ll find out here!) as well as the specifics of how to physically cue records up and scratch. There are, for instance, diagrams of mixers and record deck set-ups, and a (rather over-complicated, I thought) chapter on musical timing and how to learn beat mixing.
Coming from a DJ who did his dues when vinyl was the way, it is steered towards traditional DJing with records, but it does cover developments since then, including vinyl emulation (DVS), CDs and of course digital.
While the digital section is only 14 pages long, if you’re reading this, you already know where to come for comprehensive digital DJing tips. Danny’s book is more a general overview of DJing skills, and as such he touches on a whole host of areas including mixtapes, playing live, promoting, marketing, radio DJing, mobile DJing and so on.
It is UK-centric (Danny’s based in London), particularly in the chapters about contracts and tax, but even there the principles covered are universal and so the book is still mainly relevant to those outside of the UK – indeed in his resource sections he specifically covers many different countries.
The section of the book that is different from other DJing books is the part about “success”. This is a shortish section that covers Danny’s rules for getting what you want. It’s a brave thing to include in a book like this, but overall I think it’s a useful addition. Danny speaks sincerely about what’s worked for him in his career, the power of positive thinking and the keys to business success, and gives easily digestible lists to help you learn some of his principles.
If you’re not a fan of “self-help” books you’ll find some of this a bit cringeworthy, plus where he veers away from DJing and into general principles it loses its relevancy a bit (especially in the short business sections, which will only really appeal to you if you’re a promoter or web marketer). Also, much of this – as he says – is age-old advice rehashed.
But then again, hearing this stuff coming from a DJ may be just the thing for you. I certainly wish I’d known some of these principles when I was a lot younger, as I’ve had to learn them by hard experience instead.
Lists, resources and extras
Towards the back of the book is a useful section with 17 resource lists. There are all kinds of DJing websites (maybe Digital DJ Tips will be included in edition 2!), scratch tutorial video links, global record stores, agencies, trade event lists, a fantastic selection of DJ charts in many genres, resources to help you build a website and get your social media marketing up to scratch, and even sample contracts and invoice templates.
Last but certainly not least, there’s a DVD with interviews conducted by Danny himself with 12 top DJs and producers, running for nearly 4 hours. Nice to see an interview with Alex Gold there, a man who I’ve been lucky enough to DJ with and book for my own events many times and who has got where he is through pure hard work and a love of the game. Such people are your inspiration: If you have “I can’t!” in your vocabulary, listen up, because they’re living proof that actually, you can.
This DVD alone is worth the price of the book as it helps you to get into the minds and lives of people who are already where you want to be as a DJ, and I’m impressed that this is tossed in as an extra without fanfare in a book that’s already a pretty exhaustive resource.
It’s plain how much work has gone into this whole package and it offers incredible value for money for anyone who wants a reference volume on DJing written by someone who knows what they’re talking about.
You won’t find everything you need to know here, and you won’t find everything easy to digest (as I say I think the beatmatching section is unnecessarily complicated with its musical notation, and also arguably the book is too focused on vinyl DJing).
But if you work through all that is on offer, absorb the information and start doing some of the things the book suggests right now, you’ll have a fantastic head start.
And as I said at the beginning, it’s a beautiful thing in its own right. You’ll want to have it on your desk, coffee table or bedside table for a long time to come, right where you’re more likely to pick it up over and over again. You’ll learn something new every time you do.