Building Your DJ Profile
‘You are’, goes the mantra of our times, ‘what Google says you are.’
One of the things practically anybody who is interested in you as a DJ is going to do between finding out about you and asking you to play a DJ set in their bar, at their party, or in their club, is Google you. You need to own what they see. This chapter contains quick, easy tactics for doing that – tactics that anyone can put into practice, and that work.
The good news is that you can gain a real advantage here. Despite the competitive nature of DJing, many DJs are rubbish at maintaining an online presence, so by simply ticking the following boxes properly, you’re giving yourself a tangible head start. But other more subtle things happen when you consciously craft a public profile or brand for yourself. You are forced to see yourself and your DJing more how the general public see it (this is a good thing, by the way), and you naturally begin to exercise some discipline over your DJing work (‘I really must post a new mix on my website as promised this week…’).
As well as making a good impression on anyone who could be in a position to offer you work, having an online profile does something else that’s hugely important for you: it helps you to grow a fan base. A blunt fact of the DJ circuit is that DJs with fans get booked – or to put it another way, it doesn’t matter how good you think you are, if you can’t convince enough people to come along to see you when you DJ, the only time you’ll show off how good you are is DJing in your bedroom.
Choosing a DJ name
Your DJ name may be your real name. If it sounds good, if it’s easy to say, if it’s distinctive enough to stand out, if people tend to write it down correctly when they hear it spoken (what I call the ‘radio test’), and if you’re happy to have your real name associated with your DJing (people who have serious day jobs might not be as they may need to be Googled for their real name as well as for their DJ name), then go for it. If not, you need to find something different.
Picking names is a time-honoured rite of passage for DJs, bands, actors, and anyone else with a public persona they want to separate from the name they were born with. From putting pins on dictionary pages to using online random name generators, from looking up how your name is spelled in other languages to changing a letter of two of your name until it sounds cooler, from simply adding ‘DJ’ before your existing name to adding something between your given name and surname to give it a fresh flavour, there are lots of things you can try. Just make sure to test any ideas you come up with on other people before committing to them. And nowadays, you can’t only have a name; it has to be designed into a logo too for use on your site and promotional material. Use a designer friend, a site such as 99designs.com or fiverr.com, or search ‘freelance logo design’ on Google for other options, but only do it yourself if you know what you’re doing.
How much time and effort you put into getting this right depends partly on your ambitions. If you want to be the next global superstar DJ, finding the perfect name and logo has more importance attached to it than if your ultimate goal is to become a great DJ and play a couple of times a year in your local town. Bear this in mind, and in the latter case, don’t worry if you can’t come up with the most amazing name ever for yourself. The main tests are listed above, so work through them, get lots of opinions, and you’ll be fine.
But there is one more thing: you’ll need to secure any name you choose for yourself online.
Ideally, you’ll want the name you’ve chosen exactly as it is spelled, no dashes or additions, as a .com (.com is the best extension by far as it’s the one people always try first), and on the most important few social networks in your country too, which for many people will be Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as a minimum. If not, variations are OK: using your country’s web address ending instead of .com, adding ‘DJ’ to the end – whatever you can find.
Elements of an online profile
Once you’ve found a name, buy the web address you choose and register on your chosen social media services. On Facebook, you’ll want a Facebook Page for your DJ name rather than using your personal profile, even if you choose to use your real name, as Facebook Pages are more flexible than personal profiles. You’re going to need somewhere to host your DJ mixes online too, and again where you choose depends on where you are in the world and the popular services there; just be sure you choose a legal site that you’re confident your mixes won’t disappear from one day. Also, look for somewhere that has widgets available so you can include them on your web page and elsewhere, and let people listen to your mixes directly from your own website or social media platforms without having to go to the mix website itself. My recommendation for a service that ticks all of those boxes is Mixcloud.
Some DJs ask whether it’s really that important to have their own website when they could just maintain, say, a Facebook Page for their DJing. It most definitely is. The thing about a website is that you own it. It is the centre of what you do, and it’s highly unlikely anyone will ever take it away from you. While social media services may rise and fall, or you may fall in or out of favour with them (it’s easy to get accidental copyright issues on YouTube, for instance, that can get your channel banned), as long as you have your own website at the heart of what you do, all won’t be lost.
There’s an even more important reason why you need a website: it allows you to gather email addresses from fans and potential customers. People have predicted the death of email for decades now, but it never happens. email addresses are still the gold standard way of contacting people, and the more email addresses you have of fans and prospects, the better. We’ll talk about how to use email addresses you’ve gathered in a minute, but first, let’s cover how to get your website and email system set up.
Setting up a website
Your site needs to have very little on it to do the job you want. You need a short biography page (two paragraphs about you is fine – name, location, music styles, a few places you’ve played), a contact page (with or without a form – a clickable email address is fine, plus a phone number), testimonials if you can get them, a blog part where you can post regular updates (mixes, news of gigs you’ve played and so on), and some photos (both from gigs and press photos). Get photos done professionally if you can, and please, no wearing headphones in meadows – keep the DJ gear to the DJ booth. If you’re busy enough, an ‘upcoming events’ calendar can work, but there’s nothing worse than an empty one, so wait until the right time to add this.
If this all sounds difficult, the good news is that it’s got much easier in recent years. Most of the world’s sites like this run on a platform called WordPress, which is free and easy to get up and going. Other site-building services exist too, and a popular alternative is Wix, or the place you bought your web address from may offer a similar service. If you’re not confident about doing it yourself, get a web-savvy friend to help you buy your domain name and web hosting, get your site building app installed, and find a theme that you like (themes are like the paint job on your site). Make sure the theme you pick is responsive (that means it looks good on 4-inch smartphones as well as on 27-inch desktops, and everything in between), slot your logo in top- left and you’re nearly done. All that’s left is to add email capture to gather fans’ details.
You could add in a system where you request fans email you, then gather all the addresses up and cut and paste them into your email system manually whenever you want to let your fans know about a gig or new mix, but that’s pretty inefficient and unprofessional. Nowadays, there are many services that specialise in helping you gather addresses for email newsletters, make nice looking newsletters and send them properly, and some such services give you basic packages for free. They’ll have a way to make adding a form to your site easy, and once you’ve gathered a few addresses, you log in to their website and follow some simple steps to send to your list. One of the most popular is MailChimp, although many others exist, such as ConstantContact or AWeber – Google ‘online email marketing solutions’ to bring up a list.
Of course, once you’ve set all of this up, you need to do something with it. Grab a calendar and work out how much time you want to commit to maintaining your online presence, and stick to it. You may commit to doing a DJ mix once a month, posting it to your mix service then to Facebook and Twitter, as well as embedding it on your own site so people can listen from there. You may choose to post a five-minute video introducing where you are and carrying a bit of footage of you on the decks and of your dancefloor on YouTube each time you gig. You may decide to write up all your gigs with photos for your site, and each time get a testimonial to add to the testimonials page. And you may decide to email everyone on your email list once a month with links to things they may have missed (gig photos, mixes, news of where you’ll be playing, and so on). Your schedule can change, of course, but setting it and sticking to it will ensure your carefully built online presence doesn’t become a ghost town, and will help you to own your name on Google, which is the point of all of this. Remember, Google loves fresh content.
Finally, in order to grow your blog readers, social media followers, and email list, it’s important to let your audience know about all of them. Cross-advertise between them (have your social media profiles on your site, link to Twitter from Facebook, and so on), have them listed in your email signature, but don’t forget offline. A business card is essential, and a great place to feature your web and social media addresses alongside your phone number.
Getting coverage elsewhere
The final part of the online jigsaw is to reach beyond your own website and social media presence and get other people to feature you on their sites. The reason for this is that the first page of Google for any established DJ will consist not only of their own site, YouTube and so on, but also places where other people have written about them. local papers and music websites are always hungry for people to write about, so make sure you keep them informed of what you’re up to and anything about you that you think they may find newsworthy. Get to know the people who write for these publications via Twitter to get your foot in the door. And always supply photos as well as written information; people are more likely to publish if you save them having to source a picture, and you want to dominate Google Images as well as the main search results.
However, having a great online profile is only part of the game. You have to get off your bum and into your local scene before you can realistically expect to play any part in that scene. In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at why this is so important, and how to go about it.