This book will teach you how to be a great DJ. Whether you want to land a dream gig in your favourite nightclub, play at that cool lounge bar in your town, set up as a mobile DJ, or just provide the music at parties for friends and family, everything you need to know is within these pages.
You wouldn’t be alone in wanting to learn this. In an age where DJs are just as important as rock stars, it’s not surprising that more people than ever are getting interested in the art and science of spinning tunes. Nobody ever forgets their first big dancefloor experience, or the DJ who provided it. Who wouldn’t want to be in his or her shoes, at one with the crowd, gratefully receiving all that adoration and praise from a packed dancefloor?
As with so many things, DJing has been utterly transformed by the arrival of the digital age. Record shops largely no longer exist, having been replaced by online download stores and streaming music websites. For minimal outlay, you can buy DJ gear small enough to fit in your desk drawer that – working in tandem with your laptop – does so much more than the old-fashioned turntables and mixers of only a generation ago, and at a fraction of the cost. This has radically altered how today’s DJs learn the craft, and given them a much wider choice of venues to play in – beach bars, cafes, and other smaller establishments, which could never fit traditional gear into their premises, happily welcome the new breed of ‘digital DJs’. The ways DJs share their work, gather a fan base and promote themselves have also completely changed in just a few short years.
Yet as the barriers to entry have lowered, making it sometimes feel like everyone is (or says they are) a DJ, paradoxically, the path to becoming a great DJ has become less clear. While learning the technical skills of DJing on old-fashioned equipment could be tricky, at least the route was clear. Nowadays, there is a hugely confusing choice of equipment, software, music file formats, and features that, at the same time as making digital DJing hugely exciting, has made it at best, puzzling, and at worse, a potentially expensive minefield for inexperienced DJs. What skills are you meant to be learning? What shortcuts is it oK to take? How will you know when you’re good enough to play in public? How exactly are you meant to stand out and get ahead when everyone is a DJ?
That’s why I wrote this book. As a DJ myself for over a quarter of a century, with a career that’s taken me from the bars and clubs of my native Manchester to no lesser a venue than Privilege in Ibiza, the biggest club in the world, I’ve learned a thing or two about what it takes to achieve DJing success. As a self-proclaimed geek, too, I was one of the first to adopt digital DJing, back in 2004. The magazine I wrote for, iDJ, started passing the very earliest digital DJ controllers to me to review, because I was the only person who knew how they worked. I immediately saw the potential of these new devices to revolutionise the world of DJing, which over the next five years they duly did, just as I’d predicted. Taking my skills from learning to DJ ‘the old way’ and applying them to the problems I could see the new generation of DJs having with this type of equipment and software, I founded Digital DJ Tips, which has gone on to become the world’s biggest online DJ school, training tens of thousands of DJs in more than fifty countries. This book is the result of my experiences both as a DJ and in training others.
The book is divided into five core steps: Gear, Music, Techniques, Playing out, and Promoting Yourself. It takes you logically, clearly and practically through the minefield, helping you to find the best tunes, master your equipment, practise effectively, smash it when you play your first gig, and then do all the things you need to do to keep the bookings rolling in. Whether you’re a complete beginner, a bedroom DJ, a semi-pro, an experienced DJ returning to the game and curious about all this new technology, or even a musician or music producer wanting to add DJing to your skills and further your career, this book has been designed for you.
Whatever your type of music and wherever in the world you are, the truth is that, as a modern DJ, your skills need to be universal and transferrable. A mobile DJ might get the chance to play a club gig, and have to change their music radically as a result; a bedroom DJ may aspire to play a local festival, and need to know how to use the equipment provided instead of their own set-up; an underground DJ may be cajoled into playing a family member’s wedding, and need to learn a whole new way of filling dancefloors.
In these modern times, the best DJs can not only play on any type of gear, but can put their minds to playing any type of DJ set too. Yet so much remains the same. every night, in every big town and city in the world, countless DJs are stepping up to fill dancefloors and help people dance the night away. All have the chance to find great new music and be the first to play it to their audiences. When you reduce it to its core, DJing is still about playing the right music for the people in front of you, right now. This book will help you to become the type of DJ who’s fit and able to do that in these exciting times.