Why You Need To Play In Public
I remember, when I was a teenager, starting my own band. We used to rehearse above a furniture warehouse in an old cotton mill, and it got properly cold in there on winter Tuesday nights. And yet we all showed up, week after week. If it hadn’t been for the continuous stream of gigs I’d booked for us and the thought of letting the other four down, I am sure at least one or two of us wouldn’t have turned up so religiously, but there we were, learning songs, practising arrangements, writing stuff. I learned a valuable lesson back then that has stuck with me through all my years as a performer.
When it comes to learning to DJ, your biggest enemies are going to be lack of time and lack of focus. You don’t feel like you can make enough time to learn properly, and when you do make that time, you’re really not sure how to spend it, so you start to doubt that you’re getting any better. And while you’re trying your hardest to collect the music, and master the gear, and work on your techniques, the path to improving just seems to disappear sometimes and there’s nothing to guide you through the fog.
However, the lesson of my story above is clear: to make sure you put the work in, you need a goal, and you need that goal to be public. It helps if there’s a real risk that you’re going to make a fool of yourself if you don’t do the work.
Luckily with DJing, there’s a simple goal every DJ can set,
and it works every time.
Book yourself a DJ gig. Now.
Why the first booking is so important
Maybe the reason you’re reading this book is because you’re bold and you’ve already done that, but you’re scared of messing up. If so, great! You’re in the right place. But just as likely, you’re already grasping for excuses as to why this isn’t the right advice for you. I know this because I’ve heard all the excuses all before. So you aren’t ready? You live too far from a decent venue? Nobody will come? You don’t know who to ask? Nobody in your town likes your music? You live in a big city and there’s too much competition? Your gear isn’t up to it? You haven’t got enough kit? Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I have taught thousands of beginners – people who felt like you may do now. And you know what? They always thank me for forcing them to book themselves a gig. You are no different. DJing itself is what demands this outcome. When you signed up for this hobby, you signed up for performing in front of an audience, and the reason you’re resisting now is probably because it’s getting real. The likelihood is, all I’m doing is reminding you of something you already know.
The truth is that once you’ve booked yourself a DJ gig somewhere and told your friends and family, the whole dynamic changes. No longer do you fail to turn up for practise sessions. No longer do you find yourself struggling to work out what to do, or getting disillusioned when you start trying to do it. No longer do you worry that you’re not getting any better. Instead, you have an all-too-real mental image of the venue, the crowd, you, and what will be going on. And every fibre of your being will be guiding you towards the only acceptable outcome: to do it without making a fool of yourself up there.
Luckily this is DJing, not some kind of elite sport that only a few hundred people in the world can do. It’s something you can learn. It’s something any music lover can do. And just like you can only get so far learning to play football on your own with a ball in your backyard, you can only get so far learning to DJ with your gear in your bedroom. It’s a team sport. You need your crowd.
You want to know something else? The most valuable learning happens in public. That’s where you learn to spot what people want. That’s where you learn what to do at the beginning, middle and end of the night. That’s where you learn how to handle yourself behind the decks and build the energy of a party. Just like you can’t get to know a new city by reading the guidebook, you can’t really experience what DJing is all about until you play a gig. Then it all makes sense; you get to join the club. That’s where you fall in love with it.
That’s when other people will call you a DJ.
The final step of this process is about all the things to do to ensure you turn this first gig into a lifetime of great DJing experiences, but it all starts with you dipping your foot into the water. Your first gig doesn’t have to be on a festival stage; a party for friends at the little bar on the corner that you love will do. Use your imagination, get something in the diary, and invite everyone you know. The rest of this step will help you to do a great job of it.