The 5 Steps To DJing Success, #2: The Music

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 3 mins
Last updated 6 April, 2021

In this special series, I’m teaching you about the five steps to total DJing success. I’ve already shared with you how I discovered the steps, and we’ve covered Step One: The Gear. In today’s article you’ll learn about step two: The Music.

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These are steps that I discovered after 15 years working as an international DJ and club promoter, and ten years running Digital DJ Tips – steps that I also wrote about in my Amazon bestselling book on DJing, “Rock The Dancefloor!”

Now these articles will give you all you need to learn DJing the RIGHT WAY – but they do assume you’ve grabbed yourself a FREE copy of the book. I told you how to get that at the bottom of the intro article, so if you haven’t been there yet, head over there now!

Step Two: The Music

The five steps are Gear, Music, Techniques, Playing Out and Promoting Yourself. In the last video we talked about the Gear, and today we’re talking about the Music.

Let me teach you how to DJ: Discover my Complete DJ Course

Now, think back to a time when you saw a DJ completely “in the zone”, music flying onto the decks, right song after right song, the crowd loving every choice – truly playing the exact tracks people want, song after song? Watching someone with that kind of complete control over their crowd was probably what got you into wanting to be a DJ yourself in the first place, right?

But what you see as a DJ performs like that doesn’t tell you anything about the work that has to go in to get to that point – and most of that work is to do with the music.

How everything has changed

In truth, as DJ tutors we can confirm that music is a hugely tricky subject for ALL DJs, something you never FULLY learn all there is to know about – but it’s especially tricky those who return to DJing after a break, only to realise that everything has changed.

The way music is made, released, shared, discovered, bought, organised and even played nowadays is unrecognisable from just 20 years ago.

Record shops have all-but gone, even digital downloads are on their way out, streaming is the new big thing, and artists are using modern platforms to distribute their music without record labels, and bypassing mainstream stores – even online ones.

How is a DJ meant to keep up? How are you meant to even FIND some of this music? And in an age when everyone can get their hands on everything, how are you meant to stand out, musically?

The “Spotify shuffle” generation are less and less “into” just one type of music – today’s audiences want to hear a bit of EVERYTHING – putting great pressure on DJs to build out their collections to cover ever-wider tastes.

And how should you properly organise and sort your music out on a laptop? How big should a collection be? What file types are the best? Is it OK to rip from YouTube? What if your hard drive fails, or you want to change DJ software – will you have to do lots of work all over again?

And we’ve not even touched on the legalities. Look in the small print on online music stores and it invariably tells you that it’s not even LEGAL to DJ out with music bought from there – that it’s for personal use only! What? Did you know that in some countries, you can’t even RIP your CDs to play out without a special licence – including the UK?

Oh for the days of a single box of records!

Well those days are well and truly gone. Nowadays, if you don’t master music as it’s done NOW, your sets will at best be weak, at worst, you’ll be clearing floors, frantically scrabbling though way too many tracks paralysed about what to play next time after time.

In short, you’ll never feeling confident about what is clearly one of the most important things to get right if you want to become a good DJ.

Get it right, though (and there is a simple, easy and effective way to do just that!) means you’ll reach that holy grail… always being able to get your fingers on the exact right song for the people in front of you, right now – every time – just like the “in the zone” DJ I opened this piece describing.

What to do now…

There’s a whole section in the book that gets you started on this, covering how to discover great music, how to choose and buy music; preparing, importing and tagging your music correctly; how to organise your music like a pro; and tricks for properly importing your music into your collection – so if you don’t have the book, see the box above for how to get it.

When you do, look for something called the “Playlist Pyramid” – scan it or take a photo of it, print it out, stick it by your decks, look at it every day – it’s the single best tool we’ve ever invented to help you visualise the job you have to do as a DJ when it comes to your music.

Discover the “course of the book”: Complete DJ Course

I’ll see you in the next article, where we discuss step three in my five steps to total DJing success – Techniques.

Check out the other parts in this series published so far:

Please share your music-related horror stories, thoughts, questions and feedback below.

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