The 5 Steps To DJing Success, #4: Playing Out

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 4 mins
Last updated 6 April, 2021

In this special series, I’m teaching you about the five steps to total DJing success, and in this video you’ll learn about Step Four: Playing Out. (We’ve already covered how I discovered the steps, and the three previous steps, Gear, Music and Techniques.)

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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 Four: Playing Out

The five steps are Gear, Music, Techniques, Playing Out and Promoting Yourself. We’ve already covered Gear and Music, and today we’re talking about playing out.

For many people, their first DJ gig, or even their first in a while, can feel like a true nightmare – like your first day at school or in a new job, having to speak in public, and getting caught naked in front of a crowd all at once.

Except unlike a nightmare, there’s no waking up from it – it’s real, and what’s more, you signed up for it!

My first nightmare gigs…

I’ll never forget my first gig mixing in a bar – just around the corner from Manchester’s legendary Hacienda club. I had my whole set planned out on a little card tucked under the console, but even then my hands were trembling so much that I struggled to put the needles into the grooves of the records!

Roll forward a couple of years and I was playing my first bona fide club gig, at a place called The Boardwalk, again in Manchester, England – this was circa 1994.

It was a club night I’d been going to for years, run by a DJ I totally admired, and so I was hugely nervous. So nervous in fact, that I had to run around the back of the building to vomit in the bins as I waited outside to be let in before the night began!

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So I understand what it means to play out, compared to DJing in your room. The volume, the crowd, the strange gear, the other DJs hanging around, everyone looking at you, the fear of “what if”…

I also can tell you if you’ve never played out before your first gig will 100% change your life, and you will be hooked on DJing from that moment – for ever more.

I KNOW you’re nodding along if you’re already somebody who plays out!

Why playing out is so different from practising

Of course, the main thing that makes playing a gig different from DJing at home is the crowd. Gigs are where you learn set programming. Gigs are where you learn how to read a crowd. They’re where you learn how to manage the energy level in the room.

Novice DJs also underestimate how much of DJing is a performance.

Like a singer in a band or an actor on the stage, you’re stepping into a PERSONA when you DJ. Get that performance wrong, and the night won’t take off like it should.

Your demeanour, your body language, even the way you make eye contact with people all contribute to the way you lead the party – and make no mistake, as the DJ you ARE the leader.

Luckily though, there are many proven things you can do to be ready for a gig, even your first one, and to ensure it all goes off brilliantly.

So in the book, I cover all the things I’ve mentioned and more. You’ll learn what to take, how to set up in bars, lounges, clubs and at mobile events, and how to behave to the person who booked you, other DJs and the public.

And, I specifically cover how to deal with those nerves and confidence issues. I also take some time to talk you through tactics for playing different types of gigs, so whatever the event, you’ll know what to do.

The 7Ps that’ll save the day

At this point, I’ve got some good news for you – and it’s a good example of how these steps build on each other to make you a better DJ.

It can be summed up in the British Army phrase, often shortened to “The 7 Ps”.

DO you know it?

The 7Ps stands for: “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”

“Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”

In other words, a DJ has NO PLACE DJing in public unless he or she is ready for it.

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Luckily, DJs who follow the five steps ARE ready for it. They’ve got competent on the gear. They’ve got a music discovery and preparation system in place and working. They’ve nailed the techniques they need. And they’ve taken the time to do all the necessary preparation for each and every gig.

Such DJs are READY.

Such DJs are therefore much more likely to succeed.

That’s where I want you to get to.

What to do next…

If you haven’t played a gig yet, please, GET ONE. Doesn’t have to be big or flashy, a birthday party for a friend is fine. But please get one.

Once you’ve got it in the calendar, on gig day, follow the steps in the book and I assure you it’ll work out fine.

I’ll see you in the next and final article where we discuss Step 5 – Promoting Yourself.

Other aticles in the series so far:

Do you already play out? I’d love you to share your stories, thoughts, recollections and experience in the comments below, which is also the place for anyone to ask any questions about this lesson.

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