There is a lot of misconceptions about the EDM DJ life. Some people think that it’s easy and all fun, while others believe it to be hard work with not much reward. This article will explore both sides of the story in an attempt to answer your question: “Is being an EDM DJ hard?”
Being an EDM DJ is hard work. It takes dedication, patience, creativity, and drive to make it in the scene. Not least building your audience from scratch before you can get paid gigs or turn a profit by producing new music. But… The whole journey’s nothing but fun with satisfaction at every step of the way.
Just Quickly, What Actually Is an EDM DJ?
EDM stands for Electronic Dance Music, meaning, technically, any DJ playing electronic music could be called an EDM DJ. However, EDM has instead come to the bass-heavy, banger-type tracks by Artists like David Guetta and Steve Aoki.
The genre is popular for its catchy, club-ready tunes and high energy. An EDM DJ then is a person who specializes in the genre playing it in the clubs and festivals around the world.
Now with the definition nailed, let’s dive into the good and bad of being an EDM DJ…
What Are the Benefits of Being an EDM DJ?
You get to be creative and make your own music
Being an EDM DJ and producer allows you to constantly be creative and express yourself. You get to mix and match songs, genres, or artists in whatever way sounds good to you.
To make music all you need is a laptop with a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) like Ableton or FL Studio and you can get producing. Ableton Live is the most popular software among EDM producers. If you’re not really tech-savvy, don’t stress. There are plenty of video tutorials on YouTube that will walk you through the process step by step with no prior knowledge needed.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re playing at an insane city rave or just DJing for fun, as long as you are inspired then the possibilities are endless.
You can make money from your passion
DJing is one of the best jobs when it comes to being able to truly indulge your passion. Most people spend their whole lives just working for the money, whereas you will be able to spend all your time head down in music and making money.
And that’s an enviable position to be in…
And you can make a decent living
While it can be difficult to get well-paid gigs at the start of your career, the pay does get disproportionately bigger the more you become known. A local DJ who is well known just in their city can make a respectable income playing several gigs a week.
You can also throw your own events, not only does this have the potential to make money but it also increases your contacts within the industry.
The potential is uncapped
Once you start making a name for yourself the earning and exposure potential is endless. I bet if you asked Deadmau5 or Skrillex when they started out if they thought they would be as big as they are, with that much money, they would have laughed at the idea.
EDM DJs are in high demand
EDM is huge and will continue to be so as long as there are people wanting to party. Plus, there is plenty of money & fans to go around, so don’t be put off by other’s success, use it to be inspired instead.
The popularity of EDM works for you because it means there will always be places to play. If you’re willing to find them.
There are many different types of EDM genres to choose from
EDM is such a broad term that is associated with so many different types of music. This gives you complete freedom to choose the type of EDM music you want to make and you have the freedom to take your sets in any direction you choose.
DJs such as Steve Aoki often experiment with genres like Techno and Trap, yet their audience never questions it because they still have an EDM flavor. The list goes on but in short, there’s something for everyone out there when it comes to EDM.
No qualifications needed
You don’t need any formal training to become an EDM DJ and there are no qualifications needed. You could start off using your home equipment and then, if you want to progress further, invest in a DJ controller or decks to start mastering the skills you’ll need to play live.
You don’t need an overpriced degree that isn’t worth the paper it written on. Instead, you just need dedication, passion, and a willingness to learn.
Your job is literally to make other people happy…
You get to play music and entertain people all day every day, whether it be through your sets or producing EDM. And when you make people happy… they love you for it.
You get paid to travel the world
One of the most attractive benefits of being an EDM DJ is that you get to travel the world, see new places and experience different cultures. Although touring can be strenuous, it is a great way to explore new areas and experience the world.
That said, especially in the early days you should expect to spend more time waiting at airports than you may be exploring cities and beaches.
So it’s not all about chilling around the world, it takes a lot of energy to do these shows – even more, if you’re traveling.
It’s an exciting job that requires creativity and spontaneity
There aren’t many more jobs that offer the unpredictability and spontaneity that DJing does. And I don’t mean during just your sets.
Making a decent living as a DJ can mean having to branch out and create other opportunities and revenue streams. DJs are always hustling in different ways. Once you start making a name for yourself, you’ll be surprised at the offers that come your way.
Just ask Steve Aoki, who alongside his DJ producer work, now publishes his own comic.
There is no shortage of events for you to DJ at
Depending on how picky you are with your gigs, you can find events all over the country and world to build experience.
Look for local festivals, nightclubs, lounges in your city/state or even abroad if there is a need for DJs at an event. With social media nowadays it’s easier than ever to reach out to whoever may be hosting one of these events.
One of the craziest things I heard recently is that there are ‘private’ DJs, who essentially get flown all over the world by rich people to play exclusively for them and their friends.
Before you get to that level though just be selective enough to only go for the gigs that are going to build your profile and experience.
The hours are flexible
Being an EDM DJ will mean you are self-employed, this means you get to plan your own hours. You can decide how many events or gigs you want to book each week, and when they are scheduled.
This is one of the most appealing aspects of being an EDM DJ because it gives you complete control over your schedule and finances. You’ll also need to learn elements of managing a business and basic bookkeeping (as you’ll need to file your own taxes), but this a minor price to pay.
There’s no age limit to start
Just like not needing a degree to break into the EDM world, there is no age limit either. Some of the youngest DJs have been as young as 12 when they started, (and there are other well-known DJs that did gigs into their 80s).
Martin Garrix for example was only 16 when he started touring. What matters more is that you have the passion and dedication to do it, not your age or qualifications.
There is an ever-growing community of EDM artists who support each other
Another plus point of the DJing world is that there is a huge community behind it. This means there are plenty of people to learn from and network with. Joining groups and forums online will help you get answers to questions you may have as well as making friends within the industry.
The days of DJs hiding the labels on their records (so other DJs couldn’t steal their tracks) are gone, Shazam all but killed that. Instead, now DJs are more supportive of each other, and joining up with other DJs can lead to getting more gigs. Especially if you start throwing your own events together.
Now that we’ve covered the upsides of being an EDM DJ, let go over the down…
What Are the Downsides of Being An EDM DJ?
The pay can be low (to begin with)
Playing music for people is a privilege, getting paid to that is the dream. So many people would kill for the opportunity, but it’s not all fun and games when you’re just starting out in this business.
Pay really isn’t that great at first depending on which gig you go after or what company hires you – for some gigs, there’ll be no money at all. But as time goes by your efforts will start paying off with bigger venues and more money coming your way once you start building a fanbase.
Long periods on the road
Once you do start booking gigs you will spend a lot of time traveling to them. When you tour, it’s not uncommon for EDM DJs to be on tour for months at a time. Meaning lots of time away from family and friends.
Because of this, the DJ lifestyle can be hard on a marriage or long-term relationship. Especially given the long and irregular hours and unpredictable schedule.
To be successful as an EDM DJ you need to have a good work ethic, a love for the music and job, and complete dedication. Without these things, most DJs will not succeed in this industry.
You also need to produce new music
Aside from the actual DJing, you’ll also have to be a music producer put out new music. After all, this is really how DJs become widely known, it is very rare for a DJ to get big based on their skills behind the decks alone.
This means that just as much time as you spend perfecting your DJ skills you’ll also have to spend learning to produce music. This can be one of the hardest parts of being an EDM DJ and producer. Making your tracks sound professional can take a lot of practice.
Again though, it is just another side of the job, and if you love music it becomes an obsession in itself.
It takes a lot of practice
To truly be able to perform to people you will need to practice your skills. Not just at home, a huge part of being a successful DJ is being able to read the crowd. And that is only something you can learn by actually playing gigs.
My advice is to start mixing in front of people as quickly as you can. There is no faster way to learn.
To be a successful EDM DJ you’ll also need to learn about making music. All the EDM artists you know are a producer as well as a DJ. Again you can get started using software on a laptop and then only buy extra studio equipment down the line. (The most popular production software amongst EDM artists is Ableton Live).
Equipment can get expensive
Although you can start practicing your mixes on just a laptop, at some point you’ll want to get club standard equipment. That way you can master the equipment you’ll be using on the road and in clubs.
This can be expensive in the short term, but with proper care, your equipment will last many years. So I recommend getting the highest spec you can afford (you can see our recommended equipment here). Also, remember that if you’re dedicated and play as many gigs as possible then you can soon make your money back.
You’ll lose your (current) social life
If you want to be a successful DJ, you’ll have to sacrifice some of your social life. That means not going out with friends as often and being in a studio for hours on end, either producing new tracks or perfecting your DJ skills.
That said, once you start getting out and playing more gigs then your social life will take on a whole new life. In fact, you’ll go from not being able to go to parties, to only ever going to parties.
There is little to no job security
As with any self-employed job, there is very little job security. You could be making a great living and then all of sudden, you’re out of work for months on end. This can happen with professional DJs because booking agents can change and have their own tastes or the club you are playing at may close down without warning.
That’s why it’s a good idea to diversify your gigs through as many different clubs and bookers as possible. This also increases the size of your network so you’re giving yourself the best chance of getting other gigs.
There are plenty of bad vices to slip into
The party lifestyle does come with its dangers. It can be easy to enjoy the constant drink and drugs that are on offer a little too much. Who knows how careers never even started because the person loved the actual party over DJing and producing new music.
All the EDM artists that actually made it in the scene at least had some control of their vices and never let them get in the way. Partying is fun, but it should never get in the way of making mixes and music production.
It’s not just fans you gain
Anyone that puts themselves in the public eye opens them up to scrutiny and criticism. DJs are no exception and pick up their fair share of trolls.
That’s why you will need to develop a thick skin, particularly in the early days as your developing your craft. And of course, it doesn’t stop if you get famous, you do perhaps more immune to it though.
My top tip for your when you get your first troll…
Celebrate it! To get a troll in the first place means you are actually doing something. Most people never do (especially the trolls) so you should be proud of that.
Bonus top – Always be super polite back to them. Nothing shuts trolls down quicker than someone who refuses to rise to their bait.
Getting trolled is a badge of honor, always remember that.
There is a lot of competition
The party lifestyle (and many other benefits of being in the DJ scene) mean that lots of people want to do it, which means competition can be fierce.
However, there are lots of ways to stand out. Don’t just play the same set as everyone else! Be creative and try different things with your music, mixing it up so people will remember you. Produce the kind of music that you personally love, and there you will be able to find others your sound to.
Although there is a lot of competition I have always found the community within the DJ scene to be a supportive one. This is why I included it as a benefit above.
What the Life of an EDM DJ Looks Like?
As you have probably put together yourself from the above there is a lot of work required before you get to the superclubs and worldwide festivals.
The early days will be spent head down learning the necessary skills, putting out mixes, and making music. Then you’ll start getting busy doing all sorts of gigs while finding the time to put out together an album’s worth of tracks and be on point with your socials.
You can then start working your way up to the bigger clubs and start booking festivals. The first festivals I played at all came from the organizers randomly seeing us DJing at a small venue or bar, so every single gig is an unknown opportunity.
The above might sound hard but I need to mention that all of it comes with loads of fun and excitement. I’ve always found when you indulge a passion, then it will take on a life of its own and you’ll just be along for the ride.
As long as you put in the work, stuff will happen.
Conclusion: Is Being An EDM DJ Hard?
You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m encouraging you to get started. Yes, being an EDM DJ is hard, it takes dedication, patience, creativity, talent, passion, and pure drive to make it in the scene. Not least building your audience in the first place.
But… the whole journey is nothing but pure fun.
Everything from feeling satisfaction to watching your skills develop to rocking rooms full of people, there are actually not many downsides in DJing for someone that truly loves music. If you have commitment and drive, and always keep learning, you make something happen. And I guarantee you’ll have the best time doing it.
If you are unsure of where to start or what questions to ask, let me know here in the comments section below! We would love to help answer any of your doubts so you get out there and start making awesome tunes as soon as possible.