There was a lot to love about DJing, the endless travel, adoration of millions and days spent partying and traveling. So there are common questions like how long it takes to learn, is it expensive, yet then one of the most common is always ‘is DJing a talent?’. I’ve cleared enough dancefloors in my time to know that I’m not a naturally gifted DJ. And yet I’ve still played plenty of gigs and DJ, most of my favorite clubs and festivals. So I feel well placed to answer is DJing is a talent?
Skill Wins Out Over Talent
You don’t need natural talent to be a DJ that’s for sure. People often seem to think that DJing is somehow different to any other skill that you learn. But really, it’s not.
It has much more in common with your average rat-race job than it does with pro-sport leagues. The reason I mentioned sports is that it is an area where talent really does come into play.
In particular, how do you get to the big leagues? Obviously, any person that makes it into any of the top teams would have had some level of natural talent. It helped them to get there, however, it wasn’t a golden ticket.
Not a single person has made it to a top-flight team without also doing a shitload of hard work. This is what sports have in common with DJing.
Except, there are only limited spots in top sports teams. Meaning there is obviously a fight for positions and natural talent might give someone the edge when it comes to winning one of those spots.
However, with DJing/the music industry, there is not a fixed number of places. In fact, there is unlimited opportunity for anyone with any sort of determination to make a name for themselves and become known.
So in this case, determination and an ability to learn win out over natural talent.
Take a very simple example…
A DJ putting hours of practice and networking with promoters will be way more successful than a most talented DJ who makes zero effort to get themselves out there.
So while talent can make the process easier and might speed up the learning of skills, it’s actually the determination and the willingness to keep pushing that will get you there.
Is DJing a Talent? Passion Isn’t…
While we might not be able to control the amount of talent we’re born with, we are able to capitalize on the passion that we have.
Therefore, someone that truly loves music, and entertaining people can learn the skills needed to be a competent DJ. So in this instance, assuming you have passion, you should not have let a false, self-limiting belief that you have no talent get in your way.
If you’re willing to put the hours in, then you can achieve anything you want. Whether it be DJing or any other skill you want to acquire.
Like being proficient at any job, you simply need to work out what you need to know and then put in the time to build the knowledge and skills to do that job. So again, determination beats natural talent.
While a person might have ingrained natural rhythm, for example, that doesn’t mean that they will understand the technical aspects of DJ equipment. Instead, all that’s needed in that instance is patience, a willingness to make mistakes and to learn from them.
We All Have the Talent Needed to Be a DJ
The biggest skill needed to be a DJ is one that we all have, and that is knowing what music is going to make certain people dance.
The reason we all have this talent is that we can all listen to music and our body will tell us what we want to dance to… and what we don’t.
Therefore, by listening to enough music, choosing tracks that make us dance, then building a collection means that you’ll have a library of tracks that, when you find people with similar tastes, you know will make them dance too.
And that’s ultimately what it comes down to… Knowing what music you like, and what music you don’t.
And that’s something that every single person has naturally ingrained.
The rest of the technical skills can all be learned. As long as you have musical likes and dislikes… then you have the talent needed to be a DJ.
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You Don’t Need Musical Talent
One thing that isn’t needed when it comes to DJing is musical ability. In that, you don’t need to have a natural aptitude for playing an instrument for example.
This is because, for the most part, when DJing it’s not as if you are creating the music. Instead, generally, you are playing other people’s already produced tracks. This is not to be confused with production where you do actually make the tracks.
Therefore, again it is more important that you understand the technical side of DJing and how tracks fit together. In essence, musical ability is not necessarily going to help speed up that process or make you successful as a DJ.
Is DJing Easy or Is Being a DJ Hard?
The actual concept of DJing is very easy. In that, all you need to do is understand that tracks play at certain speeds, i.e beats per minute (BPM). And that, in order to mix tracks together, you need to ensure that two tracks are playing at the same speed.
That’s it…that’s the entire concept of DJing.
How you blend those tracks together and how technical your mixes really come down to experimentation and practice. Again, no amount of natural talent means that someone knows every single trick in the DJ book.
What is hard, however, yet still takes no talent at all, is having the commitment to practice. This is arguably the hardest part about DJing.
Every single person, even the most professional, talented DJ you know, would have made an absolute mess the first time that they got on the decks (see our recommended decks here). There is not a single person out there that managed to create a perfect hour-long mix the first few times they tried.
Instead, the successful ones would have been the ones that got over the hard part. That realized they will make mistakes (lots of them!) and that that is okay. They understood that every mistake is an opportunity to learn and increase their skills.
This is why being someone who loves learning can really help you to be a DJ, way more so than raw talent.
DJ Equipment Can Be Expensive…But It Doesn’t Have to Be
Another aspect of DJing that can make it hard to get into, yet is not relying on talent is that it can be an expensive hobby to start. That said, there are many cheap and even free ways to start DJing these days.
For example, VirtualDJ is free (for home use) to download to your laptop. Then you can start DJing and learning the basic concepts of beatmatching and blending straight away.
Is DJing Hard? The Grind Certainly Is…
Perhaps the overwhelming factor that stops a lot of people’s success is that it requires you to push through the grind. Because DJing is such an attractive career to have there are a lot of people doing it.
But yet again, this is where patience and persistence will win out over talent.
If you truly want to be a DJ, are willing to put in the time, effort and keep pushing through the rejection then you have a high chance of success. Way more so than someone who thinks they deserve success because they deem themselves ‘naturally talented’.
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What Skills Do You Need to Be a DJ?
Like I said above the basic concepts of DJing are ridiculously simple. When you break down the individual skills needed, they are also simple to understand. So then it just becomes a case of learning and persistence.
The key to being able to DJ is being able to count to four. Sounds too simplistic right?
But by doing so, you are able to understand the phrasing and structure of a track and also how fast it is playing.
For example, if you count to four on-beat on the first track, then repeat on the second track, yet you count to four far quicker, than you know the second track is running faster than the first. Meaning, all you need to do is slow down the second track to get it in time with the first.
And that’s it…that is DJing in a nutshell.
Then it just becomes about learning to do it quicker until it becomes second nature. And to do that is simply repetition. Having ‘natural talent’ doesn’t give you any more of an ability to do repetitive tasks until you find them easier and easier.
All this to say patience is absolutely key when it comes to being a DJ.
To again use professional DJs as an example, you will find that all of them have an incredible amount of patience. Not necessarily in life or with other people, but definitely when it comes to themselves and their ability to learn skills or create new music.
Every single established producer/DJ will have learned a long time ago that it takes time to create something truly worthwhile. Whether it is an amazing DJ mix or the next banging track.
This perhaps is one aspect where ingrained personality traits do make a difference. In that, it can help if you actually like meeting new people and forming new connections i.e an extrovert.
Myself, for example, I’m largely an introvert. Therefore meeting or wanting to meet new people is not something I especially push myself to do.
However, in this case, my passion encouraged me to do so. This is because, by having a love for music, you have easy common ground with anyone that you need to network with.
If you love EDM, then you’ll find it easy to chat with an EDM promoter because you have the same interests and you’re talking about something you love.
This is an important point and something that you should tell yourself often…
Networking doesn’t need to be hard or draining. Instead, start thinking of it as simply making friends within the industry, then it becomes much easier to push yourself to do. Fun even.
And the other thing you can do is batch this process. It’s not as if you need to be out all day, everyday networking and meeting new people. You can instead allot a certain time throughout the week to send out messages or connect with people on social media.
Likewise, when meeting face to face, you know that you’ll only need to do this once or twice a week. Again, by thinking of it as making friends you’ll find this process a lot easier than thinking of networking in the business sense.
So extroverts might find this process easier. But that definitely doesn’t mean it should rule out anyone who considers themselves otherwise.
Reading a crowd
One thing that does help you become a successful DJ and is not a technical skill per se is the ability to read people and read a crowd.
In general life, this is what I would call social acuity.
In very basic terms, it means being able to look at an audience and determine whether they are enjoying what you are playing. Which is another skill that you will learn over time.
It’s just something to bear in mind from day one. Be sure to look up from your decks (see our recommended decks here) and check the room to see the reactions you’re getting every time you drop a track. In particular, pay attention to whether the crowd’s energy went up or down. Over time this will become second nature.
Of course, there are people that have an ingrained ability to be able to read people and reactions. However, if you feel you don’t have this already, don’t let it stop you, as it is something you will pick up over time.
This is another area that separates successful DJs from the unsuccessful…and has nothing to do with talent.
When people set out to become a DJ they often forget to consider that they are essentially starting a business. They as a brand and as a moneymaking entity needs to be (and will be run as) a business. All successful DJs you can think of are businesses.
Therefore it makes sense to educate yourself on this side of things and ensure you are going to be a success. This covers everything from learning marketing to being able to keep accounts straight so you don’t get in trouble with the taxman.
Being a smart business person can also help accelerate your career as a DJ. Especially if you apply some business theory to aspects of DJing so you can use your time more effectively.
For example, being able to weigh up gig opportunities and working out whether a large festival, that’s not your audience, is going to be as beneficial as a smaller, more targeted audience elsewhere. In other words, being able to work out the return on investment (ROI) of your time.
This means as you develop yourself as a DJ and start getting more bookings, educate yourself on some business basics as they come up. For example, at tax time, make sure you actually do some research and understand what you need to do and how you need to monitor your money to make things easier next time.
As mentioned above, having dedication will take you a lot further than raw talent. So remember from day one, if you are going to be successful as a DJ then you’re going to require commitment and dedication.
While dedication isn’t actually a skill per se, things like focus are. So just doing things to optimize your focus, i.e. putting your phone in another room while practicing, will mean you’re making the best use of your time to learn the skills needed as quickly as possible.
If DJing a talent? Not when it comes to having dedication it’s not.
The Same Goes for Passion
This is something you either have or don’t. But chances are if you’re here reading this and you want to become a DJ, it’s because you already have a passion for music.
If you don’t, then I suggest you stop pursuing DJ now.
Without passion, you’ll never be able to conjure up the dedication.
The final skill is required to become a successful DJ, and another that can be learned is your ability to deal with rejection. It is simply something that comes as part and parcel of being in the music industry.
There will always be people that don’t like your music and don’t want to help you achieve your goals. So if you learn how to deal with them and not let it affect your determination, you will find it much easier to keep pushing forward.
Can Anyone Become a DJ?
Yes, The simple fact is I think anyone can become a DJ. What the question really should be is can anyone become a successful DJ?
Again, this comes down to the things mentioned above, determination, grit and an ability to learn.
To use the sports analogy again…
There are limited spots available in top teams, and a limited number of top sports.
However, in the DJing/music industry, there are virtually an unlimited number of genres, music tastes, and events that you can play at.
This means, as mentioned above, as long as:
- You know the type of music that you love
- Can find people with similar tastes
- Have patience and are willing to learn technical skills
Then you will be able to find an audience and establish yourself as a DJ.
Can Anyone Be a DJ? Only If They Love Clubbing…
One other factor in the answer to can anyone be a DJ is whether you actually like going out and love the scene.
Because if you don’t actually love spending time in clubs, listening to other’s music, then you’re going to find it hard to actually do the job of a DJ.
By this, I mean even a successful DJ spends a lot more time at events listening to other DJs and interacting with people, then they do actually DJing themselves.
I have met DJs who became successful through their productions. Then when it came to actually gigging, they realized they didn’t actually enjoy the time that they have to spend in clubs.
So in this case, no, not everyone can become a DJ…or at the least aren’t suited to it.
How do DJs get noticed?
It would be nice, especially for those with natural ability, if talent alone got you noticed and made you successful. But that is simply not the way things work.
I’ve already covered above some of the skills and attributes needed for someone to become successful, namely consistency and dedication. Yet there are a few other ways again, not talent-related, that you can push your DJ career forward.
These include things like:
Becoming a hub
This again doesn’t require any talent beyond knowing what music you like and don’t like. For example, you could start a podcast playing new and upcoming music in your genre. Doing this allows you to establish yourself as someone who is not only interested in that genre but is on the cutting edge of the music.
Finding and promoting unknown artists also gives the great benefit of not necessarily having to go out and network, because you’ve made yourself a hub.
Pretty soon you will have other artists and producers approaching you to play their music. This increases your network exponentially, with very little effort from yourself in terms of outreach.
Another benefit, of course, is the amount of free music that you will receive as a result.
Find a Mentor
This is another great way to get noticed as well as fast-tracking your skills. Simply find someone who you deem to be ahead of you in the music world and ask them to be your mentor.
This means that they will teach you what they know and be able to answer any questions you have when it comes to DJing or the music industry.
Not only that, but they will also have an additional network that you can be exposed to and they may even be able to get you bookings.
Because, of course, people love to be the ones to break new artists in exactly the same way as above in (the hub section). People also love to be known as that hub themselves, but most don’t put in the work (again…not talent).
Teaching is another great way to get yourself noticed and out to a wider audience.
And, because DJing is essentially a collection of skills, once you become proficient you can start making video tutorials to help other people on their journeys. This again establishes you as an artist and an expert in your field.
Some may say the teaching in itself is a talent. While they would be right in some instances, everyone has a different style. So as soon as you reach people that resonate with you, and appreciate your teaching style, you will have found your audience.
So again, don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself a natural teacher. There will always be people that find your style of teaching, whatever it may be, to be useful to them.
This is another thing that doesn’t require any form of talent whatsoever and instead sits in the ‘willingness to learn’ area.
See What Is Coming & Get There First
The best way to explain what I mean by this is to give you the example of DJ Khaled. Love him or hate him this will be a valid point.
The way DJ Khaled became known to the masses was by doubling down on Snapchat when it was still an emerging network.
Essentially established artists weren’t yet taking Snapchat seriously. Yet DJ Khalid was posting regularly and had built up a following so when Snapchat did explode, he was already established and able to ride the wave along with Snapchat itself.
His popularity on there then spread outwards to other networks and wider audiences and turned into the status that we have today.
So, from this point of view, all you really need to do is keep an eye on emerging technologies. You can do this by looking at the most downloaded apps on a regular basis.
This allows you to see which new social networks are emerging. An example of an app still on the Rise would be Tik Tok.
Any new DJ or artist that spends more time establishing themselves on Tik Tok versus say, Instagram, is giving themselves much more of a chance of becoming more widely known as it grows as a network.
Conclusion Is DJing a Talent?
As I’m sure you have gathered by now, my feeling is very much that natural talent is by no means essential to becoming a successful DJ. You can see this in practice yourself.
I’m sure you could reel off many successful DJs/artists that you consider not to have talent (Guetta springs to mind).
By having a collection of skills and mastering them, you are able to put on a good party and make people have a good time. After all, this is what’s really required of a DJ and that’s how they become successful. If you are able to give people an experience they have not had before then they are more likely to share your name and want to see you again.
So in this case, while talent may mean you learn those DJ skills faster, it definitely doesn’t mean those who don’t consider themselves naturally talented are a write-off.
Instead, if you consider yourself to instead have the ability to work harder and longer than anyone else then you will be able to be as successful as you want to be.
There are plenty of genres/niches to dominate, and as I’ve said before, determination and the willingness to learn will beat lazy, raw talent any day of the week. There IS an audience out there for you just waiting to be found.
Talent won’t help you find them, but the determination to go and look for them will…