Question (Asked by Horacia)
I read the about me and I really want to learn more about being a great live DJ but I need help.
Any tips, tricks or advice would be super appreciated. I work at the college radio station where I go on air but when it comes to DJing at live events we don’t really get taught to actually DJ (which isn’t fun).
I love playing with the scratches and having fun but the old way with CDs for the controller is pretty inconvenient. I am currently trying to use Virtual DJ (I’m not sure if that’s the best software but I found it and its pretty cool) and trying to find a new place to get music from so I can practice more.
Pretty long back story…but again any advice or help would mean the world! 🙂
Thank you very much for your email, below are some ideas I had based on the info you gave me…
For better or worse, people love to hear songs they know.
You don’t necessarily need to go the root of commercial stuff you don’t even like, instead look on Soundcloud for “remix” and “mashup” and find some unique tracks that are still in keeping with your style.
The below links will show you tracks from the last year that you can use commercially, then just look for the “download” links, although not all tracks will have them sadly.
Soundcloud search for “remix” within the last year
Soundcloud search for “mashup” within the last year
Finding New Music
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find new music other than trawling through Beatport and the like. At least until you get super successful and have someone pre-screen tracks for you (which definitely happens in the pro DJ world).
So spend time and be prepared to spend some money. Record pools are a cheaper way to get access to lots of music, depending on your style DMC is probably the best (you can read more about DJ record Pools here). You’ll need to apply but as you have a radio sho you should be fine.
Get the Most Out of Your Radio Shows
Well done for having a radio show, I think it’s a great way to practice for an audience and also keep you accountable for finding new tunes etc.
Plus, there a few extra ways you can leverage your show…
Reshare Your Shows
I checked the station’s site and it doesn’t look like the shows get put up afterward… which gives you an opportunity to do it yourself. After all, they are new mixes that you can put out every week. You’re already doing the work by doing the show so you might as well get as much out of it as possible.
Most stations should have a ‘logger’ which allows you to pull a copy of your show. If not find then find a way to record them yourself.
You can then put them up on Mixcloud or Soundcloud (although SC is stricter on copyright than MC) and then share them on your socials. Over time you will build up a library that you can send to promoters when you’re looking for bookings.
Offer Extra Promotion
When it comes to getting bookings you have more to offer a promoter than most other DJs. Aside from your own social media network, you will also be able to promote the gig on your radio show. And being a university station is even better as you have a targeted audience that loves partying.
Do make sure you make it clear to potential bookers that they not only get a DJ but an opportunity to promote their event as well.
Get Free Music
You can also try your luck getting on promo lists from some of your favorite labels. Email them via their media email address (if they have one) and explain you have a show and would like to get on their promo list.
If they add you then make sure to use their music and shout out the artists etc, labels only like giving out promos to DJs that actually give them promo.
If you enjoy radio…
Then look for other stations you can be on, there are plenty of online stations looking for volunteer DJs to further build your skill and reach.
Don’t Get Obsessed With Scratching (like I Did)
Scratching is a great skill to have and can add an extra level to your sets, but don’t do as I did and go over the top trying to learn complicated scratches. I became obsessed with learning as many intricate techniques as I could, but it didn’t really help when I started playing live.
Audiences don’t care that you can do a 3 click flare or have mastered swipes. All they care about is good music being mixed well.
So while it can be fun to learn scratching, make sure that most of your time is spent finding good music and learning how to mix.
Even of those two, the music is more important than the mixing.
One of the best DJs I knew wasn’t the most technical at mixing (don’t get me wrong he rarely/never clanged a mix) but he had great tune selection. Which a crowd appreciates infinitely more than complex mixes that (probably) only other DJs would notice.
Virtual DJ is fine. Anything that teaches the essentials of mixing will do the job, you can always upgrade to the industry standards (Serato or Traktor) down the line. All DJ software essentially work the same, so the skills you learn are transferrable.
And perhaps my best bit of advice…
Playing gigs is infinitely better practice than practicing at home
This something I wish I had realized earlier in my DJ life. Get as many gigs as you can, (almost) regardless of what or how small they are. There is something about playing live that forces you to level up quicker than normal practice. Similar to how I mentioned above about my obsession with scratching, the tendency with home practice is to try and get too complicated.
Having a trial by fire (i.e playing gigs) forces you to keep things simple in the early days and focus on blending and mixing as seamlessly as possible. Also noting which type of tracks get the best response from your crowd will help inform future track selection. When you’re playing at home then you are guessing what tracks ill go down well on the dance floor.
So essentially get out there and play as many gigs as possible, this is also how you build your network and get repeat bookings from promoters.
A few other articles that you might find helpful are:
- How to brand yourself as a DJ
- How to get unreleased/promo music (This should be very relevant given you have a radio show)
- 17 ways for DJs to make money
- Comparing some of the biggest DJ record pools
- How to promote yourself as a DJ
- How to get DJ gigs
- How long it takes to be good at DJing
I hope that helps, if you have any further questions then please drop me another email and whatever you do, keep me updated with your progress.