How to Get Your Start as a DJ in 2020
Are you interested in becoming a DJ? Why wouldn’t you be? DJing is one of the hottest music careers of the past 20 years. It’s fun, creative, and flexible. Anyone can dabble in the art of DJing, but it takes a lot of hard work and discipline to master the craft and find yourself on stage at festivals like EDC and Coachelle. If you’re passionate and willing, though, the path of the DJ can be incredibly rewarding.
First, you have to decide what kind of DJ you want to be. There’s several, and while you might now have been able to put a name to them before, you’ll certainly recognize them.
Club DJs performs locally, at clubs and bars. These DJs need to be good at reading the vibes of different venues and crowds, as every place is different. Club DJs usually have residencies, meaning they have full time jobs keeping a dance floor moving at one particular place. They play for a long time, with their sets consisting mostly of well-known and popular music. Anything that will hype the people up.
Then there’s the classic mobile DJ! These DJs perform at singular events, like weddings and graduations. They mostly play crowd favorites, not necessarily anything obscure. They own and bring their own equipment, and the job is mostly keeping the crowd happy and moving. They might even have to speak into a microphone and take song requests, so be prepared!
Home and livestream DJs, are the newest of the group. This kind of DJ was already gaining popularity but there was a massive growth in demand during quarantine, since people could no longer go out to clubs or shows. They DJ from their own homes, so while DIY DJ setups are perfectly fine, they usually invest in good cameras and strong internet connection. Some home DJs simply opt to stream themselves in their studios, but many use virtual backgrounds to further the effect of their music.
Turntablists are perhaps the most skilled. Having built a reputation as artists in their own right, people travel from far and wide to see them perform. These are the kinds of DJs that headline festivals. Their specializations include things like cutting and scratching and beat juggling, all skills that take time and perseverance to master completely.
The old school radio DJs are still very much around, but oftentimes their jobs vary depending on the station. Many stations allow their DJs to perform their own sets after hours, but during peak hours they’re mostly tasked with playing hits. One of the biggest bonuses of being a radio DJ is the job security. You’re not a freelancer, but hired on by the radio station as a staple.
Whichever kind of DJ you choose to become, you can always decide between analog or digital. Both are perfectly fine, but analog takes a little more getting used to and a lot more financial investment. Going analog gives you the opportunity to learn the skill in its rawest form, just as the industry pioneers did it. You’ll note, however, that it’s much easier to load thousands of songs onto a computer than it is to constantly carry around a collection of records. This is why most contemporary DJs choose to go digital. You can find songs and upload your own through Soundcloud – a popular choice – or use other websites specifically designed for DJs. Either way, just as writers need to read a lot of books, a good DJ has listened to hundreds if not thousands of hours of music.
While it’s incredibly easy to learn the basics on places like Youtube, you’re going to need a lot of hands on experience to really understand how it works. Plenty of people join online communities in order to share their mixes and get real time feedback. There are also academic programs, like this Electronic Music Production program. You certainly don’t need a degree or a certificate to become a DJ, but the experience helps you connect with other like minded people, including those who might be the next big act.
Finally, you’re going to need to perform! Whether you went academic, became a mobile DJ, or anything in between, you’re going to need to take gigs and begin building a reputation and connections. Good luck! Keep putting yourself out there and don’t give up! In a few years, you might just find yourself with a couple million views on Youtube and a residency at the coolest club in town.