January of 2007 I stumbled into becoming a part time DJ. Ten years later I can honestly say this humble profession has taught me so many lessons that have helped me to understand a great deal about business in general. Here is my Top Ten list of lessons learned.
10. Find a mentor
I know this is an old cliché by now but it’s true so I will just start here. You need to develop a support network to help you better your craft and show you the ropes for your area and your style. Over time I have had several different mentors for different reasons to fit where I was in my development. I have even had some mentors who were younger than me. Why? Because they put more time into DJing than I could with my work schedule. There was something for me to learn so I sat still and listened.
9. I’m not Kid Capri and I don’t want to be
I love Kid Capri, don’t get me wrong. DJing is what you make it. Understand what type of DJ you are and stay in your lane. Seek clients who understand and want what your lane is. I am an open format DJ. I can carry any one genre with 4 hours of hits. I am not a low tempo house DJ and my clients know that.
8. Close the deal
If you have someone on the hook to book, you make sure you get them what they need for an agreement and close the deal. Don’t let someone else take a gig that should be yours. Don’t be lazy and say, “the event is 6 months away, I have time to send them an invoice.” Send them an invoice that night. Don’t let them forget about you. Got it!? Great; glad we had this talk.
7. Take what the market gives you
A few years ago I told myself I was too good of a DJ to still perform at house parties. I wanted to shift my focus and become fully dedicated to weddings and corporate events. Well, that was far from what actually happened. That year I did a few weddings but did more house parties by far. Mentally I had to switch gears and take the work the market gave me. I didn’t give my time away nor did I make as much as a wedding offers but DJing somewhere making something is better than being home.
So, within reason, go with the flow and keep your foot to the floor even if you have to modify your goals slightly. Equipment that is collecting dust is of no use to anyone.
6. Keep your customers
Once you have a customer, they are yours to lose. I have been fortunate enough to have the same customers retain my services year after year. How do I do that? I listen to my clients, remember their preferences, always show up on time and, lastly, I never take a single DJ event for granted. Play every party as if it’s the last you will ever DJ in front of people, again. Leave nothing on the table and don’t save a good song for later…there is no such thing.
5. Never Stop Learning
This is not 1985. DJing has advanced well beyond 2 tables, a mixer and a microphone. A new “kit” is introduced monthly from creative and emerging companies from around the world. As a DJ in the digital age you must understand different types of software, hardware, and trends in the industry and in music. Don’t get left behind and out hustled by another DJ because you missed the curve. Remember, when you are hired, you are the expert DJ in the room. I don’t care if Kid Capri shows up, this is your event and you better own it.
4. Know your worth
Don’t give your time away. It’s very valuable. You don’t get your time back. Besides, how do you think your family or significant other would feel if they knew you were DJing for next to nothing, or even worse, for free when you could be enjoying life with them. Don’t sell yourself short. Understand your skill level and worth in the market.
3b. Do more with less
Don’t take a van worth of gear if you can do the same event by packing your car to the max. Make sure you ask the right question and check the venue out before the day of the event. Save your back and only take the gear that your client has paid for. Extra lights and speakers make you look super cool but you’re putting unnecessary wear and tear on your back and your gear. Just don’t do it.
3a. Do more with less
We all have to start somewhere. Most do not start out with $10,000 worth of DJ equipment. I made thousands of dollars off my little bedroom DJ setup before I was able to get professional equipment. In fact, the first party I did in college was done by connecting two component stereo systems together with CDs. Become creative and work with what you have. Don’t upgrade when you think it’s time because you have some money saved up. Upgrade when your equipment tells you it’s time to do so and not a day sooner.
2. Find your voice
When I started DJing I was terrified of public speaking and preferred not to use a microphone. I quickly learned that hiding behind my DJ table acting like I was DJing for myself without a room full of people was impossible. I had to learn to use a microphone. I quickly discovered that people don’t like public speaking or using microphones at all. I had no choice but to work through it. I started to practice basics statements in front of a mirror. Before long I became a master at the microphone. Tip: Buy a quality microphone and bring it with you always. You know what you sound like on your mic, no one else’s.
1. It’s not about the music
If you think DJing is about music, you won’t be DJing for long. Music is your way in the door but ultimately DJing is about people management at every level. Managing client expectations, paying attention to your crowd and working with the owners of the venue. Don’t get me wrong. Your music collection is important but the timing and appropriate nature of your song is more important. Play what you crowd wants to hear and not your favorite track. Some may disagree with this but I can give you music and teach you how to DJ a lot quicker than I can train you to authentically read people for understanding.
Well, there you have it. I can tell you DJing is not what you see on TV. What’s in your Top Ten List of lessons learned?”