What separates a professional DJ from an amateur is their attitude towards every aspect of their business. (Thinking of DJing as a business is one such example already.) Professionals get better gigs, make more money and command more respect, so it definitely pays to learn how to be a pro.
Professionalism is first and foremost an attitude. Below are 8 tips to help you become a better professional starting today.
- Put things in writing. The industry is full of con artists who think that paying the DJ is optional. Whenever you can, try to put any agreements in writing, even if it’s only in email. And no, doing business on social media doesn’t work.
- Be prepared. If something can go wrong, it eventually will. Even if you are spinning in a club where everything will be provided for you, take spares, leads and/or extension cables you think you might need.
- Show up on time. A pro respects other people’s time as well as any agreements he or she enters. You are paid for your work and so are expected to show up on time. Be a pro, just do it.
- Be nice. Be nice to the venue staff as they can be your biggest supporters during the night. Smile, introduce yourself and shake hands. Be nice to other DJs. And, for God’s sake, be nice to the crowd (see handling requests below).
- Remember what your job is. Your ultimate job as a DJ is to make people dance. Stop complaining that they don’t dig your music. Find the tunes that strike a common chord with the crowd, win their sympathy, and then steer them carefully to your stuff.
- Handle requests with grace. The difference between an amateur and a pro is in how they handle requests. An amateur hates requests and thinks it’s below him or her to even listen to them. A pro doesn’t necessarily like requests either, but they handle them with grace.
- Shove your ego. Respect your time slot. If you’re warming up, don’t beat the crowd over their heads with bangers. Respect the vibe: When you come in after another DJ and the crowd are having fun, resist the temptation to destroy the vibe and do a 180-degree turn with your first tune.
- Get paid. Working for free is the definition of an amateur. A pro loves what they do but they respect themselves too much to skip being paid. The promoter doesn’t expect the bar staff to work for free, why do they think you would?
You may notice that tips 5 through 7 are essentially about taming your ego when playing. So does that mean that you have to bend and force yourself to play tunes you don’t like, just to make the crowd or the promoter happy?
I don’t think so. There’s no point in being a DJ if you don’t like the music. I don’t keep tracks I don’t like in my library. That said, I pick the tunes based on what will work better for the crowd and the time slot that I’m playing, not just based on what I want to hear in that particular moment.
Enjoy, and here’s to you being a pro!
Do you consider yourself a professional DJ? What are the distinctive traits of a pro in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments below.