Do you know the one thing that really, properly matters when it comes to being a performer of any stripe? It’s confidence.
– The Secret DJ
Confidence is a must-have when performing in public. If you don’t look calm and confident behind the decks, the crowd will simply resist you trying to lead them with your music. Luckily, there are simple ways to boost confidence while squashing your inner anxiety along the way.
When you’re anxious, you tend to act in a hurried, all-over-the-place manner. Inevitably, you start making mistakes, which only adds up to the anxiety and is far from producing that calm, confident image of yourself.
Try to consciously sl-o-o-o-w down instead. Concentrate on what you are doing at the moment and literally try to do it 2x slower. Setting up your gear? Look at those cables in your hands. Feel them. Plug them in slowly, one… by… one. Trust me, the world is not going to end because of the extra couple of seconds it will take.
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.
DJing naturally has a lot to do with music. So do you need to be a musician or play an instrument to be a DJ? The short answer is no, but having musical education under your belt can help.
A lot of confusion actually comes from the language we use. When you hear about a DJ “playing”, you may be inclined to think of DJing as playing a musical instrument. In reality, “playing back” may be a better word because all that a DJ essentially does is play back other people’s tunes one after another. The closest DJing gets to playing the piano or violin is turntablism, where the DJ indeed produces sounds with vinyl turntables as if they were a musical instrument.
I actually happen to play the piano. Looking back, I can definitely say that the years spent at a musical school have helped me become a better DJ. Here’s how:
The new book by the Secret DJ contains plenty of rants and settles a lot of scores, much of them justified. One rant that stands out, though, is the one where the Secret DJ goes after what he calls “plastic” or “push-button” DJs. According to the Secret DJ, these are the folks with no music knowledge or appreciation of the craft who would not be able to call themselves DJs if not for the modern technology.
The flood of “plastic DJs” in recent years is due to what the Secret DJ refers to as the “Shazam–Beatport–Sync” routine. In an nutshell, it has to do with the dramatic lowering of the bar for up-and-coming DJs. So what exactly is Shazam–Beatport–Sync all about?
The Secret DJ is a pseudonym of a globally recognized British DJ who contributes an anonymous monthly column to Mixmag. In the column, the Secret DJ shares stories from his three-decade-long DJ career, gives his thoughts on the industry and dispenses advice for up-and-coming DJs. The Secret DJ recently published a book, The Secret DJ: From Ibiza to Norfolk Broads, which I was sure to quickly grab off of Amazon.
The book is an explosive mix of detailed depictions of the Secret DJ’s and his friends’ debauchery on Ibiza and beyond, DJ advice as well as the Secret DJ’s thoughts on life, dance music, and drugs. I was making lots of notes as I was reading the book, and I decided to put together a post with some quotes that really stood out for me. Here goes (the links to related articles are mine):
Amateurs make an entrance, pros keep the vibe. Wankers hog the booth, pros make a smooth transition.
DJing is not rocket science. In the end, all it boils down to is playing one track after another for the dancefloor. And after you get comfortable with the basic techniques, you’ll be surprised at how much extra time you have on your hands during a DJ set. What do you do after you’ve lined up the next tune, and it’s still 4 minutes till the end of the currently playing one?
In this (admittedly toungue-in-cheek) article, I’m listing my favorite ideas for how to occupy yourself when DJing. Here goes:
DJing is the best job in the world. You get to play music you love for other people, and seeing them dance to it, smile and enjoy themselves is a huge reward in and of itself. Add to it the sheer glamour of being the “Mr./Ms. DJ”, and getting paid for your work becomes an afterthought at best. So much that you might be willing to play for free just to get another fix of being behind the decks. It all helps your exposure, you tell yourself.
Don’t do it.
Don’t get me wrong – I know that most of us are in DJing for the love of music, dancing or both. But DJing is real work, and it deserves to be paid for. Here are 4 reasons why I believe that you should never DJ for free.
I’ve been a vinyl DJ for a long time. I got my first decks in 2001, when vinyl DJing was still considered the only “real way” to DJ. (Pioneer had just released the CDJ-1000 with vinyl emulation that year; that was the start of the digital revolution.) I learned to beatmatch, mix and do all kinds of tricks on my turntables, and they have served me well over the years.
These days, my decks mostly gather dust, aside from the times when I need to digitize an old record or two. I spend most of my time DJing with my Serato controller, and I couldn’t be happier. Here are the reasons why I ended up ditching vinyl and went 100% digital.
Before you can get out there and start playing real gigs, you need to decide on your DJ name. Granted, your DJ skills are important, but choosing the name shouldn’t be taken lightly either. It’s part of your branding, and good branding can go a long way in helping you get noticed and differentiating yourself from other DJs.
So here are a few ideas on choosing your DJ name.
Your real name. This one is a no-brainer, and in fact over 40% DJs in a recent DJ Mag Top 100 list perform under their real name. If your name is as cool as Armin van Buuren’s, or at least it’s an OK one, you might as well save yourself some mental anguish and go real.
A variation of your name. If your real name isn’t cool enough, try altering it a bit. Change your first name, or use a different last name. Or try replacing your first name with initials.
I’m sure your mom told you that stealing is bad, and downloading music illegally is no exception. Yet although the moral and legal reasons against digital piracy have been beaten to death, there are still quite a few DJs out there who play pirated tracks.
So instead of reminding you why illegal downloading is wrong, I’m going to take a different approach. I’ll explain how paying for music is actually in your best interest.
You become more selective. When you pay for your music, you think twice before hitting that “Buy” button to download a track. Do I really like this tune? Where will it fit in my set? When would it be appropriate to play? Questions like these make you more selective about your music library, which in turn makes you a better DJ.