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.
You’ve been working subconsciously all through the last thirty minutes of the previous DJ’s set. What would dovetail nicely with his sound? The temptation to fuck it all off is there, to slam on the brakes, change the vibe, switch off all the lights to announce yourself, sound the dickhead’s fanfare. Sometimes you have to. Not tonight, though. He was hard work but his music wasn’t, and it’s easy to find a couple of openers to match his vibe. Maybe it was all your stress? But it’s not about you or him. It’s about them out there. All of them. And they are very happy right now. It’s your job to continue that.
I’m a pro. I always nod and smile. Engage. Sometimes that is all they want – for the crowd to see them talking to you. The request is just a thing to do to get them in the booth. Bad DJs hate it. HOW DARE someone approach them!? Tranquilo, dude. Be a pro, deal with it.
Chance encounters happen all the time, but you won’t be able to take advantage of them if you aren’t physically close to the biz. So don’t think you can pull it off from your bedroom in the sticks. If you are serious about it – and you have to be – you need to move to Berlin, Vegas, Ibiza or London, like yesterday.
Always in writing, everything. Don’t do business on social media; use it and then steer the words onto your email. The rip-off merchants don’t expect otters to keep records, pay tax and retain correspondence.
Learn the tech, Pilgrim. And no, I don’t mean sync and laptops. If you can’t set up the whole sound system yourself, don’t know what a crossover or a limiter does and don’t own a soldering iron… well, let’s just say you’ve got a lot to learn. Carry spares, carry tools.
Don’t overvalue what you do. People who get stressed and are too up themselves become deeply unhappy, and their heads resemble an overtightened wingnut. If you are pompous, you will explode when asked to do the boring simple things like speak to people, take requests or deal with tech issues.
Don’t live in fear. If you are scared of a bad mix, you will be a timid selector. The 1 per cent of the crowd who are taking notes will find fault with you regardless.
Mistakes are fine. In fact, you need to be very suspicious if there aren’t any. You see all those bangers, glitter bombs, videos and confetti cannons? It’s a sure sign of cheating when flawless mixes mesh with spectacle. Mistakes are a sign of reality. Do not fear them. Fear is the mind killer.
I found out the hard way that dying is so easy and random, so there’s no way on God’s green earth I’m going to waste one more moment in fear.
It’s a piece of piss to make fans dance. It’s a walk in the park making people in Ibiza or Las Vegas dance. It’s what they came for. It’s being out of your comfort zone that makes a pro. […] A pro gets the job done and doesn’t cry about it. Make people dance. Shut up. Go home. Sleep. Repeat. Minus the sleep part.
You will not progress in this game if you live in the DJ bubble. If you don’t hang out, dance and participate in all aspects of the scene, you will forever be on the outside looking in.
Do you know the one thing that really, properly matters when it comes to being a performer of any stripe? It’s confidence.
No one owes you a living, and if you want work you’d best better go out and damn well make it happen.
I very much enjoyed the book and I would definitely recommend it if you want to learn what it really is like to be a pro DJ. You can grab your copy over here, and make sure to keep an eye on the Secret DJ’s column over at Mixmag. Keep it spinnin’!
Have you read the Secret DJ book? Are there other books on DJing that you’d recommend? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
JM has played open-air gigs, shared the stage with the likes of ATB and had mix albums released commercially. He has been teaching DJing since 2008.
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