Are you an aspiring DJ looking to make your mark in the music scene? This article will guide you through the must-have DJ equipment, provide tips on how to secure gigs at clubs, and explain the elements needed for a compelling press kit to showcase your performances. You'll need these things to become a success in the local scene before you start performing at festivals or stadiums. And you should always start off small before you ever try to get too famous too quickly. If you work on your local scene first, you will not only build momentum for your career, but, you will also garner support for when you're ready to tour. Remember that your local supporters almost always know people in other states that can help you successfully take your career on the road.
The standard time-frame for getting noticed and seeing your career ever truly get anywhere is a year. I'm not saying that you will be super famous in a year, but in a year's time, you will make a huge dent in the industry and start to notice the effect you're having on the local scene. I have personally taken artists from zero to hero in less than a year, but most of them never made it past a year of consistent performances, so their success was limited by their own choices. Don't let that be you! Stick with performing, promoting yourself, and engaging with your community. Do not rely on local promoters anywhere you go, because no one can promote your performances better than you when you show up and make personal connections with people who are close to the venue mere hours before you go on stage and dominate their scene.
• DJ Controller: A versatile piece of hardware that allows you to control music playback, mix tracks, and apply various effects. I personally use a Pioneer DDJ-REV1 because it's a minimal battle–style DJ controller that's small and only has the basic functions that I need to perform. But, if you are looking for the most and best that your money can buy you, then maybe the DDJ-REV5 is more your style. The Rev5 has more options and functions for the DJ that likes to really let loose when performing live. But, let's say that Pioneer isn't your thing, then, another brand of DJ controllers that I suggest is Numark. Either way you choose to go, you can't go wrong. While the REV1 will have you up and running at a fraction of the cost, the REV5 is a sound investment, but keep in mind that with more options and functions also comes a bigger size. So, whichever you decide to invest in, you can't possibly go wrong. Because, the brands that make DJ Controllers really put a lot of time, thought and work into making the best controllers that they can possibly provide. Before buying a DJ Controller, look some up on YouTube and watch other DJs using them and see what all they have to offer, and then take yourself to the music instrument store like Guitar Center, SweetWater or maybe a local shop that's close to you to check them out in person before buying.
• Laptop: Your DJ controller will connect to a laptop that's running DJ software, enabling you to manage and manipulate your tracks effectively. The laptop that I suggest is an Apple Macbook Air with an M2 chip. The current price for one of these laptops is right at the $1,000 mark, but if you would rather a PC or something cheaper, then that is a personal choice. However, I chose this computer so that I can also use it for other power-hungry programs as well, like photoshop and things like that while on-the-go. You can buy the lowest tier of the MacBook Air M2 like I did without worrying if it can keep up with your day to day use, which was another selling point for me that helped me to decided if this was the one that I could use and not have to worry about processing speeds while performing my required tasks.
• DJ Software: All Pioneer DJ Controllers are compatible with the Serato DJ app. There is a free version and there is a paid version. Deciding which version is right for you is totally up to you and I strongly suggest doing some research to find out which DJ Controller software you like the most, or whichever you can afford, whether that be free or paid. I personally use the free Serato Lite version and it works just fine for exactly what I need, but if you require more, you can always upgrade at your own leisure.
• Headphones: High-quality headphones are crucial for beat–matching, previewing tracks, and ensuring seamless transitions. What I use are the SteelSeries Arctis Nova 1 headphones. They are very versatile and every day use headphones that can easily be used to switch between gaming, DJing and even for talking on the phone. I'm not particularly an audiophile, but, I am pretty picky when it comes to what headphones I use, because I practically live with a set of headphones on while working long hours, and these are the only multi-functioning headphones that I could find that didn't make me sweat too much, and had all the features that I needed like a pull–out retractable mic, one button mic–mute, and on–ear volume knob.
• PA System: Depending on the venue, you may need to bring your own sound system, including speakers and amplifiers. Some people vie for a full PA system and large performance speakers when they're putting their DJ set together for their gigs. I chose to go the non-traditional route and bought myself a pair of party speakers that also have lights on them. The reason I chose to get party speakers, is because most venues are already going to have their own sound system, and at the most, I would mainly just need a set of decent sounding speakers to gig at house parties or patio clubs that could be at an outdoor spot or somewhere else that isn't prepared for a party that hosts live performances. But, make sure that you get some speakers that have an aux port on the back of them, because even though you can sync your performance to a bluetooth device, I strongly suggest that you use an aux cord that goes from your laptop headphones port directly into the back of your speaker using a cord splitter so you can use 2 speakers simultaniously that have no broadcast lag. What I mean by broadcast lag is that bluetooth has a slight delay that won't be synced up to your headphones, but if you use an aux cord, your speakers will be playing the music in sync with what you're hearing through your headphones, and that'll save you a ton of trouble when keeping track of what you're trying to do on the DJ controller while performing live.
• Professional Networking: Attend industry events, network with other DJs, club managers, and promoters. Build relationships and promote your skills. While this sounds simple enough, it's actually quite complex. So, let's unpack this and break it down before we put it all back together. Attending events in your industry is simple, but putting yourself in front of the right people is the key to this. The right people would be the venue's manager. Meaning, you want to find out who you need to contact to get a gig, and one of the best times to meet them is during an event. Event or venue managers are typically at every show you go to, and if they're not there, then you're next best bet is to get to know other artists or people who handle PR for other artists. Networking with other DJs sounds easy, but if you never ask them to do shows with you, or any of the right questions to land you gigs and get you into the scene, then don't be surprised if you're never getting anywhere. Don't be intimidated, just go for it! But, remember that you're building a bond and making yourself personable with these people. It's not just about them hooking you up, because if that's all you're trying to do, then you'll come off as vain or pretentious.... and who wants to work with someone like that? Get to know them and make friends!
• Demo Mixes: Create impressive mixes that showcase your unique style and versatility. Share your demos with the club managers and promoters that you're meeting. Make sure that you're showing your best work, because first impressions are everything. But, remember that most managers and promoters will probably just give you the gig without even listening to your stuff. They don't have time to check out all your stuff, but if you have a good press kit, then they'll see that you're serious about performing and much to your surprise, they will likely say yes before they ever hear your stuff. Go into each meeting with the mindset that no one wants to or has time to hear your demo, because everyone they typically meet always thinks they're the next big thing. What this means is that you're using your drive, determination and positive attitude to sell yourself in order to get yourself the gig, instead of relying on a demo that they don't want to hear. So, have the demo, make sure it properly represents your work just in case they do want to hear it, but, don't expect everyone you meet to care about it.
• Online Presence: Establish a strong online presence through social media platforms and music sharing platforms. Engage with your audience and highlight your performances to attract potential gigs. I want to stress that establishing a strong online presence is only sort of important. Word of mouth travels much faster than anything you ever put on the internet. If you have enough connections and you know how to promote your shows, then you should have no problem getting people through the door. Before the internet existed, we always relyied on word of mouth to get us everywhere in the industry. Nothing about this has changed. So, do build your online presence and fan base, but don't rely on it to get you gigs. Some artists you want to collaborate with might look at your social media profiles before working with you, but I advise you to stay away from artists like that, because they're the type that just wants to use you to siphon off your fan base. However, if you plan to rely on the internet to promote yourself, make sure that your content matches your niche. What I mean is that if you are a DJ, try to only post things related to you being a DJ. Show people behind the scenes footage of you performing or recording, and share mini-stories with them about a day in the life of you being a DJ. And always engage with your fans! A lot of artists never engage with their fans and often times, people will forget about them because there's no personal connection there. Meaning, your fans tried to reach out to you through social media, expecting a reply or some sort of engagement, but you never came through and gave them a well thought out reply. So, make sure to engage with them as positively as you can.
• Collaborations: Partner with other DJs, producers, or musicians to expand your network and open doors to new opportunities. If you can work with another artist, then do it! If you find a producer, see what you guys can do together. But, always be on the lookout for fellow artists and other music industry professionals. Get in where you fit in. Collaborations can help you tap into other networks that you didn't know were possible. If you want to be well known, then you have to always be networking. Even though everything has changed, this has not. You can't allow your circumstances to set you back. You absolutely must keep networking, no matter how afraid to talk to other people that you might be. You absolutely must get out there and start talking to people and asking them the right questions. And with enough practice at this, you will start to figure out the right questions to ask everyone. But, network, and never stop networking!
• Bio and Introduction: Share your background, musical influences, and achievements in a concise yet captivating manner. Never start out stating where you're from or what you do. Make people have to dig for the facts. Start your biography out with selling yourself as an artist. If you start out your bio with basic facts about you, you'll just bore them, and they probably won't even read the rest of the bio. Create an engaging paragraph about what makes you different, what sets you apart, and why people should get to know you. In other words, what's your why? Why are you doing this? Why should people care about you? And why are you what they're looking for in an artist? The more you think about who could be reading your bio, the better and more engaging it will be!
• High-Quality Promotional Photos: Professional, high-resolution images that showcase your stage presence and personality are what you should be aiming for. Have you ever seen a band photo? They're usually standing in front of a unique backdrop, like a unique door, or in front of a building that no one has seen before. The more unique your background is, the better. But make sure that the photo is mainly focused on you with the camera angle nice and tight on you and not so focused on your backdrop. Do you have photos of you performing? Then that's even better! But, if you're just starting out, making sure that you're showing off your personality in your photos should be your main focus.
• Music Samples: Include a selection of your best tracks or mixes to give promoters a taste of your talent. No more than 4 songs! Don't give the promoter or venue/event manager a whole collection of songs, because, I promise you that they don't want to hear it. Make them want more, and remember that less is always more. They might skim through your tracks once and never look back, but four samples of your best work is exactly what you should be focused on. Either make a folder for your press kit with a CD, or have an online press kit for them to visit with a link that's easy to remember. Your online press kit URL should just be your performer name. But, make sure that you at least have something for them to hear just in case they do care about the music you have put together. Either include 30 second samples, or four whole songs. Just don't make them too long, you're only trying to give them an idea of your work, not bore them to death. Keep them wanting more!
• Press and Media Coverage: If you have received any press coverage or media mentions, be sure to include them to boost your credibility. If you don't have any, then make sure to add personal commendations from your friends or fans. Has someone ever said something positive about your work? You can use that to make yourself more notable. But, make sure that you have something there that represents that you do have a following and that other people recommend and support you.
• Contact Information: Provide your contact details, social media links, and website so that promoters can easily reach out to you. This is the most important part, because if you put all your work into your press kit, but they don't know how to contact you, then you aren't doing yourself any favors. So, be sure that you include a phone number, email, and any other important info for them to find you online. But, make it easy to contact you, otherwise you'll have a hard time landing any gigs or ever getting in touch with the promoter or manager.
By acquiring the necessary DJ equipment, implementing effective strategies to land gigs, and crafting a compelling press kit, you'll be well on your way to establishing yourself as a successful DJ. Remember to be persistent, hone your skills, and stay dedicated to your passion for music. Good luck!