So, you want to become a mobile DJ?
Below I have created a basic guide for what I feel are important attributes and equipment suggestions required to succeed in a challenging, rewarding and competitive industry.
Your success as a mobile DJ guarantees a fun-filled career full of variety where every night is a new flavour of party and a new crowd to get to know and entertain. You become an essential part of some of the most important and memorable nights of people’s lives.
Some nights you will feel like a god, with the joy of a packed floor and cheers from the crowd as they hear the next song that you mix in. Occasionally, you will wish you could just pack up your gear and leave.
It’s a career with the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows…. but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
To keep this article short and sweet (so we can get straight into the ‘meat’ of what it means to be a mobile DJ), I’ll assume you already understand the basics – i.e. mixing skills and equipment setup.
Once you have the basics down, it’s time to begin your journey to dancefloor mastery.
There is only one way to build a dancefloor and hold that crowd all night: it’s called crowd reading and it’s an art form in itself!
Learned only through experience, reading a crowd separates the cream from the crop in the DJ world. The first element to being effective here is having the right tools at hand, which starts with an extensive music library.
Related: 15 Best Music Download Website for DJs.
Related: 10 Best Record Pools for DJs.
Once you have the music and a happening dancefloor, knowledge of the hits of the last 5 decades will aid you in choosing the right songs, but ultimately nothing beats experience.
Play the song, observe the crowd, and based on their reactions choose the next. The crowd doesn’t just dictate the next song with their actions (or inactions), but the next genre as well. Sometimes you can play the best house songs in the world, but if the crowd isn’t diggin’ it, it’s time to try something different.
People skills and work ethic are equally important and for a variety of reasons. You are your own booking manager, so without being honest, likeable and a clear communicator, it’s unlikely you will get many gigs (it’s a saturated industry out there!).
I’ve had great success in building lasting working relationships with many top mobile DJ agencies in my locale simply through being an honest, hard worker with a commitment to customer satisfaction.
Having a background in hospitality, I was lucky to learn important customer service skills and ethics that have translated perfectly into my DJing career. Such things as “The customer is always right” (even when wrong) and a commitment to 110% satisfaction (going the extra mile) have helped immensely in my career progression.
Due to the nature of your work environment, your customers are almost always drunk (towards the end of the night anyway). Alcohol tends to bring out the best and the worst in people, so dealing with situations that may arise requires patience, thick skin and a touch of luck.
Conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques become very useful when you are being harassed by drunk and messy “Davo” or “Karen” at a bogan birthday bash with no security.
Foresight is also invaluable. Keep in mind, you most likely have thousands of dollars invested in equipment set up around a potentially boisterous and disorderly group of drunk partygoers, so it pays to be vigilant!
Being proactive rather than reactive is the key here. There will always be drunk patrons attempting to hold their drinks over your laptop or DJ controller while requesting songs, and I can almost see it coming from the other side of the room.
Luckily, in 8 years of Mobile DJing, I have never had a serious drink spill ruin my equipment, but I have become quite the clairvoyant…
If tensions rise and there appears to be a fight about to happen on the dancefloor (I’ve seen this many times at younger parties), turn the music down and pop on some sister sledge (We are family!) — don’t go for the eye of the tiger! Again, de-escalation is the key here.
Without a DJ controller, you can’t mix. Without speakers, you can’t be heard. And without lighting… is it really a dancefloor?
Controllers are a hot topic; and while there is a huge range both in features and pricing to consider, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not so much about what you’re using rather than how you use it.
I’ve seen a young fella mix up an absolute storm on a little $200 Numark controller designed for absolute beginners, while I have seen “pro” DJ’s with full CDJ/DJM industry-standard club setups that couldn’t mix to save their lives.
Related: 5 of The Best All-In-One DJ Systems.
To complement your controller, you’re going to need a nice set of headphones. Most “DJ” Headphones are bass boosted to allow clear low-end volume over the sound of the background noise. Again, a huge range to choose from here.
Me personally, I’m an avid supporter of the Sennheiser HD25s. They have proven themselves well over the past 5 years (same pair), and have been used and abused like you wouldn’t believe!
With regards to speakers, you have endless brands, configurations and sizes to choose from. This is one area you really do not want to skimp on if you can afford it.
While the audio quality from most DJ controllers is going to sound extremely similar, the same cannot be said for speakers. If you are starting out, I would suggest either one of two configurations: For simplicity, easy transport and a lower initial cost, look at going for 2 x 15-inch speakers. For something with a bit more punch, you can swap the 15-inch speakers out for 10-inch or 12-inch speakers and supplement the low end with an 18″ sub.
While it will sound much punchier, keep in mind the transport, extra setup/pack downtimes and storage issues. I have made it throughout most of my career with two simple 15-inch EV ZLX15Ps.
Lighting has come a very long way over the past decade, with LED’s completely revolutionizing effect and wash lights. They have become far more compact, reliable (no more changing bulbs), cooler to run and exponentially more power-efficient (not to mention cheaper).
I could go into great detail about different lighting rigs for different events, but having set up and packed down hundreds of gigs I have fallen in love with the KISS principle.
Honest to god, nothing beats a compact setup that is effective whilst being quick to control, set up and pack down – and for that reason, I feel the best all-rounder all-in-one lighting solution to get you on your way is the Chauvet DJ Gigbar 2.
Wrapping things up
This article is of course is only a drop in the ocean compared to what you must learn and know should you see great success as a mobile DJ.
While it’s great to learn theory, nothing beats practical experience — whether it be physical DJ lessons, watching other DJs at parties or just mixing at your friend’s parties and gatherings. Ultimately, the most beneficial way to advance your skills is to just get out there and do it!
Related: What Are The Different Types of DJs.
This article was written by Saxon Evans. Saxon is a mobile DJ based on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Visit his website here.
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