If you’re looking for the ultimate resource on how to become a club DJ, then look no further. Whilst I’ll cover some basic stuff early on for complete beginners, rest assured we’ll quickly get into intermediate and even pro-level tips and topics!
To keep this post to a sensible length, I’ll be linking out to various resources as we go for a deeper dive, so you might want to bookmark the link before we start to revisit it as needed.
Contents (the 15 action steps)
- 1. Research the different DJ setups
- 2. Buy a DJ controller and get started
- 3. Make your music collection a top priority
- 4. Pick 1 or 2 social media platforms and get started
- 5. Focus on playing out (initial ‘training’ gigs)
- 6. Set a specific goal and create an action plan
- 7. Get started on Mixcloud and SoundCloud
- 8. Take a relevant DJ Course
- 9. Consider choosing a DJ name
- 10. Find a font and create a typography logo
- 11. Create a DJ/artist bio
- 12. Create a dedicated DJ/artist website
- 13. Have a few practice sessions on CDJs
- 14. Create a hit list of local venues and start hustling
- 15. Get a residency and continue to add value
Why listen to me?
Whilst I’m definitely not some globe-trotting superstar DJ, after ‘cutting my teeth’ as a rookie in my home town of Manchester, UK, I went on to play in Portugal & Spain before I was 26. My DJ mixes have been streamed and downloaded almost 1 million times and featured on numerous radio stations around the globe. Over the years, I’ve played out in bars, clubs and at private functions – using turntables, CDJs and DJ controllers.
My inspiration for writing this post
I’ve put together these 15 steps based on how I would approach it if I was learning how to become a DJ as a beginner today; including everything I would want bringing to my attention (that being the younger version of myself).
Whilst a vast amount of things have changed in the 23 years since I started out back in 2000, I now have the perspective of time, and I can see more clearly some of the things that were more important.
There were also SO MANY THINGS I could have done better… and so I wanted to load up a single resource with my best tips based on this!
Defining a Club DJ
As a club DJ, you’d be playing in commercial venues such as bars, club-orientated bars, nightclubs, and even festivals – whilst mostly using the industry-standard club gear already set up in the venue – better known as CDJs …or Pioneer’s pro gear.
It really depends on the type of venue and what the local scene is like, or even what part of the world you’re in as to what music you’ll need to play. For example, you’ll find that commercial-club DJs need to play a much broader ‘open format’ set list – so it’s not always underground-focused, necessarily.
Who is this post for?
Before we jump in, it’s important not to feel pigeonholed by the umbrella term ‘’Club DJ’’. Even if you don’t have a specific direction in mind yet, most of the steps in this post would be considered as generic under the banner of ‘’learning how to become a DJ’’. Any DJ!
Once you have the relevant knowledge and skills, and by following the 15 steps, you can potentially play at any pub, bar, lounge, club-orientated bar, nightclub, or private party. In other words – anywhere!
It’s also worth noting that most DJ/producers on the circuit today would fall under the banner of a ‘club DJ’; one that happens to produce their own music.
So then… these are my 15 action steps on How To Become a Club DJ!
1. Research the different DJ setups
This first section is designed to give a quick overview of the main setups. It can also be used as a research hub, revisiting it as required by using the links below.
If you’re a complete beginner, this is something you can easily learn more about as you go, so try not to get too bogged down with it.
For now, the important thing is to understand that ALL these setups essentially do the same thing, and that gaining experience on ANY of them will fundamentally improve your skills as a DJ in one way or another.
|DJ Controllers||Description: In order to work, DJ controllers require a connected laptop with DJ software running on it. Users are often referred to as ‘laptop’, or ‘controller’ DJs. Because of their affordability, DJ controllers are the most logical starting point for new DJs.|
|All-In-One DJ Systems (also referred to ‘standalone DJ controllers’)||Description: These are simply DJ controllers with a stripped back version of the software built in to the unit, and connecting your laptop to operate it is optional. As you would on pro club gear (CDJs), you can load digital music files straight from a USB stick and start mixing.|
|CDJs (more generically known as ‘media players’)||Description: CDJs are the industry-standard club gear (or ‘pro gear’) that’s typically set up in lounges, bars and clubs, etc. These are not cheap, and you’d also need to buy a DJ mixer, so it’s not a logical starting point for most people. We’ll talk more about CDJs in number 12.|
|Turntables||Description: Turntables (mostly Technics 1200s) were the industry-standard setup in bars & clubs before CDJs took over in the late 90s. For more on turntables, check out our resource linked below.|
|DVS (Digital Vinyl System)||Description: For the most part, DVS is a technology that allows you to mix digital music files on your turntables. It’s pretty niche, and you’d typically be into vinyl before exploring DVS.|
Post #1: A quick Introduction to DJ controllers (this post is mostly for beginners. It breaks down the difference between DJ controllers and all-in-one systems and why these are the logical starting point for new DJs).
Post #2: A quick Introduction to DJ software (this post is another great resource for beginners and for anyone starting with digital. It breaks down the 6 main players in DJ software right now.
Post #3: The 7 Best Turntables for DJs (this buyer’s guide contains tons of cool content; from the history of Technics, to a full description of Digital Vinyl Systems).
2. Buy a DJ controller and get started
Now unless you’ve got your heart set on something very specific, or you’ve got loads of money to burn, you’ll surely be getting a DJ controller or an all-in-one DJ system (also referred to as ‘standalone units’/‘standalone DJ controllers’).
Just bear in mind, regardless of which option you choose, you’ll also need a decent laptop, DJ headphones, and ideally a set of monitor speakers if you have the budget. (We talk about budget and how much to spend in this post).
Whilst it’s NOT essential, I’d recommend getting Pioneer’s hardware as it’s default DJ software operation will be rekordbox, so they’ll be no need to switch software providers later on! Additionally, the layout and workflow of Pioneer controllers is designed to mimic their pro gear.
If you can afford it (I’m just talking ideal scenarios here), get one of their flagship all-in-one systems: either the 2-channel XDJ-RX3 or the top-end XDJ-XZ. This way you’ll get used to exporting your music from rekordbox onto USB sticks, making the transition to CDJs even easier!
Anyway, check out our comprehensive buyer guides linked below. Best thing to do is choose a realistic price bracket and then focus on exactly who those controllers are best suited to. They all link to one another at the bottom of each post, so you can easily jump between them if you decide to browse more than one post/price bracket.
Post #1: 7 of The Best DJ Controllers for Beginners (under $600 range)
Post #2: 7 of The Best Mid-Tier DJ Controllers ($500 – $1000 range)
Post #3: 7 of The Best Top-Tier DJ Controllers (pro range with laptop: $900 – $1900)
Post #4: 5 of The Best All-In-One DJ Systems (pro range: $1,100 – $2,600. These are all standalone units)
Note: You can see an overview of ALL our buyer’s guides here. This includes headphones and monitor speakers, etc.
For help setting up your DJ controller, check out this FREE DJ mini course. It’s from our friends at Club Ready DJ School. When you sign up you’ll get immediate access to 16 high-quality HD video lessons!
3. Make your music collection a top priority
If you don’t currently have much of a digital music collection (meaning MP3s, etc.,) then building one should be a top priority.
Regardless of what DJ type you’d ultimately prefer to be… without an awesome music collection that you’ve spent countless hours building from the ground up, you’ll never really be an expert. In which case, you’re just pretending to be a DJ!
‘’Collecting’’ music will be an ongoing process of listening, cataloguing tracks in your collection, and general ongoing maintenance (tidying and organising it, etc.). We’re talking about a significant ongoing time commitment here ….so you’d better love it!
Make no mistake, if kept organised, your collection will be worth its weight in gold as time passes; and as you gradually develop a more intimate relationship with it, it ultimately makes your job as a DJ much easier and more enjoyable.
Important note: Just so you know, whilst streaming services like TIDAL and Beatport Streaming may have their place for certain DJ gigs, these platforms have NOT replaced the need to build and curate an awesome digital music collection.
Post #1: 15 Best Download Sites for DJs (this post breaks down the main online stores to buy individual tracks from. As an electronic music junkie myself, my personal preference is Traxsource, followed by Beatport).
Post #2: 10 of The Best DJ Records for DJs (record pools are subscription services that offer unlimited downloads. As we explain in the post, you’ll often need to prove your status as a DJ before getting accepted)
More resources: For underground tracks, another store I like is Soundeo. Also, a good record pool alternative (for bulk downloads and back-catalogues without having to prove your status as a DJ) is MasterMixDJ.com.
4. Pick 1 or 2 social media platforms and get started
Now I realise this is probably an obvious one, although you might want to start by getting a dedicated artist Facebook page (this isn’t the same as your personal account).
In conjunction with this, if you’re a frequent user of Twitter, Instagram, or even TikTok, consider starting a dedicated profile on one of these as well. What’s most important here is to not stretch yourself too thin. It’s better to be consistent and genuinely have time for your fans on one or two platforms rather than trying to be ‘’everywhere’’.
Preferably post something at least twice a week, or just as frequently as you can sustain providing it’s relevant and adds value for your audience/followers.
It doesn’t have to be all your own content either; you can also share relevant news stories, videos, or even your favorite mix from another DJ for that week to fill up your content calendar. Just remember, when you’re ‘’curating’’ other people’s content (sharing it), be sure to add your personal commentary to it.
Another important thing to understand: Having just 1000 true fans is way more valuable than having 100,000 casual followers, so focus on providing value to ‘’the individual’’, and respond to EVERYONE who engages with your page.
It’s also important to be yourself on social media, so be patient, and rest assured that the right people will resonate with your authenticity.
#1: Canva is one of the best graphic design tools on the market, and you can do most things on there with a free account. It’s great for making mixtape covers, cropping images for social media – you name it.
#2: Social media courses on Udemy. If I was starting out from scratch today I’d take a couple of cost-effective social media courses in a heartbeat. If you really can’t spare the cash then obviously just stick with YouTube, but either way, make sure you regularly dedicate time to upgrading your knowledge, and to online learning.
#3: Superfans by Pat Flynn is one of favorite books. It helps demonstrate some of the points I’ve made in this section. It’s also available as an audio book via Audible.
5. Focus on playing out (initial ‘training’ gigs)
Once you know your way around your equipment and you’ve built up some confidence behind the decks, it’s CRUCIAL you make it your mission to play out as soon as possible.
Start by making yourself the ‘’go to’’ person amongst your friends; the person who provides the music at social gatherings such as barbecues and birthday parties, etc. – and just wherever and whenever you can … even if it’s only as the ‘’chief Spotify selector’’ for the night.
Why is this so important? Well, understand that watching how different crowds of people react to your music is what makes you a DJ. Also, this is likely where & when you’ll fall in love with the craft itself, and with sharing music with others.
Key points based on the above:
#1 The principle of ‘Acting As if’
So you might be wondering what the hell does ‘’acting as if’’ mean? Another way to describe it could be ‘’leveraging the power of self-promotion and word of mouth’’, although it’s not quite as punchy.
In short: If you don’t tell people you’re a DJ, then they won’t know!
For me, it started by simply spreading the word that I’ve ‘’got decks’’, and that I’m ‘’a bit of a DJ’’ behind closed doors. I’d invite friends and work colleagues around for drinks on the weekend and put on a bit of a mix.
It was through this ‘acting as if’ mindset that I got to play at a number of smaller parties early on – which ultimately gave me the confidence to call myself a DJ – which eventually led to me getting actual paid gigs.
#2: Don’t be too picky
Apart from building up your confidence and bolstering your credentials, saying ‘’YES’’ to random or even obscure gigs will get you where you want to be much quicker than if you’d turned them down.
Playing that party you first thought would be “too cheesy’’ for you, or “not your kind of thing’’ will teach you an enormous amount about the importance of putting your audience first. It will help you gain a better understanding that it’s not all about you.
If you can embrace all of the points I’ve made in this section AS A MINDSET, you’ll be out of the bedroom in no time!
Relevant resource: How I became a DJ: the power of ‘Acting as if’ (short blog post elaborating on point #1)
6. Set a specific goal and create an action plan
Following on nicely, whilst this is only designed as a quick overview, here are 7 tips and principals you can follow once you have a specific goal in mind. Properly setting goals is scientifically proven to SIGNIFICANTLY improve your chances of success. So yes, it’s bloody important!
This process is going to be very subjective. For you, it might be to play out for the first time before a specific date? Or maybe to get your first ‘paid’ gig perhaps?
- Be very specific about what you want
- Don’t make it too easy (and give it specific deadline)
- Focus on one thing at a time
- Write it down and tell someone about it
- Consider using visual aids
- Monitor & update it regularly
- Create a plan of action & hustle like crazy
When you’re ready to ‘lean in’ and get started, I’d highly recommend checking out this post I wrote a while back: Goal-setting for DJs: 7 actionable tips.
7. Get started on Mixcloud and SoundCloud
Yes, I’m aware of Twitch and the whole topic of live streaming, etc., although this post is meant to cover the fundamental building blocks to becoming a club DJ – and that means getting familiar with the two main streaming hubs for DJs and music producers: Mixcloud and SoundCloud.
For the most part, Mixcloud is designed specifically for DJ mixes and radio shows, with SoundCloud meant for uploading original sounds such as your own tracks (note: as of October 2022 Mixcloud now also offers this functionality, but don’t worry about that just now).
Regardless of any aspirations you might have for music production (in the case of SoundCloud), I’d definitely suggest signing up to both platforms.
Whilst you can also upload some DJ mixes to SoundCloud, just proceed with caution here. If a mix does get taken down for copyright infringement you should at least get a few strikes/warnings about it first (full disclosure: as I write this, I haven’t uploaded a DJ mix to SoundCloud in a couple of years now, so just bear in mind things are always changing!).
Making mixtapes and listening back
As soon as your ‘’training wheels’’ are off (ie you can throw together a half-decent mix), you’ll ideally want to start uploading something regularly to Mixcloud. Even if the project is just for fun at this stage, you can still create a mix show alias and start a more serious account later.
Whilst most pro DJs with their own show typically produce one per week, it’s perfectly acceptable to do a fortnightly or even a monthly show when you’re starting out.
Tip #1: When listening back to your practice mixes, make sure you wait at least 24 hours after you’ve mixed it (or at the very least don’t listen to it straight away). You won’t believe how different your mixes sound a few days later, listening with ‘fresh ears’ as the listener rather than the person who mixed it.
Tip #2: Consider alternating what I’d call a ‘mess around session’ (practice session) with ‘mixtape recording sessions’. For example, depending on where you’re at, you might have 2 to 3 practice sessions for every recording session. During the practice sessions, you can learn to scratch, practice transitions, figure out software, or whatever else you need to do.
Tip #3: Use your DJ software to record and export your mixes.
#1: Music Radio Creative are my preferred source for DJ drops and radio jingles, etc. Highly recommend.
#2: You’ve likely already heard of Audacity. It’s is a free, open-source audio editing software you can use to edit your recordings.
#3: As I’ve already mentioned, use a tool like Canva for any kind of graphic design: mixtape covers, branding stuff, etc. You can do most things on there with a free account.
8. Take a relevant DJ Course
When I first started out back in 2000, online learning platforms and online DJ schools simply weren’t a thing. And knowing what I know now, taking an online DJ course is definitely something I would take advantage of today.
Simply put: the right online course (and/or tutor) can offer a clear direction, potentially saving months or even years of messing around and watching random videos on YouTube.
Now there’s obviously lots of online courses out there that ‘’teach’’ you how to become a DJ… some good, some not so good. Some focus on different skill-sets and others on what type of DJ you want to be.
Here at The DJ Revolution, we typically recommend Club Ready DJ School. Their courses focus on getting students ‘’Club Ready’’, so it’s fair to say it’s pretty relevant! It’s also cheaper than other ‘complete courses’ from the leading competitors.
If the timing isn’t right just now, I’d still recommend signing up to Andrew’s FREE Mini Course. That way he can keep in touch and let you know of any special offers, etc.
9. Consider choosing a DJ name (or at least research the topic)
One of the biggest mistakes I made was not taking the time to properly choose a DJ name. That – and not paying any attention to my personal brand.
Whilst I didn’t really care at the time, as I was just happy to be playing out and getting paid for it, I can now see the missed branding opportunity that was staring me right in the face.
This section is something you can potentially come back to, although it’s definitely worth researching sooner rather than later. Bear in mind, this topic relates to your personal brand as a DJ or artist, not business names, necessarily, as might be more relevant for mobile/event DJs – although the posts linked below will help you better understand that as well.
#1: How to choose a DJ name (this is a comprehensive guide. It breaks down the ‘crucial next steps’ after you’ve settled on a DJ name, which is perhaps the most important part)
#2: How to brand yourself as a DJ (heads up: this is another comprehensive guide. When you’re ready to learn more about personal branding, I think you’ll find it useful)
10. Find a font and create a typography logo
This point is basically an extension of the last section. In short: creating a typography logo is cheap, easy, and it’s an easy win.
Regardless of what you’re trying to achieve as a DJ, getting a unique typography logo is something that everyone can do. Whilst it might not be used on a festival flyer any time soon, this is a piece of your branding jigsaw that won’t break the bank.
Step 1: Find a font
There are tons of different sites you can use, such as FontBundles and MyFonts. Just be aware, if you use a free font from sites like Fontsly or Google Fonts, chances are it will only be for ‘personal use’ rather than ‘commercial use’.
If you’re a serious business entity and you want everything legally airtight, you’ll ideally want a font you can use commercially (just giving you the facts). Also, a free font will be less unique than a paid one.
Step 2: Create a typography logo
Once you’ve found a font you like, you’ll need to get a typography logo created …which is just your DJ name written in whatever font you’ve chosen.
Ideally you’ll have a graphic designer buddy to help you with this, or you can try doing it yourself on Canva. Just don’t spend hours & hours on this if you can’t figure it out! Instead, I’d recommend hiring someone to do it for you on a site like Fiverr.
Pro Tip: If it’s just a typography logo, Fiverr is great. If you sign up (for free) and type in ‘’logo typography’’ you can get someone to do it for about $20!
Here are some visual examples for inspiration:
11. Create a DJ/artist bio
If you don’t already have a DJ/artist bio, you’ll definitely need to create something, and you can always expand and improve on it later! This is potentially another quick win you could lock down in a few hours!
Without some kind of bio you’re not going to be taken seriously. It’s also a great opportunity to quickly communicate your story with the world whilst giving an insight into what fans are potential employers can expect from you as a DJ.
Here are some rough guidelines to follow, although it really depends in what context you plan on using it for. A professional DJ bio could include:
- A catchy headline that adds clarity to what follows
- Something about your background
- Something about your musical inspirations and/or mentors
- A description of your musical niche/style
- Any of your relevant achievements
- What you’re currently working on and/or what your plans are for the future
- A call to action at the end: a link to your website or preferred social media page, or even just an email address for bookings/enquiries
Depending on what you need it for, it’s good to have two versions:
- Short version (aprox 75-100 words)
- Full version (aprox 100-300 words)
Focus on being direct and authentic, and try not to overthink it. Once again, my comprehensive guide on personal branding can help with this.
My best tip here: When I wrote my first bio for one of my DJ aliases, I didn’t do any research whatsoever. Let’s say you plan on putting the bio on Mixcloud. Just start by writing whatever comes into your head, explaining what the listener can expect from the channel and maybe a bit about you and your brand. In other words, start within the context of ONE platform and go from there.
12. Create a dedicated DJ/artist website
Having your own website gives you a central hub for your brand. Here you can take client bookings, build an email list, and much more. Unlike social media pages, for example, this is effectively real estate that you own.
Even if you’re not ready to create a website yet – and assuming you’ve decided on a DJ name – be sure to lock away the ‘.com’ domain address as soon as possible. You can do this on websites like HostGator and Namecheap.
At a minimum, a good DJ/artist website should include:
- Your logo (your DJ name in typography will do, although it can include a symbol if you want – see Carl Cox’s home page for example. There are literally tons of logo websites out there, although to keep it simple, Fiverr is a cheap one-stop shop for any outsourcing help.)
- An about/bio page
- A clear way for people to get in touch with you (like a contact page)
- A clear option for people to enter their email address (Pro tips: Use the popup tool Hello Bar to collect email addresses and then use a platform like Aweber to manage them and send mass emails).
- Links to your social media pages.
Depending on where you’re at, this is obviously something that can be skipped or postponed until later.
13. Have a few practice sessions on CDJs
As I mentioned in point No.1: CDJs are the industry-standard club gear that’s typically set up in bars and clubs. Also note, as I mentioned in point No.2: Using Pioneer’s hardware with their Rekordbox software, whilst not essential, will be useful when making the transition onto CDJs.
All DJs setups essentially do the same thing: they allow you to mix two different music sources together with a mixer. The key buttons and functionalities to facilitate this are mostly the same, and so transitioning onto CDJs from ANY setup ISN’T that big of a deal.
You certainly don’t need to know what ALL the buttons do and what ALL the functions are before you can execute a DJ set on CDJs. If you think about it, this isn’t any different than when using a DJ controller in your bedroom.
The main problem here is that the fear of the unknown can cause significant anxiety, and it can even stop you from taking action all together, so you’ll want to minimize that fear before jumping onto CDJs in a live environment!
Find a local practice room that lets you pay by the hour to use their gear. This could be a local college, a music school, a recording studio, or even a pub in some cases.
The more expensive option would be to hire some CDJs for a month or two, although this will likely cost a few hundred dollars (at least) and assumes you have a half-decent credit rating.
Either of these options will drastically reduce your nerves when you first play out on CDJs, so it’s a no-brainer action step if you want to become a club DJ.
A quick story for more context:
The very first time I used CDJs, I was called out-of-the-blue and needed to show up within the hour at a venue I’d never played at before. The manager was a mate of mine and his DJ hadn’t showed up. Up until this point I’d only ever used turntables, so I was nervous as hell, and I obviously had no time to do any research or preparation!
I didn’t even have an appropriate CD collection at the time (this was 2007), and I had to use the venues very basic collection. STRESS, right?! After the first 10 minutes, once I’d mixed a few tracks and used all the essential functionalities necessary to execute a mix, I couldn’t believe what I was so worried about.
Whilst everything mostly went fine for me on that night, it’s not a situation you’d want to replicate if you can avoid it!
14. Create a hit list of local venues and start hustling
So then — it’s time to get ‘’REAL’’ gigs!!
From the perspective of becoming a ‘’club’’ or ‘’venue’’ DJ, it’s a pretty simple equation: if you don’t have a big social media following and you don’t know anyone in the industry, you’ll need to focus on building relationships and adding value on your local scene. And that means leaving the house!
Now sure, if you already have a massive social media following (thus the capability to entice promoters to book you based on you regularly getting tons of people through the door), then good for you! Truth is, for most early-stage DJs that just not realistic, and you can only get all your mates to show up once, as they say.
Step 1 (a rough guide):
Firstly, you’ll want to research any interesting venues/nights in your local town and/or city and make a nice long list of leads. Next, go through and research each one, checking their websites, social media, and Googling them to see what else pops up. If there’s a promoter, also check out their social feeds for more insight, making notes as you go.
For the most part, you should be looking for smaller venues where you’re more likely to get a conversation with the manager or promoter ….places you can more likely ‘’help out’’ and add value to.
Assuming you don’t already know anyone at the venue in question (and it’s basically a ‘’cold’’ lead), you’ll want to strategically visit them for a drink or two (not ten) to scope them out. If it feels right, you could even get friendly with the bar staff and subtly ask some probing questions. Just don’t be tempted to start pitching yourself.
Whilst it really depends on the venue/location, etc., consider introducing yourself to the manager or promoter. Show interest in their night and ask questions about it, telling them you’ll be back with your mates the following week.
Sure, you can let them know you’re a local DJ, but then QUICKLY move on to talking about them. Remember, you’ll need to get your foot in the door before ASKING for anything.
Figure out exactly WHO you’re going to ask for and WHAT you’re going to say. Loosely script and practice it if you think it will help. Providing you maintain that ‘’adding value’’ mindset throughout it shouldn’t feel like a pitch – so be confident in your convictions.
Oh yeah… and NEVER pay to play. You’re not a charity!
#1: Whilst I’m not suggesting you hand them out like flyers, a well-timed business card exchange can really help with how you’re perceived by potential employers. You can order physical business cards online via MOO.com.
Note: Your business card could also direct people to your Mixcloud or SoundCloud, so no need for handing out mixes on USB sticks (… and that doesn’t work anyway)!
15. Get a residency and continue to add value
Once you actually get that first slot and you’ve got your foot in the door, it’s time to become a regular fixture: to become a resident DJ!!
At this point, it’s crucial that you don’t just think ‘’right, I’m in now’’, and all of a sudden it’s about you. You’ll need to keep going the extra mile and adding value. This is just the beginning.
First night and general advice
Be mindful about the type of music being played at the venue, especially on the first night. It’s not as though the promoter has booked you based on your exact style (or your brand’s style, as would be the case with a ‘famous’ DJ), so it’s worth having that conversation with them. Definitely don’t assume you have free reign to play whatever you want!
At this point, just continue to be ‘’useful’’. Invite your friends down if you can and help promote the event across your social media channels. Get there early and thank the manager and/or promoter (or owner) when you leave. Be professional & courteous throughout.
One of my all-time DJ’ing heroes is Carl Cox. You can learn a lot from the way he interacts with people!
Keep your ego in check
I remember when I had my first overseas gig at a warm-up bar in Portugal. Whilst the circumstances were slightly different to what I’m explaining here, I basically played WAY TOO HARD when it was looking to be a quite night as I thought it wouldn’t do any damage.
The reality was, this simply wasn’t professional, and it wasn’t my call to do so. Suffice to say it made me look disrespectful, cocky and arrogant.
The lesson here: Don’t undo all your hard work early on by getting carried away with yourself. And never forget it’s NOT about you.
To become a regular fixture in ANY bar or club, the equation is mostly a simple one: the more useful you are the better chance you’ll become part of the furniture. When you think about it, it’s no different to most other ‘’jobs’’ in that sense.
Perhaps you have a specific skill-set or depth of knowledge that a potential venue could benefit from? It might be sound & lighting, email marketing, social media, or whatever.
Either way, in order to keep ahead of your competition (other DJs) the long-term game here is slow incremental improvement – so keep learning and improving, work hard, and maintain a mindset of SERVING rather than ‘’taking’’. If you can do this with passion & integrity then opportunities will eventually present themselves.
Additional tips on How To Become A DJ
Not exclusive to clubs DJs, here are some additional tips on how to become a DJ:
- Hang around with like-minded passionate people: If not other DJs or music industry folk, at least try and find other music lovers to mix with (no pun intended)!
- Get a mentor: If you’ve got a little bit of cash, the right DJ course can offer the perfect online solution for this. Failing that, an older DJ buddy might hold the keys to helping you. Failing that, get out there and meet people at venues – and just anywhere you can.
- Learn more about personal branding: We did a feature-length post on this. It discusses professional photos, branded email accounts, business cards, trademarking your DJ name, and more. Check it out here.
- Get a good DJ book: The better ones on the market include DJing For Dummies and Rock The Dancefloor. Additionally, I’d also recommend How To DJ Right. Whilst some of the content has dated (it was originally published in 1999 and updated in 2003), many of the core principles in here have stuck with me to this today!
Covering every conceivable sub-topic under the banner of how to become a club DJ is always going to be challenging, and they’ll surely be TONS of things I didn’t cover.
As a DJ, it took me SO many years to gain momentum, and by the time that I did life was already starting to dictate what happens next. My hope is that this post maps out some tangible action steps. Steps you can go ‘’all-in’’ with sooner rather than later.
If you are genuinely serious about becoming a successful club DJ, the only other advice I could give you is to treat the project like a business — and to work your arse off !!
How do I become a DJ?
Just to recap, these were our 15 action steps on how to become a club DJ:
- Research different DJ setups
- Buy a DJ controller and get started
- Make your music collection a top priority
- Pick 1 or 2 social media platforms and get started
- Focus on playing out (initial ‘training’ gigs)
- Set a specific goal and create an action plan
- Get started on Mixcloud & SoundCloud
- Take a relevant DJ course
- Consider choosing a DJ name
- Find a font & create a typography logo
- Create a DJ/artist bio
- Create a dedicated DJ/artist website
- Have a few practice sessions on CDJs
- Create a hit list of local venues & start hustling
- Get a residency and continue to add value
What’s the job of a club DJ?
One of the main jobs of a club/resident DJ is to control the energy flow in the room or venue, often with the objective of keeping the dancefloor moving as different people reach different stages of their night.
As well as developing the skill of “warming up” a room, there’s every chance you’ll have to play open-till-close, which could be 8 – 10 hours or more on occasions. This will give you the great pleasure of taking a dancefloor from completely empty, to ‘’Rockin’’!
How much do club DJs make?
Assuming you don’t have a large online fan-base, whilst it depends on which part of the world you live in and also the type & size of the venue, a resident club DJ would typically make somewhere between $30,000 and $100,000 US dollars a year (note: 50k a year is about $25 per hour based on a 40-hour week).
However, if you were a DJ for hire specialising in club-orientated private parties, you could potentially make a lot more, typically between $300 and $2,000 per party.
Do I need any qualifications to be a club DJ?
You don’t need any special qualifications to be DJ, regardless of DJ type. However, in addition to having a passion for what you do, and for the music of course, it’s certainly advantageous to have some basic people skills, charisma and business acumen.
How do I become a resident DJ at a club?
If you don’t have a big social media following and you don’t know people in the industry, the only way to get a club residency is to focus on building relationships and adding value on your local scene. In addition to that, you’ll need to work harder than your competition and generally treat the project like a business.
What is the difference between a mobile DJ and a club DJ?
Club DJs play in commercial venues such as bars, club-orientated bars, nightclubs, and festivals – whilst mostly using the industry-standard gear already set up in the venue, better known as Pioneer CDJs. Mobile DJs, however, play at private events like weddings, corporate functions and birthday parties, whilst using all their own equipment.
Where do club DJs get their music from
For the most part, Club DJs get their music from specialist downloads stores such as Traxsource and Beatport. Additionally, DJ record pools are another major music source for a variety of DJ types. These are specialist websites for working DJs that provide exclusive tracks directly from the various record labels they partner with.
What equipment do club DJs use?
Club DJs typically use the equipment already installed in the venue. This is usually two media players (CDJs) with some sort of mixer in the middle. More often than not, you’ll only need to take your music and your headphones.
Do club DJs still use vinyl?
Whilst it’s quite rare in a live environment these days, there are still plenty of DJs that use turntables as their primary equipment. The challenge is that most bars & clubs, if they have them at all, won’t have them set-up ready to go, and DJs are expected to use the default pro gear, better known as CDJs.
Where can I learn how to be a DJ?
Especially for aspiring club DJs, and for beginners, we like to recommend Club Ready DJ School. Their courses focus on getting students ”Club Ready” – and they’re also more affordable than the market-leading DJ courses.
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