How To Get DJ Gigs: 10 REAL-WORLD Methods For 2024!

photo of a guy mixing on a DJ controller

It’s been a while coming, but we’ve finally gathered together our favourite tried-and-tested strategies on how to get DJ gigs!

Each idea stands on its own, and within them, you’ll discover plenty of smaller tips that can be used independently to improve your situation.

Let’s jump straight in.

1. Be Your Own PR Machine (the ‘Acting as If’ Principle)

Photo of a main doing PR

Beginner strategy 👇 👇

When I say ‘be your own PR machine’, I’m really referring to the ‘Acting as If’ principle.

Another way to describe it could be ‘’leveraging the power of self-promotion and word of mouth’’, although it’s not quite as punchy!

Firstly, for this to work, you’ll need to hang around with like-minded people. In addition to other DJs or music industry folk, try to find other music lovers and partygoers – people who are more likely to prioritize the music at birthdays, weddings, barbecues, and so on. This can potentially apply to ALL your networks or friendship groups.

If you’re their mate who constantly talks about ‘’being a DJ’’ behind closed doors, who do think they’ll ask first when something pops up?!

Separately, if you’re invited to a house party, barbecue, or whatever, be that person who takes their DJ controller.

The principle is very simple: If you tell people you’re a DJ, and act as such, then opportunities WILL eventually present themselves.

It was through this Acting as If mindset and hanging around with like-minded people that I got to play at numerous house parties and also a staff Xmas party early on, which ultimately gave me the confidence to call myself a DJ – which eventually led to me getting actual paid gigs.

I talk about this principle more in this blog post.

2. Play For Free …Or Offer a ‘Free Trial’

photo of a female DJ using pro gear

Beginner/intermediate strategy 👇 👇

Certainly for beginners and ‘early stage’ DJs, offering to play for free in small-to-medium-size local venues, or perhaps a trial period, can be a great strategy to get your foot in the door. As money generally talks for venue managers and promotors, it’s a good way to eliminate the financial risk from their perspective.

Not only that, if your online presence and playing out experience isn’t fantastic, it’s a good way to bypass this as being the primary focus of a decision!

Whilst no set of circumstances will be the same, if you are going to do it, be sure to set clear expectations from the start. State what your rate will be after the free night or trial period, explaining that this is your ‘usual’ rate, whilst keeping the conversation business-like and professional.

I’d suggest you view this strategy as a tool in your toolkit rather than a default option!

3. Become a Mobile DJ

photo of a mobile DJ and portable PA system

Entrepreneurial strategy 👇 👇

Embracing open-format DJing (i.e., playing all sorts of genres and whatever the gig in question requires) is another great way to get more DJ gigs. Providing that you’re willing to work at it, it’s also a fantastic way to gather a wealth of varied playing out experience.

Mobile DJs typically play private events: weddings, birthday parties, corporate functions, and so on – and you’ll need to use your own portable PA system and lighting setup, etc. – so it’ll require more of an upfront investment than other methods.

Using the microphone is also more commonplace when compared to bar & club DJs, for example.

Whilst it won’t be for everyone, becoming a mobile DJ is a legitimate way to build a business around doing what you love, ultimately giving you more control over your income.

You could even do it as a part-time thing whilst working on that ‘’DJ-producer dream’’; and you can always get pickier later on as you gain more experience and credentials.

4. Promote Your Own Night

Picture of a bull horn (promotion image)

A marketer’s strategy 👇 👇

Starting your own bar/club night is another great way to garner experience as a DJ, whilst learning a hell of a lot in the process! Here are some thoughts based on my personal experience:

Certainly for your first attempt, you’ll want to prioritize smaller venues that are better suited to your musical style: places that are (perhaps) struggling to get punters through the door as they’ll be more willing to ‘’try things out’’.

Once you’ve identified some key targets, start brainstorming ideas for each venue, considering how you intend to promote the gig based on the target audience and local scene.

At a bare minimum (as well as inviting all your mates down, of course), you’ll want to promote the event on social media, create event flyers, and even inform the local press or newspaper that has relevant event listings.

You could even get another DJ friend involved for moral support; someone who’s happy getting paid on a results basis and maybe has other skillsets that you don’t. This also frees up the other DJ that’s not currently playing to engage on social, take pictures, shoot videos, and so on. Depending on the venue/location, they can even stand outside with flyers offering drink promos, etc.

The first weekend of the month can increase your chances of success as people on monthly salaries are more likely to be out. If it’s a free entry night, you’ll want to agree on a percentage of the bar take, with 15% being a good ballpark.

For me, it was more of a way to further my playing out experience rather than a money-making exercise. I go deeper into how it worked for me in the post: How I Got My First ‘Real’ Gig.

5. Move To An Overseas Resort

Photo of a DJ playing overseas

A hustler’s strategy 👇 👇

This one is worth considering if you’re in the position to do so, or indeed if you’re looking for an adventure. I did it myself many years ago and I’ve heard a ton of stories about DJs that got started by ‘’moving to Ibiza’’.

First, I’d recommend making a shortlist of locations and doing some thorough research: considering what the music scene is like, how busy it gets, visa situations (if applicable), and which places are seasonal only in terms of tourism.

Next, ideally book a holiday or visit multiple places for shorter weekend trips to your favourites – making sure you choose resorts with a robust nightlife that employ at least some English-speaking staff. If you live in Europe, places in the Balearic Islands, the Canaries, and Majorca would probably be on that list!

From there, visit as many smaller bars & clubs as you can, explaining that you’re a DJ who’s considering moving there, asking them how busy it gets in the summer & winter months. Focus on making friends and connections rather than just peppering people with questions!

Keep in mind that this strategy isn’t an exact science, and it’s something you should pursue based on its own merit. And, to be clear, you should already have some playing out experience under your belt, viewing this as a way of keeping things exciting and moving the ball forward.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Things won’t always go as planned, and if you run out of money you’re coming home! That said, having backup skillsets such as hospitality experience will increase your chances of success.

For more insight, also check out my post ‘5 Things I Learned as a Commercial DJ’.

Here’s a great quote:

‘’The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.’’

George Bernard Shaw

6. Create A Hit List of Venues in Your Local Area

A hustler’s strategy 👇 👇

If we’re talking about venues that already have DJ gear, I’ve created a rough guide on what you need to do below.

Bear in mind that the other option is to target places that DON’T have a setup but would potentially benefit from having a DJ rather than simply using a streaming service. In this instance, just ask them to give you a free trial and tell them you’ll bring all the gear.

Step 1 (venues with gear):

Similar to the research process in No.4 (promoting your own night), firstly, you’ll want to research interesting venues or nights in your local town and/or city and make a nice long list of leads.

Next, go through each one checking their websites and social media, Googling them to see what else pops up. If they have a promoter, check out their social feeds for more insight and make notes as you go.

You should ideally be targeting smaller venues where you’re more likely to get a conversation with the relevant decision maker – places you can ‘’help out’’ and add value to.

Step 2:

Assuming that you don’t have any friends or connections at the venue, and it’s basically a ‘’cold’’ lead, you’ll want to strategically visit them for a drink or two (if they’re alcoholic, not ten!) to scope them out.

Note: Even if you DO know someone there it’s a similar process.

If it feels right, consider getting friendly with the bar staff and ask some probing questions: find out who the venue manager, promotor, or owner is. Just don’t be tempted to start pitching yourself at this point.

Whilst it depends on the individual circumstance, 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 for a few drinks the following week.

Sure, you can let them know you’re a local DJ, but QUICKLY move on to talking about THEM and the venue. Remember, you’ll need to get your foot in the door before asking for anything!

Once you’ve built up some rapport (bear in mind this could be 2 or 3 visits later), figure out exactly WHAT you’re going to say for your approach. Consider what they might need help with and if those things are within your realm of expertise (think sound & lighting / social media, etc.).

Providing you maintain that ‘’adding value’’ mindset throughout, your approach shouldn’t feel like a pitch. Maybe suggest a free trial or promoting your own night? Be confident and direct.

Again, this is only meant to be a rough guide, but it should get you started.

7. Start A Mix/Radio Show

Photo of a neon light sign saying 'radio show'

Long-game strategy 👇 👇

Apart from being really cool, starting a radio show on a platform like Mixcloud is a great way to showcase your skills, style, and musical preferences. Furthermore, it signals to others that you’re committed to your craft and have a passion for music!

It’s also the perfect way to start cataloguing your body of work as a DJ, and you can easily share links to your mixes on social media and via your website if you have one. Moreover, in combination with physical business cards, you’ll be able to direct potential clients to your Mixcloud page, eliminating the need to hand out USB sticks.

Whilst this one is more of a long-game strategy, and perhaps not a standalone solution to getting DJ gigs, it’s a component that shouldn’t be overlooked.

There are some fantastic solutions for radio DJs nowadays. DJ.Studio, for example, saves you a bunch of time putting the actual mixes together and companies like Music Radio Creative who provide custom DJ drops, radio jingles, and so on.

8. Connect/Network With Other DJs

Strategy for resident bar & club DJs 👇 👇

This one is easy pickings if you already have a regular slot in a bar or club: a strategy known as ‘DJ swaps’. For this, whether locally or nationally, you’ll want to maintain a healthy network of other DJs.

From a marketing/branding perspective, this is usually a strategic ‘gig-for-gig’ swap, where typically no money would change hands. The benefits being that both DJs gain a broader variety of experience whilst potentially gaining more connections/fans/followers in the process – ultimately leading to more gigs!

Also, from a practical perspective, maybe you have a last-minute family emergency to attend to or you’re sick on that day. As the resident DJ, you wouldn’t want to let your employer down, and being able to recommend someone to fill in looks a lot better than simply cancelling.

I’ve been asked to cover for a mate before who had something come up – so simply knowing other DJs in your locale can result in more gigs with no extra effort!

9. Focus On Building A Brand (And An Online Presence)

branding image

Long-game strategy 👇 👇

This one is kind of self-evident …and multi-faceted …so I’ll keep it short & sweet. First, here’s a quick definition of what it means to develop your personal brand:

ℹ️ Developing your personal brand as a DJ or artist is about taking what you’ve already got – your skills and personality, etc – and packaging it up into something more marketable in a way that makes sense to potential fans and employers. It’s basically how you’re perceived whenever someone interacts with you (that’s your brand) – whether in person or online.

Here are some things to consider taking action on – all of which will increase your chances of getting more DJ gigs:

  • Create a DJ/artist bio
  • Choose a DJ name
  • Find a font and create a typography logo
  • Get started on Mixcloud and SoundCloud
  • Pick one social media platform and get started
  • Put out content, consistently
  • Get professional photos taken
  • Create a dedicated DJ/artist website
  • Create an email account that syncs with your brand/website domain name
  • Get business cards

For a deeper dive into these points and personal branding, check out this post.

10. Work Harder Than Everyone Else

If you’re serious about getting more DJ gigs, the only other advice I could give you is to work your arse off !!

As the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, ‘’We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.’’

My take on that: Beat on your craft every single day … and hustle like crazy!!

Wishing you all the very best.

More Tips On How To Get DJ Gigs

1. Register for DJ agencies

Registering with DJ agencies and entertainment directories can offer increased online visibility, expanding your reach to potential clients. Additionally, these platforms act as trusted sources of talent, enhancing a DJ’s professional reputation in the industry.

I’d only advise you to take this step once you’ve established some kind of brand. Make sure you research them thoroughly before joining or reaching out.

2. Produce your own music

There’s no doubt that the credibility of being a producer can attract the attention of event organizers and promoters – thus increasing your chances of getting booked.

In saying that, we don’t believe you should produce music to get DJ gigs. Rather, you should produce music because that’s what you want to do!

3. Take an online DJ course

Online DJ courses are a great way to fast-track your path to playing out and getting gigs.

Here are The DJ Revolution, we like to recommend Club Ready DJ School. Whilst their courses focus on getting students ‘’Club Ready’’, it’s just a great all-rounder for any aspiring DJ, and more affordable than other complete DJ courses on the market.

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    Ever since I could get into 'proper' nightclubs, I've loved everything about the underground dance scene. Having always been an avid music collector, the short story is, I used to DJ at a handful of bars & clubs around Europe through the 2000s - playing out mostly lounge, funky house, and open-format/commercial stuff. I’m also the Founder & Chief Editor here at The DJ Revolution.

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