When I was 17 I went to my first ever music festival, and I absolutely fell in love. I had never seen anything quite like it, I had never met so many amazing people in my life as I have at those music festivals. When I looked up at the DJ's I knew from that moment, I wanted to trade places with them. I knew that for the rest of my life I wanted to be a part of that scene, and I wanted to be big. Enter college, I kept going and bought my own gear, and I learned with the help of my best friend how to DJ. A lot goes into it. It really doesn't become so much like being an interactive playlist- but it should be smooth. Your ultimate goal is to make your entire set like one long track. Each song should more or less seamlessly blended. I have DJ'd weddings, quinceneras, night clubs, house parties, raves, warehouses, and even school dances. So I've written this article to teach all the things I wish I knew when I first started. Here's 5 things that go into being a DJ, and why college is the best time to start. (these are pretty generalized, but I will have more in depth guides coming later on.)
5. It isn't always "fun"
Some people think that being a DJ means that you just party all the time. For some bigger DJ's who make millions per set list, that might be the case, but there is no shortcut to fame and fortune with the music industry. Every single time you are ready to go play you need to conisder, where are you playing? (venue) Who are you playing for? (audience) who are you playing with? (headliners, openers, etc.) It becomes tedious to plan but it's a rewarding experience, if you aren't up to this challenge, perhaps DJing isn't for you. You should listen to your track list from beginning to finish. You should know the tempo/s of each track before you are putting up on your sets. You should memorize the order before your set. All of this work will make your set go more smoothly. Always have your set done the night before, always add back up tracks into your set as just in case tracks. When you get to your venue (or before preferrably) coordinate with the other DJ's so there is minimal overlap in tracks. Every good DJ has a taste that is uniquely theirs. Adding in this is what will seperate you from other DJ's. Next you must learn the technicalities. If you have a gig, I assume you already know how to DJ. Now, when you love music you'll find that even the tedious parts can become fun. I love hand picking tracks to go into my set. I love the process because I get to discover all these new tracks.
4. DJing is more than just pressing play:
Commonly there is the notion that DJing is as easy as pressing play. It isn't. You aren't spotify, yet people will treat you as such. You should decide early on if you are a DJ that takes request. You'll find that as your reach legitmacy as a DJ you will be more and more in control of your sets. If you have started to look into it, you must practice. Practice your sets, record your mixes, learn how to blend and mix tracks. Your set list should flow like an ocean wave, smooth, cresting in the middle, and towards the end- and closing tracks should be a little softer so the crowd can jam out what you're putting down. Learning how to beatmatch is NON-NEGOTIABLE. No matter how expensive your software is nothing beats out a good ear, and good rhythym. I can tell you that this is important. As I said earlier, you gotta know your audience, venue, genre, and your own skills and talents. Learning how to read a crowd is also important.
3. You will make mistakes.
As you start DJing, no one is perfect. You will make mistakes. You gotta be able to fix them on the fly, and learn from them. You will have gigs where you humiliate yourself. Luckily you have my guide to minimize the gravity of what happens. You could have a 1.2 second issue, fix it and then pick up where you should have been and it will be all good. The thing is if you don't pratice frequently, it will show. You can practice tricky BPM mismatches.
2. Different strokes for different folks
Everyone has a taste in music. I have never met someone who doesn't like music. Generally speaking if you're going to DJ, Electronic Dance Music is a natural segway into it. Most people start DJing with EDM. It is in my opinion the easiest to blend, and the most readily accessable. Not everyone likes EDM. This being said, your best friend in the DJ world is networking. You should keep in mind that when you meet people that they are also networking. Once you are a DJ you become a product and learning how to sell yourself is really going to be your gateway to advance. Your audience and headliners/openers will vary from gig to gig, but don't go seeking gigs at a hip hop club (know your venue know your audience) and spin EDM! It seems logical but more often than not your first steps will be odd job gigs until you find your first residency. Here are some first steps to get you advanced, 1) get gear, and learn it well. 2) record your mixes, and publish them regularly- send to your friends. 3) network, seek out gigs, market yourself. 4) practice, practice, practice. 5) always seek out new music. Do this for the right reasons. Do it for the music.
1. Sit down, be humble.
As Kendrick Lamar said, "Sit down, be humble." Don't be afraid to start simple. Don't invest in a extremely expensive gear to get the best and newest. Chances are, you won't get a return on your gear. You will take a loss. Being a DJ more often than not will not pay off for most people who start. I have been in the scene a long time, and I have to say: people are always washing out and giving up the dream. This might happen to you for various reason, maybe you can't pursue it due to life constraints, monetary constraints, or your priorities change, and so in that college is a great time to discover if it's something you want continue pursuing. I sold my gear once I got into college. I bought intermediate gear. I loved my gear, it was the best rig I ever owned, and I really miss it. Now I'm in a better place in my life and so I've decided to come back to it. There is a lot of learning involved, and all these tips I'm giving you are things I wish I knew I started. College is the best place to figure out whether or not you want to be a DJ. Before you go out and buy some gear, I strongly recommend you start with Virtual DJ. Familiarize yourself with it- and you can learn beatmatching, tempo comparison in the application. Eventually, you can get a controller to interface with the software and you just need a plug in and you're ready to start DJing (once you get the basics down.) Virtual DJ is an acceptbale way to learn the ropes, just don't use the automation as a crutch- because it's not always perfect and I promise you if you don't take the time to learn, you'll trainwreck during your sets even if VDJ beatmatches for you. As I've siad before, even the most intricate software can't replace a good ear and rhythym.