Mill Essex
Alex Harrington. Credit: Mill Essex

So you want to be a DJ? Or maybe you’re a DJ already.

There is a running joke these days that says “everyone is a DJ” now. I have been doing it for seven years—and even that amount of time pales in comparison to the amount of experience others have.

This month, I’d like to share some things that I have learned over the years.

Know Your Goal: First things first—and that is to understand what you want to do. It’s important to be realistic, especially at the start. Do you want to play clubs? Weddings? Do you also want to create your own music? I think of what I do as a business—no different than being a plumber or doctor. The only difference is the medium with which you are working. As a DJ, it is important to know that most markets are over-saturated, so you’ll need to find a way to stand out. Your best shot is to find something that fits you.

Get on the Web: Having a presence on the internet is more vital than ever before. Social media is a great tool. Choose the networks that best fit your target audience. I like Instagram because it’s easy to digest: Photos, videos and short captions let your followers keep up with you. Facebook is also good, because you can run promotional ad campaigns and reach a targeted audience. No matter what your social media choices are, a website helps tie it all together. You can list links to your mixes, music, events and more—all in one place!

When in Doubt, Reach Out: I have had some people ask me: “How do you get your gigs?” The answer is pretty simple: I reach out to venues and promoters directly! If you know of a club that you want to play at, record a mix, and shoot the venue a short email. I find messaging via Facebook pages to be efficient at times. Think about why you would be a good fit for the venue. From a business standpoint, why should they hire you? How will you make them money?

Be Respectful: I live by the rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Over the years, it has never steered me wrong. No matter how big (or little) your local scene is, there are those who have been doing it for a longer time than you. I always made an effort to reach out to those in the scene with experience. If I wanted to play at a venue they were at, I would talk to them first. In that vein, don’t try to move in on a DJ’s residency. It may be tempting, but the best thing you can do is put yourself out there and perfect your craft. Things come in time.

Say No to Ego: This is a big one! No one likes someone who thinks they’re better than everyone else. I’m proud of what I have done, but I know there is always more to be done, and more to learn. In the music business, it is easy to get carried away. Be yourself, and learn how to market yourself in a way that feels right. If you enjoy what you do, you will connect with others—and the gigs will keep coming.

I hope you find these tips to be useful. I know that when I first started, I had to go it alone for a while. Everything takes time—so keep on working on getting better, and success will come!