Is life as a DJ something you want? Do you love music and making people dance? Are you good with technology, and even better with a beat? That’s great, but you’ll need more to make it, including great people skills and a sharp business sense.
DJ, which is short of “disk jockey,” is a label that dates to the 1930s, when it was used to describe radio personalities who played records (or disks) live over the air (as opposed to those who broadcast live content instead). So life as a DJ basically just means playing recorded content to a live audience.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. Modern DJs mix tracks, distort sounds and match beats to create a sound that audiences can dance to, from song to song, without skipping a beat. And you have to be able to interact with a crowd, become part of the entertainment itself, to live life as a DJ.
Life as a DJ: The Fundamentals
Before you even get started in life as a DJ, ask yourself what kind of DJ you want to become. Do you plan to emulate the top earners who draw in thousands to giant raves and concert venues? Or are your feet a little closer to the ground, with an eye on wedding gigs and smaller parties?
Equipment is also a must. You may be able to do without it if you’re playing a large-scale or public gig, since your host may provide it. But you’ll need your own for private and smaller-scale events. The basics include a laptop, speakers, turntables or CD players, mixers, headphones, and a microphone. Specialized mixing software may also be helpful, depending on your audience and skill level.
The best sense you can give yourself of what life as a DJ is like is to spend time around your favorites. Most will gladly give you tips about techniques and how to manage a crowd, as long as they know you’re serious and can tell you know what you’re talking about.
Mixing, Matching and Expertise: Basic Skills in Life as a DJ
Any good DJ needs to know a few basic skills. The most important in life as a DJ is mixing, which is basically just the arranging of songs in an order that sets the right mood for the audience and occasion. This is important whether you’re DJing a bar mitzvah or a rave. DJs may mix before performing, but many improvise, especially with large audiences where the DJ is a key part of the performance.
Beatmatching is a technique that allows DJs to jump between songs without skipping tempo or experiencing dead air. This is especially important to DJs who play for crowds that expect seamless dance music for long stretches of time.
Musical expertise is also essential to any DJ, big or small. If it’s a popular form of danceable music, you need to know everything about it, from house and progressive to hip-hop and techno.
Starting out, set high hopes but low expectations. There are too many DJs and not enough gigs, so you’ll be in for a tough road. Expect your first gigs to be small, the kind of parties or dead nights at bars that pay peanuts. Whatever you do, hold onto your day job for the time being.