How to Land Your First DJ Gig
You’ve picked up DJing as a hobby, a few years ago, during the pandemic, or even this past summer; and things are getting more serious. After committing hours of practice, you’re finally gaining the confidence and skills you need to perform in front of a crowd. How will you go from being a bedroom DJ to landing that first DJ gig performing for an audience?
As the leading brand of DJ controllers for beginners, it’s a question we’ve been asked many times, and we’re happy to share some advice we’ve collected from our community and from the personal experiences of some of our team members, many of whom are working DJs! One thing to note is that everyone starts somewhere; whether you have a background in music, whether you’ve been DJing for long or just a few months, the biggest hurdle for first-time DJs is getting that first opportunity to perform outside of your bedroom. And we get it, it can be really daunting to put yourself outside of that comfort zone!
There are many ways to get that first DJ gig, and no set rules or cards to play that will work for everyone. A lot of factors will also come into play: where you live, what type of music you play, what kind of venues or events host local DJs in your city, who you know in the scene, etc. Getting out there will eventually pay off once you put yourself in the right mindset and start paving your way with these simple tips for first-time DJs below.
1. Soak in your local scene
– Get to know the scene you’re hoping to be a part of! Where do DJs who play similar genres as you typically perform? Is there a collective that is best known for the sound you play? Whether that’s tech house, house, disco, R&B or anything else in between, identifying where (and for who) you are interested in playing will help you get closer to the DJs, promoters, and audiences you should connect with. Attend these events with a mission in the back of your mind: how can YOU join them?
2. Start building a digital presence
– There’s no doubt that social media plays a bigger role than ever in the DJ space. It’s important to make yourself known and create an identity for yourself online, because this is most likely how bookers will find you when searching for new local talent and will be the first place they look once you express interest in joining them. Record your mixes and put them online, either via SoundCloud or Mixcloud. Share them on social media by creating an artist page and start spreading the word!
3. Get involved and network
– If you only post a few mixes online, chances are still pretty good that you won’t have gigs offered to you without a little extra effort. You need to connect with people from the scene: other local DJs, promoters, party goers, organizers, you name it! Treat every new connection like an opportunity to share what you’re all about. The important thing here is to stay authentic and to not force yourself onto a lineup that doesn’t fit your brand. If you speak to a promoter or organizer, pitch yourself to them and see if they’d be open to hearing one of your mixes. If they like it, they could offer you an opening slot at one of their events!
4. Start your own movement
– Sometimes, if your city is saturated with DJs and you have trouble getting that shot at your first live DJ performance, put on your own night at a small club, bar, or other small business (cafes, clothing stores, street fairs, etc)! Build an audience, book local DJs you want to be associated with to join you, and you can build your brand and reputation from your own proactive initiatives. Invite all your friends and acquaintances and your new contacts in the DJ community to support you on your journey. Organizing your own events can be a springboard for bigger and better opportunities.
Once you’ve landed that first DJ gig, make sure you do what you can to get the word out and show you can draw a crowd! DJing has become more competitive, so you have to put in the extra work to secure those next gigs. Act professionally with everyone you work with and treat your gig like you would any other job: arrive early, deliver a great set and thank the promoters for the opportunity. Stick around and interact with the crowd, the promoters, and other DJs after your set, odds are you’ll get great feedback and praise that will give you the fuel to keep going and repeat the process!
The most important constant in all of this is to have fun. Becoming a DJ for the right reasons, namely because you enjoy mixing and sharing the music you love with others will propel you further than you can ever imagine. Don’t give up on your dreams of becoming a DJ and just keep spinning!
Ready to take the next step towards your first DJ gig? Make sure you have a performance-ready DJ controller that can handle the scope of your first small gigs. The DJControl Inpulse 500 features four extendable/retractable non-slip feet to elevate your mixing, a hardware mixer for the audio inputs, a dedicated Filter/FX area with awesome effects… and so much more.