So you want to be a DJ?
Making $ playing music at parties. Who wouldn’t want to be a DJ? Sounds like a dream – almost too good to be true.
Fortunately, it isn’t. Thousands of people – myself included – across the U.S. are living this dream every day and making straight cash because of it.
The good news? So can you.
Below are 5 steps on how to become a money-making DJ.
- Type of DJ
- Skills Needed
- Equipment Needed
- Find a Gig
1. Determine What Kind of DJ You Want to Be
There are 2 different types of DJs:
– Big Name DJs (festival DJs, house-hold names)
– Mobile DJs (club/party DJs, wedding DJs, etc.)
For this article we are going to be talking about the Mobile DJ category. If you are looking for an article on how to become the next Skrillex, this isn’t it. If this is you, and you are a beginner, there is still plenty of value to be found here.
2. Skills Needed to Become a DJ
There are a few skills every DJ worth his/her salt should master in order to be successful. Note, these are not technical skills. We will cover those later.
1. Know Your Audience – this is critical. Let me repeat…this is critical. If you don’t know your audience, you won’t know what to play. A DJ that doesn’t know what to play is useless.
Before every gig, I do my homework.
College Party? Easy. Search “college party” on Spotify.
Wedding? Send out a questionnaire to the couple with a section titled “list music genres here”.
Corporate Event? Strike up conversation with the person who booked you for the event (they are usually there early to setup). Get a feel for what type of music would be appropriate for the event. However you do it doesn’t matter. The important thing is….
Never show up to a gig unprepared.
2. Reading The Dance Floor – What I like to call DJ Intuition. A DJ could have zero skill in mixing/beat-matching (we’ll cover this another time), no basic knowledge of DJ equipment, & a poor setup in general……..and still kill it.
DJ Intuition in action is a thing of beauty.
Some inherently have this skill before ever becoming a DJ (yes, you aux-chord experts). Most people, however, have to acquire this skill through a mixture of Step 1 and good-ole-fashion practice.
3. Hustle –
“There’s no such thing as a free lunch”
You’re going to have to hustle.
Hustle to pay for equipment to get started. Hustle for gigs. Hustle for networking.
Hustle, hustle, hustle.
This is how I got started. I practiced constantly. I carried my gear around everywhere I went if I was going out. If we were going to a party, I’d show up early and talk with the hosts to see if they would let me DJ. My friends made fun of me at first but…
They weren’t laughing long when, in a matter of months, I landed a gig with over 1000 people and brought in around $2100 cash. All in a single night.
But this story is for another time.
The DJ grind is a hustle at the beginning – and hustling is a skill.
Learn it. Get good at it. Do it.
3. Equipment Needed to Become a DJ
Ahh – DJ gear. Now the fun begins! For this article, we will only discuss the absolute basics – The Bare Necessities if you will.
If you’re looking for comprehensive DJ equipment reviews, you can expect those very soon. For the sake of this article, I will only mention the equipment I use for examples of each category.
With that being said, let us begin.
There are 5 main categories of DJ Equipment:
I am very biased when it comes to laptops so this will be the shortest category of the 5.
There is only 1 option, in my humble opinion, when it comes to selecting a laptop to begin DJing:
The MacBook Pro.
Yes, it is on the higher-end when it comes to DJ laptops
no other laptop comes close.
I have played around on other laptops but this is all I’ve ever used and will ever use for my setup.
You can find the new 2018 model here.
(If you want a more in-depth and less biased review of DJ Laptops, my friends over at – https://www.technobezz.com/best/best-laptops-djs-buy/ – have wrote a good article discussing the best laptops for different price points (High-Low) and needs.)
You’ve got your laptop, great. Now were are going to need some software.
There are a few options out there, but the big 3 are:
– VirtualDJ Pro
– Serato DJ
– Nativ Instruments Traktor Pro
As we discussed earlier, this isn’t a comprehensive DJ Equipment review. Expect detailed reviews here soon.
All three of these are excellent programs and all three offer free trails – so download them all and play around with them to see what you prefer.
Personally, I use VirtualDJ. Serato & Nativ have been known to monopolize their software with certain equipment so I find VirtualDJ to be the most hassle-free when it comes to using mixers, which we are about to get into.
3. Mixers (mixers, boards, decks, etc.)
A mixer is an essential tool for every DJ. It’s essentially the physical “instrument” a DJ uses to navigate through mixing & selecting songs, adding effects, etc.
There are 2 types of mixers:
Scratch mixers are what you would traditionally associate with an old school DJ using vinyl records to spin tracks. While there are still some who practice this lost-art, most have switched over to Digital Mixers. The benefits of a digital mixer (portability, cost, technologically up-to-date, etc.) have simply all-but-eliminated scratch mixers.
As I’ve said earlier, we will have more in-depth reviews coming soon so for now I will tell you what I use:
Pioneer DDJ-SR2 Portable Controller
I can’t say enough good things about the DDJ-SR2 – it’s got all the features an experienced pro needs while also keeping the profile simple enough for a beginner to use. You can check it out here.
Probably the most stylish piece of DJ gear – ironically also the least important.
I know, I know. Everyone wants the cool DJ headphones – “hanging on one ear & off the other” look. The truth is – when you are first starting out, headphones really aren’t all that important.
The only function headphones will carry out when first starting is as a substitute for speakers if you don’t have any, or if you must keep the noise to a minimum while practicing. And for this beginners guide, that is all we are sticking to.
For those of you who must know what I use – here you go.
If you’re gonna be a DJ, you’re gonna have to get some speakers. Some guys will insist that speakers aren’t necessary for DJs because most venues will have a system already
These guys are wrong. Don’t be like these guys.
Seriously, the only way you can be a DJ and not have any need for your own speakers is if you’re an established club DJ that plays at venues with sound systems. And even these guys had to have started with speakers – as no one goes from beginner to playing paid gigs at clubs.
I have a top-of-the-line system now but when I first started out, I was running a Mackie Thump 15 for all my gigs. Eventually, I ended up buying a 2nd to pair with the original but if you are just starting out, one will do the trick.
These are great beginner speakers that carry sound well and pack a punch on the deep-end. You can find them here.
Okay. You’ve done the research, bought some gear, and are ready to get started!
Want to know something?
No one cares.
Seriously, no one
No amount of gear in the world will magically make you a good DJ. You could go blow thousands & thousands of dollars on gear and it wouldn’t amount to anything, except maybe a mad girlfriend/wife.
There’s only 1 thing on this planet that can make you a good DJ…
We’ve all heard it – “practice makes perfect”. I’ve got news for you….it’s true.
No matter what you do in life, the only way to get better is practice. I know practice isn’t sexy. In today’s age of instant gratification & shortened attention spans, telling someone they have to put in the work isn’t much of a crowd-pleaser.
you know what is?
Being a good DJ (see what I did there)
All jokes aside, you must practice your craft to hone in your skill. When I first started DJing, all I could think about was going home and getting on my MacBook to practice. I wanted to be good. I wanted to be great.
I put in the work – and it paid off.
Less than two months after I began my journey into DJing I got the call to DJ a massive event in my city, we’re talking hundreds and hundreds of crazy college kids. Had I not spent all that time practicing, I would not have been ready to perform at such an event & I probably wouldn’t be writing to you from the position I’m in today.
If you want to be good, you must practice. No one has ever said a party was lit (for any of you more seasoned readers out there, this is a common expression nowadays for something that is favorable or good) when the DJ sucked, but I know for a fact a good DJ can turn a lame party into a banger.
Put the work in. It will pay off.
5. Find A Gig
You’ve determined you want to be a mobile DJ.
You’ve considered the skills it’s going to take.
You’ve bought your gear.
You’ve put in the work.
Now it’s time to make you some $. You are ready to go forth and take the DJ scene by storm.
Since this is a beginner article, we won’t go into the details about tips on finding gigs but rather, offer some general, one-size-fits-all advice.
The key to landing any gig when first starting out is very simple…..persistency. You must be persistent.
You also must be creative. Think about what type of events people you know or are surrounded by put on that may need or could use a DJ (there’s more than you’d think)
I was in college when I first really started DJing.
Instead of just going out with my buddies to parties like I usually did, I’d offer to drive and I’d keep all my equipment in the car. We’d show up early to anything and everything we could so I could talk to the host of the party to see if they’d want a free DJ.
Knowledge is power and good information such as this is hard to come by. If you know anyone who has aspirations of becoming a DJ, share this with them. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below or send us an email.
Until next time,