Many of us got into DJing because we had a love of music, or we wanted to be in charge of rocking a party, or we were enthralled by the turntable mastery of someone like Q-Bert.
But that starry-eyed excitement only propels us so far. Most DJs will plateau and some point, both in regards to skill and in regards to career advancement.
Even a lot of “bedroom-only” DJs can feel stagnant and empty, watching their turntables collect dust in the corner and wondering if they are simply over that phase in their life.
What’s missing here is a desire to get serious about “purpose”.
What is your “why”?
Take some time to think about what you actually want to get out of DJing. Do you love sharing new music with a receptive audience? Do you like rocking a party with everyone’s favorite hits? Is it your job? Do you enjoy putting on a performance?
All of these types of questions have implications in regards to how to pursue DJing. Gaining clarity on this early on will help you to proceed from a more informed perspective.
If you already have a pretty active DJing schedule, take some time to get focused and organized. Many DJs assume that they are only “on duty” when they are behind the decks, but some off-hours preparation and promotion can do wonders in regards to advancing (and building a following).
Perhaps a bit too obvious for this type of post, but goal-setting is crucial for anyone wanting to further develop a career, interest, or hobby. Unless you’re completely satisfied with where you are, if you’re not setting goals — real, measurable goals, you’re already doing it wrong.
This is important both on a large and a small scale. If you have only large, pie-in-the-sky goals (e.g. “I want to be a famous superstar DJ!)… you’ll never take the time to figure out how to get there.
In episode 16 of The Passionate DJ Podcast, Joe Pardo explains to us the difference in defining short-term and long-term goals. Your big goals are in a constant state of change… ever-evolving as you advance through life, whereas small goals are constantly added.
(For more on this, you can listen to episode 16 right here.)
One more important point on this subject: it’s important to celebrate the completion of goals, big and small. Claim those small victories, and use them as motivation towards your bigger picture.
Some people are great at the “setting goals” part, but not so much when it comes to follow-through.
Advancement requires effort. Actual, legitimate effort. Elbow-grease. The grind.
DJs often whine and complain about a lack of gigs, a lack of Facebook followers, or a lack of interest in their latest mix. Yet, if you ask what steps they are taking to fix it, they can’t give you a good answer.
It may be pretty easy to “become” a DJ, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to succeed as one.
Want to learn how to scratch? Tried it once or twice and found it too difficult? Then you’re right… but the problem isn’t the level of difficulty, it’s you.
There’s no substitute for learning a craft than to dedicate the time it deserves.
When you’re invested in building up your community, it tends to give you a sense of focus. If you know what “your community” is (for instance, a local hip-hop scene or couples preparing for marriage), do everything you can to be the best at serving them. Make yourself a resource to others who may be having struggles of their own.
The idea here is positive networking. This leads to good working relationships, and some of them will even lead to real friendships. And that sort of camaraderie can do wonders.
My local dance music scene in Dayton, OH has almost entirely been rebuilt from the ground-up based on this sort of like-minded group effort. And some of that effort has lead to more, better gigs for me. And my skills have come in handy for many local promoters and DJs in my area. I’ve seen first hand that, so long as you get the right heads together, this stuff works.
If you have fans, interact with them. Make them feel special, because they are.