There is a clear distinction between top-performing DJs and amateurs – or those who do not master the craft. One of the most fundamental aspects of mastering the craft of DJing is preparation – every gig is uniquely different: The audience, expectations, available material sometimes even the event presenter. Experienced DJs identify this and spend days, weeks or months, preparing prior to gigs, selecting and organizing favorite tracks to ensure that they match, preparing new and unique elements to thrill crowds, figuring out their outfits and how they will present themselves and researching new and interesting trends. These kinds of preparations transform hobbies into a profession, separating professional DJs from amateurs.
Each audience expects to be thrilled. People will pay higher prices to attend events if they know that they are guaranteed to have a great time, be entertained and positively surprised. It is your job as a DJ to make the audience comfortable and make them feel that you are a master of your craft. The audience needs to believe that your DJing is genuine passion and artistry, and believe that you were hired because you have a gift that cannot be taught, downloaded or bought.
Spontaneous creativity , based on the audience’s reaction, builds confidence and a solid following because the audience will easily realize that they will not be let down by your artistic choices or music selection. They may not know the song but they will trust your judgement. Because you play it, they will like it. This is how you show people that you are a professional and that you are proficient in your craft without verbally telling them how great you are.
Another element of the performance is punctuality – never be late for gigs. Events depend on energy. As a DJ, if you are all set up and ready to start playing when the show starts, you will have a head-start on the positive energy and vibe. It will now be left to your skill as a DJ to keep the energy going. There are no valid excuses for being late. If for some unexpected reason you will be late, make sure that the event promoter has enough time to prepare for a backup DJ, pending your arrival.
Upon arrival at the event, you must look the part: Clean, well dressed, and in a proper condition. This means being sober, rested, and possessing energy created by good meals, good exercise and with all your equipment. Leave all personal drama out of the profession – bring your A game to every set. It does not matter whether you are playing the opening slot at a car lot or the headlining spot at a festival. These are the moments where you climb the ladder, so give yourself every advantage possible.
Every DJ has their own method of getting into the groove, depending on their persona and the image that they have created for themselves. Despite this, there is a general formula which seems to work for most DJs.
Here is a suggestion: Open with something awesome, something that most people would not have heard, something that gets you as the DJ truly excited, and whenever possible, something that is longer than three or four minutes. This will give you time to settle in, observe the audience, shake off the jitters, and create massive excitement all at the same time.
Immediately follow that with an absolute show stopper of a track, something that you will not have trouble mixing, in case there are still artists from the last set trying to unplug their gear or move their stuff. This will stop the audience in their tracks. This will make them realize the change in tempo and they will want to see the DJ that is now in control of the music.
Sometimes acquaintances will be try to talk to you and gain your attention. The first few minutes of every set can be challenging. Getting into your groove, getting everyone out of the way and dealing with the early nervousness, are necessary tasks. Having a way to politely let these people wait is very important. Prepare for this early chaos and have enough solid material to play earlier on without the need to see the reaction of the audience because you have already done your research and know exactly what the audience likes. Play a few back-to-back tracks or prepared mixes that you know are absolute monsters, and easy to mix; mixes that allow you ten or so minutes to get you settled and into your groove.
While on set, always remember to smile. You can’t expect everyone else to have a great time and be excited if you do not look like you are having fun yourself. Create the vibe with your movements and energy on stage. No one will get the dancefloor moving for you, so let your body and energy be the magnet that pulls people into your performance. Do not be rattled if you make a mistake. When you are onstage DJing, time seems to move slowly. While you are busy noticing every beat and are focused on everything the music is doing, people in the audience are talking, partying, dancing and will miss most of the details that are happening.
If you make a mistake, keep a face. Do not panic, and do not let on that there even was a mistake. The few people who notice it, will look at you for a visual cue as if to say “Did I just hear something out of place?” and if your face says “Dang! Did I just screw up?” well, then, they will know that you screwed up. But if your face says “I’m having the best time ever”, they are likely to forget that anything ever happened or they might just think that they heard wrongly or think that what you did was intentional.
Leave liquor and drugs to the amateurs. There is nothing worse to a promoter, club owner, agent or publicist, than dealing with an artist or DJ who cannot separate work from play. Nobody wants to do business with someone who is drunk. They may laugh with you while you are all having a good time and behaving ridiculously, but behind the scenes, they are looking at other artists who can better represent their brand, in a classy and professional manner.
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