If you’ve been following our series on playing pop music DJ sets, you’ll have learned how to 1) come up with a set that hooks your audience, and 2) master your transitions so you keep your audience interested throughout your set. This should give you a good foundation for playing pop style music, but if you really want to blow your audience away, you can go all out by learning how to make a mashup. This is the final element that will help you play a pop music set that not only captivates your audience, but also gives them something new and leaves them wanting more.
Why should you bother learning how to make a mashup? This is an advanced technique, but if you can master it, you’ll give your audience two things: 1) a total surprise in hearing something they’ve never heard before, and 2) something to remember you by. Especially with pop music sets, learning how to make a mashup allows you to think outside the box for a minute, and if you do it right, your audience will love you for it.
What Makes a Good Mashup?
If you’ve experimented with making mashups before, or even if you’ve listened to a lot of mashups, you’ll know that not all mashups are created equal. So what separates the good from the bad? Of course, as with any form of music, judging mashups is a subjective exercise, but one thing that seems to really separate the good from the bad is the overall “flow” of the song. In other words, there are lots of ways that you can stick two songs together, but there’s something really magical that happens when two songs just fit perfectly from start to finish. This can be especially interesting when you take two songs from different genres and fit them together as if they were meant to be that way all along. Remember that video that perfectly matched up Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” with that 80’s dance video? That’s basically the vibe we’re going for here.
How to Make a Mashup
Making a mashup involves a few advanced DJ skills, but once you’ve mastered them, you’ll have unlocked a huge world of possibilities. To start, you’ll need some sort of digital audio workstation (DAW) to manipulate your audio files. This could be something like Audacity, which you can download for free, or a paid software program like Mixed in Key, or even something more advanced like Ableton. You’ll also need to get your hands on the right audio files, namely a full version, instrumental version, and acappella version of each song you want to use. That way you can experiment with dropping in different acapellas over different instrumental tracks to find a mashup that works perfectly.
To get started making your mashup, you’ll need to master a few key skills: beatmatching and mixing in key. To get started on beatmatching, check out our tutorials on beatmatching with various DJ software programs. Then, once you’ve mastered that, check our lesson on mixing in key with Mixed In Key.
Learning how to make a mashup is something that can turn a good DJ set into a great DJ set. It can also be a good way to bring some outside influences into your pop music sets. Why not experiment with matching up a pop vocal with a hip-hop or R&B instrumental? Or you could even try bringing in an element from a well-known folk or indie song. With mashups, your options are virtually limitless.
For more tutorials on everything you need to know about being a DJ, sign up for our online DJ school at SpinAcademy.com.
In this final piece of the series on DJ branding I want to take a look at two elements that can really help put your DJ brand over the top and make you stand out from other DJs. These two elements are: your story and your logo. Ultimately, everything you do as a DJ should be a reflection of your story, and you should be able to sum up that whole story in one well-designed logo. So to help you figure out what your complete DJ brand looks like, let’s take a closer look at why your logo and story are so important.
What’s Your Story?
Many artists get upset when people tell them their image is more important than their music. But the unfortunate fact is, while we all want more people to hear our music, no one will hear your music unless you have a compelling image to go along with it. So if you want to become a DJ who does more than play the occasional wedding or house party, you’ll have to find some way to set yourself apart from the crowd. And the best way to do that is by telling an interesting story.
At our foundation, humans are natural storytellers. We’re communal creatures, and the way we shape community is by sharing stories with each other. That’s why we go to movies, read books, go to parties, listen to music, and do pretty much anything else in life. In virtually everything we do, we’re either hearing a story, telling a story, or creating a story that we’ll be able to tell later.
So what’s your story?
What is it that makes you different than other DJs? Chances are, you’ve had some sort of life experience that motivated you to learn to DJ, or maybe you’ve had some interesting things happen to you throughout your DJ career. Maybe you work a corporate day job and DJing is your way to throw off the shackles of the working world. Or maybe there’s a specific message or philosophy you try to get across with every gig you play and every mix you release.
Whatever your story is, the point is to find something you can stick to so you can create a compelling narrative to base your DJ brand on.
Why You Need a Solid Logo to Promote Your DJ Brand
A final factor to consider in your DJ branding strategy is your logo. This may seem like a small thing to many people, but actually, coming up with a logo is the best way to ensure you have a consistent DJ brand.
The unfortunate thing is that logos are tough to come up with, especially if you’re not a professional graphic designer. But whether it’s through hiring a professional to help you get the job done, or using whatever artistic or computer skills you have to come up with a logo yourself, the process is totally worthwhile as it will help you solidify your DJ brand as a whole.
The reason your logo is so important is because it forces you to consolidate your entire DJ brand into one simple image. Ultimately, your logo is your identity; it’s a way for you to easily represent to the world what your sound is all about, what your personal style is, and what your story is. If you can sum up those three elements in one image, you’ve done a good job of creating a consistent DJ brand.
The other reason a logo is a beneficial investment is that many DJ’s simply don’t have one. If you’ve got a professional-looking logo that displays your DJ brand in an interesting way, you’ve got a big advantage over other DJs. It may even be the deciding factor in getting you booked over another DJ.
In the end, the main thing to keep in mind is that as a DJ, what you’re really selling (at least on the surface) is not the music you play or even your skills behind the decks. What you’re really selling is a lifestyle. Every big DJ playing major clubs today has a certain lifestyle associated with their brand, and that lifestyle is a major reason their fans go see them spin.
So what’s your lifestyle? And more importantly, how will you sell that lifestyle in a way that gets more people to listen to your mixes and go to your shows?
Need some inspiration? Check out our DJ School and see what some of the world’s top DJs have to say about how they got to where they are today. We’ve also got lessons covering everything you need to know about getting gigs and promoting your brand.
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What’s on your new years resolution list this year? Eat healthier? Get to the gym more? How about resolving to become a better DJ in 2015?
Sure, a lot of people give up on their resolutions after only a few weeks (or maybe a few days…) but what if you made some resolutions this year you could really stick to? If you want to become a better DJ in 2015, you can start by making a few realistic, achievable, and fun resolutions to help you kick off the year on the right foot. Here are a few suggestions to help get you going.
Listen to More Music
If you’re a DJ, or you want to learn to DJ this year, there’s a pretty good chance you like listening to music. You probably spend a lot of time streaming music online, listening to podcasts, listening to singles at record shops, and so on. But how often do you actually stop and listen to music? I mean really listen?
Often when we’re focused on a task – preparing a setlist, searching for the next big “undiscovered” artist – we get caught up in the details of the task itself and forget to pay attention to (and enjoy) what we’re doing.
One of the best ways to become a better DJ in 2015 is simply to listen more. Turn off your DJ brain (“what’s the BPM of this song? would this be a good song to remix?”) and simply spend some time enjoying music this year.
Do Something Totally Crazy
Making a resolution to do something totally crazy in the new year sounds like a recipe for disaster for many people, but if your focus is on becoming a better DJ in 2015, doing something totally crazy might be exactly what you need. Often, doing something crazy might mean doing something you’ve been scared to do for a long time, or doing something you simply don’t enjoy. For example, you could try spinning songs from a genre you hate, using a piece of gear or software you never thought you’d use, wearing a Halloween costume next time you perform, or coming up with some crazy theme to promote your next gig.
Why is it a good idea to do something totally crazy this year? Because this will get you outside of your comfort zone, which is the push many people need to really develop as artists. Resolving to do something you don’t want to do might actually take you to where you want to be this year.
Establish a Healthy Routine
On the flip side of doing something crazy is the idea of implementing some sort of new schedule or routine into your lifestyle in order to help you achieve your long-term goals. Maybe you want to develop a bigger online following or get booked for more gigs. Or maybe you simply want to get better at playing a certain style of music. These types of goals can take a long time to achieve, so instead of getting frustrated when you don’t see results after only a few weeks, come up with a long-term plan that you know you’ll stick to. For example, if you want to develop a bigger online following, create a daily, weekly, or monthly schedule for posting to social media, uploading mixes, releasing podcasts, or whatever it is you plan to do.
With a realistic schedule in place, it will be much easier to stay on top of your objectives. Plus, this way you’ll be able to keep track of what works and what doesn’t work so you can be more efficient with your time this year.
Learn Some New Skills
If you really want to become a better DJ this year, try thinking like a student. After all, if you want to get better at something, you need to start with the right education.
Think about what DJ skill or skills could you benefit from learning this year. Perhaps you could benefit from learning something specific like new scratch techniques, or perhaps you simply want to become a better all-around performer. Identify the areas where you need improvement and then get out there and start learning.
You can start 2015 off right by signing up for some lessons right here at Spin Academy. We offer a wide range of online tutorials taught by pro DJs covering everything from what gear to buy to advanced DJ tricks like how to mix on the half time. When it comes to improving your skills, we’ve got everything you need to become a better DJ right here.