Becoming a great DJ is not something that happens overnight – it takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and also involves overcoming a lot of mistakes, especially when you’re just starting out. At the same time, every new DJ shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel; there are plenty of people who have gone before you and made mistakes along the way, so why not learn from their experience and avoid making these same mistakes again? If you want to set yourself apart as an experienced DJ rather than a newbie, here are the top 10 beginner DJ mistakes to avoid.
1. Not Giving Yourself Enough Time to Set Up
Not knowing how long it will take you to set up is a classic newbie giveaway. If you don’t know how long it takes to set up your gear, practice doing it at home with a timer on. Then double that time (at least) to account for the time it takes to figure out how everything works in an unfamiliar venue, plus the time that will be added from the constant interruptions of staff and patrons trying to talk to you. You’ll also want to leave some extra time to get yourself mentally prepared to play, so you’re not having to start playing moments after you’re done setting up.
2. Using Gear You’re Not Comfortable With
As a general rule, the gear you practice on at home should be the gear you use when playing gigs. If this isn’t possible, then make sure to set aside a decent amount of time in the weeks leading up to the gig to learn the ins and outs of any new gear you’ll be using. The worst thing that could happen would be to get to a gig and not understand how to use any of the equipment.
3. Not Bringing Backup Gear
Whether you’re using your own gear or the club’s gear, Murphy’s law should always come into play. Anything from your cables to your mixdeck could break on you at any point during the night, so make sure you have a plan B in case they do.
4. Not Understanding Gain Staging
Many beginner DJs are quick to want to learn about fancy mixing tricks, but not so keen to spend time understanding basic skills like gain staging. This is one of the biggest beginner DJ mistakes. Without proper gain staging, your tracks won’t sound any good, and any fancy mixing tricks you do will go unnoticed because of the poor sound quality in the room, so take some time to get gain staging right before you move onto the fancy stuff.
5. Trying to Get Too Fancy
Even if you think you’ve mastered those fancy mixing tricks, your first DJ gig might not be the best place to bust them out. Playing to a crowd can be a drastically different experience than playing at home by yourself, so if you’re new to the game, it’s usually best to keep things simple, at least for the first little while.
6. Paying Too Much Attention to the Crowd
Plenty of beginner DJs spend far too much time trying to “work the room” and not enough time paying attention to their mix. Once you’re super comfortable with playing to a packed house and making smooth transitions every time, then you can spend some time hanging out, but when you’re just starting out, make sure you’re focused on doing a good job at what you were hired to do rather than trying to mingle with everyone.
7. Forgetting About the Crowd
Of course, you shouldn’t get so focused on your decks that you forget about the crowd either. Remember: your job isn’t just to play good music; it’s to play good music that people want to dance to. What you had planned for the night might not work as well as you had hoped, so make sure to keep an eye on the crowd and read the energy in the room as often as you can so you can make adjustments to your playlist as needed.
8. Letting Others Control Your Playlist
When it comes to taking requests, there are no real hard and fast rules; some DJs will take them while others won’t. If you do take requests, however, you shouldn’t let these requests take over your playlist. Just because one person wants to hear a certain song, that doesn’t mean everyone in the room will want to hear that same song, so make sure you’re using your intuition to gauge which requests will work rather than just blindly accepting them.
9. Peaking Too Soon
Starting off your set with a couple of great bangers is a strong temptation for many beginner DJs, but giving in to this temptation can often leave you with nothing left in the gas tank for the end of the night. Think about what happens when you go into a club. Do you want to start dancing right as you step in the door, or after you’ve had a few drinks? Starting off strong is important, but make sure you’re not tiring everyone out at the beginning of the set or using up all of your good material too early.
10. Dwelling on Your Mistakes
The most important thing to remember as a beginner DJ is that we all make mistakes. So don’t dwell on them – just accept them as learning experiences and move on. Dwelling on your mistakes won’t make you any better as a DJ, but learning from them will.
At the end of the day, the best way to avoid beginner DJ mistakes like these is to spend plenty of time practicing and learning from the pros. That’s why we created Spin Academy – to provide in-depth instruction on how to DJ from professional DJs that anyone can access through professionally produced, on-demand tutorial videos. Check out all the online DJ school has to offer for only $19.95/month.
After you’ve learned about the history of downtempo music, and started experimenting with playing your own downtempo sets, you may be wanting to move up to the next level by learning how to get DJ gigs as a downtempo DJ. Getting gigs as a downtempo DJ is much the same as getting gigs as any other type of DJ, although there are some twists thrown in, as downtempo DJs don’t always fit people’s expectations of what DJs should do. So if you love downtempo music, or even if you’re thinking of pursuing downtempo gigs as a supplement to your regular gigs, here are some tips on finding work as a downtempo DJ.
Find the Right Venue…
The most important thing to remember when it comes to getting downtempo gigs is that not every venue will be the right one for you. In fact, many of the venues that other DJs regularly play at will be off-limits to you because your music is too low energy. That being said, there are other venues where a low-key vibe is exactly what’s needed, and those venues are the perfect places to start looking for downtempo DJ gigs.
By Looking in All the Wrong Places
While your chilled-out beats might not be ideal for a headlining set at the local dance club, there are plenty of other places that are always looking for DJs with an ear for atmosphere who can put a crowd in a perfectly blissed-out state. It’s important to remember that downtempo grew out of the chill-out movement in the ‘90s, and many clubs still have chill out rooms, although there are not as many now as there were during the peak of the chill-out movement. Still, if there are clubs in your area that have these types of rooms, these would be the obvious places to start looking for gigs. The great thing about playing downtempo music, though, is that your potential venues don’t have to be limited to just dance clubs. Some other venues that could work well for downtempo DJs might include places like art galleries, museums, retail stores, dinner parties, charity events, fashion shows, dinner cruises, etc. Once you start using your imagination, the possibilities really are endless.
Become Part of the Scene
As many have said before, the art of how to get DJ gigs is based more on who you know than what you know, and this statement certainly holds true for downtempo DJs who are looking to get booked. No matter what your skill level is, if you don’t know anyone in the local chill-out scene, you’re dreaming if you think you’ll be able to score any gigs right away. Downtempo scenes tend to be tight-knit communities, so once you start getting to know people, you shouldn’t have too much difficulty turning those relationships into performance opportunities. The easiest way to build these relationships is simply to start going to shows in your area. Even if you only get out once a month or so, promoters will start to see you as a true supporter once they begin to recognize your face. This creates the perfect opportunity for you to approach the promoter and give them your pitch.
Work on Your Pitch(es)
When approaching promoters, bookers, and anyone else who might be interested in hiring you it’s just as important to have a good long pitch as it is to have a good short one. A long pitch is not so much a pitch as an effort to get to know someone personally; start by talking about shared interests rather than talking about yourself. The majority of the time, this is the best way to get gigs, as the relationships you build this way will naturally lead to performance opportunities. On the other side of the coin, if someone asks you directly about what you do as a DJ, you need to be able to convince them in 30 seconds or less that you’re a professional who knows how to put on a great show. With your short pitch and your long pitch working together, you’ll soon start to see opportunities opening up for you.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The final step in how to get DJ gigs as a downtempo DJ (and a step that really never ends) is polishing your craft. You may be able to get your first few gigs based on relationship alone, but if you don’t perform well, you won’t be seeing many more gigs in the future. That’s why an online DJ school like Spin Academy can be your best tool for getting more DJ gigs. For only $19.95 per month, you’ll get access to all the lessons you need to become a great DJ – downtempo or otherwise. There’s even a whole lesson series on how to get DJ gigs, so you’ll really be set to take your chilled-out beats to the next level.
With everything that’s involved in making a DJ podcast, the creation part is the part you’ll want to spend the most time on, as this process is what will set you apart from other podcasters and help you build your DJ career. At the same time, once you’ve made your podcast, figuring out how to distribute it can be equally as time consuming, especially if you’re not familiar with how podcast distribution works. So to help you get started with distributing your podcast, here’s a quick guide to getting your DJ podcast on iTunes as well as some other important podcast feeds.
Sharing Your DJ Podcast on SoundCloud and YouTube
While iTunes is the main place people go to find podcasts these days, it’s worth noting that there are other, simpler distribution platforms that are gaining popularity in the podcasting world, namely SoundCloud and YouTube. There are two main advantages of using these mediums. First, that they’re simple to use; all you have to do is create your audio or video file and upload it using a descriptive title, making sure to include any relevant tags. Second, these services will host your podcast for you, which means you don’t have to worry about finding hosting space for all of your audio files.
On the other hand, iTunes offers two distinct advantages over SoundCloud and YouTube. First, iTunes allows people to subscribe to your podcast, so each time you publish a new episode, it will automatically show up in your subscribers’ podcast feed. Second, iTunes comes with a built-in audience of podcast listeners, whereas most people who listen to your podcast on YouTube or Soundcloud will be people you’ve directed there yourself.
How to Get Your DJ Podcast on iTunes
Getting your podcast on iTunes is a much more complicated prospect than distributing your podcast on SoundCloud or YouTube, so the rest of this post will be dedicated to explaining how that process actually works. The first thing to know is that in order to get your podcast on iTunes, you’ll need to match their specifications for media files, that is, you’ll need to be prepared to upload a 320kbps mp3 audio file as well as a 1400×1400 piece of cover art. In addition, you’ll also need to set up a web host and an RSS feed; these are what allow you to push new episodes to users through their podcast subscription. In terms of web hosting and RSS feeds, there are several routes you can go, so let’s take a look at some of your options below.
The most complex, but also most reliable method of getting your DJ podcast on iTunes is to set up the hosting and RSS feeds yourself. You can do this by hosting your audio files on a blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger, and then setting up an RSS feed through those sites to interface with iTunes. The details of the process are too lengthy to explain here, but for more information, you can check out the official WordPress guide here or the official Blogger guide right here.
Using a Podcast Host
A simpler option that many podcasters prefer is to use a podcast host such as Blubrry, Buzzsprout, or Podbean. These sites make the podcast distribution process much easier as they’ll host your audio files for you, and they’ll also automatically push your latest episodes to your distribution platforms of choice, which will allow you to easily get your DJ podcast on iTunes as well as other podcast feeds (or podcatchers) like Stitcher and PocketCasts. While some podcast hosting sites offer free accounts, these accounts will typically provide fairly limited hosting space, so if you’re hoping to make your podcast a common occurrence, you may end up having to pay for your hosting. For regular creators, paying a small fee could be worthwhile, as these services take a lot of the hassle out of podcast distribution. This allows you to focus your time on actually making the podcasts rather than figuring out technical details like hosting and RSS feeds.
Connecting to iTunes through SoundCloud
A final option worth mentioning is SoundCloud’s own RSS feed distribution system. If you’re already uploading your podcasts to SoundCloud, that means you’re already using their service to host your podcast. You can then set up an RSS feed from SoundCloud and submit the feed to iTunes. If you’re interested in going this route, SoundCloud provides instructions on how to do it here.
In our final post on DJ podcasts, which will be up on the blog in the coming weeks, we’ll discuss different ways to publicize your DJ podcast, as well as ways to actually make money from podcasting. To learn more about DJ podcasts, check out our recent post on how to record your DJ mixes, as well as the first post in this series on how to record podcast episodes. And, if you want to make really great DJ podcasts, be sure to join our ultimate DJ school for unlimited access to video lessons on everything you need to know about becoming a great DJ.