While rave culture reached its peak in the 1990’s, techno as a genre is still alive and well today, and any DJ who has an interest in EDM should have a basic understanding of how to DJ techno. Even though it may sound simple to the untrained ear, there’s actually a lot more to learning how to DJ techno than simply learning to play a 4 on the floor beat on a drum machine. To understand a little more about what defines techno as a genre, let’s take a brief look at the history of the techno movement, as well as the basic philosophy behind how to DJ techno music today.
From Underground Beginnings to Mainstream Success
While almost anyone you meet on the street today would know what techno is, it’s important to remember that techno started off as a purely underground genre. Techno originally arose in Detroit in the late 1980s as a blend of American funk and house sounds with European electronic influences. By the early 1990s, techno had gone international and was beginning to find mainstream success. Raves became popular in places like Detroit, Chicago, and London in the early 1990s, but it wasn’t until 1996, when UK techno band The Prodigy landed two songs at #1 on the Billboard charts, that techno officially went mainstream. By this point, techno had spawned a number of sub-genres like acid techno, tech house, hardcore techno, and minimalist techno, and a battle began between mainstream artists like Moby who were focused on making hits, and collectives like the Underground Resistance that were focused on keeping the genre true to its underground roots.
The Legendary TR-808
Techno music arose in unison with the technological developments that made new electronic sounds possible, namely the Roland TR-808 drum machine. Released in 1980, this inexpensive drum machine quickly found its way into the hands of legions of electronic music producers, and paved the way for early developments in EDM genres like techno, house, and hip-hop. Because of this little box, techno developed around the 4 on the floor kick drum beat that still defines the genre today. In addition to the 808, producers and DJs began to use other pieces of technology like the Roland TB-303 keyboard to create squelchy basslines and all sorts of other weird and wonderful electronic sounds.
Basic Mindset: Rhythm Over Everything
While drum machines are used throughout a variety of EDM genres, the drum machine is especially important in techno, as rhythm trumps all other musical elements in this genre. While techno songs can contain melodic and harmonic elements such as basslines and synth melodies, these elements are used to support the rhythmic elements of the track, rather than the other way around. Techno also differs from many EDM genres in that it is mainly an instrumental genre; while some vocal sampling may be used, it is once again used as a supporting element for the rhythmic structure of a track rather than the focus of the song.
The simplicity of techno makes this an ideal genre for DJs; the basic beat pattern gives you plenty of opportunity to play with polyrhythms, while the lack of harmonic elements makes this genre easy to mix and gives you lots of room to experiment with various types of sonic manipulation. In our next post in this series, we’ll dive deeper into some of these techniques, but for now, if you want to start learning how to DJ techno, it’s a good idea to brush up on some basic DJ skills like cueing and beatmatching. And if you want to brush up on more DJ skills, from basic techniques to advanced DJ tricks, consider joining Spin Academy’s online DJ school for only $19.95 per month.
Every DJ needs a place where they can set up their DJ gear, store some records, and maybe keep some keyboards and other production tools. The problem is, most of us can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on a custom piece of DJ furniture, but we don’t want to just set up our turntables on a piece of plywood held up by some cinder blocks either. Fortunately, there’s a great way to build a cheap DJ booth that not only works well but also looks pretty sweet. It’s called the IKEA DJ booth hack.
What You’ll Need
The main component in the IKEA DJ booth is the KALLAX 2X4 bookshelf, which costs about $100 and comes in a variety of interesting colors like yellow, red, and green, as well as plain old black, white, and natural wood. While you’re at IKEA, you’ll also want to pick up one set of 4 4″ CAPITA cabinet legs ($15), one set of 2 6” CAPITA countertop brackets ($20), and one 74″ LACK wall shelf ($30). All together your bill should add up to about $165 plus tax. The only tools you’ll need for this project are a drill with a 3/4” drill bit and a measuring tape.
Some Assembly Required
The first thing to do to get your cheap DJ booth started is to assemble the KALLAX bookshelf. You don’t even need to be able to read to understand the instructions so putting it together should be fairly simple. Rather than standing the bookshelf up vertically, however, you’re going to flip it on its side and use the CAPITA cabinet legs to support it. Install one leg on each corner of the bottom of the KALLAX using the drill and the tools provided in the CAPITA box and you’re good to go. Of course, this step is optional as some people simply flip the bookshelf on its side and leave it sitting on the ground. The final step (and this is where the magic happens) is to mount the LACK wall shelf on top of the bookshelf using the CAPITA angled countertop brackets. This is where the measuring tape comes in. As the LACK shelf is wider than the KALLAX, you’ll want to make sure the overhang on both sides is even. In this case, the KALLAX measures 58” across while the LACK measures 74” across, so you’ll want to leave 8” of the LACK hanging over each side. Once you’ve got everything drilled in, you should have a beautiful new cheap DJ booth that looks something like this:
Options for Customization
The KALLAX shelf comes in a variety of sizes, so you can always mix things up by using a different number of shelves on your unit. You could also experiment with adding six or eight legs instead of just four, or by mounting the LACK shelf on top with straight rather than angled brackets. As long as you’re using the same name series for each piece, the end results will be similar. For further customization, IKEA gives you lots of color options to play with, and you can even turn things up a notch with some funky colored pot lights, like this:
A good practice space is an important tool for anyone who wants to improve their DJ skills. If you’re taking lessons through a service like Spin Academy’s Online DJ School, your cheap DJ booth can become your new home base for learning new techniques, running through your sets, or just relaxing and listening to some great music. Plus it will make your bedroom or whatever room you set it up in look pretty cool too.
Recording a DJ podcast and getting it on iTunes is one thing, but if you’re really serious about podcasting, you’ll want to learn how to make money from podcasting as well. That way you can cover the costs of things like recording equipment, music licensing fees, and your own time, plus you might even be able to make some extra cash to help you pay your bills as well. In terms of using your DJ podcast to make money from podcasting, you have a few monetization options to consider.
The most common way to make money from podcasting is to find sponsors to buy advertising time on your podcast. This ad time could take the form of radio-style ads, or it could be integrated more seamlessly into your content (for example, you might spend two minutes in every episode talking about the latest products from a certain sponsor). When it comes to sponsorship, there are two ways to go about things: you can find your own sponsors, or you can join a podcast network (more on that below). The advantage of direct sponsorship is that all of the ad revenue goes directly to you – there’s no middleman taking a cut. The disadvantage, though, especially for new podcasters, is that it’s often harder to convince advertisers to sponsor your show if you’re not part of a network and you haven’t built up a significant audience of your own yet.
Podcast networks can hook you up with sponsors so you don’t have to worry about finding them on your own. The downside of this arrangement is that the network will take a cut of the ad money (deals are often split 50/50), but the plus side is that being part of a network gives you access to advertisers (and an audience) that would be much harder to access on your own.
Another approach that’s similar to sponsorship is joining an affiliate program. Rather than providing advertising time during your actual podcast episodes, you can provide a series of affiliate links on your podcast website where people can buy products related to your podcast. Of course, you can also talk about those links on your podcast and encourage people to use them. Every time someone clicks on one of your affiliate links and buys a product, you get paid. The most popular affiliate program is through Amazon.com, and these links can earn you around 4 – 8% commission per item. That may not sound like a lot at first, but after a while, affiliate income can start to really add up, especially if you’ve got a large audience and you’re promoting your links well.
While subscription-based podcasts are not as popular as they used to be, many podcasters still use some sort of subscription model to fund their podcast. However, because people have come to expect so much for free these days, it’s unlikely that you’ll be successful with a pure subscription model as a new podcaster. Instead, many podcasters have found success with partial subscription models – giving some episodes away for free and charging for the rest, or letting people listen to a portion of each episode for free while offering paid access to the full episode.
If you’d like your podcast to be fan funded but you’re looking for an alternative to the subscription model, crowdfunding might be a better fit for you. You could either use a platform like Kickstarter to raise the funds you need to get your DJ podcast started, or you could use a patronage platform like Patreon, which acts as a sort of hybrid between a crowdfunding platform and a subscription service. With Patreon, you can ask people to donate a dollar amount of their own choosing for every episode you create. That way, your podcast can still be free for general listeners, but those who want to can choose to support you on an ongoing basis.
Some podcasts have even gone so far as to create their own branded merchandise like t-shirts and mugs that listeners can buy. It’s unlikely that you’d make enough from this strategy to fund your whole podcast, but selling merch can be a good way to make some extra cash once in a while, plus it acts as free advertising for you and your DJ podcast.
Even if you’re not monetizing your DJ podcast through any of the methods mentioned above, you can still make money from podcasting by using your podcast to build your brand as a DJ and promote your services. After all, your DJ podcast is your own creation, so you can really do what you want with it, whether that’s actively promoting your own mixtapes and upcoming gigs, or simply referring people to your website where they can find out more about you and what you do.
Whether your DJ podcast makes money or not, starting a DJ podcast is a great way to practice your DJ skills and get your name out there as a DJ. For more on podcasting for DJs, check out our blog post on how to record DJ mixes, or try out our lesson on mixing in key for tips on how to make mixes that flow seamlessly – a great skill for anyone running a music podcast.