If you are reading this then you probably have at some point in time been thinking whether you want to learn how to be a DJ and/or a music producer. In 2018, a career in electronic music is certainly one that is not to be considered lightly especially when the Indian music industry is slated to be worth 19.1 billion by 2019 ( That’s according to a report by KPMG). Although not traditional, the career can be as rewarding and fruitful as any other.
To start off with, you should always ask yourself the question, “Why do I really want to become a DJ”. As corny as this sounds, it’s probably the most important perspective you can get early on as this will define how much attention you need to pay to your craft. Some, join the DJ course and learn the art to better understand the nuances of producing a dance floor track, others want to fulfill their ambition of being a successful DJ. Starting out as a DJ can sometimes be a little intimidating to the uninitiated. So we decided to step in and help out with this note on how a young DJ can build a basic foundation for themselves and understand the dynamics of a competitive electronic music industry.
The beginner’s mandate is a self-help guide on how you can hotwire the ignition to your career!
1. Identify and filter electronic music academies
Identifying the right academy can go a long way in taking the first step
There are dime a dozen academies that teach electronic music out there. Before you start your journey, it’s always good to do a little background check of these academies and what they offer. It will not only help you find a course that fits your budget and schedule but will also help you gauge the efficacy of the academy itself. Some of the important things you want to look for is, who you’re being taught by, the kind of courses offered, and ample practice time. Learning the technical skills of this craft are very easy today, but understanding the music, music scene, styles of music are some of the things that takes longer to get a comprehensive hold of.
2. Decide the medium you want to learn and practice on
It’s all about the music but also how you play it. Choose the medium you’re most comfortable with & begin your journey
In 2018, the different ways an artist can conduct a DJ set does seem a bit overwhelming to some. Even though playing on CD players, vinyl players and through a digital interface have similarities, they are also quite different in what they offer and demand different points of attention and technique. Usually, a representative of the academy that you are enrolling yourself in would explain the strengths and disadvantages of all formats to help you decide. Normally offered formats include CDJ + Rekordbox / Traktor Pro / Serato / Ableton Live and Vinyl. Some academies offer combination courses that also teach you to DJ and produce, or even offer them in a bundle as a package, be sure to ask the right questions, do your research on what you really want to learn. If you’re a complete beginner to this, we recommend you start learning on the CDJ’s and not a digital medium and might not want to intimidate yourself into music production at this point. However, these two things go hand in hand, becoming a better producer enhances your music taste and technicality as a DJ and as you learn to become a better DJ, you’re productions will naturally improve.
3. Practice, practice and more practice
Practice makes perfect ( Well almost anyway ) !
This can never be stressed enough. Even though it isn’t rocket science to learn how to drop bombs behind the console, it is particularly difficult to master the art. Perfection takes time and practice, so roll up those sleeves and burn the midnight oil and spend as much time as you can to practice the basics right. They will serve you well throughout your career.
4. Start collecting music
Always collect and listen to music. The more the merrier but quality also matters !
Playing a set to yourself or to a couple of friends at home is contrastingly different to curating your music for a gig, especially for your first few times you step up to the console. Understanding the slot that’s been given to you by the promoters can serve as a basis on which you can build your set. For DJs to be able to play at any particular time or situation, they need music that’s varied and suits the time that they have been allotted to play to. Listening to podcasts from different artists, following Beatport charts, Bandcamp pages, vinyl websites such as decks.de & phonica and scouring through SoundCloud is a good start. Also, it is prudent to carry more than what you need as sometimes your sets could get extended!
5. Check out different gigs and events
Keeping an eye on the local scene helps you scout potential gig opportunities and helps you meet different promoters
Being an electronic music artist means that one must always have their pulse on the local scene that’s around them. Going out to different clubs enables you to have an idea of how different DJs play their sound in different environments. Understanding the nuances of a space or a venue and feeling the mood of the room are two key aspects which directly influence how your music will sound to the audience. Doing this also helps a DJ to identify different promoters which could be useful in the long run. Although this doesn’t mean that you go to every gig that’s happening!
6. Find like-minded people and artists
Sharing music and dance-floor experiences can be a real eye-opener and can inspire greater things
Meeting fellow artists who are possibly at the same or different stages of their career could also be helpful. Interacting and discussing music and production with your peers will aid you in your career as they can offer advice from experience as well as help with technical difficulties or hitches. That apart, just generally meeting people who like the same music at you and frequent the same gigs can also go a long way in helping you discovering different artists, music, gear and equipment and perhaps more.
7. Keep tabs on your peers and senior artists
Mobile applications such as Resident Advisor’s ‘RA Guide’ are pretty handy to have
One can learn a lot from interacting and observing how veteran DJs go about their jobs week-in, weekout. From developing your own signature sound and following to expanding your musical horizons, there are only benefits to be gained. Interacting with senior artists and musicians from your city or from your country face to face or via social media can really help you gain direction, advise and tips from those who have been through the grind. Also, taking advantage of technology and media by downloading apps such as the Resident advisor guide, really helps!
8. Create your Presskit
A sample-DJ press kit for representational purposes only
.This is something that probably would have been instructed to those who passed out of an academy or a school. Making a press kit is sort of like a soft-pitch for an artist when it comes to approaching promoters and clubs for a chance to perform. A beginner DJ’s profile can be short and could throw light on their influences, musical tastes and links to their SoundCloud / Mixcloud handle..
9. Put out your music/podcasts frequently
Breaking-out usually happens much faster if you have music online for people to listen to regularly
Getting noticed is obviously a criterion for falling under the radar of potential bookers or senior artists or artist agencies. Recording podcasts frequently or putting up snippets of tracks that you are working on can go a long way in helping people identify you with a particular vibe. Apart from helping you draw attention from a potential audience it also helps you gauge the degree of proficiency of your own mixing skills, track selection and/or production quality. As they say, practice and more practice makes perfect!
10. Keep an eye out for deals on gear and equipment
Save that extra buck by purchasing used and well-maintained audio gear!
Honestly speaking, the costs of a career in electronic music does have its own way of constantly creeping up on you. However, keeping an eye out for the latest deals in audio gear and following facebook groups such as ‘used & abused’ helps you keep track of gear that’s probably in a decent or great working condition for good prices. Taking care of your equipment needs and saving money at the same time can often make the difference in the speed at which you progress!
11. Play as many warm-up slots as you can
Finally, we saved the most important objective for an DJ who is starting out in his career. Warm-up sets are almost always as important as the main act of the night and often sets the mood in the club or on the dance-floor for the headliner to follow. They are the gateway to learning how to control the flow of your performance as well as adapt to different changes in the audience. An added bonus of-course being the social media credit you receive if you make it onto the bill alongside a popular act. It does help you get noticed!
We hope you enjoyed reading this article!
If you have any suggestions or would like to share some of your experiences with us, write to us at email@example.com.
An avid lover of electronic music since 2008 , A content contributer at Border Movement blog & one half of Twokid Wickid and my two cents on music culture in India.