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DJ Scott Mad Flip

DJ Scott Mad Flip
February 17, 2011

I Wanna Be A DJ, How Do I Get Started? Part 2

Do you remember the first time you heard a DJ mix?  Can you recall that perfect blend of two songs that stayed right on beat, transitioned beautifully, and kept the energy going?  When was the first time you saw a DJ mix live or in person?  For some of you these occurrences were witnessed all in the same moment.  For others they may have happened at different times at different places.  Either way, it probably inspired you to become or want to become a DJ.  So you bought some music, DJ equipment, and you practiced day and night to perfection until BOOM!  You are a DJ.  You even have a DJ name, too.  DJ SOMETHING COOL.  Now it’s time to make a mix, record it, upload it, take pictures, promote yourself, get gigs, rock the house, drink champagne, do a remix, go on tour and get paid, right?  Maybe so or not so much.  Before you jump on your own G6, let’s make sure you know exactly what you want to accomplish as a DJ.  There are many types of DJs but for the purpose of this blog let’s assume  that you want to play at music events or play gigs as a resident DJ in nightclubs or even perform as a DJ for a music act or group.  This may not apply as much to Mobile/Wedding DJs as much, but some elements can certainly apply to promoting your mobile DJ service.  In any case, I discussed the basics in Part 1 , now let’s talk about getting some gigs.

READY, SET, MIXTAPE!

Everyone likes music.  How awesome is it to have all of your favorites mixed seamlessly together on a CD or on your iPod?  It’s great even if it’s only for your own personal listening pleasure.  The mix or mixtape is essential to produce if you are starting out as a DJ and you want to get booked.  It’s your business card and it’s the first step in defining your identity as a DJ.  How do you make a mixtape?  Let’s start with the music.

Music Selection – Choose music that defines you.  Whatever style of music you choose to play your mix should be an accurate representation of what and how you are able to perform in a live environment.  Once you’ve decided on which tracks to mix you will want to put each track in a logical progression together with clean transitions and a good flow.  This is called Programming your mix.  This also defines you and is a skill that is developed to perfection through years of practice and a lot of patience.  If you want to play in a more mainstream or high-energy nightclub environment it helps to include familiar tunes in your mix.  This lets club owners and managers know that you can cover the bases when it comes the popular stuff.  Some of you don’t subscribe to this mentality, I know and I absolutely respect that, but the more versatile you can be in your skills and music selection can make for a very lucrative DJ career.  I’m just saying.

Technical Ability – You’ve got skills.  Show them.  It could be in a long “mash-up” mix or it could be your quick, accurate transitions.  You might stay in each record for 20 seconds on 4 turntables as you crab scratch a capellas, whatever.  Do it on your mixtape.  Just be sure not to let it get out of hand or distract from the music, especially vocals.  And above all else, BE ACCURATE!  Don’t try anything outside of your abilities.  It’s okay to make mistakes, really it is, but if you’re handing out your mixtape to perspective employers you’ll want it to be perfect.  It’s like submitting a resumé with spelling errors.  Not cool.

Wrap It Up – Okay, you’re putting together a killer mixtape and you’re almost done.  How long should it be?  60 minutes?  90 minutes?  2 hours?  Well, it’s really up to you.  My advice is this: 60 minutes.  It’s enough time for you to show your programming and technical ability without losing the attention of your audience.  I try and put 12-20 tracks on a mixtape depending on the style I’m playing but it never exceeds 60 minutes.  It is also easier to upload on sites like Soundcloud if your mix is not too lengthy.  Again, it is up to you for sure.  This is just my recommendation.

So you’ve uploaded your mix, gave it a sweet title next to your DJ name.  Be sure to record a hard copy of your mix on to a CD or even a flash drive so that you can hand them out to promoters, club managers, and even other DJs so that you can get in their ear and get some feedback on your mix, programming and technique.  When you’re comfortable with the process you can put out a mixtape every month or so, or for as many different styles that you mix.  Just remember, you don’t want people to get crispy and burnt on your mixtapes, but you definitely want to stay fresh and current and put out a good product.

PROMOTIONS AND MARKETING

There are many ways to network and promote yourself as a DJ these days versus 10 or even 5 years ago.  The old school mentality of going out to clubs and events to meet promoters and other DJs and handing out your demo or mixtape definitely still applies and is very effective, but you can do even more through online social networking than ever before.  It’s less costly and you will reach a greater audience.  Establish your online presence through your Facebook and Twitter pages.  Create your DJ page and include a good bio, a clear description of your music style, pictures and graphics that can be used for promotional flyers, and especially links to your mixes.  Uploading your mixes on sites like Soundcloud allows you to reach out and be accessible to your perspective audience and fan base.  Be sure to put all of this information on your business cards and your demo discs so that you can easily be reached when the time comes for you to interview for a gig.  The interview most likely will consist of just meeting with the promoter, manager, or resident DJ.  If you both can agree on your fee arrangement and you are available on the perspective date, you probably just scored a gig or a time slot.  Sometimes the interview consists of opening for the resident or headliner DJ, and you might get a nominal amount of compensation if any, or even a bar tab.  Either way, TAKE IT.  This is your shot and you’re about to rock the house.  Now let’s get to the gig!

GIG ETIQUETTE

It is infinitely important for you to be considered a professional even if you are just starting out.  You want to make a good impression every single time you get behind the decks but especially at your first gig.  Here are some key points to help you have a great DJ gig:

Get There Early – This is a no brainer.  You’ll want to get your gear set up ahead of time even if it’s only bringing in your headphones and records or CDs.  These days there might be a transition between DVS systems like Serato Scratch Live or Traktor Pro that you have to plan ahead for if you are playing a set in between DJs or before another DJ.  If you are opening the event or evening at the club, being set up ahead of time allows you to meet again with the bar manager or promoter or bar staff.  You want them to know that you are ready to go and that you’re excited to play.

Be Considerate And Flexible – Some of you might not agree with this one, and I understand.  We all have our reasons good and bad to be a diva sometimes.  Bear with me because this is really for the benefit of the up and comers.  Be considerate to the other DJs at the event by being prepared and ready to go when your time slot begins.  It sucks to discover that your needles are jacked up or you forgot your slip mats and have to borrow from someone else.  That’s bush league, for real.  This ensures that you can play your allotted time and play every track you intend to play without going over.  This doesn’t always happen so be flexible if you have to cut your set a little short for the headliner or next DJ.  Check your watch when you’re nearing your the end of your set and make an effort to communicate with the next DJ to let him know that you have one more track.  WE APPRECIATE IT, SERIOUSLY.  Also be considerate to the headliner’s set in your track selection.  If you are opening and are expected to warm up the crowd, please refrain from playing every current floor banger especially if the next DJ’s name is on the remix.  Not cool and you won’t get booked again.  Know your role.  This may not apply as much if you are doing a DJ competition, but you have to be flexible and show some respect.  It goes both ways.  You and every DJ at the event should work together to build an amazing evening for the benefit of the nightclub, the bar staff, and most of all the crowd.  They are your future fans and followers.  It’s really about them and the music.  It also helps you build a good relationship with the more experienced DJs who might even secure you some future gigs.  At the end of the night be sure to pay your tab, thank the DJs, bar staff and management and ask them how the night went.  It shows that you are genuinely committed to having a successful night or event and you can get some good feedback for future endeavors.  Congratulations.  Now get some rest!

MAINTAINING YOUR BUSINESS

Now that you have put together a string of good gigs it’s time to organize your business.  It’s a good idea to keep a calendar or a record of all of your bookings.  Keep it organized in terms of where you played, who booked you, who paid you and how much.  If you filled out a W-4 to receive payment you might have to pay taxes on that income if it exceeds a certain amount for the year.  Updating your Facebook page with all of your gigs past and future is also a great way to keep track of your schedule and keep your friends and fan base well informed.  It’s quite possible that after a few successful gigs you could be asked to join a promoter’s DJ crew or collective.  This is an excellent opportunity to get in a regular rotation with gigs on specific nights and/or locations.  Playing regularly and often is the best way to improve and evolve as a DJ, but if you are playing 7 nights a week you could easily get burned out and worst of all uninspired and discouraged.  Don’t take on more than you can handle.  When it comes to leaving a regular gig you must be very professional.  Give notice at least 2-3 weeks in advance and offer to help find your replacement.  You want to leave to on good terms and always with the possibility of returning in the future.  You could be the best DJ in town but at the end of the day it’s about the relationships you have with your employers that determine how successful your business will be.

There are many things I love about being a DJ.  I love hearing a new track.  I love watching a track move a dance floor.  I love buying new headphones.  I even love taking a bad request.  Sometimes.  Anyway, the point is this: DJing should be something that you love.  It should be fun and it should make you happy.  I’ve discussed a lot of things, mostly from my own experiences, that hopefully will help you on your way to becoming a DJ.  I will continue to share my experiences and periodically offer advice and tips on this blog.  Thanks for all the comments and until next time I’ll see you in the mix.  Cheers!


Comments

  1. Marshal says:

    DJ Madflip, I am so excited to buy my first mixer from UniqueSquared and start practicing and having a lot of fun. The thing is, I want to do more than just DJing. I want to create my own music and do live mixing of it along with DJing other songs. Do you have any suggestions of products to help create cool music to mix? I have been writing music on my electric piano for a long time, but I would like something like the Novation Launchpad (yes this is “@Marshal Man” from face book C: ) to add a cooler sound and effects and drums to go with it. I guess I am not sure how to explain it, but I would like to know your opinion on my idea.

    Thank you so much, you inspire me.
    -Marshal [SonicSubConscious]

    1. Hey Marshal, thanks for the kind words as always. I think the Novation Launchpad would be perfect for you to start production and remixing, especially if you have a music background already. Ableton Live is very popular and the Launchpad and the Akai APC-20 are both great controllers to use with it. Do a lot of research, check out the multitude of videos on You Tube, and check out other products like NI Maschine that are similar. If you approach your DJing as a musician and vice versa, you can be very dynamic and creative. Cheers!

      1. Don Atherton says:

        DJ Madflip, i have read your articles and i am inspired by what you have said but i have a little problem im hoping you can help me with. I want to do some good dance beats but i also want to do some dubstep on the side just because i love it so much, but i want to know what i should get. i was thinking of getting the Reloop digital jockey 2 ie but i want to know its editing potential and if i can edit the music on it or if i need a mixer or a pad to go along with it. please help me out and thank you for the info it has helped me alot.

        1. Thanks for the kind words! Depending on your budget, you should definitely consider purchasing a controller that you can use with Traktor Pro. I recommend the S4 because you can edit and trigger your samples AND mix 2 decks all on one device. If you want to expand on the production and editing side of making dubstep and electronica you should also check out Machine. I hope this helps! Cheers!

          1. Don Atherton says:

            thank alot man ill look into it

          2. Don Atherton says:

            so what your saying is that i should find a controller that can use traktor pro, and later it would help to have a pad or drum machine?

  2. Kathleen DeMaison says:

    Sing it…
    I wanna be a DJ….
    And you can be my music….
    You wanna hear me DJ….
    I wanna see you dancin’….
    ohhh yeah…
    I wanna be a DJ…..
    So what do ya say???

    PICK ME….lol
    I don’t really want to be a DJ I just REALLY REALLY want to win a 3rd Gen 4GB iPod Shuffle !!!!

  3. S says:

    Great article. Personal relationships are everything. Nobody wants to spin with a douchebag, especially if you ever plan on being invited back and having any sort of following. Treat people with respect, be humble, and turn every request into an opportunity for future gigs, new friends, and new loyal fans.

  4. Taylor Ryan says:

    This was a perfect article to help those who want to start dj-ing more at clubs etc. I started at house parties with no other dj’s and it was just so much simpler when you didn’t have to worry about the tracks that the next dj would be playing. The transition between house parties and nightclubs was difficult and I wish that this article had have been out at that time. Madflip I really dig the part about respecting the dj that is coming after you, as a resident I have these new kids comin in all the time and a lot of them give you little or no warning before your set – aspiring dj’s take note, they did not get another gig! This was an awesome article madflip, keep it up…

    ps. I watch all of your product demonstrations, they are really informative, keep that up as well.

    pps. I was wanting to get a new software controller as a transition from my Cdj’s out of the kontrol s4, ddj-t1 and the numark ns6 which one would you recommend?

    1. Thanks for the comments Taylor! We’ve got a lot of good info in cue for the weeks to come, so please stay tuned. I’m going to recommend the Pioneer DDJ-S1 or T1 if you are comfortable with CDJs, but I personally love the S4 because of the sample banks and the crossfader. I am currently reviewing the DDJ and it is amazing, but I still favor the S4 layout for controllerism and the scratching translates better for my preferences. I am looking forward to getting the NS6 in soon (maybe another week or so) because Numark is on fire right now and it looks like it’s going to be brilliant. I hope this helps!

  5. Luis Toro says:

    I honestly have never considered my self a DJ, but your tips and advice motivate and inspire me to want to take my mixes outside of my bedroom.

    Thank you very much DJ MadFl!p

  6. JD Northwest says:

    Back in the day, and it was many many days ago, I’d roll up, unload crates of CD’s, CD/DAT decks, mixers and some rugged speakers, setup and start. Rugby parties, house parties, find a space and fill it with sound. The new talent out there blows me away. I always enjoyed doing it but it never was more than something I did to fill the weekends. You guys are living it that really is awesome.

  7. SUSHILKUMAR BURKUL says:

    STUPENDO-FANTABULOUSLY-FANTASTICAL article all that i can say after reading this. these are the most valuable tips for anyone like me who are wanna be dj’s… life as dj is nothing less than celebrity… peoples really get inspired by your work… because as dj you hold their strings in your hand via music you are plying & make them dance on your beats. & the feedback people gives are really stand as kickstart for your carrier as dj. i really inspired…& seeing various possibilities for me as dj….so i am also ready to invent possibilities for myself & for people around me so that everyone around me will get touched,moved & inspired by that possibilities….gyes & galz i am coming…get ready to dance on my beats…oh yeh…!!!

  8. Matthew C. says:

    Love your articles, only a real dj could write this. Anyways, I can say the first time ive ever heard a dj mix, was DJ Swamp, live in Detroit at one of my first Rave Warehouse partys here in Detroit. The Warehouse was Dilapidated,run down, there was sweat running off the walls,there was even puddles of water in some parts of the giant room. My first real experience to Djiing. As soon as Swamp put on the first record,and started Rockin Doubles (beat juggling) everyone who was dancing from the last guys record that was left on while Swamp was setting up stopped. The whole room went to a pause,as Swamp took over the whole room. He hypnotized them, including me. I heard 3 or 4 dj’s who were on before him,and i still wasnt feeling it. But once i heard Swamp scratch and juggle. I was infatuated. I wanted to know how he did that. How does a man, speak to so many people, without saying a word? He took over the minds of everyone in that room that night,and for 1 hour, everyone stared in disbelief, how can so many emotions be blended into one set like that? Mixing Black Sabbath and 2 Live Crew, something you dont hear everyday.I was 16 then. that was over 12 years ago. To this day i remember that night. After that, i started soaking up all types of music,and it really opened my mind to what can be done with music. Mixtapes. I believe a mixtape should be presented with pride. Alot of times, you see guys who goto events and just stack them on the bar for someone to pick up, what usually happens,is it ends up in the back of someones car who eventually just throws it away. For whatever music you are presenting, it should be passed out or sold in a place where people will dig it. Of course theres going to be people who have never heard your kind of music and will want to check it out, but to be on the safe side, stick with what you know, burning cd’s can be expensive! On the promotion, i believe alot of people take it too far. If your just starting out, dont promote yourself like you are Carl Cox, the DJiing community can be pretty rough, there are alot of people who are going to be against you. Promote yourself modestly and let your skills do the talking. When you pass out your cards, or are promoting yourself, talk to the people you are promoting yourself too, alot of people who see that you are a down to earth person and not full of yourself really like that, those will be the people who will show up to every show and will help promote you as well, djiing is a complicated world sometimes!Also,when you first start out,you will probably do a few gigs for free. Eventually,if you want to get somewhere and make money,your going to have to make sure you have a fair price,and also tell the promoters on average how many people you can pull in the area so that he understands you are bringing money to him as well lol. Gig Etiquette, you made some good points there, being early is the key. Who knows? maybe DJ 123 fell off a cliff on his way to the show, and there are no other dj’s there at the time? You may need to fill 2 time slots instead of 1. most of the time that means extra money for you. Equipment,vinyl,etc. etc. can be expensive. Be flexible for promoters as well, if your in a area as i am were money is tight, be willing to talk with the promoters/club owners, and work with them, they will remember that in the end and when things start to build up, your going to be the guy they call! Maintaining your business,and keeping things fresh and new will keep you in the DJ circuit. Alot of people get bored with it within the first couple years, mostly, because there is such a large amount of DJ’s out there, and not enough venues to put them in. Thats why you have to shine the brightest in order to keep your foot in the door. Alot of people use gimmicks during there sets wear crazy clothing, put a mask on, etc. etc. Me, ive made it rain a few times, throwing money at people seems to put people in a good mood lol. Just keep things new, innovative, dabble in production as well. If you really want to be famous, you will have to produce. If not, you might just be stuck doing the same gigs and never traveling out of town. DJiing is a fine artform, I myself personally, have been producing almost full time as of late,and do gigs whenever im needed, but i always remember where i came from. I always show mad love to any DJ that can make a girl shake her booty or make someone do the melbourne shuffle lol. DJ culture is something thats changing, as of right now, its changing alot. with techology,with age, with the new forms of music coming out. You have to keep up with it. From Grand Wizzard Theodore, the inventor of the Scratch, to Lee Perry the inventor of Dub, always remember its roots, and the people who helped inspire the others to do these things. Speaking without words,and talking with your hands. It goes alot deeper than the average person thinks. Great Article Scott. You do a good job on covering all the angles, and breaking down each aspect perfectly…

    1. Thanks for the kind words and also for sharing your experiences as a DJ. You’re right, sometimes it’s brutal, but it’s a labor of love and one can only hope to inspire and encourage so we can continue to bring good music to the masses. Cheers!

  9. Tina says:

    What a wonderful way to show someone that they CAN do it. I read this and just had to have my son read it. He is 16 and just really starting to show his talent. Electric, acoustic, keyboard, piano and the Cello. He has gotten things here and there to make his music and as cheap as some of his stuff is he is making it work. He is so stoked after reading this. I can hear him putting beats together and using is kaosilator. Thanks for sharing this. You inspire and that is just RAD!!

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words Tina! Please let us know if he ever has any questions, we’ll help him get sorted. Stay tuned for more content on the DJ’s Life And Times soon!

  10. Maaaaaaaaaaaannn!! I just read this article for the third time. Wow. Truly inspiring stuff DJ Madflip.. i was wondering if you could give me some advice because i’ve kinda placed myself in a certain category according to your article. So right now i’m in the “Promoting and Marketing” stage but i’m having alotta difficulty promoting my music where I am. I used to live in South Africa and so alotta people from there know my music and my abilities as a DJ. However now that i’m living in Geneva, its gotten alot harder to get my stuff out there and get a bit of recognition. I have to be honest in the last year its gotten better and i’ve managed to create some buzz but i’m stil struggling to actually get recognition from clubs/lounges/bars. And to be completely honest, i really just don’t know how to approach a club or the club manager or resident dj and just say “Hey bro, here’s my demo. Please give it a listen and lemme know what you think”. I guess i’m kinda scared to be honest lol

  11. Isabelita Garcia says:

    Nice article DJ Madflip.. This article would be an Instrument for everyone especially for me as a beginner on how to go through the tough waves of DJing. Music is a way to show someone/everyone on how the world is a good place for us and inspire others as they listen to your good music and let them know that they can also be who they wanna be if they just push through the boundaries.

    in short. . . . .

    MUSIC is for EVERYONE. .

    Love you guys from Unique Squared!

  12. Great article. As a long time producer and new DJ it really helps to be a professional. How you deal with the club owners, promoters, and other interested parties can mean the world of difference.

  13. Ralph says:

    djscottmadflip Good day!!!!

    great info do you have articles about crew or group team Dj’s but is not growing and productive.

  14. [...] out Part 2 here. Written by: djscottmadflip on February 8, 2011. Tagged as: DJ, Learn to DJ, Madflip, Tutorial [...]

  15. [...] out Part 2 here. Written by: djscottmadflip on February 8, 2011. Tagged as: DJ, Learn to DJ, Madflip, Tutorial [...]

  16. Ed_Turner says:

    Dear DJMadflip,

    After reading your 2-part article and also viewing videos on YouTube from UniqueSquared, I have been inspired to buy my first DJ Controller (Numark Mixtrack PRO) and begin DJ’ing, mixing and creating some awesome mashups. I have never used any “hardware” and have only been using my Mouse and VirtualDJ (I guess we have to start somewhere LOL).

    Anyway, I have one question, by using a DJ Controller with inbuilt effects, loops etc.. instead of a seperate mixer and 2 seperate CD players does that make me an effortless/Fake/Digital DJ (whatever that means)/Music swapper? I have no idea what these terms mean when it comes to DJ’ing and I don’t want them to hinder my decisions and my ambition to travel down the DJ’ing path.

    It seems that most (if not all) of the new coming-of-age DJ’s are being hated on from a percentage of Veterans from back in the day and I have no idea why. Will all this affect my chances from becoming successful?

    Cheers,
    Ed

    1. Hey Ed, I am very honored and proud to have inspired you in any way to follow your dream of being a DJ. It is one the most exciting and fulfilling activities you will ever be a part of, whether it be as a hobby or a profession. Your choice to start with a Mixtrack Pro is a good one because you are already familiar with Virtual DJ and it is easy to learn the mechanics of djing on this controller. Everyone must start somewhere and this is as good as any. Don’t ever worry about what any one else thinks about the gear that you use, stay positive, focus on your creativity, and always be willing to learn new things. You seem very respectful, genuine and enthusiastic. Staying true to yourself will always lead to success! Please let me know if I can ever help in any way. Cheers!