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Though the past few years left us with a bit of uncertainty in the realm of live shows, 2023 has been a complete rebirth for performing DJs and musicians. The opportunities for DJ gigs are better than they ever have been.
While cold-calling venues and promoters or putting together an EPK are still excellent ways to get DJ gigs, there are a few more marketing and promotional tactics that you can use to shake things up even further.
So, whether you’re looking to play your first DJ gig or step up your game and get more DJ gigs this coming year, this “How to Get DJ Gigs” guide will help you get your foot in the door and get noticed.
Table of Contents
1. How to Get DJ Gigs – Create A Strong Brand
First up… Branding. Love it or hate it, your brand is one of the most important elements of your DJing career. Some people might discover you before they ever hear your music, and your brand will give them an idea of what you’re all about. From images to videos to fonts, there are many brand elements to consider.
Note that developing your own brand takes some time, but the more thought you invest into it now, the more success you’ll find down the road. Start by investing in high-quality press images and graphics. Hire a photographer for a session or two and get some professional shots that you can send to promoters and labels. The more professional you look, the more valuable of an asset a promoter will think you are.
Beyond photos, here are a few tips on ways you can start building out your brand:
- Find Your Market – Figure out who your ideal clients are, whether festival goers, families, club promoters, etc. In doing so, you’ll be able to narrow your marketing efforts.
- Design a Logo – If you aren’t design-savvy, hire a graphic designer on websites like 99designs or Fiverr
- Sell Merch – From stickers to t-shirts to hoodies, there are endless ways to integrate your brand into your merch. You can read more about making and selling merch here.
Take inspiration from a more experienced DJ on social media and see how they present themselves or what kinds of brand elements they use.
TopTip: Use Pinterest to create mood boards for your brand. Gather images that you identify with and build up an aesthetic for your brand.
2. Build Your Online Presence
Building an online presence takes time, but the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll begin amassing followers, fans and more gigs.
One great way to start is by designing a website. Luckily, you don’t need to be a coder or web designer to build a site that looks legitimate, as there are plenty of website-building platforms like SquareSpace or Wix that make the process as easy as building out a social media account.
Make sure you have all of the necessary components on your website, including your bio, your music, a photo/video gallery, an online store with merch, upcoming DJ gigs, and most importantly, contact information.
Your website should act as the central hub for all of your social media platforms as well. Even if you’re not a fan of using social media, you need to do it. There’s no better way in the modern era to establish a business as a DJ. You don’t have to post every day – you can use apps like Buffer or Meta Business Suite to schedule your posts for you.
Not sure what to post on social media? Here are a few ideas:
- Share photos & videos of you mixing
- Promote upcoming DJ gigs by reposting event flyers or posters
- Upload gear walkthroughs or tutorial videos
- Do live sets
- Post pictures of your items that align with your brand (As long as they align with your brand, there are no limitations)
In the same way that your content should be spread across all social media platforms, your music should be spread across all streaming platforms. From Mixcloud to Soundcloud to Spotify and beyond, the more platforms your music is available on, the more people will have the chance to find you.
A useful book for building your social media presence is One Million Followers by Brendan Kane. If you want to dive deeper into planning your social media strategy, there are more useful books in my article Music Marketing Books.
3. Network With Local DJs & Promoters
Though it may not come as a surprise to you, one of the best ways to get more DJ gigs is to make friends with DJs in your area! When I was in college, I would often go to parties at a house down the street from me, which was filled with music majors. There was a DJ duo that lived in the house who DJ’d every other week. I decided to ask if one of my buddies and I could DJ for one of their parties. It was nothing serious, just for fun. They were stoked that I asked, and a few weeks later, we got the chance to DJ a party with a few hundred people at it.
Now, I’m not encouraging you to hang around the DJ booth and pester anyone performing as soon as they step off the decks, but it can be a huge help to get out there and start engaging with club owners and DJs. Focus on spending time at gigs and being supportive, and allow the “asking for a gig” portion of the conversation to come up naturally.
The more you’re in the scene and supporting other DJs, the more authentic it’ll look when you actually shoot your shot and say you want to play, and the less you’ll seem like a pest begging for a spot.
Plus, collaboration in music is helpful in numerous aspects, so it doesn’t hurt to start making friends who are in the same boat as you. You’ll find that the more you help others, the more reliable and valuable an asset you become in your scene. This builds on itself and people will start to include you in their plans. I’ve gotten more gigs and collaborations by chatting and making friends with people than by any other method. The beauty is it all feels really natural. Within my network we all love similar music, we all want more gigs and a lot of us want to put gigs on – so being part of that helps everyone. Find your scene and more DJ gigs will happen organically.
Here are a few things I recommend trying out:
4. Find local DJ and Music Producer Events
OK, just to be clear, by DJ events I mean events that are put on for DJs, not gigs. Have a look on Meetup.com & Facebook groups to see if there are any musician networking events in your area.
I go to a few in my city that I’ve found on Facebook and Meetup.com. I initially typed “Manchester DJs” into Meetup and found a group that meets to hang out and have a mix in the local DJ studios. I also found the Ableton User Group events, which are great places to meet music producers and DJs. You’ll also learn a lot about your craft. You can find out where they are hosted on the Ableton site.
There might be other local events in your area that are run by non-profits that help emerging artists. For example, in the UK, the Musician’s Union provides workshops local to each city, and the Arts Council funds music projects for emerging artists. So, have a good Google of what’s available in your area. These places are really worthwhile checking out as you’ll meet like-minded individuals who can help you navigate your local scene. You’re bound to learn something too.
5. Take your thumb drives to parties (and after parties)
If you want to get more gigs, ALWAYS have your music with you and ready to go. One of my good DJ friends used to carry his thumb drive around when he went to parties, as he never knew when an opportunity would arise to hop on the decks. Attach the USB stick to your keychain, and you’ll be ready to play anytime.
6. Ask festival and event organisers if you can be the opening act
If you’re wondering how to get gigs at festivals and don’t have a big fanbase yet, I recommend getting in touch with local festival and party promoters and asking if you can open up for larger acts. You can even offer your services for free if promoting yourself is the priority! The worst they can say is “no.” However, land a gig opening up for a bigger name, and you could end up getting to play in front of crowds that wouldn’t get to see you otherwise. – This step ties in nicely with networking in your local science.
There are loads of mini-festivals, ones that aren’t mainstream with huge crowds; adjust your expectations and start with these smaller niche festivals for better success. You can use these as a springboard to get DJ gigs at larger festivals.
7. Hand out mixes so people get to know you
Though it might seem like an old-school guerrilla marketing tactic, there’s still nothing quite as effective as the face time you get when you physically hand your music to someone. Stand outside a club or venue on a busy weekend night and hand people your best mixes. Most people will take the time to listen to it if it’s free and in their hands, and eventually, word of mouth will do its thing.
Add your Mixcloud & Soundcloud mixes to a Linktree account, then print out your Linktree QR code on flyers or business cards. People you hand them to only have to scan the QR code to listen to your mixes. The beauty of using Linktree is that you can keep updating your mixes whilst keeping the same QR code. So get a batch of cards printed up via a print-on-demand service such as Vistaprint and hand them out!
8. Find Open Deck Nights
Open deck events are a great way to get DJ gigs – as you can just turn up! A lot of bars and clubs run these types of nights (or days) during quieter periods of the week. Basically, you turn up with your music and get a 15 – 30-minute slot to DJ. Similar to the open mic format you see in comedy & acoustic music. Have a look in your local area for these events, make a list of them, and then go and play them.
You’re likely to meet other DJs who are doing similar which provides another great networking opportunity. Again, networking is key – you’ll be able to tap into other DJ’s knowledge of the local scene and find other options to pursue locally. It also provides a great opportunity to capture pictures and videos for social media.
Related: Best DJ Courses Online
9. Register With DJ Agencies & Directories
There are tons of DJ agencies and music directories out there, from large companies that book international artists to small agencies that work on a local level. One of the main reasons DJs get themselves on these directories and agency rosters is that it grants them access to clubs and venues that would otherwise be difficult to access alone.
A great agent who works hard for you can be a huge asset. With that said, it’s up to you to make sure the agent understands your style and primary audience so the services they provide are compatible with your brand. Spend some time researching all of the relevant entertainment directories and agencies before diving in head first.
Be wary of agents that require subscription fees or any other payments to be on their client rosters. Legitimate agents do NOT charge fees upfront. Instead, they take a commission on the DJ gigs they book you.
10. Collaborate With Other DJs & Artists
When you’re working in a local music scene, knowing how to network and collaborate with other DJs is crucial. In fact, it can be one of the best ways to increase the amount of DJ gigs you get.
When you reach out to DJs in your network, you open up new avenues and markets.
The important thing to start with is determining what it is you bring to the table. What are your strengths? Are you a great producer? Do you play instruments? Maybe you just have a huge group of followers on social media?
Whatever the case is, you want to find someone that has common goals, and even better yet, has strengths that balance out your weaknesses. Both you and those you collaborate with should bring something to the table, just like two business partners.
Now, I’m not suggesting your relationships should be all business. Keep things light. Make music with one another. Have fun. Just keep your goals a priority so that when the time arises to take the next step, whether that’s putting together a show or releasing a mixtape with your collaborator, you’re both on the same page.
11. Promote your own club night
Depending on where you live, you might not have any good club nights in your area. On the other hand, you might just not like what current promoters are offering.
In this case, the best solution is to start promoting your own club night!
I can’t think of a better way to create a launchpad for your new DJ and career while raking in a bit of extra cash. Many beginner promoters will run free-entry parties to get people in the door and take 10-15% of the bar to make up for what they paid.
This method is super low-risk for venue owners, as you only get paid if you’re able to bring enough people in. As the word of your club night gets around and it starts growing in popularity, you can begin charging at the door. As with anything in life, you start small and work your way up.
The important thing is that you make sure you always have the funds to run the event and break even, even if you’re unable to make a profit. The fastest way to tarnish your representation is by being so far in the red that you can’t pay the other DJs and performers on the bill.
12. Do Gigs For Free
If you’re brand new to DJing, the first thing you should be concerned about is getting experience. This might mean playing free DJ gigs just to get used to what it feels like to play in front of a crowd.
Sure, “exposure” isn’t going to pay the bills, but you have to start somewhere. From a promoter’s point of view, playing for free mitigates risk. If they’re legitimate, you’ll get your foot in the door for future paid DJ gigs.
DJing for free is pretty normal as long as you see it as an investment in your dj business for the long term. Eventually, you’ll want to offer that same promoter a lower temporary rate. For example, if you want to charge $100 per hour to DJ, start by offering them $60 per hour. This can be somewhat of a paid trial period.
Just make sure that you never undersell yourself in the long run. Remember, when you offer super low rates, you not only undercut yourself but the entire DJing industry as a whole. Don’t let promoters walk all over you.
Being a DJ costs time and money. Not only do you need to buy all of the equipment and pay for travel, but you’ll also need to spend hours practising.
13. Produce Your Own Music
While it will certainly take a decent amount of time and effort, producing your own music is one of the best routes to becoming a recognized DJ. Make a track that a lot of people love and want to listen to, and promoters and booking agents will eventually come to you to get you on their lineups.
The great thing is that producing music is easier than ever. There are so many accessible tools and resources out there, and many DJs starting out have the ability to produce professional-sounding tracks from the comfort of their own bedrooms. Unlike the old days, there’s no need to go to a professional recording studio. As long as you have a laptop, a solid pair of headphones, and a DAW, you’re pretty much good to go.
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