How and when you finally decided that you wanted to be a night club DJ is most likely now just a blur. When the idea finally hit you to go out and compete in the world of professional DJing, chances are you didn't realize what a challenge it was going to be to get work as a DJ. You may have initially found that no one wanted you to DJ, but most everyone would have been happy to give you a job as a street promoter. You see, one of the most important aspects of almost everything involved with the dance music community is promotions.
Promoting yourself as a DJ can be a very confusing thing when you are just starting out. Putting yourself, as well as your promotional materials in the right places can be the difference in succeeding or not. Where you choose to spend your time and your resources trying to get gigs, should depend on what you have to offer and where you fit in. What kind of a DJ are you? What style of music do you want to perform and in what kind of venue? Your style and your performance vibe will determine where you should go to look for work. For example, if you were the type of DJ that plays San Francisco style house music, you wouldn't want to be spending the most important parts of your time trying to get booked in a banging techno club. Because there are so many places to expend resources, where you will see very little return on them, we would like to show you a few ways that may help you down the path to getting gigs a little smoother.
How much work is available and who else is trying to get that work, is a very important thing to keep and eye on. One thing is for sure, if there are available time slots in a certain night spot, someone else is trying to figure out how to secure it before you do. The DJ world is very competitive. You see, there are predominantly three layers of status in every local DJ community. First, you have the DJs that are playing in the resident DJ positions. That is the top level. Then, just under them you have the DJs that "support" the resident DJs above them. These guys or gals are the ones who open up the night and get everything started for the resident DJs. Then, just under the "support" DJs, is the level that we call "the trenches." This level is where most of the competition takes place for the guys or gals that are trying to get into the system. This is the level where everyone is trying to get noticed and hopefully booked for a gig. "The trenches" contain many different levels of DJs as well. There are all kinds of individual levels of experience, those with a lot of time in the scene, and those with very little time in the scene. What is visible is actually only a fraction of what goes on at this level. There are propositions about DJing and for DJing gigs going on all the time. If you want to be a part of the game, you have to get out there and play it.
Getting out there and actually doing what it takes to be a club play DJ, takes a great amount of drive and determination. You physically must be out there in the mix of the community, interacting as the person you want to be. You want to be a DJ. You are promoting yourself as a DJ. Earlier, we talked about putting your materials in the right places, now it is time to actually put them there. In the night club world, several people have influence over what DJs play in the night clubs. Promoters, Club Managers, Owners, and Bar Managers, are the most popular of these people. Getting your materials into their hands is important. Once you have determined where you would like to work, get out there and make yourself visible. No one is going to give you a gig if you just stay at home and mail CDs to people. Getting into the environment, and shaking that promoters hand, and meeting that club manager is a must. Meeting the promoters right hand people is very important as well, they can help you break the ice with the main promoter. Talk to the bartenders, say "hi" to the securities, analyze the environment from a spot in the club. You can figure out who's in charge by watching the situation from a perched position. If you don't already know who the promoter is, look for the guy or gal that seems to be in control of everything. Who does everyone else look to, to make the decision? Try to meet the friends of the promoters, they are a good way into seizing the chance to meet the guy in charge. Buy someone influential a drink. By buying a drink for someone, you seize a valuable few minutes of their time spent in gratitude for the drink you bought them, and the value of the social concept of drink buying. You really don't want to talk someone's ear off the first time you meet them, but do gain some knowledge on who they are, and what they do in the club. Ultimately, through patronizing the club you will meet the right people to go after for that booking. Meet the other DJs. If anyone is a possible ally, it would be the DJs that are there already. Ultimately, they will be the people you want to work with, so it would probably be a good idea to get to know them a little. It is better that they meet you on the front end, than for the promoter to go up to them and ask them who you are. Promoters rely a lot on they're DJ's advice and experience with other DJ's reputations in the music community.
How to properly promote yourself as a DJ is an art in itself, and worthy of a small series of articles. The basics of promoting yourself to gain bookings and ultimately making a name for yourself, lies in being tolerant of the ever changing night club world. That is the reason why we mention the fact that you must be out in the community and obsessively active in what goes on. Putting CDs in people's hands matters a lot too, but it is ultimately about being elastic to, and changing momentum, with the shifting of the night club world. A spot that is hot this month, may not be next month. Many other factors determine how much work is available in any given cities community. Are the local colleges in session? Is it wintertime? Was there just a major incident somewhere in the country? A lot of factors depend on how much work there is for you to compete for. Knowing the main methods for getting people to remember you and what you seek, are important to your success at getting booked.
When it comes time to make that irreversible decision of handing someone a CD, and stating, through that person listening to your CD, what kind of DJ you are, you should induce some serious thought into what you ought to put on that special CD. It is suggested that each CD have the tracks selected for that specific gig that you are trying to get. A format that applies to one location most likely will not apply at another. It is up to you to cater to those promoters, who see so many CDs submitted to them every week, to cater yours to what they want to hear. They will not read into what is on your CD, so make it hit a homerun instead of just getting a base hit with them. The demo CD is your audition into their night club. They don't really have the time to take out of their schedules to come to a club and listen to you play in an empty room during the week. Promoters rely on what they hear on your CD, and what the people around them say about what they have heard about you. Getting that all to rare first chance can depend upon how much effort you put into your materials. Take the time to put out a quality product and you will definitely have a better chance at getting some attention from the guys who call the shots.
Besides giving a demo CD to a promoter, there are other ways to get your name out in the local community. Printed media materials are not as expensive as they used to be. You could probably get yourself a nice business card sized flyer with all of your information on it for less that a hundred dollars. 5000 of those flying around a city can cause some attention to be focused your way. Around each city there are locations referred to as "drops." "Drops" are places that promoters leave their flyers that promote their night clubs. Leave some of your materials at these locations as well. You should always get permission from the owners of the location before you leave materials as a courtesy. You may even run into some of those promoters we talked about at these special "drop" locations. Catching them outside of their environment where you can actually get a few minutes of their time can be very valuable. Hanging out in the local record stores is pretty key as well. If your ultimate goal is to be a club jock, then hang out where the club jocks are. Through being at the record stores and befriending some key people, you can possibly gain an advantage over someone who doesn't spend as much time socializing as you do. Spending time doing what you need to do, and seeing who you need to see, is the most valuable attribute to getting successful. There is a very common quote in the world that goes, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind." If that quote had to prove it's validity in the world, being attached to the dance community would validate it. If you aren't around, no one will miss you.
Get out there! Stay out there! Get Bookings.
By DJ Airek