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Starting out, part 4

Things that change once you become a DJ

2017 Jun 26     
2 Bit Thugs

So you've had your first paid gig. What happens now?

Becoming a DJ is, without a doubt, an immersive experience. Playing gigs, searching for tunes, promoting yourself and your events and all the other things involved in DJing can be time-consuming, and together with the late nights, can make a huge impact on your life.

If you find yourself truly committing to DJing, then one of the biggest changes you might notice is how you listen to music. After you've spent a few years listening to tracks to evaluate if they're going to work on your dancefloor, then reflecting on them in the context of your entire collection and working out where to fit them in your DJ sets, even a piece of entirely un-dance-music-related music such as a beautiful solo classical piano piece can, in the DJ's head, quickly become the main feature of a big-room breakdown. An old 80s pop tune comes on the radio and you find yourself evaluating its low end and idly wondering if you could loop the first four bars as the basis of the genre-defining electro classic you've been meaning to produce.

You'll also develop ninja-like listening abilities, and will be able to evaluate if a track is the kind of thing you might like almost instantly, while your friends beg you to just once, please, leave a track on in the car for more than a few seconds. You’ll learn to auto-spot synth pre-sets and sample packs in other producers tunes and become an expert in spotting when a DJ's software has synced a tune incorrectly.

As your DJ mixes start to get noticed, you will probably get asked to do internet radio shows. A lot. Which is great, as it’s a good opportunity to showcase your tunes and your skills, but if you're not careful they might end up eating up all your time. Part of the ever-expanding job role of a DJ is being able to discern which requests might actually be mutually beneficial, and which are coming from a 14-year-old kid in Cincinnati whose entire audience consists of his best friend Corey. And if it's the latter, don't be mean to Corey's mate, let him down gently - kids like him might just be the future of electronic music.

Your friends will start asking you to DJ at their parties. This is usually a brilliant thing and a great informal opportunity to hone your skills and try out your tune selection. Just be wary of being booked to play at your cousin's sister-in-law's engagement party, and turning up with your minimal Cocoon set when all they really want is Lady Gaga and Sister Sledge.

In the rest of the world, away from clubs and DJs, your older relatives will struggle to work out exactly what it is that you do, but will still insist on attempting to discuss it with you at family events. However, much more pleasantly, upon seeing you young nieces and nephews will hold imaginary headphones to one ear while cueing up imaginary vinyl - without knowing what either of these gestures actually mean.

One of your mates may amuse themselves when you’re playing by telling everyone that you’re taking requests. Another might think it amusing to stand in front of the DJ booth, wafting his nose as though there was a bad smell, shouting "Call yourself a DJ? You couldn't mix cement" and other witticisms. My mates did anyway. They’ll probably also be your biggest fans and sort you out with drinks, so take the rough with the smooth.

You will develop fantastic interpersonal skills as you negotiate near-impossible conversations with people who have been awake for several days, whom you can't hear over the music anyway. You will find a hundred different ways to say "excuse me" as you weave through packed dancefloors on your way to and from the booth. Your connection to the huge and ever-growing pulsating brain that rules from the centre of the underworld will increase and strengthen.

But most of all, you will create some unforgettable memories, for your audience and yourself. At the time you may just think it’s just another night out, but hopefully, at some point, you'll look back at your gigs as some of the best times of your life. Just make sure you turn down Corey's mate and not Boiler Room.

Words: Harold Heath Pic: Pixabay/Creative Commons

Catch up: Click here to read Starting out parts one, two and three





Tags: Starting out, DJ tips, DJing for beginners, Harold Heath