Getting DJ gigs

Getting more DJ Gigs

by Mohamed Kamal on May 3, 2013

1 Comment

This is part 5 of a new series on Getting Started in Music Production originally posted on our sister company Audyolab. We started the series talking about what is considered the most important attribute: Learning. We then covered Choosing the right DAWMusic Production Process and then Mixing

So now you have produced some tracks (not records) and you want to get your name out there. This is the common Producer to DJ transition route, I happen to be one of them. Majority of my DJ friends were DJs first then started producing. DJ’ing is a lot of fun, especially if you are playing your own tracks. What a great feeling it is to be playing to a crowd of house heads jamming to a track you created. Trust me when I say this, it’s EUPHORIC.

In this day and age everyone can DJ, that’s a good thing because it creates competition which in turn pushes the boundaries and eliminates mediocrity. But can you really buy $300 DJ controller, get some tunes from Beatport and pitch a promoter to DJ? The short answer is “NO – don’t waste your time. I know some promoters would take issue with this and somehow I’m sure that there are some success stories with this method but trust me this is worst way to approach a venue.
Why is it a bad idea? Most clubs and promoters receive an unbelievable number of DJ pitches every week. It really is hard to process them all effectively so some sorts of filtering techniques develop.

Most promoters will figure that if you are truly a good DJ you’ll find somebody that knows them, develop a relationship with that person and find a way to get them to introduce you to them. If you can’t do that then you’re probably not really a professional DJ. It is like an old boys club. It may sound harsh but I think it’s true. If you can’t get an introduction to a promoter then how on Earth are you going to break down the doors to get bigger gigs regionally and most of all globally. In short, in most cases being a DJ requires a strong dose of tenacity.

And when I speak on this topic with upcoming producers I like to remind people that, “when I got gigs there were no easy ways to figure out who were the friends of the promoters (let alone the club owners) but in now you have all the social networking tools: Facebook, Twitter or even just plain old Google Search. It’s pretty darn easy. But aside from the obvious social graph information I’m going to give you a few tips:

1. Differentiate yourself

To me there are three types of DJs – Big Names, Underground and Mainstream/Club. Deciding on which path you want to venture on, helps a lot. David Guetta’s Nothing But the Beat movie kind of sums up the rise of an underground DJ to fame.
With that in mind, majority of DJs hover locally in their cities playing 1-2 venues (underground or mainstream) per week. Anything less than that is a hobbyist. Underground producers who have been consistently releasing tracks for 5-6 years, play at least once in a different city each week. Producers with 10-12 years of consistent releases with a hit in their belt, are crossing over to the “big name” status. It’s all sweat and effort! So decide and commit early on which path you want to venture on.

2. Get your tracks to a quality Record Label

Before hitting the streets networking and talking to promoters, try to get your tracks to a quality record label. The label should have a strong brand and presence in your region. A good record label is like an over-blown promoter. Everything the record label releases automatically reaches the venues and promoters you are trying to gig in. I call it the “top-down” approach. The organic “bottom-up” approach is like building a brand that people would follow on a regular basis, putting their faith in that brand to book quality talent, which allowed the promoter to have unknown DJs perform is fading away. Plus it takes years to build a solid brand. Also, having 5000 friends in Facebook has absolutely no evidence to date leading to actual fans who are willing to buy your records or tickets to gigs. False online hype never gets you anywhere and I strongly believe “being genuine and original, SELLS”.

So treat record labels as a traditional promoter.

3. Track down Underground or Mainstream/Club promoters

Before talking to any promoter, make sure you have at least 20 to 30 people willing to come out and support you. You must have some sort of traction. Either it’s your neighbor, grandmother or girlfriend’s hairdresser. Find a way to get them out. Most underground promoters host monthly events and sometimes weekly. Their line-up is packed with local talent and maybe 2-3 out-of-town DJs. If you don’t know where the underground events are, then again, you are in the wrong profession. Come early, buy drinks and get noticed. Promoters are either next to the DJs or busy talking with a lot of people. You can always ask the bartender who’s hosting the event. Wait until they are alone or by the bar then walk confidentially and deliver your pitch. If you have tracks released on Beatport or iTunes, mentioned that. I highly advise not to be that “too cool for school” dude, be yourself and a dose of enthusiasm plus confidence helps. Don’t hand them business card with a soundcloud link until they ask for it, other wise it will end up in the trash. Always get their email as a follow up. If you they don’t show any interest, come back to their next event and start all over again.

4. Other DJs in general

Another very obvious source of information is just to network as widely as you can with other DJs. They often get bogged down with their day jobs, promoting their gigs and dealing with hangovers. However most of them are cool and willing to help. Don’t ask them for gigs unless they are your friends. The best source of advice in general on how to build your following is from talking with other DJs who have recently done it or are currently doing it. Specifically they will be able to give you tons of information about local promoter and their experiences pitching them. You can’t rely on the information of the first one or two you speak with but if you meet with enough DJs you’ll be able to figure out the good guys and the bad guys. You can give back by supporting your local DJs by going to their events and help them create awareness of their events. Don’t be douche and continuously take without giving. We have a lot them.

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Mohamed Kamal is an ex SiriusXM producer/DJ turned entrepreneur. The founder of Gigturn, a platform that connects DJs with fans and gigs.

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