If you love music and you think that fiddling with rhythms and styles to create unique unexpected mixes is something you could do forever, then becoming a DJ might be a perfect career opportunity for you.
However, with all the fun the job offers, it is far more than simply building a random playlist in a one-size-fits-all way. Truth be told, apart from talent and passion for music, DJing requires a lot of hard work, savviness in music trends, understanding the audience’s preferences, and crowd entertainment skills. And although there is no single certificate you need to have to enter the industry, it is in your best interests to be a well-versed professional and an all-rounded person in general.
Understanding the DJing Profession
What makes the DJing industry so tempting is that it has almost boundless potential. Normally working as freelancers or on a contract basis, DJs have the luxury of being on top of their working time and earnings. The annual income varies from several thousand to millions of dollars. For reference, the famed DJ Skrillex earns up to 15 million USD per year. But in fact, beginners have to work their fingers to the bones, often having an extra part-time job and taking every gig they may find to make a name for themselves.
When it comes to throwing a party or an event that includes music, it doesn’t go without a DJ. From close family birthday parties to posh weddings, from large sports events to radio broadcasts, a DJ is often a welcomed guest. As much as it is true that you don’t need a formal education certificate to be a DJ, getting one or a few would give you unquestionable boons in this field. In fact, DJing has become such an integral part of the art field that a lot of art schools and academies introduce DJ courses and classes, and there you may get most of the skills you need to succeed in the industry. This leads us to the next point.
What Skills and Knowledge Should You Have to Be a DJ?
DJing career paths are many; therefore, there is no single way to how you can succeed in this industry. You may choose to work in the nightclubs, be the most welcomed pro at the weddings, or build your career on the radio. Regardless of your choice, however, there is a number of knowledge and skills any DJ must possess.
First and foremost, a DJ is a musician. Even though DJs use pre-recorded tracks to create the mood with their music mixes, they should have full command over music trends, preferences, and music theory to give the audience appealing tunes they want to hear. Attending a music school or even obtaining a degree in a music-related major can be quite beneficial and illuminating for a beginner DJ. This will give you the essential knowledge and skills to succeed in a DJing career. However, you might as well choose the way of self-training and self-educating, if it suits you best. It is just a matter of available time and your preferences.
Also, Audio or Sound Engineering university programs proved to be useful for DJs. After four years, you’ll get a full understanding of sound and different ways of manipulating it. In the course, you will become familiar with analogue technologies, mixing consoles, surround sound, studio maintenance, and more, which can save you a good deal of time compared to the trial-and-error way that always comes with self-learning.
And if you think that it’s all you need, don’t jump to conclusions too fast. The job of a DJ is closely connected with different types of equipment, and a good DJ would know how to fix it fast if something goes wrong. After all, when the music stops, your technical skills define whether the show will go on or you go home unpaid with your reputation ruined.
Moreover, as a DJ, you need to have a complete understanding of synchronizing and crossfading, sound effects, delay effects, vocoders, etc. Know how to operate vinyl, CDs, and MP3s. Have backup music in case the crowd starts to get bored. Finally, be seasoned in various music styles to adjust to different audiences and their preferences.
However, according to Pro-papers PR expert consultant Allan Morgan, the skillset of a good DJ doesn’t end here. “Not every DJ understands that the job is as much related to the hospitality sector as it is to the music,” says he. “A good Disk Jockey must know how to entertain the crowd, both with their music skills, engaging commentaries, and body movements. As much as an orchestra conductor directs the musicians, a DJ using the music mixes guides the crowd, and the success of an event largely depends on it.”
As you may see, even though many believe that investing in good equipment is enough to succeed in DJing, it is far from the truth. You have to grow both musically and socially to become known among your potential clients. As most of the beginner DJs promote their work by themselves, it’s important to also gain some self-marketing skills. And even then, you have to be ready to work overtime or provide music at less prestigious events.
And finally, often it is not the education that defines a good DJ, but rather the location. Miami and the City of Angels, for example, are famous for their vibrant nightlife and endless parties, and therefore, they attract a lot of musicians and DJs from all over the world. The cities offer an array of DJing classes and courses, as well as the opportunity to learn from the best and build an extensive network of contacts. Therefore, if you live in a small city, leaving it might be the greatest step to your success.
Whatever the case is, make sure that you always have a bunch of your business cards. You never know when you meet the right person, after all.