In my experience as a DJ and occasional promoter, I’ve dealt with a lot of bad attitudes and ineffective methodologies. Many of these people, unfortunately, share a handful of common negative traits.
My goal today is to share 5 of these observances with you, in hopes that you will avoid these traps along your path to becoming a forward-thinking, self-propelled DJ and a positive force in your scene.
Nothing will make you an ineffective DJ faster than not giving a crap.
The job of the DJ is to find a musical common ground; to provide a soundtrack fitting to the atmosphere and the vibe that has been properly observed. In fact, the very idea of crowd reading depends on empathy.
The most bull-headed DJs among us don’t have the time or inclination to give any thought to the desires of their own audience. If you can’t relate, you can’t deliver.
The idea is not to compromise, but to resonate with those listening to you in order to enhance the atmosphere of the night. If you feel like you are constantly “selling out”, perhaps it’s time to pursue more appropriate gigs.
A happy crowd leads to a fulfilled DJ. Put yourself in their shoes, and take note of what’s working for them!
I’ve seen it time and time again. The DJ that only cares about themselves is rarely satisfied, rarely connects with their audience, and is a caustic element to a local scene.
If your attitude is “take, take, take”, you’re quickly going to find that this approach is unsustainable.
Most successful and fulfilled DJs realize that a generous attitude (that is, a tendency to give back to their scene and their audience) will get them much farther than drawing lines and taking what you can get.
That does not mean to devalue yourself (as you should know your monetary worth, and stand your ground when appropriate), but rather, to have a positive approach which uplifts us all.
Building an audience. Gaining momentum. Scoring better gigs. Connecting with the right people. Developing your sound. Branding yourself. Garnering local support.
These are all things which require consistency. Steady work. Constant delivery.
If you don’t have a solid and steady approach to advancing yourself and your personal brand, you’re basically hoping to win the lottery when it comes to personal growth.
The smart DJ realizes that he or she is not going to win them all. You’re going to have to play your share of empty rooms. If you promote shows, you’re going to have to lose your ass sometimes. Unless you’re a brilliant businessman in a bustling town, with a lot of luck, be prepared to fail often.
But the DJ with a lot of heart, combined with some “stick-to-itiveness”, is much more likely to start winning the numbers game over time.
The impatient DJ has no sense of ebb and flow. Of tension and release.
The DJ who knows when to hold back, and has a knack for subtlety, is worth his or her weight in gold. It’s not GO-GO-GO all the time… it’s “let me take you somewhere”.
While there is a time and place for slamming it out, the trick is knowing when that moment is… instead of forcing it on your audience at inappropriate times.
At a more “meta” level, the patient DJ realizes that the path to success resembles a marathon more than a sprint. Reinforcing point number three, building a personal brand can take years. The “overnight success” is almost non-existent when it comes to real life.
Ain’t nobody got time for divas!
A willingness to adjust leads to a happier and more effective approach to DJing. Sometimes, we need to get over ourselves and do what is best for the event, venue, or scene in question.
Standing your ground is one thing, but making it all about you is a fantastic way for people to stop paying attention.
A stubborn DJ is often plighted by stunted growth.
Nothing is certain: crowds change, venues change, moods change… heck, even entire scenes change. Having a fluid approach to these things allows you to make adjustments towards what’s working… allowing you to be an effective, memorable music selector.
What To Do Now…
Even though I present these as traits of “awful” DJs, certainly we are all guilty of some of these at times.
Choose one thing on the list that you may be struggling with right now, and make that your focus this week. Decide what is holding you back, and how you can remove this trait from your list of problems.