Now that you’ve got your first DJ gig through Musicians.Agency, other questions arise: how to play at a club? How to prepare for a club show? How to be, how to move, how to act? Anxiety is real when approaching your first ever live performance, but before anything else, slow down and be proud of yourself for getting your first DJ gig
, as this in itself is a big deal already. Playing live is nothing like spinning discs in your bedroom. Now there will be people watching you and expecting something from you, but hold on...my aim is not to give you even more anxiety, but to reduce it by giving you an in-depth guide on how to be, how to move, how to act, how to prepare and everything else. Let’s begin!
BEFORE THE STAGE
Do your research. Find out everything you’d possibly need to know about the venue where you’ll be playing at. Get to know the owner and create friendly connections with the staff. Don’t be afraid to ask some questions. Find out the demographics of the usual crowd and be ready to please them as soon as you drop your first track. It would even be a good idea to visit the club yourself on the night out and observe the scene – what the crowd likes, what DJ’s are usually playing there, how’s the vibe and so on. This way you’ll be fully familiar with the setting of your first gig and feel a lot more comfortable on the stage. Going out and attending events means you’ll be supporting other promoters and will have a chance to connect with DJs like yourself and this will go a long way when first starting as a DJ.
Be familiar with the industry-standard gear. Most DJs start with budget-friendly controllers, failing to consider their lack of ability to use some more advanced controllers at certain venues due to the fact. One of the best things that you can do before your first DJ gig is to be or become entirely familiar with the DJ gear that the club you’re going to be playing in owns. So how to get familiar with professional club gear, while not being able to acquire it yourself?
- One of the ways is to rent the gear from a local audio gear rental company. Rental is ideal for practicing and is obviously a lot cheaper than actually purchasing the gear. Make sure to ask the rental company for times when it’s cheaper to rent, consider the weekly and monthly rates and make yourself familiar with price rates of every rental company nearby to get the best deal.
- Another way is to go and check the gear out in a music store. Many of the stores actually let you take the gear home for a trial period in hopes of a potential sales deal.
- Ask for a soundcheck from the venue. If you are on good terms with the owner of the venue you’re going to play in, it’s highly likely that you’ll get some time to become familiar with the gear before the actual performance. The best thing about this is that you’ll be able to check out the exact gear you will be using on your big night and find out about any defects on the gear (common with well-worn DJ mixers) beforehand. Unfortunately, every club isn’t willing to let you in early and for some club owners, asking for a time to practice may seem like an unprofessional move and make them doubt your ability. All in all, it’s worth asking for a soundcheck upfront to not be surprised a day before your gig for finding out that you won’t be let in early.
- Ask for the gear from your DJ friends or local DJs. Ask and you shall receive – asking a DJ friend or a local DJ community to borrow a controller you want to practice on won’t hurt a bit. There could be someone living next door to you who has the exact gear you’re looking for and is willing to lend it out to you. Join some local DJ Facebook groups and shout out your request – you can even make some new connections through the act.
Be prepared for different conditions.
Get used to mixing at late hours. As you’re probably already aware, clubs operate at very late hours of the day, usually opening at 10 pm the earliest. You need to be up, going and full of your greatest energy at the time you’d usually be fast asleep in home. Try practicing at hours of the day when you’d need to hit the stage, so your body will adapt with late working hours.
Market yourself, if needed. Some clubs have their own usual crowd or do the marketing themselves, but for some venues (usually smaller and less known places), you have to do it yourself. Spread the word in Facebook groups, create a Facebook event or put up posters a couple of weeks earlier. For your first gig, ask the support of your friends and get them down there. If not for the whole night, at least get them to commit for an hour. You will honestly feel much more comfortable with familiar and friendly faces in the crowd throwing hands. Be an active promoter of the event, not just yourself. This will attract the most success and opportunities and will catch the eye of other event promoters and organizers. Invite everyone you know and build the awareness around your show.
Practice, practice, practice. Make sure you’re ready to hit the stage, because you want to be confident in front of the crowd and not only think about your next moves. Knowing your act gives you time to enjoy the process and read the crowd for an even better delivery. Although, don’t stress too much. Once you know how to do your thing and feel confident about yourself, don’t overly worry about messing up. Most audience members won’t even notice if you make a mistake somewhere.
Know who else is playing. It might be, that you won’t be the only one on the stage this night and if that is the case, make sure to do some research about your fellow DJs. You don’t have to become a fan, but knowing about others shows professional courtesy. Even if they don’t show you the same courtesy, it’s the little things like this that matter and get the attention of the industry heavy-hitters.
Pack the right kit. Always remember to take all the things you need with you. Things you’ll need might be headphones, adaptor, USB stick, laptop, laptop charger, CD’s, etc. Very few clubs have a set of headphones for you to use on the stage, so make sure to bring your own. Also, take plenty of music with you, not just your USB stick with one playlist, but also CD-s with some classics to be prepared for different kinds of crowds. A backup USB wouldn’t be a bad idea either, in case one decides to not work.
Bring your business cards.
You never know who might be in the club. There might be another club promoter, organizer, a fellow DJ you’re looking up to, etc. If somebody asks you for a business card and they happen to be a club promoter, you’ve got your next gig. Musicians.Agency President plan
designs and delivers you your very own business cards, so you wouldn’t have to worry about not having them on your next gig.
ON THE STAGE
Make sure you vibe with the crowd. Empathy, meaning the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, is the keyword here. Keep your eyes on the crowd and see what they like and what they don’t like. Most club DJs, especially beginners, as we’re talking about your first live performance, are there for the crowd and not the other way around. I know it’s compelling to play your newest hits or new findings, but it’s way more important to play what the crowd cheers for. Most people in the nightclub just want to let loose and dance to their always-go-to throwback songs. You’ve probably felt it yourself when a well known and nostalgic song has come on in a nightclub - the rush of sudden energy it gives you speaks for itself. The ability to adapt with the crowd on spot is very important, but cannot be expected from you when you’re hitting the stage for the first time obviously. By adapting I mean observing your crowd and changing up your tracks if the planned tracklist doesn’t suit the crowd for this night. For example, you’ve done your homework and found out what types of people by age, sex and maybe some other factors visit the nightclub you’re asked to play in. Now you’ve prepared your playlist taking into consideration the statistics you’ve gathered, but on the stage, you realize that for mostly male audience you suddenly have mostly female audience. What do you do now? You’ve come prepared for such surprises and surprise your women with some Milkshake and Single ladies. That’s the goal and once you’ve reached such crowd-reading skills and adaptation style, you’ve really mastered it.
Keep in mind the time slot. For most beginner DJs, they will be offered an opening time slot as a warm-up around 9 to 10 pm, usually right when the venue is opened. I know it’s tempting to play your sickest beats right off the bat, but experienced DJ’s would not recommend that at all. This is where the reading of your crowd comes in as well. You want to get the crowd slowly and steadily into the mood, get them tapping their feet and not steal the show from the headliners. Be mindful about it. Headliners will highly appreciate your tactfulness, the crowd will be nicely warmed up and you yourself will feel in tune with the wholeness of the night.
Although, when you are given a headliner spot, make sure to be there to listen what the DJs before you were playing, so you wouldn’t play the same tracks over again. Have many different playlists, tracks and CD-s prepared to avoid the situation where the DJ before you already played all tracks you were planning to play and to also just truly embrace reading the crowd and seeing what they vibe with the most.
Stay professional. I know it’s your first time and you can get a little nervous. Have a few shots or a drink, but don’t overdo it! You want to be totally aware of what you’re doing and of your surrounding, so stay professional and the nerves will take care of themselves once you’re on the stage. Trust me, it’s not as scary as it might seem when you’re actually on the stage.
Don’t overdo your DJ drop. Most DJs have a DJ drop to pretty much let the crowd know who’s on the stage, but make sure to not overdo it. It doesn’t look professional and people think it’s amateur hour. Drop it around three times in a four-hour set.
Move like a pro. Move freely behind your DJ set and interact with the crowd. It might feel unnatural for some to move behind the controls as you’ve only practiced in your bedroom and focused mainly on the sound, but playing live means you’ll have some eyes fixated on you and you want to give them something fun to fixate on. If you’re not sure what you should be doing, watch some Youtube videos of well-known DJs and observe their movements while they’re on the stage. Try to replicate these movements in your bedroom and find your own style. Movements of your body should come naturally.
HAVE FUN! Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Don’t overthink it. The more you practice the more confident and comfortable you’ll be on the stage. Enjoy the night and be present. And don’t forget to share some videos and photos of your big night with us by tagging @musicians.agency on your Instagram photo or sending the content directly to us!
Good luck with your first live show!