DJs are at the top of the music world in our modern society. Go to any major city, and you’ll see DJs headlining major concerts, festivals and more. Visit Las Vegas, and almost every major strip hotel has a resident DJ, plus they have billboards all over the city.
Some argue that being a DJ does not require musical skill—yet, that is far from the truth. You must understand how to work with samples such as those offered by Cymatics.fm in a way that pumps up your audience.
Not to mention, you need to know how to mix various genres of music together. This isn’t something you learn overnight.
Today, the days of limited career choice and the days where people did not dare to take unconventional study paths are long gone. Now, the view on uncommon career options has taken a turn in the last decade, and people are now resulting in putting their passion first when choosing a career path.
If you are passionate about music and wish to entertain a crowd with your own piece of remixed music, our DJ course is made just for you. For those who are new to the subject, a Disk Jockey (DJ) is someone who has a great liking for the music industry and mixes different types of music to entertain a crowd or live audiences.
Table of Contents
- 0.1 Is being a DJ worth it?
- 1 What are the advantages of being a DJ?
- 2 What are the disadvantages of being a DJ?
- 3 What should you expect being a DJ?
- 3.0.1 You’ll Play Tasteless Gigs
- 3.0.2 A DJ must be a “people person”
- 3.0.3 The money isn’t great
- 3.0.4 You might need a second job, even if you make it big
- 3.0.5 An exhaustive knowledge of music isn’t optional
- 3.0.6 You won’t necessarily be playing music that you like
- 3.0.7 You might find that your music taste isn’t as good as you thought
- 3.0.8 There’s a stigma within the more classically trained community
- 3.0.9 Travelling with all that equipment isn’t easy
- 3.1 Can You Make a Lot of Money Being a DJ?
Is being a DJ worth it?
If you are deciding whether to choose to study DJing or not, here are the reasons why we think choosing to be a DJ is worth it:
Merging Passion with Profession
DJs are people who are passionate about music, thus getting to turn your passion into a full-time professional can be very refreshing. DJing is a job that is a world away from work stress and helps you to be more motivated as you are doing something that you love.
A chance to reveal your creativity
Being a DJ also means being your boss and doing your own thing without having someone on your back pressuring you to conform to their way of working. This career allows you to have your own style, put your creativity to work and do something new everyday.
Perform and entertain crowds
DJs are no more only behind the scenes artists but also involve playing your piece of music to audiences and crowds. Therefore, this instils in you the confidence in your own talent and helps you to get in front of a crowd. People now are not only interested in the music but also the people behind the mixer, so today, being a DJ also means to be a social person and an entertainer.
Following closely behind the music is fun and stardom. The more the audience likes your music and your skills, the more you are connecting with them, and the higher your profile of being a DJ is improving. There is nothing more satisfying than being recognized for your own talents and hard work.
One of the most important parts of being a DJ is networking. When you go out on different nights and mix your music, you meet different types of people from different backgrounds and cultures. The more people you meet from a different profession, the more recognition you are getting and the more work you get.
What are the advantages of being a DJ?
These benefits listed are only the tip of the iceberg, the moment you get immersed into the world of DJing, you will definitely come across much more benefits of the profession.
Sharing music – According to Sam Walker, one half of rising duo Walker & Royce, the best part of being a DJ is “Traveling abroad and meeting people around the world who are all connected through this music. it’s cliche, but it’s so true.” I think most of us DJs would agree on this or some variation.
You get paid to party – You do what you might normally do on a Friday night, but you return home with more cash then you started with…on a good night anyway. Some say that a “job” is getting paid to do something you wouldn’t normally do. DJing is not a job, and it’s love. Getting paid is just a bonus.
Schwag – As a DJ you are often privy to numerous free stuff, including, but not limited to: Drinks, T-shirts, cover charges, equipment and various assorted party favours if you position yourself appropriately. These are essential to make up for the small wages, at least in America.
People think DJs are sexy – Standing in that booth and steering the momentum of a party has some substantial cultural cache. You don’t even have to pump yourself up to walk over and talk to a cutie, and they will come up to you!
There is no dress code – Wearing a uniform couldn’t be more repressive to your identity. As a DJ, people are excited by your need to express your personal style and often expect it. Sometimes dressing the part can get you more gigs than your music.
Free music – The more you play out, the easier it is to convince people that they should send you their tunes for free so that you might spread the good word.
You have an excuse not to dance – Some people love music, but are too embarrassed to do the Mash Potato. When you are stuck in the DJ booth, you have the best excuse in the house. Personally, I dance in the booth even if you can’t see my feet.
Sharing music with your friends – There is nothing like being surrounded by a group of your best pals, while you drop bombs on the dancefloor. Q-Burns Abstract Message says that the best part of being a DJ is “Any time I’m on the bill with like-minded friends. No matter the club situation, having a kindred soul to vibe off of makes me a better DJ.”
Working the room – DJing is like a sport, if you are on your game you can find your groove; the pocket when you are in the mix and the crowd responds to every move you make. International Tech House DJ Derek Marin says that the best part of being a DJ is “The moment you have the crowds full attention and trust. When you’re in the zone, and they’ve fully
Committed – you can take them anywhere, and it’s magical. During that time, I feel like I’m cheating death in the same way that Hemingway describes making love.”
Steering culture – Over the years DJs have been responsible for new musical directions, advances in technology, fashion trends, and dance movements, among other things. They are in a position to enrich culture on a number of levels and are in no danger of fading away.
What are the disadvantages of being a DJ?
It can be detrimental to your health – You can spend countless hours breathing in dust bunnies while crate digging in some off-the-grid basement, damage your eyesight by staring at a computer screen until you are bloodshot & bleary-eyed, or throw out your back lugging your gig bag across town and country.
Collecting is an addiction – Like any drug, voraciously collecting music can quickly deplete your bank account and make your house unlivable. Have you seen that show hoarders? Thank goodness for digital media.
Song Requests – You have spent years curating your record collection and keep your finger on the pulse of the musical heartbeat, but this is regularly lost on the gum-chewing loud mouth punters badgering you to play the sounds of another played-out pop star from their smartphone. Resident New York DJ, Dims, retorts “If I was just plugging phones in left and right, why would I even need to be there?”
Competition is high & the pay is lousy – Now that everyone and their brother has a laptop, DJs are a dime a dozen. Promoters regularly exploit the scarcity of available venues and sacrifice quality for “a following” to fill their coffers. DJs are expected to fill the bar, take a modest cut of the bar profits, and get booted when they have worn out all their friends. Where has all the love gone?
DJ Egos – There are a lot of DJs out there with the big head. If you are opening for a big name, DJ, you may find that they aren’t always the most humble of people. A little bit of fame can go to their heads in a big way. Reflecting on his own experience, Q-Burns Abstract Message says the worst part of being a DJ is “Encountering and having to deal with the ridiculously inflated egos of many of the other DJs. It really bums me out sometimes.”
“Airports”- This is the worst part of DJing in one word via Derek Marin. Not too many of us are globetrotting, but this one is high on the list of those making ends meet on the international club circuit.
Pandering – DJs spend their free time sifting through barrels and barrels of crap to find a few musical gems. This makes it particularly soul-crushing when you are forced to pander to the masses, who, at one point, looked to the DJ for was new and good. Now that everyone has ten thousand songs on their iPod, respect levels are at an all-time low.
Trying to make everyone happy – It doesn’t matter how many songs you have in your repertoire, there will always be someone that is unhappy. If that someone is the booker, sometimes you have to turn on a dime. One half of the duo known as Hot Jello, Mike Device says the worst part of DJing “…is when you book a private gig in advance, and discuss the musical direction and then they immediately change it on you, and you have to do something else entirely. It kind of throws you off balance.”
Keeping people’s attention – Not only do you have to be on your toes in the booth, but you also have to regularly play out, make podcasts, get your name on another flyer, make tracks, and tweet. Warhol’s notion about 15 minutes of fame is now a lot closer to 15 seconds. As soon as you slack off, you are forgotten. The amount of time you spend keeping people’s attention these days is astronomical to the time you spend spinning records.
Haters – Anyone who hates the music you play, or thinks what DJs do is not hard, suck the most. If you aren’t into the music, go someplace else and leave us in peace!
Even though by definition, all DJs play music for a live audience, there are several different types. Among others, there are radio DJs, scratch artists and those that call themselves “music entertainment providers.” It’s the trials and tribulations of those that fit into this last category that’s the focus here; I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a few up-and-coming local DJs in San Antonio, all of whom fit into this category, in order to get their take on what DJ’ing is really all about. The DJs in question have chosen to remain anonymous, and you might see the reason: DJ’ing is not as fun as people make it out to be, and here are the reasons why.
In order to DJ, you need to have the right equipment and a big music library. The most widely-used equipment brands are Native Instruments, Pioneer and Technics, and the hefty price tag of all this equipment means that the average DJs needs at least $700 just to start out. After you have your top-notch DJ equipment, you need to assemble a music library of high-quality music; the sound quality is essential, so you can’t just download from YouTube or use an MP3 converter. Most DJs I interviewed said they used Beatport to buy and download their music. Each song on the platform is between 99 cents to $1.25, but you can expect all those small purchases to add up as your music library gets bigger.
What should you expect being a DJ?
You’ll Play Tasteless Gigs
Getting a gig even as a more experienced DJ is incredibly hard, but landing gigs as an upstart is even harder. Most DJs are just starting out play weddings, quinciñeras and bar mitzvahs, and they need to build clout before they can go higher than birthday parties for five-year-olds. Until they finally make it to the club circuit, they have to put up with unglamorous conditions and unconventional venues.
A DJ must be a “people person”
DJs have to be comfortable around all types of crowds, whether they’re made up of businesspeople, wasted partiers or clubbers just looking to dance. They have to be open and social, so their employers will hire them back, even when it’s hard to fake a smile or make small talk. Being personable is essential for marketing yourself as the equivalent of a one-person band, so it’s doubly important for DJs to be able to at least fake being agreeable.
The money isn’t great
As mentioned before, beginner DJs get crappy gigs, and with crappy gigs come crappy pay. The DJs I interviewed stressed that being a DJ is NOT a profession. There is no steady income, your schedule is sporadic, and the market is already oversaturated. What’s the result? It’s the survival of the fittest to get the next big gig.
You might need a second job, even if you make it big
Related to number four, even if you approach household name status, you might not be able to pursue your passion full-time. Even famous DJs like Tiesto, DeadMau5, Calvin Harris and Steve Aoki have to sustain their DJ career by producing music for others. Ironically enough, by the time that they’ve made it big, they price themselves out of the club circuit, and their next-best option is to oversee and manage the recording and production of someone else.
An exhaustive knowledge of music isn’t optional
Some DJs prepare a setlist before they play a gig, but others improvise on the go. You have to be able to read the room to see when things are heating up, when the crowd is checking out or when everyone needs to cool down; once you can do that, you still need to know what to play. Without a comprehensive knowledge of music ready to go — all before the current song ends, no less — you won’t know how to manage the atmosphere, one of the most important parts of being a DJ.
You won’t necessarily be playing music that you like
Many people have the misconception that DJs just play music that they want. Even when major DJs like Daft Punk or Steve Aoki play big festivals like Coachella, they have to mix Top 40 hits with their own music because that’s what the vast majority of the audience will recognize. Top 40 hits are the end result of cookie-cutter formulas designed to create music that’s easily digestible. Maybe you can play to your personal taste or music that you’ve created yourself, but you still need to play something recognizable for your audience.
You might find that your music taste isn’t as good as you thought
Sometimes not being able to play your own music might not be such a bad thing. A lot of amateur DJs believe in the superiority of their own musical tastes. Their friends and family will also support them and say the same thing because, well, it’s the polite thing to do. Whenever performing for a crowd larger than two, however, there’s going to be a difference of opinion. One DJ I interviewed joked about feeling sour when he played his first gig because his employer gave him a choice to play his own music; much to his dismay, not everyone was fond of his song choices.
There’s a stigma within the more classically trained community
To the classically trained artist, being a DJ looks like pushing buttons on a turntable. What most people fail to see, however, are the complex skills needed to be an excellent DJ. Those skills include keeping the rhythm, knowing how to “mix” songs, being well-versed in music and most importantly, being able to read a crowd. It is a DJ’s responsibility to set the mood, and if they play the music that does not match the vibe, chances are they won’t last very long.
Travelling with all that equipment isn’t easy
As a DJ, you are almost always a one-person band. Being on your means commuting everywhere with all your decks, records (if any), speakers, laptop, cables, headphones, standing poles and so on. Now try fitting all this in a 2016 Honda Civic. It’s possible, yes, but not easy.
I used to help a close DJ friend move his equipment; we would use my car to travel everywhere (his vehicle was a two-door sports car). Commuting all over town with heavy equipment, unloading, putting everything together and loading everything back into my car again, in short, was a hassle.
Maybe you’d get mixed responses if you asked some of these DJs if all of this is worth it. Perhaps you think it definitely is, in which case, all of this doesn’t matter. If it’s meant to be your passion, you won’t be deterred.
Can You Make a Lot of Money Being a DJ?
If you’re a frequent club visitor, and you like to spend your Fridays and weekends out dancing, you’ve certainly wondered if those DJ’s you see in front of the crowd making a lot of money at the end of the night. Or, perhaps, you’ve been tempted to find out if you’d make a lot of money yourself if you transform your hobby into a permanent profession. This article is here to give you a bit of an insight into the world of professional DJ-ing, and to how much these people you see mixing in clubs actually earn.
Of course, it’s really hard to generalize and give you the actual number, or even an estimate, of the amount a DJ earns per year. To start off, you need to know that there are several types of DJs – the employed ones, or the people who are bound by a contract to one or more clubs, the self-employed ones, who do not have any contract but are invited to perform at different places every week, and the renown artists, who make a living by collaborations with other artists, selling their music, and performing in big concerts.
For the beginners out there, it can be a tough industry. The minimum wage in the DJ-ing world is said to be around $17 000, which is hardly enough for one to be able to pay rent and sustain oneself. However, the average amount for those who already have a contract with a certain club is around $30 000. A high income in the business is considered $60 000 and above, although it can be hard for those who live off contracts to make more.
When it comes to the average employed DJ, facts have it that the average annual salary is around $26 850. That can hardly be considered a lot of money, given that the average annual salary of a custodian is around $22 000. While DJ’s who earn this much can probably not be considered poor, they certainly don’t make it big in the industry. Of course, it’s easy to survive off that much by yourself, but it would probably be too little to support a family. The DJs who make below $30 000 are considered to be “middle-class” in the industry, but it’s essential to know that the DJ-ing middle class does not exactly coincide with the regular middle-class wage.
Besides those, there are self-employed DJs. Those are usually the “evolved form” of the salary DJ, who has made enough of a name for themselves to be able to receive requests from places without needing a contract. Many aspiring DJs look forward to this position, as they can literally pick and choose the clubs and events they want to participate in, instead of living off a contract. These DJs make between $25 and $100 an hour, and they can take up as many events per week as they wish, without compromising their daily lives. As to the annual average, the most successful self-employed DJs earn six-figure amounts.
Last but not least, there are the renowned DJs, who make music of their own, sell millions of singles and albums worldwide, collaborate with other artists and perform as headliners at concerts or festivals. There’s certainly a very long road to be walked until one can get to that point, but it certainly can be extremely rewarding. Aside from the tens-of-millions-of-dollars of income, there’s fame, world recognition, and many other perks of celebrity life. Not many will be able to make it to this step of their career, but those who really work hard to climb the DJ career ladder and have the talent certainly have the chance.