How to Be a DJ
By Eric Hammer
So you want to learn how to be a DJ? Well good for you. DJs
are always in demand for things like parties and bar and bat
mitzvah celebrations. Even weddings are a possibility--given
the high cost of hiring a professional band, many couples choose
to hire a DJ instead of a band. But how do you get started? What
does it take to become a professional DJ and could you ever make
it into the big time in this business?
The first thing you need in order to be a good DJ is of course
an ear for music. You need to be able to pick different songs
out of your (very, very large) collection based on particular
tastes and know how to mix them so that your audience enjoys
themselves and stays interested without careering wildly from
one style to another (so unless youre working a wedding
where the bride or groom are into heavy metal, moving directly
from the wedding march to Metallica is probably not the best
of transition ideas).
Youll also need to develop a nice selection of songs.
Plus, you may want to look into replay licenses for songs. If
you work in small venues such as birthday parties and small weddings
and the like, you may be able to get away without doing so, however
you will be technically violating copyright. Most songs you purchase
from a place like iTunes for example are supposed to be used
for private listening and not for professional playback. If you
take your business seriously, youll need to look into getting
professional playback licenses similar to those used by radio
stations for the songs you work with.
How Much Can You Make?
As with many things, the amount you can make as a DJ is really
up to you. Typically, DJs at small parties can take in around
$500-$1,000 for working an evening (this includes providing all
the equipment, such as speakers, microphone and of course, your
song disks). At major events, you could easily see numbers in
the tens of thousands of dollars for hosting the event, though
again, your costs go up as well since youll need to rent
equipment (even if you own speakers and a microphone, at this
level, were talking professional level equipment which
costs in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and gets trucked
in with specialized amps, so youll be paying for rental
and delivery as well).
Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities
Most of the time, you should expect to get what you were paid
for and nothing more when working as a DJ. However, it is possible
that you could pick up extra cash in a variety of ways. You may
for example pick up extra cash as tips when someone makes a special
request. More realistically, you can pick up extra money by taking
your business to a different level dont just offer
your own DJ services. If you own equipment and dont have
a gig for a particular night for example, you can rent your equipment
to someone who is just starting out in learning how to be a DJ.
You can also become a kind of agent for others in the business
so that when you are booked, you refer people to colleagues.
You then either get a commission on the money they earn from
your referrals or you get reciprocal referrals so that when they
are booked, they throw business your way.
Consider your interests in music. There are some DJs for example
who specialize in particular types of music genres rather than
being a general interest DJ who simply provides what most people
want to hear. Also, learn a bit about technology. These days,
many DJs show up with a laptop which does all the mixing and
playing of songs inside the computer. No need for turntables,
CDs or anything else. Speaking of turntables and CDs though,
learn about encoding levels so you know how to get the highest
quality from your laptop songs. There is after all a reason why
some DJs still prefer to spin vinyl it simply sounds better.
Other related opportunities include hosting karaoke events
and business conferences where you provide light entertainment
rather than the loud, "thumpa thumpa" DJ experience.
Qualifications / Requirements
Typically, you dont need any kind of formal licensing
in order to become a DJ. You will however need some basic equipment
at least a laptop with DJ mixing software and a decent
set of powered speakers (the kind that can be heard at a loud
party, not the little ones you put on a desktop). Youll
also need a microphone for when you need to give introductions
or interrupt to mention a special request.
Start by talking to professional DJs. Ask if you can intern
with them to learn the business. While some will turn you away,
others will welcome the help, especially if you are willing to
work for free in order to get started and learn the business.
- A good article.
- Some information on learning to DJ.