How To Get DJ Gigs After Covid
Learn How To Get DJ Gigs 2021
Few industries during the pandemic have been as badly affected as clubbing and nightlife. DJs around the world have had no gigs for a year or more and clubs remain shut in most countries. As many countries vaccination programs accelerate we are moving toward the light at the end of the tunnel. Clubs and festivals will be back, it's only a matter of time.
That begs the question, what will the new DJ scene be like and how should a DJ navigate to find the opportunities they need and get DJ gigs.
Here are some top tips from our founder and chief Buster on how to source DJ bookings for yourself and get back on track.
The first thing to ask yourself before you pitch for DJ work, are you ready? You need to make sure your DJ skill level is high and that you're constantly practicing your skills and growing as an artist, but what about the other aspects of being a DJ? Nowadays, you'll need to have a strong identity and message, something that cuts through the noise and makes you stand out as an artist. Do you have something special you can shout about, perhaps an extreme level of skill in one area, live performance abilities or a striking look? You need to find ways of standing out from the crowd.
Think about what makes you interesting and exaggerate it ten fold, go really over the top!
Often the things we are most self conscious about, our differences, are actually the strongest weapons in creating an interesting identity. Perhaps you have bad eyesight, why not create a whole look around amazing spectacles! Maybe you put on some lockdown pounds, why not become the poster-child for body positivity in the industry. Some people might think their look is weird or their music is strange and unpopular, but in reality, that's what fans want, they want something different, they want something that stands out. David Bowie would not have gone far wearing a cardigan and some loafers while doing Elvis covers.
Write down what makes you self conscious and weird. Now let that weirdness grow, unleash it and watch your creativity grow unbounded by what you think society expects.
Promoters and DJ agencies want to see that you have a strong fan-base with followers who will buy a ticket to see you play.
It takes time to attract fans and nurture them, but once you have a strong legion of super-fans they will support you and help you gain access to the higher-tiers of the music industry, and ultimately paid gigs.
Nowadays, social media is so toxic, competitive and diluted that it's almost pointless trying. You'll get much more return on effort invested using other methods normally overlooked.
In a world where meaningful real-life social interactions are few and far between and digital interactions are common, you should walk the path less trodden. If you want to nurture true fans why not reach out in more personal ways. Sure, you can write a personal message online but why not actually host an event to encourage them to mingle with you and others in person.
You could even take advantage of the new craze in hand-written snail-mail letters. Millennials are thirsty for nostalgia and real-life encounters so find a way of using this to attract and nurture fans. Move away from purely digital promotion and back into the real world. Could you perhaps use digital media to make first-contact but then move it offline? Offline activities will give you much more gravity as an artist and seed long-lasting relationships with your fans. Consider creating a mail-out, a real one that is delivered in the post.
Once you've made these connections you need to keep them. Manage your own directory of fans, be it a spreadsheet or mailing list and keep in touch with them on a regular basis with personalised messages for every fan. Always try and use communication methods that are more unusual and therefore more special.
Now that you've got a distinct identity, the skills you need and a growing fan-base you need to think of some more ways to make yourself valuable in the eyes of the booker.
Remember it's a business. Promoters and DJ agencies ultimately want to make a profit running events.
That means the underlying business motive is that you will attract your fans to buy tickets to an event. This underpins the whole industry, bums on seats means drinks at the bar and ticket sales in the bank.
It might sound capitalistic but it's a system that enables artists to create and fans to enjoy their music. Not to mention the scores of other jobs that it supports in hospitality, technology, sound, lighting, staging, graphics, videos, photography etc. It's a creative business ecosystem and your job is the most important, your job is to be such a spectacle that people will get off the couch and come and see you IRL!
In order to get DJ gigs you need to make yourself valuable. These things will make you be more attractive as a DJ booking so make sure that you explore all of them. They will also help you negotiate higher fees for your performances.
The artist has a strong identity and growing fan base.
The artist has stand-out performance skills.
The artist has a professional reputation and image.
The artist has a mail-out and ways to communicate directly with fans about upcoming events.
The artist has press or media coverage in blogs and magazines.
The artist maybe has other accolades like a radio show, club night or related business.
The artist has their own book of industry connections that the booker might want access to.
The artist has famous music or remixes released under their name.
The artist is a celebrity of some kind or within some scene.
The artist is associated with big brands or other big artists.
Ultimately, you should ask yourself, how will I make someone else money on ticket sales? In addition, you might also ask yourself what do you have to trade?
What Do You Have To Trade?
One of the most powerful ways to help you get DJ gigs is an understanding of leverage within negotiations.
Apart from your skills as a DJ, do you have anything else that may help you when competing for DJ gigs. For example, if you run a popular music blog perhaps you can write a post about the event to help their promotion. Think about what else you could trade... here are some common trades in the industry.
A strong mail-out with many subscribers.
A music or events related blog or magazine.
A large social media following for promotional posts.
A strong radio show or Soundcloud profile which would be suitable for promotion or reposts.
Links within the industry for discounts on equipment, venues, staging, lighting etc.
Other useful skills, photography, graphic design, web design, videography, animation etc.
When looking for DJ gigs you should not accept every gig. Be strategic about which gigs you play and remember that sometimes rarity breeds value. If you're playing every venue in town every other night you might be diluting your brand. You need to learn how to say no and how to climb the ladder. Each gig should be on the same level or better than the last.
Don't always be the warmup DJ.
Sure you need to gain some experience as a DJ when you're new and the warm-up slot is the best time to do it. There is a true art to the perfect warm-up slot so we are not discrediting this time slot but in terms of exposure to new fans you want to be the peak-time DJ.
If you perform to a full dancefloor you'll gain more fans and also have much better content to report back to other fans with. If the promoter is trying to get you to play an undesirable time slot you should negotiate using your leverage from the previous paragraph. For example, say to them that you would prefer a later time slot and in return you're willing to run a sponsored advert for a certain budget on your social media page, create a promotional mixtape just for them, do an extra mail-out or something else of value.
Do what big DJs do.
If you look like a small town DJ playing in a few tiny venues in your local area you'll often get pigeon-holed into that scene. Expand your reach and create an international reputation. One way of doing this is with gig-swaps. If you run your own club nights in your home country why not invite another DJ/promoter from another city or country to perform at your night in exchange for you performing at their night. This will help you reach new audiences, gain valuable experience and also attract the attention of bookers and agencies.
Have a plan.
You need to have a plan of where you want to be in five years time. Have a clear goal and write down all the steps you need to get there. Have a schedule for those goals and keep to it. Find ways to accelerate your progress and see if you can cut that five year goal down to a two-year goal. Keep pushing for you main objectives.
Capitalise on the exposure of every gig.
Use every gig as a chance to gather new fans and content. Make meaningful IRL connections with your fans, get their phone number, give them you card and stay in touch. In addition you should be gathering as much content as possible including photos and videos to show your online fan-base and to keep your profiles active.
Are there any specific post-covid opportunities?
Covid has turned the industry upside down, many DJs have left the profession or moved country. This will have left many new opportunities. Take advantage of the reshuffle and find the new openings. Live streaming has also created more scope for online events and VR events, why not be the first to adopt some of this technology?
Network With Purpose
One of the most valuable assets for an artist is who they know. The music industry is very much centered around who you know and how you utilise your contacts.
If your network is what is bringing you 90% of your DJ gigs you should be spending 90% of your time networking. Think of networking as your 9-5. Have a book of contacts with a description of each person and see how they might work for you.
Remember, networking is different to promoting to fans, networking is meeting other people in the industry. Don't fall into the trap of preaching to the choir.
There is little point spending your time networking with other DJs because they are in competition with you, unless they have something extra like their own club night or record label. Think outside the box when it comes to networking, where can you meet people in more personal environments that are well suited to IRL encounters. Visit music conferences charity events and launches.
Ultimately, identity branding, networking, nurturing fans and business connections all centre around you as an individual. Stay true to yourself and be kind at all times. A smile and a positive attitude will always attract good opportunities.
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