Best Music Spotlight

How To Be a Successful Uni DJ: Part 1

Photograph of the blog post author, Music Gateway Team

Music Gateway Team


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Getting Started/Fresher’s Year

I’ve been DJing for seven years and started off when I was in high school, playing in my bedroom and eventually graduating to birthday parties. Then came the big move to uni, where I didn’t know anyone and had to start from scratch and work my way up. While this makes it hard for you to get started, it gives you a perfect opportunity to reinvent yourself as you do not have a reputation yet. Here are some steps that will help:

My room in halls in my first year

Choosing a DJ Name

If you have a common or boring name, such as John Smith, Joe Bloggs or Jonathon Wood, it would be better to choose a DJ name to make you sound cool and trendy, not like a pub or wedding DJ. In my case I chose the name Jabs, since I mostly played hip hop, r&b and dancehall. It sounds more tough and urban than Jonathon and was less of a mouthful too. Avoid putting DJ in front of your real name unless you already have a cool name, not DJ Dave. It can be witty and funny as well, but if it is too silly or cheesy people might not take you seriously.

What Genre to Play

While it is good to be versatile, what will make you stand apart from other DJ’s is specialising in a specific genre or a select few. This will help you get asked to play at events that cater to specific genres, such as open mic nights for hip hop or drum and bass for raves. The more knowledge you have of the genres you play will gain you the respect and support of their fans. Avoid only playing new songs as many other DJ’s will do this so you will end up sounding just like them. Keep a collection of classic tunes to show your listeners that you are not just a new follower to the genre. Make sure you keep your music genres consistent as well, I have seen many DJ’s play completely different music each year and abandon the styles and genres they played the previous year. This will alienate your old fans and could also make you lose any links you’ve made as they will find someone else who can play what you used to. Another important thing to remember is to be different, but not too different. If all the music you play is by obscure or unknown artists, it will be hard for you to find fans. By all means expose people to new music, but make sure you play something they know as well.

A flat party in someone’s kitchen

Gaining Respect

Unless you were big before coming to uni, most of the DJ’s there will treat you like a complete amateur and probably won’t give you many opportunities. What you have to remember is that respect has to be earned, not given to you. Anyone can say they are a good DJ and have played at many club nights and festivals before coming, but you need to show your skills to be taken seriously. Most of the time DJ’s are divas who don’t like other people stealing the limelight. If this is the case in your uni you will have to fight for the opportunity to be seen and heard. You will most likely be given the worst slots to play so make sure you make every set you play better than the last, even if there are only a few people in the room. Eventually word will spread and those other DJ’s will either suddenly be your best friend, or try to blacklist you because you are stealing their crowd! Whatever happens you will have your own fans so you will be sorted.

Play for Free

Take every opportunity you can get and don’t expect to get paid at the start. The money will come eventually, but the most important thing to do is build up your portfolio and get your name heard. The more you play, the more people will see and hear you, which will open up more opportunities, as well as expose you to more listeners.

Take any opportunity you can get, no matter how weird!

Love and Respect the Art

Despite what you see at a David Guetta concert, DJing is a respectable art form. Don’t disrespect it by being the guy who only presses play and raves about, or leaves gaps of silence between songs. Make sure you DJ for the love of music, not as a way to get laid or get rich. That will come naturally if you give love and respect to the music first! Pay attention to the crowd and make sure they are entertained first, not the girls you have brought into the booth. If you start to slack and clear the floor, that booth is going to be cleared as well so everyone loses. The most important people for a DJ are the crowd, not groupies or themselves. Once you have won the hearts and minds of the crowd, you can control them. It’s up to you whether the party goes off the rails when you drop ‘Original Nuttah’ or a riot breaks out on the floor after you drop ‘Pow!’. As Tony Montana once said: “First you get the power, then you get the women, then you get the money.”

Follow these tips you will get a good head start on your path as a uni DJ.

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