How to get noticed as a DJ: 6 mindstyle tips and practical advice from music industry experts
Hear from music industry experts at Warner Records, Disco Donnie Presents, Reform Radio, and more.
One of the most frequently asked questions by DJs and producers in my practice is: How do I get more and better (paid) gigs?
Talent isn't the only important thing to factor in when it comes to getting noticed and getting booked for a gig. It starts with a healthy, self-empowering mindstyle: having a clear vision of where you want to go and why so that you know how to put your well-being first, have the right mindset to navigate the pitfalls in a high-pressure environment and ensure longevity for your career and work relationships.
And, there’s more! There are a variety of ways for undiscovered DJs to get noticed by the right people. Hear what industry experts across different roles and from various companies have to say and get cracking.
But first, let’s get mental!
Struggling to get gigs can be a real bummer. If you’re not already having at it with fear of failure, imposter syndrome, anxiety, depression - or any other negative emotions you associate with your music, you can be sure that not getting noticed and not knowing how to will NOT be a confidence boost. So, getting more and better gigs is not exactly a walk in the park.
It all starts with mindset and many things can get in your way mentally. Here are 6 examples. And because this is actually meant to be empowering and not just to rub your nose in, ideas, tips and challenges on how to cope with these struggles are included.
1. You think need liquid courage to calm your nerves
DJing is a fun job and it gives you a lot of freedom. But it’s still a job that you were hired to do. You have to remember that. Any other “normal” work environment forbids you to drink on the job. Staying relevant and on top of your game takes grit. So you need your energy to be abundant in order to be present and show up for yourself and your career every single day. When you’re present, sharp and alert, people on the dancefloor will notice, and will enjoy themselves even more. Besides, having good energy enables you to make conscious choices for yourself and for your career so that when opportunities come knocking, you can properly evaluate them and don’t let your career depend on dumb luck or choices based only on what others have to say. Bottomline, having good energy is beneficial to your mental health as well as to your career.
Tip: Think about what the mental health benefits of DJing sober are and what it can do for you.
2. Your anxiety is impacting your performance
According to a recent study conducted by Record Union (April 2019), 73% of independent music makers said that they have experienced negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and/or depression in relation to their music creation. Yes, you read that right. SEVENTY-THREE PERCENT!
Another whopping 51% of the respondents, that said that they have experienced negative emotions in relation to their music creation, claimed to have self-medicated due to their symptoms. That’s effing scary.
Let me tell you right now, there are many other ways to face those emotions head on that don’t involve self-medication.
Tip: Meditation is a great way to cope with performance jitters and helps ease anxiety.
If you’d like to give it a try, download this free guided mediitation and practice it daily for optimal results.
3. You think you’re too old
The only limitation to what you can do is the expectation that you place upon yourself. It’s what we believe ourselves, that gets in our way. You may be too self-conscious about your age. Music has no age, no sexual preference, doesn't care what color skin you have or gender preference, it’s for everyone.
Challenge: Think about what limiting stories you tell yourself and how you will change the narrative?
4. You feel like you never have enough time to spend on your music
I bet that oftentimes it’s difficult to balance your music and your life. And you may want more time to work on your music so that you can improve your skills through practice practice practice. You don’t need more time, you just need to decide. (Seth Godin)
Idea for you to try out: You need to figure out where to spend your time and have the guts to quit things that you’re not passionate about. You need to prioritise and then set goals - with actual deadlines, so that you can hold yourself accountable and be in control. When you do that, you take good care of yourself. As a consequence, you’ll have more energy and focus so that you can take better care of the people who need you, focus on your work and create more.
5. You don’t know your definition of success
In general, you’re probably measuring your succes by comparing yourself to others (UGH).
And perhaps you measure the success of your set by looking at your analytics and data: the number of plays online, the number of people on the dance floor, the number of followers/fans, the engagement...
You may also be looking at how much feedback or criticism you’re receiving. That criticism, constructive or even negative, is a great measuring tool. Not for your DJ skills per se, but to build resilience so you can observe and evaluate this feedback without hurting your self-esteem. Only then are you able to learn and improve.
Even though data is not a reflection of your skills, it is extremely valuable. There’s even another number that’s equally as meaningful, if not more: the number of people who support you, your tribe.
Challenge: What are you doing to enhance the experience of music for your fans and to contribute value to the scene you’re active in? Think about it...
6. You don’t know why you got into music in the first place
You may think the answer is obvious: because of your passion and love for music. Of course you love it, otherwise you wouldn’t have chosen it. Who puts their time and energy into something they don’t love? The question is, what is your deeper motivation for pursuing a career in the music industry?
Consider this: Do you have your goals set and do you know when and how you’re going to achieve them?
Creating a vision for what you want will help you to take action - with effect!
Final thought - It may seem like a lot, but rest assured that you can figure all of this out. And when you do, you will feel a much greater sense of purpose and independence, you’ll have clarity and feel more energised, confident and excited about your craft.
Now, while there’s so much more to say about mindset - I’m all about creating your own mindstyle and I could talk about it for several earth orbits, it’s time to hear from music industry professionals themselves. Several experts in different roles and from various companies weigh in on this topic with their golden piece of advice. Hopefully, you can benefit from it and put these words into action right away.
Luna Cohen-Solal, DJ and Digital Marketing Manager Warner Records (London)
How to get more and better paid gigs:
Make the most of your existing gigs and use them to increase your visibility, by posting on social media, and/or starting a mailing list.
Make sure your social media and other portfolio pages are up to date and include bio, links to your work and contact details.
If you’re a DJ, record regular mixes and put them up on Mixcloud, titling and tagging them properly so they’re searchable.
Tell your friends and connections you’re available for gigs, you never know what might happen.
In conversation with new people, find ways to let them know you’re a [insert profession], unless it feels inappropriate of course.
Have business cards at the ready with email address, links to your work and social media handles, and hand them out to people showing an interest in your work.
Whenever someone hands you their card or suggests an opportunity, do follow up (and ignore the voice in your head telling you you’re being pushy, you’re not!).
Sam Oliveira, Director Reform Radio (Manchester)
It might seem like a pretty obvious answer from someone who runs a radio station but having a regular radio show is a key component for any DJ looking to build their profile and get more gigs. Doing so gives you a recurring opportunity to hone those skills in front of an audience of some kind, sharpening technical skills, as well as giving you a constant reason to hunt out new music and figure out the best way to put it all together. Ultimately, having a regular show will demonstrate the above to any potential bookers, showing your relevance as a DJ and providing you with assets and context around which to sell yourself.
Souria Cheurfi, Founder Psst Mlle and Editor-In-Chief VICE BELGIUM (Brussels)
My advice is: go out there! Opportunities won’t always come to you so you have to make things happen. Record your mixes/demos, send them out to radio stations, bookers, venues and even the press. I organize Psst Mlle and I receive quite a few emails and messages from artists who want to play at my events. I always make sure I listen to each one of them and I’ve booked quite a few artists I’d probably never had heard of if they hadn’t taken that leap.
Freddy Lopez, DJ and co-founder of DPR Nation (Miami)
From my experience of being a Mobile DJ for over 30 years, I have learned that it all begins with advertising. You must advertise so people see you. Also having a good informative website that is up to date with videos of you performing at a recent event, pictures and, yes, mixes of different music styles. Networking with other DJs is also vital. When your bookings go down, having fellow DJs referring you gigs is a blessing. One other way I choose to promote my business is through Social Media. I post live gig videos as the event is happening and pictures with my logo. With everything I post, I always add my logo. :-)
Sarah Hildering van Lith, Managing Director Don Diablo - Hexagon (Amsterdam)
Although artists generally work with a lot of different companies for the different arenas in their music career - whether that's multiple labels, their agency, their management- the most important thing is to align. They each come at the artists' career from a different angle and need to speak to each other frequently and in a transparent way. A tangible example would be to have a strategy session around your Spotify engagement: what are your streaming numbers and where is your fanbase? Does that consolidate with your social media strategy? Is the agency that is responsible for your bookings getting the data and feedback from the analytics of your Spotify For Artists or your social media insights that they need in order to promote you more properly?
For artists who don't have representation yet I’d say, the biggest tool artists have to build their career is themselves. You need to be visible, people need to be able to find you and engage with you. Creating a fanbase is more or less free. It does take a lot of work and maintenance but it’s the best place to start.
Put time into an original vision, carry it out in a consistent way and always put in the work. If you do not know where to go, you don't know what feedback to be looking out for to improve yourself.
Evan Bailey, Vice President Disco Donnie Presents (Beverly Hills)
Develop your personality. While performance skills are huge, personality is a secret ingredient to getting noticed. It's more than a "brand." Artists have to show the audiences their charisma on- and off-stage. It's the X-factor, je ne sais quoi, the showmanship. It involves tenacity, confidence, and a true passion for music.
Kasra Mowlavi, DJ/Artist Manager/Label Owner Critical Music (London)
Create and create with care. Make music, mixes, and all the things everyone else does but take the time to make yours as best you can. The world is full of “things”and “noise” being put out there constantly, you want your vision and your music to be heard so make sure it’s done in a considered nature.
Now it’s you’re turn to give advice!
Which tip gave you the most insight and how will you put that insight to action right now?
Share in the comments below so that others can benefit from your nuggets of wisdom as well.
If you find this post helpful, share the wisdom with whomever you think may need it.
It’s not too late for course-correction this year.
We’re halfway through the year, what will you do with the rest of it? It only takes 60-90 minutes of your life to:
Learn coping techniques for anxiety and depression. Like having a first-aid kit handy.
Learn to take the pressure off and be happy with your results. No stress, yolo.
Learn how you can buy more time through rad decision-making skills. It’s all about balance baby!
Learn what having a clear vision means for your music career. Strategize like a baws.
You can get easy, quick access to a flexible, first-aid solution to support your well-being, a customised strategy on how to create a vision for yourself and your career or an actionable tool to balance music and life.
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