There are 2 habits that I see way too many new (and sometimes experienced) DJ ‘s do that are killing your career and your DJ reputation. These things are so bad that they are ruining it for DJ’s everywhere. And it needs to be addressed and shared. Let’s get right into it.
1. Never Steal Another Other DJ’s Gigs
Whether it is trying to undercut their price. Or trying to undermine them and bad-mouth them. I see too many people doing this, and it is wrong for so many reasons.
First and foremost, DJing is a community. And it is our choice how we want the community to be. We can be a community where we tear each other down and only care about our own selfish needs. Or we can be a community that builds each other up, helps each other out, and improves the art in our local community and in general.
In my experience, the choice is a no-brainer. When everyone supports one another, we all win. The new DJ’s find mentors easier because the experienced DJ’s aren’t worried about their gigs being stolen. When everyone is sharing, everyone’s skills improve. Positive energy increases and it is felt by the crowd. And that means more and higher paying gigs for everyone.
Secondly, no one likes a snake. When you start bad-mouthing other DJ’s and undercutting their price, other people notice. Then you become “that DJ” that no one wants to work with.
Your reputation is important.
A large factor in your ability to get gigs is your reputation. If you have a bad reputation, you will become an outsider in the industry. Promotion companies will not want to hire you. Other DJ’s will not want you to cover their gigs and fill in when they are unable to make the gig. And eventually, bar owners, review sites, and promoters will not be far behind.
Finally, if you are successful in getting gigs this way, it will only happen right back to you. Call it Karma. Call it the Law of Attraction. Whatever you call it, it is human psychology. For example, if you are able to steal someone’s gig by offering a lower price, did you think about what that implies? What about the next person who offers a lower price than you?
Also, what if you got a gig by saying that the (old) DJ sucked. Can you do better? What if you can’t? What if someone else comes along that says that they can do better?
Either way, when you steal someone else’s gig, most likely that gig will get stolen from you. That’s just how it usually works.
2. Do Not DJ For Free!
Do not DJ for free (for someone that should be paying). The “for someone that should be paying” is the important part.
Here are some questions to ask to find out if they should be paying for a DJ:
- Do they need a DJ?
- Do they really really want a DJ?
- Are they making money from your DJ services?
If “yes” is the answer to any of those questions, they should be paying for a DJ.
A lot of newer DJ’s think that they need to play for free to get experience. While that is not necessarily true, if it is what you think you should do, here are a few ways to get experience by playing for free.
- Open up for a DJ who is your mentor.
- Play a family backyard party.
- Ask if you can play at a friends house party.
While there are many more options, the list above are people who should not be paying for your DJ services. In all of those cases, they didn’t need a DJ. They didn’t even know they wanted one. So, by offering value you are able to gain experience. It is a win-win. Just make sure to take lots of pictures and to ask if you can use them as a reference.
So now that we know which gigs to play for free and what not to play for free, lets look at why.
If you are willing to play “paying” gigs for free, it simply states that “I am not worth paying”. It also says that DJ’s in general will play for free.
The Craigslist Ad For DJ’s
You have all seen a bar post an ad on Craigslist looking for a DJ that says,
“DJ Needed. First gig will be audition. If we like you, then we will negotiate a price for future gigs. But no pay for first gig.”
Some bars use this technique to continually “audition” a new DJ every week, in order to never pay. Also, if they do like you and ask you to come back, it is never for an acceptable rate. You already set the precedent that you aren’t worth anything. They now know that you are free on those nights. So they offer you $50 every Friday night for a 6 hour set. Laughable.
How about the Craigslist charity that “needs a FREE DJ” and in return you get “exposure”? First off, the exposure is to people that know you played a free gig. Secondly, I’ve seen people play these gigs and after they get there they notice that everyone else got paid. The caterer got paid. The bounce house company got paid. Even the staff got paid. That will leave a bad taste in your mouth. Unless it is a charity that you believe in and you are solely doing it out of the goodness in your heart, then I would avoid them.
Protect your reputation as a DJ. Be known as the DJ who is easy to work with and who helps everyone out. And be known as the DJ who has awesome gigs who pay. There are so many great paying gigs out there that it’s not worth stealing other people’s gigs or playing for free. Just don’t do it.