Finding a DJ mentor is an excellent way to accelerate your DJ career. The knowledge you can get from being in different situations with an accomplished DJ is priceless. From learning how to use different gear to understanding how to react to different situations, there are a lot of possibilities for growth.
You just have to take it for what it is. An opportunity.
Rather than it being some “golden ticket” or “magical trick” to gain immediate success and become a resident DJ at a bar or to be a superstar headlining festivals, it is an opportunity to develop a mutually beneficial relationship where both of you are better off than where you were before.
Understanding that is the key.
You must be able to accept that developing a relationship takes time. It is not immediate. And for it to be mutually beneficial you must be offering value.
Here is some perspective. Personally, I went to almost every gig with my DJ mentor for 6 months before I got my first gig. I helped load in and set up equipment, dealt with requests and drunk people, and helped out wherever I could. Most importantly, I wasn’t a distraction.
I didn’t go on the gigs to get smashed and party, but I was there to learn every opportunity I could.
If you make the most of the opportunity with your mentor you will get more gigs for these reasons.
1. A DJ Mentor Is a Teacher
One great way to learn is to actually witness it in person.
Want to learn how to set up or use specific equipment? Then watch your mentor do it so you can try it out next time.
Do you want to learn how to beat match? Then keep your eyes on the decks as your mentor blends songs.
Do you want to learn the nuances of bars, clubs, private parties, etc? Then follow along and pay attention.
Everybody is different. But understand that your mentor is a wealth of knowledge and that you can learn whatever you need to know from them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but understand that there is a time and a place for everything. It might not be the best idea to ask for mixing advice during peak hour.
2. You’ll Gain Experience.
The more that you learn and develop a relationship where your mentor can trust you, the more you will be able to do. Once your mentor knows that you know how to set up the equipment, then you will be able to set it up yourself. If he is confident in your DJ skills, then you will be able to get on the decks. At first you can take over for smoke or bathroom breaks. Eventually a lot of DJs will let you rock the opening set when it is slow.
*TIP*: Grab a photo of you DJing the opening set to show prospective clients.
Also, you may eventually be able to get paid to be the assistant for certain gigs.
Finally, don’t be afraid to use your mentor as a reference when applying for DJ gigs. It is always comforting to the person that is booking you to know that an established DJ backs you.
3. Overflow gigs.
Once you have developed your skills to a level where you are confident in front of a crowd and able to run a party, your DJ mentor will throw you his overflow gigs.
The reality is that a good DJ often is given too much work to handle. They often have to turn down parties and events because they are already booked for a better or higher paying gig.
Here is where you come in.
If your mentor is confident in you, the party will be referred to you(maybe with a kickback).
Don’t underestimate the value of networking.
The truth in this industry it that it is more about who you know than what you can do.
So by having a DJ mentor you will eventually be introduced to his network. That means other DJs, bar owners, bouncers, managers, etc.
Be grateful, respectful, kind, and open to criticism. Let them know that you are learning to DJ. You never know when a relationship will come in handy down the line.
I got hired through my first promotion company through a friend of my mentor who decided to start his own company and needed some DJs. Before that I was only doing private parties here and there. From there I was able to do my first bar gigs and I am grateful to have had that opportunity.
Having a relationship with a DJ mentor is an invaluable connection. From accountability to having a friend by your side with a similar goal, that relationship can mean a lot to your development as a DJ as well as your personal life.
By offering value you will inevitably receive a ton of value in return.
Opportunities only come to those who are willing to grab hold of them. So don’t be afraid to get out there and start networking.
Being humble and showing people that you are eager to learn will go a long way to start the process.