So, I have a small confession. I watch Jersey Shore. Yes, the trashy reality TV show about a bunch of 20-somethings who live to drink and go to clubs. I admit it – I’m a fan. But my favorite person in the Jersey Shore house is Pauly D – he’s the one with all the tattoos and that crazy “blow-out” hairstyle.
He’s pretty chill, doesn’t cause drama, and he’s a DJ. He has all of his equipment tricked out and on one episode he brings it all to Seaside Heights so he can “spin” at one of the local clubs (for the benefit of the show, I’m sure). He now has a year-long gig in Vegas DJ’ing six nights a week, which is pretty cool. But anyways, he makes it look easy, and I wondered what really goes into making a DJ?
1. It can’t all be taught
This might sound counterintuitive, right? I mean, there are audio engineering schools all over the place teaching people how to, well, engineer sound. But there’s a second part that can’t be taught – the stage presence. The magic. The feeding off of the crowds and entertaining. That’s something that can be cultivated but not taught. There’s no handbook. So, for those who want to DJ but don’t want to have to interact with the crowd, consider a different career path.
The equipment is pretty key for a DJ. I mean, it’s not like DJ’s can just show up at the club with no stuff and expect to entertain people. That would be more stand-up comics, which is a completely different beast. There are lots of different types of equipment, and many people get tempted to buy the shiniest, most expensive stuff. Veterans will say to buy actual turntables, but many new DJs are turning to digital mediums. We live in the digital world, and the sound quality is getting better and better. Do research before buying, and don’t get swindled or starstruck by something spiffy.
3. Love the music
The best advice any young DJ can be given is to love the music. Everyone loves different kinds of music, and don’t be cajoled into playing a certain style just to appease someone. Love classical music as well as hip hop? Mash them together – why not? Remember, DJ’ing is an art, and art comes in many different forms. The great thing about art is that it can be created on many different mediums, and all artists need to love their medium above all else.
4. Don’t get ripped off
This is a part of doing research. Make sure that club and bar owners aren’t taking advantage of the talent. Like I said before, just starting out, there might be an unpaid gig here or there. But once the experience has built up, make sure that the pay received is comparable to other DJ’s with similar resumes. Negotiating is key, and even though no one wants to talk about money, it’s important to be up front when it comes to monetary responsibility.
5. Be brave
There’s nothing like trial by fire. Book a gig. Work for free a couple of times. Spin to get experience. Talk to people afterwards and find out what worked and what didn’t. It will probably be uncomfortable and it might bring out some tears (later on, in private – never in front of the crowds). But there’s only so much learning that people can do from a book or a YouTube tutorial. Just get out there and do it. And have fun while doing it.