Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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How Much Does It Cost To Become A Dj Xcel
Many consider becoming a DJ to be a fun and engaging career choice. You get to play your sets in front of crowds, create music and attend many fun events and parties. However, many people don’t know whether being a DJ is a feasible full-time career choice or more of a weekend money-maker. Read on to learn more about being a DJ, how much a DJ makew and the skills required to excel in the role.
How much does a DJ make?
If you have been considering becoming a DJ, it is likely that you have wondered ‘how much does a DJ make?’. The answer can be somewhat surprising, and more than you might typically expect. The average DJ wage is currently £30.93 per hour, although this figure can vary based on a significant number of factors. Firstly, your location may influence your income. Next, the venue that you play in may also be key to the amount of money that you earn.
For example, if you play at a brand new nightclub that doesn’t yet have regulars and visitor numbers you might hope for, you may earn less. However, getting a gig at a premium nightclub in the centre of a busy city centre on a Friday night can incredibly promising for your income. Furthermore, guests can often pay a tip, meaning your compensation can come down to your skills and how well you perform. It is important to note that most DJs work as a freelancer or contractors and may not earn a stable salary.
What does a DJ do?
The job of a DJ usually goes beyond simply turning up and playing music. Some venues might prefer that you exclusively play the music that is pre-approved and what their visitors may expect to hear. Others may be more open to you introducing your own pieces of music to the playlist and having a personal impact on the music played. Both these situations require expertise, skill and regular practice of your art.
The key responsibility of a DJ is to make sure that the tempo and vibe are as per the venue and engage the customers. By reading the atmosphere of the venue, a good DJ is able to make sure that everyone has an enjoyable time. DJs might spend a bigger part of their day in rehearsal and if they are performing solo, may even have to carry around their equipment. Furthermore, to get more exposure and listeners, DJs may regularly play at public festivals, concerts, events and other such venues, sometimes with no fixed income.
How to become a DJ
If you’re looking to become a DJ, there are a few steps required before reaching the top. As many people want to become DJs, it can be a difficult process to become a top name in your field and get the best gigs available. Below are some of the key steps to becoming a DJ:
1. Put time into research
One of the first things you have to do is effectively research what makes a DJ successful and enjoyable. Your inspiration for this career path has likely come from positive experiences with DJs in the past, so by watching some of your favourite DJs in action you can get a better idea of the things you can include in your sets. Similarly, listen to different genres and styles of music to identify your own style. Learning from the experience of others is key in any role, and being a DJ is no different.
2. Learn the required skills
Once you have some understanding of the kind of DJ you want to become, you can start to learn some of the key skills of being a DJ. Learning how to manage DJ equipment, software, tools and producing mixes and sets is essential to perform. Furthermore, DJs should have expertise in different kinds of music, genres and instruments. Consider pursuing an education degree in musical subjects or enrolling for a short-term course to understand the basics of producing music. Furthermore, attend as many live events as possible to see experts perform.
3. Start small
Start small with limited audiences and perfect the same sets. Find out new establishments and venues that offer newcomers a chance to play. Small audiences can also provide excellent opportunities to try out new things. During this phase, spend more time honing your craft and improving your skills. Being able to practice with venues that are more likely to accept mistakes makes the process of professional development much simpler. Become a part of musician networks and groups to practice together, find relevant gigs and get feedback on your performances.
4. Contact larger venues
Once you feel like you have enough experience as a DJ, you can get in touch with larger venues. This includes nightclubs and even offering yourself up as a wedding DJ. These venues may have higher pressure to perform, but the size of the audience here is the perfect opportunity to grow your income and reputation. Expand your network and following by creating a presence on social media platforms and streaming apps.
5. Find your specialisation
After playing for a few years, you can consider specialising in certain types of events or music. Whether you choose the relatively safer route of becoming a wedding DJ or you’d rather focus on club nights, specialising in one area of being a DJ means that you can become an expert in that area. Ultimately, this leads you to offer higher quality services and enables you to charge more, further increasing your income as a DJ. You can also consider recording original music and releasing it yourself or through a music production house.
What skills do DJs need?
A DJ may require a range of skills to make sure that guests have a great time. These include:
- Rhythm and timing: The transitions between songs and using the right beat may determine your success. The ability to time transitions and beat drops is key to good DJing.
- Technical ability: DJs usually work with a range of audio hardware and software, which when used incorrectly can make music sound tinny, have a very high bass or even be unpleasant to hear.
- Account management: Many DJs work on a self-employed basis and look for gigs rather than being employed by a company. This means you may have to manage your own accounts.
- Stamina: The working hours may be erratic and usually go into late at night. This is an energy-intensive job that requires physical and mental stamina.
- Organisational skills: Working on a gig basis means that you are in charge of your own bookings. Without organisational skills, you struggle to meet all of your obligations.
- Creative talent: When creating your own mixes and blending pieces of music into one another, a dash of creativity can help with finding new tunes. Creativity is what can help you succeed as a DJ and get more recognition.
How to earn more as a DJ?
There are a few ways you can earn more money as a DJ. These tips are especially important early in your career when getting well-paying gigs might not be easy:
1. Revise your rates periodically
As you become more prominent in the DJ scene, you might want to consider increasing what you charge venues. Consider revising your rates periodically to take into account the increase in the cost of living. Furthermore, in addition to proposing higher wages for new projects, consider renegotiating your rate for existing projects, especially if rates have been unchanged for a long time.
2. Take on more projects
If you are currently early in your DJ career you might be doing fewer gigs, so find supporting, administrative and ad-hoc roles in bigger projects, even if the pay isn’t what you usually charge. Consider working with more established artists as their assistants to understand how to improve your skills. Finally, be sure to advertise your services in your personal network to get gigs and work from your immediate friends and family.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.
requirements to become a dj
Welcome to the wonderful world of mixing music! This article contains a 9-step process to assist in your journey of learning how to DJ. Since its original form in 2013, this guide has helped thousands of beginner DJs to get their start. But it’s up to you to take real action!
When you’re learning to DJ, you’re learning to match your own musical expressions with the desires of an audience. It isn’t just matching beats, or scratching over songs. It’s about being observant, empathic, and reactive.
Contrary to popular belief, learning to DJ is not an easy route to overnight success. This takes work, and hustle, and time. It’s not difficult to start. But it is difficult to stand out, and to be exceptional.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Step 1: Learning What DJs Do
- Step 2: Determining Your Goals
- Step 3: Exploring DJ Software
- Step 4: Learning Basic DJ Skills
- Step 5: Getting DJ Hardware
- Step 6: Recording a Mix
- Step 7: Building a Following
- Step 8: Getting Your First DJ Gigs
- Step 9: Honing Your Craft
- What To Do Now
Looking for DJ courses? Check out The Complete DJ Course, by Digital DJ Tips:
Step 1: Learning What DJs Do
A DJ, or disc jockey, is a person who hosts recorded music for an audience. Simple!
But there are many different kinds of DJs, and many reasons for them to exist. Before we start your journey into DJing, let’s take a quick dive into what they actually do:
Every club has a different feel, reputation, and audience… which means they vary in what’s expected from their musical selection. Normally, the club DJ’s job is maintaining a moving dance floor. Club DJs may perform long blends (called transitions) between songs, or some other trickery to keep people’s feet moving.
When a DJ performs at a venue regularly or permanently, they’re called a resident DJ. They must know how to ramp the energy up and down, maintaining the balance between an active dance floor and a busy bar.
“Club DJs” who have built a following may also perform at bars, music venues, festivals, etc.
These DJs perform at your wedding, set the tone for your corporate event, or provide a memorable prom party.
Often the entrepreneurial type, mobile DJs have lots to keep track of. They may be solely responsible for the setup and teardown of equipment, planning the show, managing the crowd, and making any announcements.
This kind of DJ may need to be comfortable taking requests (and sometimes even entire playlists), speaking into a microphone, and investing in sound equipment.
The entire concept of DJing owes it’s origins to radio.
The radio DJ’s job varies greatly, from the person who announces the weather between songs, to full-on music curation. While many corporate radio DJs have lost control over the music, the art lives on in podcast format.
Turntablists (and other “Performance” DJs)
People go to see this DJ because of their skill, reputation, and what they can do behind the decks. Their mixes are displays of raw dexterity, impressive tricks, and clever transitions.
These are exhibitionist DJs. In addition to turntablists (who focus on cutting and scratching), there are “controllerists” and other live performers who display mastery of the craft. And listening to them, without watching, is only half of the story. This DJ might be described as playing their gear “like a musical instrument”.
What About Producers?
People often confuse DJing with music production. While DJing is hosting pre-recorded music to an audience, producing is the original creation or recording of music. Put simply: someone produces a techno song, and then a techno DJ plays that song at a festival.
It may seem confusing, because many performances are hybrids of these two concepts. When the creator and performer of a song is the same person, you might refer to them as a DJ/Producer.
The point is that there are many different types of performers: some are strictly DJs, some play a “live PA” (complete with hardware synthesizers or drum machines), and some land in-between. It’s a spectrum.
Step 2: Determining Your Goals
Do you have stars in your eyes? Want to start a business? Host your own podcast? Are you just doing this for fun?
There are loads of reasons that you may wish to learn how to become a DJ. The most important thing is to be completely honest about what those reasons are. Let’s talk about some of them:
DJing For Income
For some people, DJing is a career. For others, a side-income… a way to earn “play money”. If you want to DJ as your job, here are some hurdles you may encounter:
- Oversaturation (more DJs than paying gigs or venues in your area)
- Undercharging (too little pay, resulting from not knowing your worth)
- Not providing enough value to be needed
- Finding a money-making strategy that works
As with any other art form, a repeatable income may require some strategy or creative approach. Getting paid to DJ may not be as direct as, “here’s $150 for 90 minutes”.
Whether you earn money by being the best wedding DJ in your area (and charging a premium), by throwing shows and selling merch, or by earning tips in a weekly live stream… the key is finding out what angle works for you.
DJing “For The Love”
Confession! In step one, I skipped a major category: the Bedroom DJ.
For some people, DJing is purely hobby. They do it solely for the enjoyment of mixing music. It’s personal music therapy. Perhaps they will take the occasional $50 birthday gig, or play an open decks night somewhere. But they’re really in it for the love of mixing, curating, or listening to music.
DJing as a hobby can be very uplifting, since there are no bounds or restrictions other than to have fun! But beware of Rapid Gear Acquisition Syndrome: the tendency to buy new toys simply because they exist!
DJing For Fame or Recognition
One of the most common questions I’ve received over the years is: “how can I become a famous DJ?”
Here’s the reality-check: many people become DJs, but few become superstars. You need to be insanely talented, lucky, or both. You have to hustle, you have to love it, and you have to work on it even when it sucks. Don’t count on success, if your sole purpose is to get rich and famous.
That’s not to say you can’t make money, or build a following. The point to discard the thought that DJing is an easy way to be famous. It’s not.
Some DJs love sharing music with a receptive audience. Some use it as a source of income. Others attempt to use it as a tool to get laid. Whatever the reason is, identify it so that you can act accordingly.
Step 3: Exploring DJ Software
It’s time to see what DJing feels like! First, you’ll need to get some DJ software. There are 3 main platforms in the DJ industry:
Rekordbox is Pioneer’s music management platform for DJs. It can be used to import music, create playlists, set cue points, and do any other prep work. Export Mode allows you to copy that library to a USB drive, and play it on hardware such as a Pioneer CDJ.
With Performance Mode, your laptop acts as the DJ players. Mixing can be done “virtually” using keyboard and mouse, or with an approved “Hardware Unlock device” (like a Pioneer DJ controller).
Everything above can be done for free. They offer a subscription model for additonal features, like enabling Performance Mode on more hardware, DVS support, and cloud sync.
As the largest manufacturer of DJ hardware, Pioneer DJ is the “industry standard” for professional clubs and venues. This makes Pioneer’s platform worth considering. If you’d like to bring only a USB stick to a gig, but use your laptop in other situations (like DJing at home), Rekordbox is the obvious choice.
Choose Rekordbox if you own Pioneer hardware, you want to learn “the standard”, or you plan on playing large venues.
Serato is among the smoothest and sturdiest pieces of DJ software available today. They don’t make any hardware of their own; they work with other manufacturers (like Rane, Pioneer DJ, Reloop, Roland, etc.) to ensure smooth operation and tight integration with no setup.
Serato DJ Lite is free, reliable, and intuitive DJ software for mixing in two channels. Many budget DJ controllers ship with this software. Thanks to “Practice Mode”, you don’t even need any hardware to start DJing. Should you decide to upgrade later, the transition can be made easily.
With Serato DJ Pro, you get access to the full professional DJ suite. This version costs $129 (and additional packs are available for adding cool features). However, it can be used for free when you buy approved “Pro hardware”. There’s also a free trial available.
The great thing about Serato is that it’s fully supported by over 90 pieces of hardware. No other software can claim the variety of integrated support that Serato has, which means you have a lot of options! Serato is also extremely popular and well supported by scratch DJs, due to its roots in turntablism.
Choose Serato if you want lots of hardware options, or you want to be a turntablist using Serato DVS.
Traktor, by Native Instruments, supports great performance features for DJs. But getting the most out of this software requires you to own official Native Instruments hardware, for which there are few options. It’s popular in the world of techno (and among DJ/producers) due to its Remix Decks and Stems abilities.
Traktor Pro 3 costs $99 by itself (and will work without hardware), but any official Traktor controller will include the software. A free demo is also available.
The relationship between software and hardware is very tight and reliable, being a somewhat “closed system”. And while it sometimes lags behind the other companies when it comes to certain features, major updates tend to come along with innovative features (such as the force feedback function of a Kontrol S4 MK3). Traktor also has some of the best FX in the business.
Choose Traktor if you’re an electronic DJ/producer, who wants to merge these two worlds.
Other Great DJ Software
Many other great options exist. Virtual DJ, for example, claims to be the most downloaded DJ software on Earth. And it’s easy to see why: it supports the latest DJ technologies, it’s backed by a huge community, and it’s entirely free for home use.
Virtual DJ is also plug-and-play compatible with most DJ controllers, comes with a boatload of effects, and even supports video mixing and karaoke.
Other great options include djay Pro, Mixxx, and Mixvibes CrossDJ.
Of course, choosing a DJ platform is a matter of preference. But with some demoing (and a little YouTube research), you should be able to find the software that works for you.
See Also: Rekordbox Made Easy, Serato Made Easy, Traktor Made Easy, and Virtual DJ Made Easy by Digital DJ Tips.
Step 4: Learning Basic DJ Skills
There are a number of basic skills to consider when learning how to become a DJ: mixing, EQing, phrasing, beatmatching, and prep. We’re going to cover them briefly.
The purpose of beatmatching is to get two tracks playing at the same tempo (the speed at which the song is playing) and phase (the beats from both tracks playing in-time with each other).
Think about it like two cars driving next to each other on the highway:
- Tempo is speed, such as 60 MPH.
- Phase is having the two cars directly next to each other.
Beatmatching is accomplished using your player’s pitch fader, to adjust the tempo of the song. You use a jog wheel, push a pitch bend button, or touch one of your playing records to adjust phase.
So is it even necessary to learn how to beatmatch, when there is such a thing as a sync button?
Perhaps not. But it’s a great idea anyway! Firstly, it gives you the ability to beat-mix on anything (e.g. turntables).
More importantly, it helps to develop and tune your ears so that you know what to listen for. The practice of manual beatmatching results in a much more trained ear, and a more confident DJ.
You can always come back to this later, but I think learning to beatmatch early is a great idea.
Phrasing, with an “r”, will make sense to anyone who has ever played a musical instrument.
It just means to mix your tracks together at points in the songs which make sense.
Almost all music that you will be DJing is in 4/4 time, whether you play electronic dance music, hip-hop, funk, or top 40. Technically, this means is that there are four beats in a measure (bar), and that the quarter note gets one beat.
The takeaway is that you need to learn how to count to four, as most “DJ-able” music is 4/4.
Any DJ rig contains a few different levels of “volume” adjustment. Firstly, each mixer channel has a gain knob, allowing you to adjust the level by watching your meters. Then, each channel has a line fader.
(The line fader adjusts how much signal you’re sending to your main output. And your main output has a volume control, too!)
Then, of course, there’s the crossfader which allows you to fade between one channel and another in a left/right motion.
In addition, DJ software has its own gain structure. This can make things quite confusing. When in doubt, read the manual. Some DJ software features auto-gain functionality, which helps minimize the amount of manual adjustment between tracks.
As a general rule: stay out of the red. If you need more volume, boost it on the amp or speaker side.
Equalizing (EQing) is the act of boosting or cutting frequencies so that multiple audio tracks blend nicely.
For example, the majority of your audio “space” gets eaten up by bass frequencies (especially in dance music). You may not wish to mix two powerful kick drums over one another, since they are too loud to combine. A typical DJ mixer includes a three-band EQ (low, mid, and high) which allows you to carve out the audio space for a buttery blend.
When used properly, the EQ is both a useful tool, and a means of creative expression.
Equalization will not fix a bad mix, nor will it work miracles. But we can use it to “smooth together” multiple audio signals, and make our mixes come out with a bit more polish.
- The Art of EQing (article)
- Equalization and Filters: A Deep Dive (podcast)
Step 5: Getting DJ Hardware
While it’s possible to begin DJing using only your laptop, you’re eventually going to want more control over what you’re doing. It’s time to look into some hardware! There are several types of DJ setups to consider:
DJ Controller Setup (Recommended)
A DJ controller gives you hands-on control over your mixing software, for much easier manipulation of the music than a mouse and keyboard. Without a doubt, this is the most sensible way to get started. A modern all-in-one DJ controller contains everything you need to mix and record music (except for a laptop), and options are available anywhere from $100 to over $3000.
The controller market continues to grow, and DJs may choose among the options which fit their budget, workflow, and preferred software. This is wonderful news, but it can make for a tough decision!