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option4: From Bedroom DJ to the Club

Guest post by producer, DJ and party curator option4

Often when people first start thinking about being a professional DJ it’s more of a dream than a reality. But when it actually comes to the crunch, it can be a potentially daunting decision to make the plunge. I think the biggest thing people need to weigh out before they go fully pro and try to pay their bills with this stuff is “CAN they pay their bills with this stuff?”

I’ve seen it happen time and time again where DJs start playing out and making a little bit of money, then think that quitting their job and devoting all of their time to their craft will push them to the next level. Sadly in this day and age that’s extremely rare. The DJ supply vastly outweighs the demand for DJ performances. Identifying whether it’s just a hobby or if it’s something more is a very honest evaluation that should be more encouraged in this culture. Attempting to make a living with this profession can oftentimes be more stressful than anticipated, ultimately killing the passion that started the journey in the first place. Going pro before you have an actual fan base to support it is a very slippery slope.

Of course I would fully endorse you making that leap if you believe in your abilities. So then the first thing to do is avoiding making the same mistakes that most DJs who are starting out make! I mean, I book A LOT of DJs. I always try and inspire new ones and support up-and-comers all of the time. Obviously there’s the playing appropriate music for the party, slot etc. but that’s been beat to death already. Most of the DJs that play for our parties all play great anyhow. One thing that I feel people mess up however is not understanding how important it is to be a PART of the party.

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J.Phlip’s DJ Tips

j.phlipJessica Phillipe, or better known as J.Phlip, discovered house music in her hometown of Champaign, Illinois.  With a $100, she picked up her first DJ rig around the age of 19.  While studying to become a Systems Engineer, her roommates were forced to listen to dance music all the time.  Her passion for dance music has landed her as an official member of Claude VonStroke‘s Dirtybird label.  She has gotten to play some of the world’s most prestigious dance floors including Space Ibiza, Fabric, Back to Basics, Movement and more.  Below are some of her tips on DJing.

ORGANIZE TRACKS IN PAIRS

“Organise some of your tracks in pairs! If you know two tracks sound wicked-dope-amazing-goosebumps together, you can use those pairs to build your set up and down, and every which-way! That way, you know some of your mixes are going to sound super on-point. Then while you are mixing those you can have some time to check out the crowd reaction and think about what you want to do next.

“This is also useful because, sometimes, I have a track that is almost impossible to get out of. I will try mixing it with 30 other tracks and only one will work! It’s great to play tricky tracks because they are usually really interesting, and when you mix out of them people think you are a magician!”

DON’T FORGET ABOUT VINYL

“Don’t sleep on vinyl digging just because you are a digital-only DJ. You will find some serious gems if you search on Discogs, online vinyl record shops, and in your local record stores. Plus, it’s fun to go to the record shop, and everyone should have that experience of finding music without looking at a computer screen.

“Sometimes, the tracks you find will actually be released on vinyl only; in that case you will have to find a way to record them to digital. Other times you will find that the track has also been released on digital and you can find a way to buy it, but you probably would not have found it otherwise.

“Its a great way to not sound like everybody else. If you are an all-vinyl DJ anyway, you’re already too cool for school so skip this tip!”

RECORD YOURSELF

“Whether you’re playing out at a party or in your bedroom, and even if you’ve been DJing for 10 plus years, record yourself. I have heard myself recorded and realised that I really need to tighten up with my mixes and such again… or that I was actually too drunk to play and that I need to watch myself on the shots!

“t’s always good to hear yourself from the other side, no matter who you are. You can also hear if your mixes are sounding massively out of key. You don’t have to used Mixed In Key – use your ears, as they work fine! If two tracks sound so bad together that it makes you want to stop dancing then don’t do it again.

“that said, a little dissonance is OK in my book – we don’t all have to sound like freakin’ super-tuned robots. Lets not lose the amazing human element of the art of DJing!”

PLAY APPROPRIATELY FOR YOUR SET TIME

“Opening is the most important job of a party because it sets the tone for the rest of the night. Did you know that almost everyone has to open at some point at Fabric London? They believe that even the most banging DJ is actually a chump if he cannot open a room.

“Closing is a whole other story, and can actually be the most difficult timeslot. It’s most likely that some people are getting drunk or tired and they are going to leave, even if you are totally killing it. It is hard to not let it get into your head that you might be sucking. Just focus on the energy of the people who are feeling it and play for them. Maybe they want bangers or maybe they want you to bring it down and groove it out until the last call. Put on your game face and have fun even if some people are leaving. The die-hards will love you at the end and hopefully you will get to play an encore track.”

BE PREPARED

“Cover all your bases to make sure your gig goes smoothly. Soundcheck the Technics for actual vinyl if you are playing it! Some sound engineers think that, just because someone has used the Technics to play Traktor, your vinyl will sound fine. Well, it will not! Vinyl is a whole different ballgame, and many newbie sound guys don’t know this because they have no experience with it.

“Do not rely on one USB stick or link cable. Right now I have three, but I’m going to up it to five, and I’m also going to start bringing the Pioneer CDJ firmware update on a 6th because I have been finding that outdated firmware is corrupting my USB sticks.

“Only use high-quality USBs or CDs. I will only use USB 3.0, because in the case that a USB does go corrupt, it is so much faster to reformat it and reload it back up with all my music.

“Keep your music organized so that, if something does go wrong at soundcheck, you can quickly fix the problem somehow before your set. Honestly, I’ve been having a lot of issues with rekordbox and USBs lately so this week I’m going to read the whole manual and watch every freaking video there is about it!

“Times are changing. If you want to stay relevant with the new technologies, you can’t just half-ass it. Or if you choose to just keep it old school and play vinyl, be prepared for a massive headache – that is just how it is right now in 2014. Welcome to the future of Djing: if Paris Hilton can do it then so can you.”