If you want to make it as a DJ, these are the people you need to be meeting
At some point in your quest for DJ superstardom, preferably sooner rather than later, you're going to have to get off your computer, encounter other human beings and interact with the larger music community. Promoters, club owners, agents, resident DJs, producers and of course everyone on social media who likes your DJing - you need to get at least some of them to also get off their computers and come out and listen to you play.
The step from the bedroom to the real world can be daunting, but it's an essential one to take if you actually want to play decent gigs. Unless, of course, you're committed to doing internet 'radio shows' from your bedroom – in which case, totally go for it. I hear that there are not many DJs playing on internet radio shows, so you'll no doubt get loads of traction.
However, if you wish to pursue actual club and festival gigs, here are some of the people who can be helpful in your (inevitable) rise to the top...
1. Other DJs
They're not the competition, they're your sisters and brothers in rhythm, and when things get tough, they are the only ones who will really understand your DJ problems. Who else will lend you a headphone adapter at 4am, or listen to you bitch about how your plan to only play Mood II Swing dubs all night failed because the audience "weren't clued up enough"?
Who makes the music you play? Producers, of course. Get to know a few decent ones if you can, and they might throw the occasional exclusive your way. It's a two-way street: you get to play new stuff that no one else has yet, they get their music road-tested and promoted. Producers' opinions on the availability/exclusivity of their music varies enormously, so maybe check in with them if you're planning on putting their entire new tune at the start of your mix, which is available for high-quality download. This might be considered a breach of etiquette.
This is the big one as generally, promoters are going to be who book you and who you deal with, at least until you get an agent.
I wish there were some surefire ways to contact and be heard by your favourite club nights' promoters, but there aren't. Social media has made contacting people easier - but this can work against you if you decide that a mass spam campaign is a great idea. Trust me, it isn't. You could send 1,000 identikit promo emails to promoters worldwide, all nicely branded with your DJ logo, with links to your mixes on Soundcloud and Mixcloud etc, and my guess is you wouldn't get a great deal of response. This kind of campaign can make you feel as though you'e really working hard and doing something positive towards your goal, but is often virtually pointless.
Better to invest your time in building genuine relationships online. A promoter is way more likely to listen and respond if you seem to be a cool person. But really what a promoter wants is to book a DJ who's on it, who's working, who's already gigging and has some kind of following - so the best way to get noticed by promoters is often by becoming a promoter yourself, at least in the short term, by putting on a night locally with you and your mates.
4. Door staff
If you're going to DJ in clubs, you're going to encounter a lot of security staff. Note I have referred to them twice already, and not used the term ‘bouncer’. I would suggest that you also use the terms 'door staff' or 'security staff', as this tends to elicit a better response from people whose job is, in fact, way more challenging than simply 'bouncing' drunks and gropers out of the club. Although they have to do that, too - and thank the Lord there's someone around to do it, because at 3am pretty much no punter in the club is really in any state to take care of that stuff.
Also, never, ever try and pull the whole 'Don't you know who I am?' thing. Security generally won't know who you are - and won't really care, either.
It's unlikely you'll be snapped up by an agency until you've achieved a degree of success and have a substantial following. If you are then you'll need to be prepared to travel a lot, as there's not a great deal of point an agency having you on their books if you only fancy playing a couple of local boutique festivals a year.
In addition, beware of rogues and blaggers - people who would like to take "a small fee, just to cover admin" in order to sign you up to their agency, for example. A good general rule for DJs is that at no point should you be paying an agency - either for gigs or for membership of an agency. Let them find you work and take their cut of your earnings - that's how it works, or at least that's how it's supposed to work.
You may think only the top level DJs have drivers, but you may find you end up getting a mate to drive you to your gigs, enabling you to concentrate on using those drinks vouchers you’re getting as part payment. A good driver can make a weekend of gigs an absolute joy, providing you with a partner-in-crime while taking all the hassle and stress out of the equation, and allowing you to concentrate on the serious business of delivering killer sets and embracing all the pleasures and hedonism open to you.
7. Whoever does the algorithms at Beatport
I don't actually know who this is, but if you find out, you might be able to manipulate/blackmail them into giving you a quick No 1 chart placing for your latest Ableton creation, which as we all know, will instantly lead to you getting booked for five-hour DJ sets at fabric and Berghain.
Good luck with the real life networking, and remember that all the big, successful DJs were once like you - practising in their bedrooms and dreaming of the big time. To get there, they had to come out, blinking into the light and engage with other humans. You can do it too.
Words: Harold Heath