Booking your first DJ gig is a huge accomplishment. You're leaving that bedroom setup and taking your mildly awkward Milly Rock skills to the public. In the excitement, there's a good chance that you'll forget some things, so I've compiled 8 questions to ask yourself before your debut that will give you a comfier first ride than a married couple that saved themsel.... never mind.
Do I have all of my required equipment?
It's essential to do a walk through of a space, or have a conversation with the venue about what equipment is available, so you can bring whatever they don't have. Some places have mixers, some don't. Some places have mixers that somehow predate disco. The point is, find out before you get there and write a checklist of the items that you need to pack, down to the cables and power strip. You should also use your walkthrough to scout general logistics like booth and speaker layout. If possible, ask if you can come in before operating hours a few days before the event to do an actual sound check, and make sure everything works. Take photos during the walkthrough too so you can reference the layout and booth setup. You can use these photos for promotion leading into the event too.
How long is the set, and am I ready?
It's physically painful when I'm out and hear a DJ repeating records over and over throughout the night because they clearly didn't bring enough music. If your set is 2 hours, don't bring 3 hours of music and feel comfortable. For starters, depending on your genres, you're not playing these songs in their entirety. Furthermore, if you're doing a good job of reading the room, you should end up skipping certain songs in your collection based on what's in front of you. When it comes to building your library, over do it with quality choices. This doesn't mean pack your collection with songs you don't really feel strongly about. It's more of a reminder that a big part of our job is music discovery and crate digging. Your crates should be packed to the gills with songs that give you a feeling. Also work on performance techniques like juggling that can extend the groove and set you apart. If you're a Traktor user, consider using tools like our Remix Deck Sets to extend songs by remixing them live.
Do I have a pre recorded mix in case of a disaster?
Even after a successful walkthrough, theres a chance that something might go wrong, especially in a long set. I try to always bring a mix on my phone, and a cable to plug my phone into a mixer just in case of an issue, so I can play music while I troubleshoot. Most venues have a house system they can play from just in case of emergencies, but don't bug the staff if you don't need to. Be prepared and professional and you'll get booked more in the future. I'd also recommend using songs you don't plan on playing. This is a great time to record a deep crates mix.
Have I done a good job at promoting?
I'm a big fan of DJs being removed from the responsibility of promoting, and will always attest that our industry would be better for all if they didn't have to focus on it. That said, it's not the case. Social Media has changed the leverage on that, and venues now expect you to promote and bring the draw more than ever. Do yourself the due diligence of promoting your event on social platforms, but more importantly, go to other events and pick up your phone and text or call people about your first gig. Personal invitations go a long way.
Do I have someone that can take pics and send social media attending the event?
Promoting doesn't stop when you start spinning. Contact a friend ahead of time and ask if they'd be willing to take your phone and snap photos and send out social media posts during the event. Try to barter your drink tickets if you can't budget it just yet. If you can't get someone to handle social media in realtime, preschedule some posts to fire off during your event. Images work best on social, so if going that route consider screenshots of your playlist or use your photos from the walkthrough.
Can I safely record this set?
Daaaaaaamn you killed that set. Good job. Did you record it? No? Then that moment's over. Great job, but that's it. Oh I misheard you, you did record it? Good, now you can use it for promotion and to send to other venues for live examples of your work. Consider splitting it up into smaller pieces when going that route. Find the magic moments of the set. You should make a habit of recording so you can listen back for mistakes to avoid and for ideas that worked. Serato and Traktor do this internally, but do a stress test at home to make sure your computer can support recording long sets. Consider a hardware recorder or computer upgrade if you can't.
How much do I get paid and when does it occur?
Conversations about money can be awkward at first but get used to it. It's standard procedure to find out clearly how DJs are compensated in an establishment. Sometimes there's a flat rate, sometimes there's a percentage of the bar, and sometimes there's a the sketchy "well it depends on the night". When approached with the third, don't be afraid to ask "well what would you consider a successful night in terms of draw and payout?". There are dues to be paid no doubt, but I don't like this trend of people spinning for pennies. Value yourself and your fellow DJs with what you take as acceptable. Furthermore work hard to earn that payout.
Will people be able to find me after the set if they enjoyed it?
Followup is the key to business. It's the second and third conversations that spawn partnerships. Look at your sets the same way. That night was first contact but give the patrons and staff a very clear way to reach you afterwards if they'd like to. Part of that is playing the room before an after, but it's also about having an easy to find social media presence and business card. Instagram is very much the new card in this day and age, so be confident in giving yours out to patrons so they can see your next event. Get your card in the hands of the staff/venue and ask for their contact in return. Followup with a thank you and offer your services in the future.
Hopefully you can walk into your first opportunity to spin with a bit more confidence now that you have 8 questions to ask yourself beforehand. If you'd like to see more DJ related content, please support our shop by purchasing a Traktor Remix Set
SentZ is a Brooklyn raised writer and producer who hasn't been the same since his 1st Helio phone