How to build your DJ brand and land gigs, the ultimate 10-step guide for beginner- to intermediate-level DJs
This story was originally published on Medium in February 2019.
Why should you read this text?
Here’s how I built up to get there, and how you can too.
Your first order of business is to make sure you have at least 3 sets you are proud of. This is your portfolio. Make sure these sets accurately reflect the type of music that represents you.
Choose a unique DJ name and check on a service like Namevine for name/brand consistency. You want to try to register the same artist name across platforms so that followers can easily search and find your accounts.
If your name is being used, you can sometimes cheat by adding an extra “dj” or “djofficial” to your name. I recommend not putting “DJ” in front of your name.
Network, network, network. Start with smaller venues where you’d like to play. Spend money at the bar there. Get to know the staff. Don’t ask for anything until you’ve established a relationship with the staff. Have conversations about music. Comment on how you appreciate the ambiance of the bar/venue (you do, right? I mean, that’s why you want to DJ there?) Once you’ve built a certain amount of trust, describe how you’d love to have the opportunity to mix there. Ask the staff, managers, or owners what the process is to get to play there. Let them ask you for a mix. If the response is negative, you may not have established enough trust, or the timing might not be right (they might already be all booked). Keep persevering and spend more money there. DJs don’t stay in one place forever; there will eventually be an opening, and what better person to fill that gap than a person that is loyal and that the staff can trust? And remember: you’re creating a win-win situation for yourself and the venue.
Practice, practice, practice. Upload new mixes regularly.
Invest in a photoshoot and build your brand on Instagram. Venue owners trust people who look legit. I recommend hiring a professional photographer (and if you’re in Montreal, here is a plug for photographer Philippe Richelet who has done some of my amazing promo shots), but your investment can be as little as a few beers for a friend, or offer your time (DJ a friend’s houseparty — share your passion and get guests to take pictures of you). The camera on your phone can do the trick when you’re just starting out.
Land that first gig. Either get a friend to take a photo of you at this gig (like pictured), or, if you feel comfortable, do a live session on Facebook or Instagram. Post it and tag the venue on as many mediums as possible, but at least on Instagram.
Think of other venues where you’d like to play, and when you are at the step of making your ask, tell them about your gig or residency at venue X (even if it was just one time for 1.5 hours). This is another way to build trust; you legit played at another venue. Rince and repeat for other venues. The more venues you can name, the less time it will take for you to build venue owners’ and staff’s trust.
It is through these ten steps that Igloofest’s organizers found and emailed me to ask if I’d be interested in playing at the 2018 edition of the festival. This process took but four years of consistent and persistent part-time work.
If I can do it, so can you my DJ friends.
Edit: I make no claim that you will play a big festival. But this is definitely the right track to landing your first gigs. Hard work and perseverance are the keys to success.
Feel free to share your feedback, DJ links, and DM me for advice or if you need help with your own branding.
-Beatrix (aka Chantale)