The Inside Track: Job Security for DJs

Posted on June 12th, 2013 by in Advice & Tips, The Inside Track


This article is part of our series of tips and advice from music industry professionals: The Inside Track. You can check out the full series of tips at The Inside Track.

As a DJ, my advice would be to never be complacent. In the field of bar and club DJing, it is increasingly competitive due to the use of laptops. Unfortunately they allow the average person, who previously may have found it hard to enter the world of DJing, a cheap startup cost. In the modern club scene where managers change on an almost daily basis, one can be here today and gone the next. With a lack of contract work & decreasing pay with bar and club DJ work, my advice to DJs who have had a good run in bars and clubs is to look to function work for security.

In terms of my own experience, I made a living from bar and club work for four years and they were probably my best four years in the business if not the best four years of my life! As an urban DJ, the timing of my entrance into my local club scene was perfect as urban music was on the rise. Initially a vinyl-only hip hop DJ, I started in a small bar in the harbour area out of the glare of the local club scene. Here I started by playing out my extensive vinyl collection from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s etc, using the experience of ‘playing out’ in public to practice my mixing in a public venue, and get used to the art of fitting customers requests into my own selection.

Soon I acquired residencies in bars in the centre of town, then clubs, and then went on to support the likes of Radio 1 RnB DJ Trevor Nelson twice. I quickly achieved more than I imagined posible, but looking back I realise that if I had known then the importance of targeting rival clubs, even though I didn’t need the extra work at that point, I could have maintained the amount of work I had. Times change and urban music had had its reign at the top while indie rock came into fashion. While I don’t regret not playing music that I didn’t like, if I had secured some room 2 work in the top clubs at the time then I could have ‘weathered the storm’.

I did attend an interview for a new club opening at this time, but I let my own strong morals and intolerance of ignorant individuals get in the way of the prize. Sometimes one has to follow others’ visions until the time comes when one’s own vision can be realised. As it happens, at the interview I was told that a certain club would have no urban night, yet once it opened it’s most popular night was an urban night for the next ten years. Someone had played along with the interviewers vision then once they were out of the picture, released their own… and it wasn’t me!

At this point I started a day job whilst still DJing at the weekend, and I now still undertake club work as well as functions. My advice to any bar and club DJ is to buy your own equipment and invest in your profession. If you DJ publicly and are proficient you will be asked to play at private parties and the best way to make money is to own your own equipment rather than renting. I can now make two or three times the amount of money from a function as I can from bar and club work and I even have contract work at a hotel, meaning more security.

by Music Jobs member Richard Annal.

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