February 22, 2016


Everyone is new to something at some point, right? I started DJing in middle school and looking back now, I am embarrassed just thinking about how clueless I was. So consider this my way of helping you avoid cringe-worthy performances. I recommend starting with some decent but basic gear and volunteering at gigs when you start out. This way, if you decide this isn’t for you, you aren’t out a whole lot for equipment and if you don’t do so well your first couple of shows, nobody gets too pissed—you get what you pay for, right? But hopefully, you impress them and when they compliment you on your awesome job, tell them to recommend you to their friends. Word of mouth definitely helps in this business.  Eventually, you can start charging money for your services, and it helps if you do some background digging and figure out what your competitors are charging so that you can charge a fair price.

Okay. Let’s start at the beginning: gear. Regardless of how many songs you can fit on an IPod, if you show up with that and a speaker, you’re going to get laughed at before you even get started. Soo…what do you need?  First, invest in a good set of headphones and a DJ Mixer. Then decide how tech you’re going.

  • Do you want that vintage vibe? You’ll need records, needles (aka DJ cartridges), and turntables. I would scrounge up records at garage sales and specialty websites and the like; they aren’t quite as easy to come by anymore, although there are some current groups that put stuff out on vinyl just because. You will also need cables to connect everything. Anyway, this isn’t quite my thing, so… let’s move on to the next option.
  • A good first setup (and where I started) is purchasing two CD DJ turntables to connect to your mixer. Many of these have digital file capabilities, too, which gives you even more This is especially good if people want you to play certain music and give you a flash drive or something.
  • If you want something super-portable and tech-y but doesn’t just look like you + a laptop, you can get a DJ controller and some DJ software. This will give you a lot of control over the music as far as your effects and sound, and it can be cheaper (depending on the route you go) and it is easy to pack up and break down. Less setup, too.

I highly recommend not getting super high end at the beginning unless you’re buying good quality used stuff. It might be harder to get started than you think or you might change your mind. Check secondhand stores and craigslist. There’s a reason there’s so much equipment out there 😉 Don’t be one of those people!! If you want some other ideas or need visuals on setup, check out this site. They do a good job of explaining the different setups.

Once you’ve got your gear and setup figured out, PRACTICE. Figure out what everything does. Seriously. Experiment. You can be as terrible as you want in your own room with a set of headphones where nobody can hear you.

Next: advertise. Anywhere you can think of. Dorm lobbies. Frat houses. Sites like Craigslist. Event Halls. Be SMART. Don’t go into a building that looks sketchy. Meet potential clients in a public place to talk about the gig first before you accept.

Protect yourself: Look online for a general contract (even if you’re doing it for free, it’s good to get into a habit of it, and it helps for record keeping) that you can have clients sign. You’ll look more professional and it will protect you if you’re getting paid.

That’s all I can think of for now.  Good luck and have fun!