DJ LADY LEA, NUNO ESTEVEZ, TREV THE JAPANESE, DJ ALI and A-FRYK-YA shared their wisdom with us on how to become a successful DJ. Last year we covered few points based on your attitude for being a good ‘selector’. This time around, these eminent DJ’s have their say!
Firstly, we are grateful and feel privileged to receive input from the five well established and experienced DJ’s and producers. They gave us their honest advice on building your DJ career successfully. Their responses were not edited or made short.
Emphasise was made on passion, uniqueness, humbleness, consistency, mix-tapes, understanding music and guidance against arrogance. They went further into event coordinating and entrepreneurship. Class is in session!
The questions we asked: What do you think makes a successful DJ? What would your advice be to those aspiring DJ’s?
DJ LADY LEA: “In my opinion, to be a successful DJ you need to be unique and true to your own style and sound, as well as being out at your favourite venues all the time and making mixes constantly. You need to start throwing your own parties, headlining yourself and booking other DJ’s. Stay humble and do as much promo and marketing as you can. Create a good brand and logo. Try produce your own music. Be consistent and for a few years.”
NUNO ESTEVEZ: “I think to be a successful DJ you must have passion and be persistent! If you don’t have either don’t waste your time! I think I have gotten where I am today because of passion, the love for music and the joy it brings to people to be able to play it for them! Don’t get me wrong, the music you buy, the skill it takes and the timing of what track you will play will depend on your crowd’s response and energy on the dance floor. That also makes you a great DJ; knowing these things.
Overall, I think to be a great DJ you need to have great music, have a marketing plan like podcasts, a soundcloud page, gigs and so on. You will always have to start somewhere, at house parties to bars to clubs and move your way on up.
But to me what really makes you a great DJ is loving what you do, always being a good person, helping people to learn and learn from others.”
TREV THE JAPANESE: “Reality is, there is no formula to that. It is always necessary to first understand yourself and what you represent, that way it is easy to focus and not be shaken. Consistency and patience are some of the ingredients to maintaining a steady build-up into paving one’s way. Find your nichè and your best to build on it.”
DJ ALI: “Well, for DJ’s to get more gigs, I’ve learned that you need to put yourself out there, make mixes, share your talent, but don’t put your mixes up for downloading because it becomes a legal thing. Also, DJ’s need to really understand the genre they play. Many DJ’s say they play EDM or DEEP House, but that’s not what they’re playing, so, that’s why they would in the end blame the genre for people not enjoying their set.
To be a successful DJ in my eyes firstly, you need to do it for the right reasons and that’s for the music, passion and love. If you’re in it for the fame and glory chances are you will become arrogant, promoters and event coordinators won’t book you. So, my advise is to stay true to who you are, understand the music you play and when you play share your emotion with the crowd, make sure they feel your energy, make sure they remember you. Personally I don’t prepare a set before I go to a gig, I ensure I have all genres and I read the crowd when I’m there, that allows me to be more versatile with my set.
Be humble and don’t let the little bit of popularity get to your head because in this game once you get dropped it’s very difficult to get back in.”
A-FRYK-YA: “The DJ industry in South Africa has now grown immensely that the demand for DJ’s in general, regardless of the style you play, is no longer that high as the supply is more! Change is the most constant variable in the universe & because of this factor, clubs & pubs are now playing it safe in the sense that they supply entertainment that is in demand by your conventional customer, by this I mean a person who does not necessarily go out to experience a new & unknown kind of sound/music or entertainment, but rather an individual who goes out to have fun & preferably listen to something they & their company are familiar with, in other words, music that is mainstream & / or commercial!
How does one work around this new epidemic? Simple. As much as established clubs/pubs/restaurants still have a strong hold on the entertainment circuit in South Africa, outdoor events at various locations e.g parks, houses, rooftops etc are making a come back in a huge way as these are the places where the organisers dictate what kind of entertainment/music is supplied to the people whom they have marketed & invited to the particular event/gathering. This means they have built or they are building a relationship with these individuals as they surely should be expecting what has been marketed to them.
So, as a young & upcoming DJ, to avoid being exploited & to spare yourself heartache especially if you are not willing to compromise your style of playing, instead of running from one club to the next try and build a following by having sessions that will grow over time. This will only be achieved by association. Support other events that represent what you relate to, so as to be supported when you also have such an event. Study, get qualifications in fields that relate to the industry so as to be clued up about how to approach undertaking such an initiative so that one day you may be able to make profits not only by gate takings or as a DJ for playing music, but by being able to supply a service that will be marketed on how well you present yourself as an entertainer. This takes time & patience, but of course it isn’t impossible. Only then shall you be relevant to entities whom are well established.
So for a moment stop being a DJ. Be an entrepreneur whom has the ability to also DJ…”
There you have it boys and girls, the leaders have spoken honestly and out of experience. We hope their vital guidance will assist each and everyone of you.