How to Make a DJ Demo and get Club Gigs!

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If you want to get hired as a bar or club DJ you are eventually going to have to put together a bio/resume with your DJ Mix.

You may be thinking, “I haven’t had any gigs. I’m just starting out.”

This is totally okay and if this is you I am going to give you some tips on how to stick out from all the other DJ wannabe chumps out there.

The DJ Mix you make is very important (Click here for more tips on making a DJ Mix).  It shows your skills on the one and twos.  You have probably practiced a lot and have a mix you are proud of and you are ready to promote it, but you don’t have a resume or bio.  What you really want to do is show that you have people skills and experiences outside of the bedroom studio. The majority of promoters and club managers WANT to know about what you have been up to.

Have you hung out at the local college radio station in town?  Put that on your resume.  Did you get on a podcast or are you on some website like mixcloud.com or soundcloud?   That’s legit and put it in there.

Did you hang out in your friend’s studio for hours on end making beats?  Write that out like this, “I’ve spent time working in a professional music studio called (insert name or friend’s bedroom studio here!) working in sound engineering and utilizing professional software and hardware.”  List the brand names of the software and hardware too.  It will make you look real cool.

Have you told your facebook friends about your best friend’s band or DJ night?  Have you hung up posters printed out at Kinkos for them?  Say, “I have done PR/Promotion for local acts (insert name of friend’s band here).  Tasks included street promotion, facebook/social media promotion and communication with marketing and sales teams at local venues in (your hometown or where you live inserted here!).”

Did you play at your cousin’s wedding?  Put down you have done “Weddings”.  Did you play for free at your friend’s house party?  Put down you have done “Private Parties”.

Have you played for free at a charity function?  Have you played in a fashionable retail clothing store?  Have you played for coffee and tips at the local cafe? Write the names of those places down.

Maybe you’ve been to a DJ convention like the Winter Music Conference in Miami because that’s how passionate you are about DJ culture.  Dope!  Put that in your resume.

Wow!  You are starting to sound like you really know your stuff even though you haven’t headlined any big event yet!  This isn’t telling lies.  This is what you should think about when you write your resume.  You should think, “How can I look professional?”  It’s totally worth it and when you finally get your resume to the right person they will understand that having ANY experience related to music at all is better than having none and you will get gigs.

You can also go to any famous DJs website and write your bio/resume like they do.  You can just imitate it.  You can read mine here.

It wouldn’t hurt to get some pictures done.  I got hired once based on my pictures (The club manager thought I was cute!)

If you think you can’t put up money for a photographer don’t be silly, my friends have taken great DJ pictures of me.  One of them was even used in a local newspaper and all it was was me standing in front of a wall at the mall that looked really colorful and cool. It took two seconds for my friend to take that picture with his phone.

You can also go to clubs with friends and have them take pictures of you near whatever DJ equipment or DJ lights are there if you want to. I wouldn’t do much more than that though because you don’t want someone to ask you if you played at a certain club when you haven’t!  But use your friends as photographers, they will be more than happy to do it and help you with your DJ Career!

Once you have your resume and DJ Mix done all you have to do now is just make some copies and hit the streets.

I usually like to make around ten or so copies, put them in simple brown mail document envelopes and walk into bars and clubs.  All you really have to do once you get there is ask “Who is the talent buyer?” or “Who hires DJs?”  The bartenders and waitresses will be glad to help you and usually you can introduce yourself to the person in charge on the spot and give them your demo.  Otherwise leave it for them if they are not there.

Or you can call bars and clubs on the phone and ask who the talent buyer is and then send it to them in the mail.  This works brilliantly and all you have to do is sit at home on the phone.  You really should get a name instead of sending your demos out cold.  If the club doesn’t answer the phone look them up on facebook or google.  You will have to do some digging, but you will find a name associated with the club in no time.

When you get names of the talent buyer don’t call him or her constantly asking to talk.  Most likely when they are at work they need to work and not be on the phone with you.

I have walked into bars more than once and talked to the same person over and over again and gotten gigs that way.  They usually will tell you exactly what you need to know and do if they see you more than once, being persistent.  Be sure to be VERY polite and understanding and of course THANK THEM if you do things in person like that.

Otherwise just pop those babies in the mail and wait.  If you hear nothing and no one calls you can find some more places and do it again.  Maybe tweak you resume and send it to the same place if you are dead set on that particular venue.

I once added a little paragraph of what I had been up to, kind of an update, since the last time I sent them a demo.  You have to think that they saw your demo once, so why are you sending another one?  Reiterate how awesome you are and say a couple of things you have been up to most recently.  Remember that they WANT to know why you are better than all the DJ wannabes they have to put up with.

I sometimes here of people who just walk into club nights with their music on them expecting to play.  I don’t really understand people like this.

I heard a rumor that LTJ Bukem used to do this because some DJs wouldn’t show up for their night because they would get caught up in some personal drama and he’d step in, but I don’t think anyone should practice this kind of promotion of oneself.  It is disrespectful to whoever DID do all the hard work and get the gig on the Friday or Saturday night.

Some people need their egos stroked and want all the glory without working for it.   Every “attitude” I have ever met in this business had nothing to back it up and they didn’t stick around long.  Don’t be like that.  Don’t be lazy!  This is your DREAM!  Only you can make it happen.

Even with my shiny resume and DJ Mix CD I have run into brick walls many times.  If you ask someone straight up if they will hire you and they politely reply they are all booked up, take it as a NO and go to the next place and don’t worry about it.  Don’t beg or anything.  They can’t see how cool you are and you need to go introduce yourself to someone new.

Even if the biggest club in town tells you NO, don’t sweat it.

Usually the person you talked to is “temporary” and most likely someone else will take his or her place in six months to a year and you can go back and try again. The only reason anyone says no to you is because you haven’t presented to them what they wanted or needed.  You haven’t read their mind.  You can’t do that anyway so DON’T try it.  Sometimes their decision is purely based on superficial BS, like how much money you can make for them, which has NOTHING to do with music!  LOL!

Every time I get an opportunity to talk to a promoter or manager I am COMPLETELY honest with them.  I had a manager ask me to bring in 500 people before. That wasn’t going to happen, so I told him I would call him if I met anyone who could do that for him.

Honestly I don’t want to be a promoter.  I want to be a DJ and want to be around people who support me and my talents and I am perfectly happy to shake hands and walk away from any situation that is NOT going to work out in my best interest.  Don’t lie to anyone and you will have much more FUN when you do get hired!

They say when one door closes TEN more open, so don’t be sad if you can’t find a gig right away.  Usually the gigs I get happen in the most unexpected ways from the most unexpected people.  The universe works in this way sometimes, so keep your eyes open to the opportunities right in front of you and build on the momentum of that instead.

Go hang out with your friends who are DJ-ing already.  Introduce yourself to the local DJs you like to hear and read about on facebook.  Ultimately just be an AWESOME person and have fun DJ-ing! It will all work out.

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Art and Article Copyright 2014 djcola.net and Lotza Marketing, LLC.

This Article has been published in Music Buzz Magazine.