If you want to become a Club DJ there are a few things you need to consider.
A Club DJ can be seen as quite a prestigious job/career – You are the person that provides the entertainment to a room full of partygoers. People may come to that particular club, bar or lounge just to hear you play the latest releases, special mixes or your specialist genre of music.
It might be that the club you play at is known as the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night. If it is a bar or lounge it could be the place to start the night before venturing into the city.
Either way, people look up to you – it can be a huge ego boost.
Let’s have a look at a few aspects of the job that you should think about before applying;
1. Starting Out
The first thing you have to do is get a job in the first place. Many venues will expect you to apply to them, and then you will have to convince them why it should be you. Do you have a good track record, have you already played at similar venues before?
It is advisable to have some kind of online presence that a club manager can look at; Instagram profile, Soundcloud mixes, YouTube channel that shows you at your best. Make sure you have business cards printed off to give with your resume.
You may be asked to play a live set as an audition, either during the day or play for free as a trial.
If you are lucky, you will get a regular gig; i.e. the same venue every weekend, but that is down to the management, the success of your gigs and the competition.
Anything can change, and you could be surplus to requirements with little notice.
The first thing you need to think about is what times you will be working. However you look at it, you are working – however much fun it is. Times can vary but expect to be working late nights, and usually at the weekend, though you may find a Thursday night or even midweek DJ set. You may not even get to play the whole night; it could just be a 1-2-hour set.
A common shift is 9pm until 2am. Obviously this can be different depending on the requirements of the venue.
The chances are you will be working just one or two nights a week, so you might not be able to rely on that source of income solely.
Compared to a Mobile DJ, working in a club is not usually paid that well – maybe $100-200 a night. Again, a Mobile DJ can get more per night, and usually work earlier in the evening and finish around midnight.
Read: How Much Do DJs Make?
One bonus of being a Club DJ is the limited equipment you are required to have. Most venues will have much of the equipment you need, such as speakers, lights, microphone and even the controller or CDJs. Many will just ask you to bring your actual music library, which can be a laptop, CDs or a USB stick (thumb drive), and then your own pair of headphones (for hygiene reasons).
What you will have to know before you start though, is what system they use, and what restrictions there are, if any. I know some places no longer allow laptops at all. Some clubs only have one type of controller, or often Pioneer CDJs, so you will need to be comfortable using what they have.
We have already covered how you will bring your music – Laptop, CDs, UBS drive, but there will be different expectations from a Club DJ than a Mobile DJ, for example.
There is less chance of you being able to decide on the music you play, there may be a strict genre for the club – will you just play dance music, is it an R&B, Pop, 80s, 90s or even Rock club? Are you allowed to take requests from the guests? Do they have themed nights? Do they play certain types of music at specific times of the night? Will you play a short set or the whole night? You will have to have enough music to keep people on the dance floor for the whole duration.
Another big factor is the length of tracks you will play – you are probably expected to play just a couple of minutes of each track, so you will need to know when to bring a song in and where to mix it out.
If I were playing a private event, such as a wedding or birthday party as a Mobile DJ I might play 20 songs an hour (3 mins average per song), or around 100 a night, whereas if I am playing club gigs I could play as many as 35-40 tracks in an hour, if not more.
In a mobile DJ situation, I could play very similar playlists each gig, as I generally play to a completely different crowd every time. In a club you could have the same group of people every weekend, and they would not appreciate the exact same songs every night they come.
6. Moving On
If you have done really well, and played at one or more venues successfully, start thinking about where you want to progress to, preferably before you have to. Have you enjoyed it? Always look to move onto bigger and better venues, with more customers, better working conditions, and ultimately; more money.
A great tip is to start networking as soon as you can. Keep the management happy so you don’t have to move on but keep your eyes open to opportunities all the time. Keep some business cards with you at all times to hand to customers and anyone that might want it, make sure it’s got all your social media links on. Maybe have some CDs or USB drives with your mixes on – be ready for the unexpected.
If you dream of DJing that big club downtown, go for it! Get down there, find out who manages it, who the club owners are, who the regular DJs are and get to know them.
You could offer to put on a theme night for free, offer to promote the tickets yourself, suggest a charity night, think outside the box.
A lot of upcoming DJs will promote themselves on social media, and host live streams of them playing for an hour or so with the view of building a fan base.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The average Club DJ makes around $50 - $100 an hour. So, for a 4-hour gig, you can expect to earn $200 - $400 USD a night.
This amount can vary depending on the venue and area, and DJs in higher demand can charge more.
It is not hard to learn the skills to be a DJ. With a little time and effort, most beginners could learn to DJ in a few months.
What is more difficult is becoming a regular, paid DJ. Whether you want to become a Mobile or Club DJ, you will need to get some recognition. You may need to think outside the box and do some cheap/free gigs to begin with, do some networking, get some mixes online or social media promotion.
Once you have learned the skills of a DJ and got your own equipment, getting a gig at a house party can be fairly straightforward.
I would get some social media accounts, record a few mixes either audio or video and share with friends of friends. Just getting one gig, either cheap or free can kickstart your career.
Make sure you get some footage at a gig, share that on social media, hand out business cards and make sure you promote yourself at the gig - each one could get you 1, 2, 3 more.
The highest-paid DJs in the world are The Chainsmokers at a massive $46 Million a year!
- The Chainsmokers – $46 million
- Marshmello – $40 million
- Calvin Harris – $38.5 million
- Steve Aoki – $30 million
- Diplo – $25 million
- Tiësto – $24 million
- Martin Garrix – $19 million
- David Guetta – $18 million
- Zedd – $17 million
- Armin van Buuren – $15 million
As with almost any industry, the highest-paid DJs are those in the most demand.
When you start out, you will most probably be offering your services for free or at a low cost. As you increase your skills and get more recognition, the more you will be able to charge.
If you are lucky enough to be booked to play a large venue, club or arena you can demand even higher fees. It's that simple!
Being a Club DJ can be a great career choice. Playing in reputable locations with lively crowds. If you do well and impress the right people you could progress to bigger and better things.
Always be professional and keep your options open for other opportunities.