Professional DJs Are Made – Not Born

Professional Mobile DJ

By Dave Austin “The Music Professor”

“I’m a DJ.” For many of us, that’s our answer when asked about our profession.  Whether full or part-time, it’s a job which we not only greatly enjoy, but one in which we take a lot of pride.

For those of us who’ve been DJing for a long time, we’re often reminded that we don’t just play music.  We’re frequently called on to be event coordinators, creative directors, script writers, master of ceremonies, dance instructors and, in some cases, mediators.

Whether a wedding, class reunion, mitzvah or other event, we often have to wear several hats and become part of the planning team organizing the event.

Before becoming a full-time DJ, I was a professional photographer and studio owner and gained a wealth of experience and knowledge about weddings.

At peak, I photographed over a hundred weddings a year with clients ranging from professional athletes to couples with modest home ceremonies.

Today, that valuable experience often comes into play when interacting with my current clients.

Use Your Experience to Help Your Clients

Many of the brides I work with have little or no real know-how when it comes to planning and organizing their ceremony and reception.  It may fall to me to help them pull it together by suggesting timelines for their events.

I have have sample event schedules printed which can easily be personalized and customized to fit their needs.  I’m always willing to offer ideas and suggestions to assist them.  Prior to the event, I try to have multiple personal meetings with the bride and groom to learn how their planning is coming along and how I may be able to help.

Most events at weddings involve music and couples often need some help in choosing the right song.  I maintain a “master book” in which I’ve stored lists of songs for specific events – grand entrance, first dance, bouquet toss, etc.  These lists allow me to quickly suggest appropriate songs.

There are a number of things we can do to alleviate some of the stress clients feel when planning their events.  Although they don’t always tell us, I sincerely believe our customers appreciate our input and ideas.  At the same time, it enhances our status as professionals and makes us more valuable to our clients.

Unfortunately, not every DJ has a large background of past experiences which he or she call up on the spur of the moment.  You may be a young DJ new to the business, or your past experience may not relate to the profession.  Where do you go, who do you ask. How do you begin to accumulate some of this knowledge? Time and your own experience will provide you with some, but this can be a long and slow process with numerous mistakes along the way.

Here Are Some Sources You Can Tap Into 

A friend suggested I mention YouTube videos.  Some videos relating to our topic can prove instructional and helpful.  However, there is also a plethora of videos which are not so useful.  Separating the useful from the useless can require some discernment here.

Asking an experienced DJ may prove informative.  If you approach one who is willing to share his or her knowledge, you may be able to “fast track” your learning curve.  At the least, take the opportunity to observe pro DJs at work, carefully noting how they handle introductions, games, requests, music selections and other events.  Emulate the successful DJ, adding your own personality and creativity as you grow.

Expos, Conferences, Workshops & Seminars 

The American Disc Jockey Association (ADJA) offers members ongoing educational opportunities, not only through affiliation with large convention-type conferences such as the Las Vegas DJ Show and the Mobile Beat Las Vegas DJ Show but also through local ADJA chapters.  The National Association of Mobile Entertainers also offers members educational opportunities and benefits such as insurance, certification and local chapters.  In addition to the large venues above, there are also regional conferences such as the ARMDJs conference in Tennessee  which features A-list presenters and the opportunity to meet and interact with fellow DJs on a more personal basis.

Are you reading?  If not, you may want to subscribe to the industry-specific publications which provide one with the latest information, trends and equipment news.

Among the top magazines is Mobile Beat, a magazine and website for DJs, VJs and KJs.   There’s also DJ Magazine which is dedicated to electronic dance music and DJs.  You’ll also want to subscribe to Disc Jockey News, a monthly print and on-line publication for pro DJs.

Magazines, Newspapers & Books

I  maintain a DJ library in my office in which I file past issues of magaziness and newspapers, but I also have numerous books by industry notables such as Stacy Zemon, Larry Williams, Peter Merry, Stu Chisholm, Tom Haibeck and many others.

Obtain copies of these kinds of publications and read and study them with a goal of incorporating the authors’ vast experience and knowledge into your own professional growth.

Not only is the DJ industry experiencing tremendous growth, but the almost-daily changes in technology, equipment and trends makes it imperative that the serious DJ engage in a constant program of professional self-education in order to keep his or her knowledge and skills sharp, up-to-date, and importantly, ahead of the increasing numbers of competitors who are contending for the limited pool of clients.

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