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How to Become a DJ

image for NiserN / Getty Images
NiserN / Getty Images

Do you have a passion for music? Want to turn that passion into a viable career? A job as a disc jockey, or DJ, might allow you to pursue your love of music while also making a living.

DJs provide musical entertainment for people at night clubs, wedding receptions, and other events. And while a DJ’s job might seem glamorous, it also requires a lot of hard work and dedication to a skilled craft.

If you’re thinking of starting a career as a DJ, then keep reading to learn more about what DJs actually do, what their work environment is typically like, and how much money they usually earn.

The biggest responsibility of a DJ is to entertain a particular group of people. This means understanding what your audience wants to hear. For example, mobile DJs, or DJs who work weddings and other special events, typically play popular music and classic rock. Club DJs might experiment more with electronic music, dub-step, hip-hop, or other popular genres of dance music. 

Successful DJs are well rounded, not only in their knowledge of music, but also in their ability to work professionally with others. A DJ working at a night club, for example, must interact with club goers much differently than a mobile DJ and emcee at a wedding reception.

Because DJs must adjust to diverse settings and cater to peoples’ varied musical tastes, it is imperative that they familiarize themselves with many genres of music and that they constantly update their music collection with the latest albums and newest trends in music.

A job as a DJ is also highly technical. DJs are usually responsible for bringing their own equipment to jobs. They must know how to use a variety of sound and lighting equipment, such as turntables, mixers, and speakers. They also use special techniques to blend sounds and create new rhythms.

Some jobs, like those at nightclubs, may provide equipment for DJs, so a DJ must know how to use all the standard tools of the trade. Part of being a successful DJ is familiarizing oneself with as much equipment as possible, including retro turntables that spin vinyl records, or modern laptop-MP3 setups.

DJs typically need to arrive early to gigs to set up and test their equipment. They must have access to a vehicle that can transport large speakers and other tools of the trade, and they must be able to move heavy objects on their own.

Self-employed DJs are responsible for marketing and promoting their services to clients. While word-of-mouth is a great way for DJs to gain new clients, they also may use traditional print advertising, social media networks, and professional websites to market themselves.

Some DJs choose to use third-party entertainment booking sites like TheBash.com to make themselves available to a wider client base. [See also: Young Entrepreneur Turns Passion Into Full Time Gig]

Most DJs are self-employed, but some do find work as the employees of nightclubs, bars or reception halls. There are also companies that hire DJs as employees and provide them with work assignments. Some DJs remain self-employed but work at particular locations on a set schedule.

Whether you wish to become an employee or remain self- employed, you can find work as a DJ in a variety of settings. In addition to bars and nightclubs, DJs work at catering halls and reception centers; indoor and outdoor special events, like sporting events and concerts; family parties and barbecues; school or office parties and fundraisers; and fairs or carnivals.

Some DJs also choose to work as music producers for films or television, and still others find part-time work at local radio stations. Such DJs produce their own shows, which can sometimes be syndicated to larger networks.

The amount of money DJs earn varies greatly depending on their experience, the type of work they do, and their popularity.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Operational Outlook Handbook, the median annual wage for DJs was $27,010 in 2010. The average hourly wage for DJs is about $13.00.

There is no formal training required to become a DJ. However, there are courses available at music schools and online that can help aspiring DJs hone their technical skills.

There are also many free tutorials available online in which DJs teach how to use equipment and how to perform popular deejaying techniques.