In stark contrast to previous decades, budding music producers and those with musical passion now live in an age where creating a song is just a few clicks away. The increasing capabilities of bedroom production and the freedom and education of the internet means the cost of recording studios, high-tech equipment and marketing can be avoided for those who are just starting out.
This relatively fresh even playing field has lead to a new musical terrain where it is now harder to stand out from the huge variety constantly surfacing on a daily basis.
The complications that have arisen with online music services have seen musicians, DJs and performers remain thoroughly reliant on the live circuit. Anyone can upload their music to a Youtube channel and gain followers, but live performance is the frontier which all music performers and producers need to conquer on the road to success.
When you are ready to take your music out of the bedroom and into public venues, these tips should help you on your way to establishing a great live reputation:
Learn to DJ
This may be an obvious point, but it’s certainly worth bearing in mind.
Although live performances are a form of practice, DJs who really want to succeed need to dedicate their private time to the pursuit. Turntable masters like DJ Shadow and J Dilla have been famed for their enthusiasm for all things vinyl before and during their celebrated music careers.
Even less-than-intensive DJing activities can generate fresh ideas. From crate-digging sessions, experimental beat-matching in the bedroom to listening to new mixes, simply imbibing the culture can give you an edge.
Colleges that teach music and music production will often provide short and long term courses to suit a budding music producer’s requirements. The contacts you can establish at these colleges will also help you break into a local music scene. SubBass Academy of Electronic Music, one of the UK’s premier electronic music and DJ schools, secure slots for their students at some of the best clubs in the country, including a regular night at the world famous Ministry of Sound.
Get to know your local record store
At the start, it can be difficult to find a venue which will let you play your music. Getting to know local music stores in the area is a good route for finding such opportunities. A good record store always has contacts with local venues and may have in-store gigs available. If the latter is true, they should be happy for the chance to showcase talented local music producers.
Play a variety of venues
Any opportunity to play your music live should be taken to gain experience and for your name to begin circulating. Nightclubs and bars are obvious venues that will accommodate DJ sets; many now believe that a residency at a late night venue is the natural way to establish a good reputation. There may also be private parties, exhibitions, openings and store showcases that would benefit from live music.
Promote on social media
Social media is the go-to place for free self promotion. As well as setting up your own artist page, you should be updating them with your latest projects and any events you might be playing. Flyers are not as effective as they used to be, so using social media for your promotion is cheaper and usually more effective in the digital age.
Don’t be dissuaded from creating original flyers and leaflets for your event if you have the means though. Many are saying that that print is dead or dying, but a well designed flyer in the right place can take on the form of a miniature work of art and generate intrigue.
Don’t ask for money (initially)
If money is your motivation from the beginning, then you are probably in this for the wrong reason and likely to crash before you even get going. For every DJ who asks to be paid to play an event, there are likely to be ten or so other hungry DJs who would gladly do it for free, just to get the experience.
Make the shows memorable
While a DJ set is remembered mostly for the music that is played (and hopefully that is guaranteed to be exceptional), there are elements you can add to a set to make even more of an impact. Get creative with visuals, lighting, projectors and sound design where possible.
Event design experts Skyline Whitespace have years of experience in getting the most out of visual and audio equipment for live music events. They recommend investing in a projector and a preparing a montage of interesting visuals to accompany a DJ set. Projectors are more portable, versatile and, most importantly, more affordable than ever.
You have a long way to go before playing to thousands in Ibiza. You have to be grateful for the people who are dancing to your music – they have paid to be there, or at the very least have turned up to your show.
If someone approaches you with a song request, don’t wave them away because you think the music you are playing is superior. Even if you have no intention of playing it, be gracious for their recommendation and leave them feeling satisfied with themselves – it will work in the favour or your reputation as a DJ.