DJing is a dream career for a great many people – whether following in the footsteps of independent greats like John Peel, or forging a new path with deep cuts from niche communities around the globe. DJing is a labor of love, and a competitive one at that, but that doesn’t make it impossible to make it as a DJ. There are many different routes to potential success spinning vinyl or cueing beats, and to give them a go all you need is a have-a-go attitude and the love of music that got you here in the first place. Here are just a few avenues to turning your passion into a paying profession.
The main income stream for the vast majority of full-time professional DJs comes from DJing gigs. These could be regular club nights at a local venue, or DJing for private functions and weddings. The latter is a far more common avenue for income, and generally better-paying – but aiming for a mix can keep you creatively satisfied while earning you enough to live on.
YouTube and Vlogging
A less conventional income stream for the freelance DJ can be found on video streaming platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. YouTube is an excellent platform for advertising your skills. Channels such as My Analog Journal are an excellent blueprint for making money on the platform – though monetizing the playing of other people’s music can get tricky. Instead, aim for product placement and direct sponsorship by related brands, something sure to come with a growth in audience from the release of regular content.
Much in the same way releasing mixes on YouTube can widen your audience and create revenue from advertising, releasing mixes in the form of a podcast can bring in audiences on other platforms and similarly benefit from sponsorship. You could also break the mould a little, and interview other DJs about musicians or about the industry at large.
Radio remains just as tough to crack as it has been for the last five decades, but is an excellent ambition to have for any DJ (DJing). If the route to a national radio station slot does not seem immediately accessible, look instead for the less well-known stations. There may be a local community station with a gap in its programming, presenting an opportunity for you to fill it with your own show. Email around, and find out!
Of course, while turning DJing into your primary income stream might involve spinning plates to find the work you truly enjoy, there is one fundamental factor on which your success rests: your skill. Wanting to be a DJ is one thing, but knowing your way around the equipment and the process is another – and vastly more important than your enthusiasm. Investing in right gear, from DJ mixers to speakers to software and beyond, will enable you to practice and to master your work, and give you a far better chance of success in the long run.