How do I become a successful DJ and producer?

Recording Connection grad Emily Stamer aka Lucii the Alien performs as a Live DJ

Recording Connection grad Lucii the Alien

The short answer is a lot of hard work, perseverance and talent—traits required to be successful in just about any career. The long answer is much more complicated. A great starting point is to clearly define your goals. Do you want to be a club DJ, a performance DJ, a touring DJ, or a mobile DJ? Do you want to be a producer and showcase your own original music, or do you want to play your own music as well as songs from other producers?

You want to be a known club/performance/touring DJ who produces their own tracks.

If this is you, this means you’re the musician, the performer, and so you need to get skilled in composing i.e. creating original tracks, producing, and you’re going to have to know how to handle yourself during your live set on stage at shows, concerts, and other venues. Being a DJ who produces their own tracks elaborate and diverse skillset and heaps of coordination which can be pretty overwhelming for those who are new to the art of making and performing their own music. Recording Connection’s Live DJ program pairs you with a working, touring DJ who will serve as your mentor and guide you along your path.

You want to focus on developing your creative and technical abilities.

First and foremost, have patience with yourself. Developing your skills, awareness, and even your hearing takes time. If you’re with Recording Connection you’ll get
weekly externship lessons in the studio with your mentor. During those sessions, the two of you will go over techniques, tips, and the fundamentals of how music gets created and recorded. Your path can begin with learning Ableton Live and Push—the software DAW of choice for Deadmau5, Skrillex, Paul Van Dyk and a slew of others. Ableton is a popular choice because of its vast selection of in-the-box virtual instruments, powerful arranging capabilities, dynamic live-play options and ease-of-integration with controllers.

The program is designed to make you proficient in creating, capturing and playing your own music (or music by others) in Ableton. It covers arranging, sampling, basic harmony/melody and composition as well as how a venue impacts sound. Lessons covering Ableton Live and Push, Serato DJ, mixers, turntables and PA systems are part of the curriculum. Upon graduation (usually just six to nine months after your start date), you can have the technical skills to create, arrange, perform you own DJ sets as well as produce your own unique tracks.

Develop and project your persona.

Attitude matters. Simultaneous with learning the technical aspects of being an Ableton Live DJ, you should be developing your performance persona. You want your performances to be memorable. You want to be memorable. Ask yourself, “What do I remember from the shows I’ve been to? What are my takeaways?” Think about the moments of magic that have stayed with you. Consider what you might accomplish with your unique look, your unique sense of artistry. Now, what persona will enable you to accomplish the memorable takeaway you’re after?

Having and projecting the right persona takes showmanship and flawless (technical) performance skills combined with a personality that engages and wins over the audience. Perhaps most importantly, you will need the awareness to “read the room.” You want your audience to be engaged and pumped up by the music you’re playing. You to take that audience on a journey with you. The peaks and valleys of your set should be responsive to the crowd feedback you’re experiencing during your performance. If you know how to read and play to the room, then you’ll be making magic of your own.

Promote your music and yourself.

Besides learning the technical aspects of producing music, honing your creative music skills, developing your persona and defining your audience experience, you are going to need to promote yourself. In all of this, a little chutzpah can go a long way. RRFC’s Live DJ program helps you build relationships with other music producers, artists, music directors, promoters and venue owners. In addition to this, your mentor will offer advice on how to set up your social media to reach the audience your music attracts.

While you’re building your industry relationships and growing your social media audience, you should also be hustling as hard as you can to create music and perform in front of live audiences. At this point it should not be about how much money a gig pays—it should be all about gaining experience, trying things out, experimenting and developing who you are as a performer. Done correctly—where guidance from your mentor can a big difference—your skills, your creativity, your industry connections and your fan-base outreach will start to peak at around the same time. Then, everything comes together and you realize you’re a for-real, Live DJ with a following.

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