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Self-Promotion for the Working DJ

By DJ John Thomas

While I’ve made mistakes in promoting, I would like to share a few guidelines and tips that I have found tremendously helpful in promoting myself as a DJ and producer over the last five years in the hope that they should help you prevent the same mistakes.

Moving from Chicago, I was ill-prepared for Austin’s virtually non-existent electronic scene as Chicago’s well-groomed and stable scene had accustomed me to the comfort of abundant gigs and the freedom to focus on musical ability.

Though I knew promotion was an essential marketing tool, like many musicians, I cringed at the very word. I wanted publicity, but my idealism and ignorance persuaded me that musical talent alone would birth my career. This belief was irrefutably untrue. Apply the following suggestions to your own particular situation and you should see results like I did.


Unfortunately, the information age has added to the negative connotation of promotion by emphasizing depersonalized pop-ups, mass e-mails, invitations and friend requests on social networks. The sheer bulk of this type of promotion deters many potential listeners, while others become downright hostile to bands or DJs sending invites. Don’t get me wrong, social networking is not a waste of time and can be very helpful. However, music is about much more than an amount of online friends or a song on the radio. At its best, music becomes transformational to our lives. Who says promotion can’t do the same?


Promotion should become an extension of you and your music/style/sound, rather than an unidentifiable mass in an inbox. Listeners may love your sets, but the feeling of a personal relationship will keep them coming to shows, buying your tracks and supporting your overall efforts. An image only misleads people, and contemporary media-savvy people are interested in honesty. If you create a phony and manipulating facade, it will drive away many potential fans and possibly affect your creativity. Show yourself to your fans and listeners with authenticity. Fans are attracted like bees to pollen by someone to whom they can relate. In addition, honesty breeds self-confidence, and you won’t be scared to see value in yourself and your abilities. Good promotion helps listeners realize your worth and separates you from the pyramid-scheme musicians. For related ideas, I recommend Jason Timothy’s (Innerstate) recent blog essay on monetizing your worth.

Here are the tips I find helpful to show your personal side to fans:

Talk to your audience: At gigs, don’t separate yourself by sitting on a “cool” pedestal. When not playing, talk and interact with people, learn what music they are listening to and discuss venues in which you have found good music. At smaller shows, invite the DJ wannabes (the people at the front watching every move) into the booth area for a closer look.

Take pictures: Don’t be afraid to take pictures with people. In fact, take a friend with a camera and take your own pictures and post them on your website. This lets people access your website to help remember the night.

Dance with them: Get on the dance floor when not playing. I saw Gabriel and Dresden play at 1015 in San Francisco, and my only memory from the night is Josh Gabriel cutting across the floor as Dave Dresden played. I still think Josh Gabriel must be a cool guy.

Go see other musicians: Support your local music scene and see what types of sounds people are enjoying. Get inspired. Support and develop friendships with other local musicians.


Writers use hooks to keep you reading; politicians use them to get your vote; and TV shows use them to keep you watching. Good promotion utilizes a hook, which invariably involves a gimmick. Unlike the typical gimmick, however, a JohnThomasFlyer1hook can be an honest communication of you as an artist — a concentrated message that expresses your identity, given to your audience in a creative way.

To create an effective hook I recommend:

Focus: I sit down and write out a clear, distinct message for my audience. I consider the age, location, gender and musical taste of the audience and decide how the message is best received. The more focused the message, the quicker the connection.

Be different: A DJ friend in Chicago plays deep, sultry house music. He was having a hard time handing out his demo, because so many DJs were doing the same thing. First, he spent a lot of money professionally labeling CDs to make them different, but at the end of the night a majority of them were left on the dance floor. One day his girlfriend (a sex education teacher) brought hundreds of extra condoms home. He attached them to the outside of his demo, and wrote “safe sex kit” on each CD jacket. At his next show, not a single one of his CDs was left behind. Originality produces both love and hate from listeners, but either way, you get a response.

Put your information on everything: It sounds like common sense, but I have so many CDs handed to me by incredible musicians or DJs, and I have no idea who they are. Your CD leaf and CD need a name and personal contact info on them. A brilliant hook has no purpose without an identity attached.

A brilliant hook contains a brilliant idea. Ideas have replaced materials as the infallible currency of today’s world. Marketing guru Seth Godin wrote a wonderful manifesto called Unleashing the Idea Virus, which I recommend reading to understand the importance of ideas. (You can download it free.) Godin suggests that ideas are the most powerful tools for marketing and promotion, because like a virus, they are highly contagious. According to Godin, an idea virus makes our identities attractive to customers and grasps their attention. Godin writes, “They attract us enough that we need to understand what’s inside: we set ourselves up to be exposed to the virus.”

Godin’s ideas have been a tremendous help in developing my hooks for promotion. Here I paraphrase his basic steps to making a hook or idea work well:

• Make sure your idea is worth talking about.

• Identify your market.

• Expose the idea to the right people.

• Use already hooked listeners to your benefit by helping them talk about your music optimally.

• Build a chain of communication with listeners who volunteer their attention.

• Amaze your audience, so they will reinforce your ideas and make them grow.

• Ideas don’t last forever, so realize when you need to change it up.


Musicians and DJs typically aren’t great businessmen. We think in creative rather than pragmatic ways, but even creativity needs a solid structure for its message to ring. As a song needs structure, so does promotion. If you are professional, the promoters, bookers and the audience will recognize your worth. Remember, people do judge a book by the cover. You don’t have to be physically good looking, but professionalism makes anyone an attractive entity.

Business cards: Business cards may seem outdated, but I think they’re one of the most helpful tools in promotion; they are a tiny physical reminder of you. A business card can be a creative manifestation of your identity, and one that is well made will be used rather than lost in the bottom of a purse or destroyed in a pocket on laundry day. Business cards should be creative, clean, visually attractive and contain your name, company and contact information. Take them everywhere; they are worthless left at home.

Press kits, demos and websites: Press kits are a great form of multimedia exposure. An effective press kit contains a plethora of personal information, credentials, pictures and demos. Though cheap bulk CD demos are fine to give away at shows, press kit demos should be attractive and well-labeled. A website must communicate your identity and be easy to browse. So many performers have websites overloaded with Flash and clusters of design, but spend very little time on the content of their site. Fans are more concerned with content and accessibility than pizzazz. Besides, if the Flash takes a few minutes to load, many fans will leave before they see it.

Personalize: I’ve already mentioned it, but stay personally connected to your musical community. Quick e-mails, consistent newsletter updates and greetings at shows make a big difference.

Don’t tick off promoters and production companies: This is one of my hardest areas, because I love music before money but many promoters are in the business only for money. When things go wrong at a gig (and they will), stay kosher with the promoter. Don’t let your reputation be damaged because a bad promoter with a big mouth is trying to blacklist you. If you find a promoter who really loves the music and shares your vision, marry them.

Take responsibility: Bad shows happen to the best of us. Always take responsibility with your fans. Not long ago, I had a show I promoted hard to get a great crowd. The show flopped, because the sound man was too stoned to realize the subs and monitors weren’t working; the promoters were too drunk to care; and my playing time was cut by 75% because the band before refused to get off stage. I had 300 extremely let down people who had shown up specifically for me. Although I was furious, that night I went home and personally wrote e-mails to as many fans as I could and promised them a full refund from my own pocket. No one wanted a refund, but many expressed how special it made them feel that I would apologize.

After implementing these promotional ideas in Austin, my musical career once again became fruitful and at times quite lucrative. Promotion has added to my maturity, creativity and self-worth as an artist. My fan base is steadily growing, and the fans I already have stick around because they believe in my particular brand of musicality. It is a slow process, but living my purpose and sharing it with others is worth doing right, and while promotion still doesn’t compare to the feeling onstage, it is an essential part of the process.

  • Pingback: Listing Demo 3()

  • so much helpful post !! thanks p.s. -> laugh at “If you find a promoter who really loves the music and shares your vision, marry them.”

  • Although these tips are definitely very helpful, especially in terms of getting your name out there if you are an unknown DJ, I’m going to say right now that even with all these cards in the right place it still may not guarantee you a gig. Not sure how it is elsewhere, but my experience on the east coast is that if you aren’t producing tracks that other DJ’s are playing or you aren’t directly involved with throwing parties yourself, your chances of getting gigs are going to be greatly diminished right from the start.

    People may disagree with me here, but in general I think there’s been a shift in the perceptions of the average club-goer over the past few years. People in general seem to be less interested in the DJ and more interested in the music itself as the “superstar DJ” persona of the late 1990s has gone by the wayside. Promoters have become aware of this and many now only book themselves, as they are the ones who have invested hundreds of hours and dollars into their events. In their mind, unless you can help draw heads to their parties, which few DJ’s without a signed record release or well respected local event actually can, what value are you really adding?

    Mix CD’s no longer hold the average listener’s interests the way they used to unfortunately, and the whole notion of the “journey” set has gone out the window as attention spans are getting shorter. Five years ago I used to have no problem getting 10,000 downloads of a mix I would host online and post on a few different sites; nowadays I’m lucky if I get 500 downloads (disregarding the fact that both my technical and cover/graphic design skills are ten times stronger now than they were in 2004). For me I’ve seen DJ-ing as just a fun hobby anyways, but do know many who have busted their ass promoting themselves and never really got anywhere with it (regardless of skill) because they weren’t producing or promoting.

    Image, branding, and promoting definitely will help get your DJ career started….but you still can’t expect opportunities to just be waiting there for you on the other side. For better or for worse, throwing parties and making well-produced tunes that people enjoy seem to trump everything else these days.

    Great article regardless, as are many of the others on this site!

  • Thanks man, I’m just starting out so it helps heaps!

  • Juno

    there are exceptions to every rule… unfortunately, just as the market is saturated with crap DJs, there is also a saturation of crappy artwork in the clubs, and there is also a saturation of crappy designers doing stuff just because they think they are designers… Art, be it music, djing, flyer work, no matter what way you slice it is based off of talent. I know plenty of people who graduated from the Art Institute with a degree in graphic design… but they just don’t have an eye to make things look pretty… so just because you have honed some PS skills, well that doesn’t constitute for designing… same way as just be cause some dude has figured out how to beatmatch some songs doesn’t make it a good idea for him to now be playing all over your city…[/quote]

    Mmmmm I think the point your missing here lance is, it’s obvious you’ve been traumatized by crappy productions but that’s no excuse to discourage people from being creative and you should be ashamed of yourself. Your attitude towards that is crappier than the actual artwork. And also, saying some douche can beatmatch now doesn’t mean he should be a dj is asinie considering that even the cool guy that does it really well is only playing someone else’s tunes haha give me a break. Chill out and enjoy having the freedom to listen to crappy music or see that crappy artwork. The easiest thing in music to do, is hate other people’s s***.

  • really good insight, thanks

  • Excellent post, John. I know it’s a hard pill to swallow that marketing is the key to your success. We all want to believe it’s our musical taste, ability to mix or our professional attitude that wins the day. With that said, I believe it’s really a formula:

    Promise through your marketing and deliver on that promise with your dj skills.

    I’m a professional direct marketing guy (have been for 20+ years), blues guitar fan and…house DJ (I grew up in Chicago where I was exposed to both genres).

    All I can say is “Good job – keep up the marketing”. If you think about it, the only way money is made is by one person selling something to another person.

    By the way, I know some DJ’s who allow downloads of their demo mixes from their sites. Anybody know about the legality of this? Is this a gray area? Or is it generally accepted that this is one of the ways DJ’s promote themselves?


  • Daniel Perez

    Some good advice on self promotion, podcasts are decent tools to use to get people interested, but I tend to use as my calling card writing it on demo mixes. I feel it allows the people I promote myself to to find out more about my mixes than facebook or myspace might allow, all within a clean interface.

  • AO

    Great article, thanks for linking to the Ideasvirus book, it’s proving to be a good read.

    Great comments as well, interesting points about flyer design no-no’s and the proliferation of new dj’s.

    I personally agree that marketing is all important, so much so that I spend much more time marketing than perfecting the product (which is hard since I’d prefer to be refining my work!). That said, I find one’s marketing need to be backed up by a solid product — once you’ve made the sale, you need to deliver the goods. That’s the cycle that leads to return bookings, good word of mouth, referrals, etc.

    That’s been my experience . . .

    Cheers from Ottawa, Canada,

  • I’m a professional graphic designer and I moonlight as a DJ. I have a monthly gig at a local nightclub where I spin soul music. I’ve designed some pretty slick looking flyers, especially when compared to the caliber of material this club usually puts out (the owner designs all his club’s flyers himself). The flyers help and all, but I find the main thing that gets people showing up is word of mouth. I have a vast library of tunes and I do my damndest to put together a groovy set each month. When I have a chance I get on the floor and dance with everyone else (I usually have a wingman that can cover for me on Traktor). Everyone ends up having an awesome time getting sweaty to music that can’t really hear at other clubs in the area, and they end up telling their friends about it. Every month since I’ve been spinning, more and more people keep showing up. It’s pretty awesome! I’ve kinda become known for my soul sets, which helps separate me from the myriad of standard house/club rap DJs in this town.

  • dj ally

    amazing article. I’m printing this one out to keep these ideas close at hand!

  • danny

    great ideas , great articles … if you can post more links about marketing and promoting , it would be very kind

  • [quote comment=”24717″]As a professional graphic designer I can attest to you [/quote]

    We should exchange emails , that way you can do some covers for us

  • As a professional graphic designer I can attest to you professional DJs that good graphic design is one of the best things you can do for marketing. How many artists can you recognize in the split second you see their logo / album cover / brand just the same way you can recognize them in the split second you hear their hook or beat? Lots.

    With album sales being so low it would really help to make a little extra rent money buy selling T-shirts, posters and creative materials or having awesome live visuals for your fans to enjoy.

    [quote post=”3593″]but to book a gig where i live i need to 1: either start Djing Hip Hop ( or “gansta rap”)[/quote]
    Man, I wish I had that problem in Berlin. Maybe we should switch cities?

  • First, you made a great post here! something everyone can relate to. MOs Def !

    Second, all the articles about getting up on your feet, landing the gig, going huge in the music world, takes a long time.

    Third, to even get looked at where the “normal Dj” lives, is like ( for less of a better word ) “bullshit!”
    let me give you a example, i live in a miiltary town, in a ok size city. my fan base is nill! to make things worse , i sping house and hard house , with the non-common rock and hip hop rhymes and rythems that i grew up on ( think of austin leeds ). with all this , i use my 1200’s and and scratch live , with the nanopad for fun. but to book a gig where i live i need to 1: either start Djing Hip Hop ( or “gansta rap”) or 2: travel 100+ miles to play at the only house club ( i think ) in the state.

    as i read your post, the fact that you took a town that had nothing for a dance secene and made one. i find pretty impressive. the whole root of this comment is, what do you do when you are the normal person? there is post about not photoshoping your own covers , dont revert your demos to your myspace page, yet you say have a website. is there anything out there for us normal feet trying to get in the door? what is there to look for? to have my tables collect dust and hope that i get the podcast up? there is alot of things out there , but nothing for the normal.

    ( self promote : go to get my podcast)

  • Andrew Vo

    Awesome Article.
    I just recently moved to Austin from Los Angeles to attend UT and I have been trying to take in the EDM scene out here and came to realize that it is nothing compared to the scene in LA, but it has a lot of potential. Everybody from Austin that is writing on this forum should all get together sometime next year and start planning some sick events to get the scene more noticed here.

    if anyone in austin is interested in collaborating, let me know!

    Andrew Vo

  • Amazing news, thank you!

  • Thanks so much all of you for commenting and making this conversation much more than the article could go! I love the dialogue.

    First, I do believe I owe Matthew an answer to his question, about representing identity rather than image. I think the question is very valid and your point extends beyond the DJ realm, after all we see Britney, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and others using changes in image rather than promoting their true identity….

    This was a huge question as I sat down to write the article… after all these SUPER famous musicians live off image rather than identity…. But I stuck to my guns ultimately for a few reasons:
    1.) I’m not super famous and most musicians are like me, I can’t afford the image makeover all the time, and I doubt most of the people reading this can. So I use the real me!

    2.) The moments that I’ve interacted with people of celebrity status, it is those who let down their image and showed a bit of their identity in conversation that really impacted me.

    3.) The SUPER DJS that do have crazy persona images on stage, are still really talented musicians. I imagine the musical talent came first, and perhaps for many of them it is simply a “hook” not an image they are trying to convey.

    Maybe that clears it up Matthew, and I think that is a great question. Also I could be wrong, but it has helped me to just be myself…

    Last, all these AUSTIN people showing up and writing, thanks so much, please please contact me, let’s work together to build our local scene.
    John T

  • Wow…this website just gives out the best each time lol. Hands down to you DJ John Thomas, and hope you’re enjoying it so far here in the ATX. This was a very useful and inspiring article to read. I’ve been a producer for a few years now and I’m about to release an album but if there’s one thing I am tender in, it’s DJing live, and you can’t really be a great producer without knowing how to do the other. I love how you revealed the reality of DJing in here too. Theres a lot you opened my eyes to in here so now I feel a little bit more prepared for when I step up to the plate.

    Only thing I don’t like and I have seen it before is when I try to talk to a DJ(that isn’t djing nor famous) and he’s “in the cool booth” and I ask him a question and he responds in a snotty cocky way. I don’t understand how they get cocky when some of them dont even produce you know. You seem like an amazing DJ though and I hope to meet and speak with you some day. Cheers bro!


  • first off, great article Mr. Thomas, thanks for giving us the benefit of your experiences.

    second…about the idea that a dj has to be a producer to be successful. popular original tunes will definitely get you the dj bookings. BUT…make music because you love to make music. ANY other reason doesn’t cut it. being a dj does not make you a musician. dance music sites are already flooded by bad and mediocre tunes, riddled with formulaic attempts at glomming on to whatever popular genre. we definitely don’t need more of this just because a dj thinks its the way to get more gigs.

    that said, i’m no snob about any creative person trying to be creative. i say make art at whatever level you can, for the enjoyment of it. do whatever you do with passion…

  • Luis Reyes

    Great Article.
    Thanks a lot Jonh
    I can really use lots of the tips you pointed out

  • matthew

    So, I am confused about the first bullet. I understand why it is important to be yourself for your audience, and having a notable presence as a person and not an image. But its seems to me that very talented Djs and electronic musicians capitalize on the “image persona,” they carry as well. Like Deadmau5. Or even Daft Punk. And i realize that a lot of that is part of their stage show, and I am not saying that it isn’t possible to have a “Stage you”, and an “Off Stage You”, but isn’t that the basic of having a DJ name? That being said i am by no means a marketing guru, but that seems like a reliable route to take when choosing and image, and how you want people to take in your work. Amirite? Or did i just totally miss understand that point? But the rest dude, totally good stuff. Great article.

  • What up Ean,
    You’re truly a pioneer in the DJ field. A field that has generally been too cool for school. Your honesty and know-how are admirable and although I’m not really into controllerism, (Stuck on my trusty 1200’s & Serato) but I am on your site daily and have learned a lot about equipment, the industry, etc. Just wanted to say thanks for sacrificing sleep for the DJ community. It is appreciated. Keep doin what you’re doin.
    Peace, Love & Soul.


  • [quote comment=”24683″]I disagree with Lance. You don’t need to necessarily get a meretted professional to do your designs. If you have worked with Illustrator and Photoshop for a decent amount of time, you are fully capable of creating professional looking flyers. I have seen the most horrible looking flyers before done by “professionals” in the trade.

    You just have to understand what kind of skills you have using these programs, before you just go ahead and pay for a design you might not fully like.[/quote]

    there are exceptions to every rule… unfortunately, just as the market is saturated with crap DJs, there is also a saturation of crappy artwork in the clubs, and there is also a saturation of crappy designers doing stuff just because they think they are designers… Art, be it music, djing, flyer work, no matter what way you slice it is based off of talent. I know plenty of people who graduated from the Art Institute with a degree in graphic design… but they just don’t have an eye to make things look pretty… so just because you have honed some PS skills, well that doesn’t constitute for designing… same way as just be cause some dude has figured out how to beatmatch some songs doesn’t make it a good idea for him to now be playing all over your city…

  • seeMARTINbreak

    great article! im literaly going to try and directly apply some of these ideas to my own promotion

  • I disagree with Lance. You don’t need to necessarily get a meretted professional to do your designs. If you have worked with Illustrator and Photoshop for a decent amount of time, you are fully capable of creating professional looking flyers. I have seen the most horrible looking flyers before done by “professionals” in the trade.

    You just have to understand what kind of skills you have using these programs, before you just go ahead and pay for a design you might not fully like.

  • midifidler

    Great article John!

  • Armando Cajide


    Funny that I read this today because I too moved from Dallas to Austin in 2005. Now being here for 5 years I’ve seen the scene go from nothing to what it is now. I’m always at Lanai supporting Jason Jenkins and hypersonicradio on 101x every saturday night. Not only are we really good buds, I’ve met so many people in the music scene that I could’ve sworn I would’ve never knew existed. So thank you for your post as I made a commitment to myself that in 2010 I would leave my production cave and go back to DJing again after being discouraged for so many years with the lack of being payed. These are great tips to live by, I guess we’ll be seeing each other soon. 🙂

  • Sean Linman

    NIce demos are nice…it shows that you’re taking it seriously and that your are prepared to make an effort from the artistic point of view. But many pragmatic promoters/owner will ask you cool, but how many people can you actually get through the door? If the answer is none than chances are that you’ll loose out with the next guy…

  • asiago/Brissbrass

    I just want to clarify that I believe this post was written by Dj John Thomas not Markkus. If it wasn’t written by dj john thomas then my apologies but every post I always see someone say nice ” awesome article Markkus” or “great work markkus”. I just want to be clear that the people writing the articles are getting the credit they deserve. I know Markkus writes allot of articles but just because he posts them that doesn’t mean he writes them. I just see it every article and I just wanted to clarify. If I am wrong then Markkus could you clarify who is the authors versus the posters.

  • Thano Drivas

    I think a great demo is the best way to get in the door of the clubs and venues you want to play. Ultimately, the local DJ’s are all fighting for the same play time, so even if you make the right friends, they probably won’t be very friendly. With Traktor, Ableton, Logic, etc.. you have the tools to make perfect mixes that wouldn’t be possible with 2 turntables. Spend some time programming a great set, use your software of choice to arrange, time, mix, and effect your set, then polish it with one-hits, recurring loops/themes/sound effects that weave the whole thing together. It doesn’t matter than you can’t reproduce this live- it’s a demo! Mixed CD’s have a different philosophy than live DJing. Don’t get me wrong, if you get the gig you better be able to rock the tables. I feel that ALL DJ’s, whether using CDJ’s, controllers, or whatever, need to know how to mix with vinyl. If the first thing you ever did with 2 tracks is let Traktor sync them, you’re going to be missing the spirit of DJing. If you can include original tracks in the demo, fantastic. Artwork, promoting, networking.. those are all important things and the above comments are very helpful- just remember to have GOOD MATERIAL in your demo. Keep refining it until it’s perfect, and use something like WaveBurner to make proper Redbook CD’s with track markers and artist/song info. It’s not cheating to polish your demo with all the available tools. It’s only cheating if you show up at the gig and play that demo while pretending to mix it live :^)

  • Touché.

  • Sean Linman

    good article, as far as graphic design goes I often use services such as to buy graphics. It looks professional and if you have basic illustrator knowledge you can customise it in minutes. It’s a nice way half way between doing something in MS word and getting professional graphic design. If you just starting out its worth thinking about the costs and not overcooking things with £1000s in promotional materials….I think it’s important to find a balance and also to remember that the crucial part is the time and the leg work you’re going to put in it, i.e. talking to as many people as possible and getting them involved, putting the posters up…etc

  • Vinicius Hoffmann [Brazil]

    the difference now is that a DJ equipment and technique is more acessible so we are now in the same place that music in general is with all Cheap Guitars and Guitar Tab Websites.
    It’s pretty easy to buy a guitar and start playing Nirvana at the streets, but you need to get more professional and creative to really do something different that people will buy in some way.

  • Vinicius Hoffmann [Brazil]

    I agree with ize but this is a production career right? We have both careers DJ and Eletronic Music Producer.
    The DJ career is what ize009 is talking about, too much amateurs (like me) around everywere getting shit paid for their job or working for free.
    The Eletronic Music Producer is what give us more money and more profissional.

    Isn’t like that with Music in general? Cover artists or Bar Singers doesn’t get rivers of money, they need to make they own music or versions (aka remixes) to take the music career for serious and not just hobbie.

  • great post John! I’ll be sharing this.

  • djjc

    Agree with ize009…. that’s what Ableton et al are there for. No excuse not to these days.

  • ize009

    Laptops, mp3 collections, dj software, graphic software, promotional social sites, forum marketing/trolling, and the belief that hype is effective have created a noisy din a DJs where it is increasingly becoming more difficult to separate hype from true talent.

    Whereas the DJ used to be a taste maker, the sheer number of new DJs have diluted the pool of talent such that the concept of a DJ has become somewhat of a joke. New players in the scene are chasing the idea that being a DJ is cool, when in fact the DJ has become common, easy, and boring.

    To separate yourself from the crowd, I believe it is crucial to produce your own music- and it has to be damn good. In short, the tools that have emerged have made it easier for a larger group to have fun with the Dj concept, and simultaneously made it more difficult to stand out from the crowd. Get a professional, dedicated website and make available your own productions. If you focus on this first, and marketing last, you’ll have a better chance at attaining credibility.

  • Priscilla

    +1 to Lance. I’ve been designing for years as well. And it amazes me at how bad some stuff looks.

    First of all you shouldn’t be doing any page layout in photoshop

    Second if you do not have good typography skills, just leave it to someone that does. You will be better off for it.

  • This is definitely the best article I’ve read on this site, and it may be the most important one for the aspiring DJ/musician/producer.

    It prompted me to write my first reply here.

    Even for a full time musician like myself who believes himself to have a decent grasp of self-promoting, this article had some great insights.

    I was, however, disappointed to see that other basics, like giving the audience another show to look forward to (because they’re fickle), or maintaining consistent relationships with everyone who has EVER booked you (because they’re forgetful), weren’t truly touched on…but then again, the full scope of all the things that need to be done to work as a musician, besides the music, are far too extensive for one article.

    Thank you for writing this, and the links contained within.

    Franco de Leon

  • Goldie Gareza

    But what if you’re a graphic designer at a record label first, and THEN a DJ? Here in NY there’s a running joke with some of my graphic designer friends that give themselves the title, “Graphic Designer, but not a DJ.”

    Hey Ean, can I promote myself here? I will do all of your CD packaging & promotional material!

  • Completely agree with Lance. While I do think everyone should have a general ability to create basic things that don’t look like sh*t, if you’re not a designer by trade I would suggest having someone else complete your work. You can make a draft if you’d like, but please take yourself serious enough to have it done right. The more people who start calling themselves designers just because they have photoshop, the more it cheapens the industry. Just in the same way that when the DJ industry is flooded with inexperienced people mixing off laptops for a fraction of the real cost/worth, it cheapens the industry both in quality and fiscally. As far as my other 2 cents on the advice topic, consider that people will only take you as serious as you take yourself.

  • Vinicius Hoffmann [Brazil]

    I agree with Lance, if you want to make something looking profissional, it has to be done by a profissional.

  • Also, please don’t do your own graphic designs… this is when the scene really looks embarrassing. I cringe when i see all of the homemade flyers, websites etc… it just looks horrible. Leave photoshop and illustrator to the real graphic designers, your local design guy isn’t dj’ing, you shouldn’t be designing unless you are also a designer by trade. I have been in the industry for many years and you can tell when some dj downloaded a cracked version of photoshop and made his own stuff… =)

  • Thank you so so much, this is such a helpful & well-written article!

  • Great tips right here 🙂 and I agree with the Adobe comment, some basic graphic skills will get you a looooong way

  • Vinicius Hoffmann [Brazil]

    You could include this article to the series How to be a sucessfull DJ

  • Vinicius Hoffmann [Brazil]

    Your tech and non-tech articles are getting better and better.
    keep up with the good work markkus!

  • Looks like some really good advise, having had many promoters talk to me but nothing ever came of it I am going to try and take some of this on board and gives things another shot. Thanks!

  • great article! Will most certainly keep this in mind. A lot of similar guides about “how not to be a douche” ends up saying things that are self-explanatory, but this actually brings up some things I haven’t thought of before. Thanks!

  • peter buchsbaum

    this is for kids, the shit with hopping the hips

  • Cozmic023

    Nice write-up markkus, some great info there.


  • Another useful tool I have picked up on throughout the years is constantly getting better at using Adobe software. Always helps to be creative with graphic designs