The largest community for DJ and producer techniques, tutorials, and tips. Traktor secrets, controller reviews, a massive MIDI mapping library, and more.

Talking To Promoters + Club Managers: The Art Of The Approach

The life of a DJ is filled with 20 second opportunities. Some get converted into 5 minute opportunities or into a lifetime of gigs. Most are squandered. Do you know your DJ elevator speech? Can you land a gig if you only have a few seconds to talk yourself up? Today’s article offers advice to help you get prepared for these rare moments.

THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY

It starts in a crowded club or venue. You bump into the person you’ve always wanted to chat with. That person is an influencer, a club owner or a top DJ that could catapult your career. What are you going to say in that moment? How are you going sell yourself? How do you pitch?

I can tell you from years of experience: most DJs waste that moment. Usually because they lack strategy and don’t have enough traction in their career. Plus you can count on somebody interrupting you within 60 seconds – so you don’t have long to make an impact and be remembered.

DJs are terrible at promoting, because pure promotion doesn’t really work. What you should be doing is attracting and influencing. It’s more effective, but it’s also an art that takes some practicing for some and comes naturally to others.

Before influencing promoters and club managers, you have to be prepared and the currency of preparedness is “traction”.

WHAT IS TRACTION?

Unfortunately there’s no real objective measure to this idea. Traction can simply mean showing that you’re making progress with an increasing email list, social proof, production portfolio, played in some recognized venue, etc. It’s okay if you don’t have any of them, but at least be working on one of them.

A great example of a way to start building traction could be hosting a monthly event with three other DJ friends in an easy-to-get venue or warehouse. Each DJ should bring at least 15-20 friends. Try collecting as many emails as you can the first month – by month three you should have at least 500 people in your email list. Engage the email list in Facebook and Twitter and slowly build a following. By month four, you should be looking for a bigger and better venue. This might be a bit too idealistic – but this is the kind of forward progress that shows you have traction.

Traction really is about building a relationship with your followers and club influencers over time and showing them that you can move the ball forward. Many DJs make the mistake of thinking that to grow a following and getting gigs is something you do on some mythical weekend period.

Meeting influencers and getting gigs is an ongoing process – you need to build a relationship over a long period of time. That is how you convince them that you’re gaining “traction”.

5 STEPS TO APPROACH PROMOTERS/MANAGERS

With some traction under your belt, you should hit the ground running with a strategy on how to approach these key individuals. Mind you, promoters and club managers are people with adept social skills and can see past your BS so “Authenticity sells”.

The number one key to influence is to “Give before you ask”. With that in mind here are five critical action steps you could do to approach an influencer or a club manager.

Go out to the night you want to play!

1. Setting Up: Go out on a weeknight that you are interested in gigging. Let’s say it’s Thursday night and you know exactly which club you want to play in. Make sure the club plays the genre of music you spin, otherwise don’t waste your time. Buy a drink and enjoy yourself (or at least look like it!). Ask the bartender who’s promoting the night and they will point out a DJ, promoter or manager. Scout them out for a few minutes and approach confidently saying something like this:

“Hi, awesome music and night. How often do you host?” After their response, follow up with – “Great, I’m a DJ too and the vibe here is different from most places” pause “Do you have a card? I’d like to talk you more about your Thursday nights”.

You can engage in small talk, but don’t pitch, hand out business cards or ask for a gig. It’s better to talk about something casual, funny, or non-DJing related.

2. The Give – Follow up emails are crucial. In my experience, the best time to send followup emails to promoters are on Sundays and Tuesdays afternoon. Start your email with something like this:

“Hey there, this is X and I had a great time last Thursday. Please let me know when your next event is so I can bring some friends who are new in town.”

That’s it! 80% of the time promoters or club managers will respond to this email because you are bringing them people, which is extremely valuable.

3. Prepare Your Ask – Develop your 60-second pitch (you might know this as an elevator speech). Even if you’re a more accomplished DJ: Don’t wing it. Practice it and repeat it so many times it gets boring. Your wife, husband, girlfriend, sister or co-workers should be sick of hearing it. It needs to “land” when you say it. It needs to be memorable. I always start with with something like this:

“My friends and I are DJs that play XYZ music and we have over 500 people in our list. The venue we’ve been playing at is not accommodating and we’re looking for a better place.”

Learn to talk with energy – anytime you’re given the opportunity to meet an influencer, do it with energy. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you’re monotone or lethargic, it will diminish what you’re saying. If you’re not naturally enthusiastic when you speak you must practice and gear yourself up (at least for this moment). If you’re not enthusiastic about your music or yourself as a DJ, then how the hell do you expect me to be?

Making the ask.

4. The Follow Up – After memorizing your ask to death it’s time to go out and meet them again. The best time to approach an influencer is early in the night, specifically 9:30pm – 10:30pm. So make sure you go early and always bring a friend or two. Greet them nicely and ask them if they want a drink. At some point try to isolate them for the ask.

5 . The Ask – Begin the conversation with questions about the promoter, how they got started or how they know the current DJ. You haven’t “earned the right” to pitch yet unless the influencer gives you cues that they’re wanting to go there.

If you get far enough in your conversation that you’re pretty convinced that you’ve earned their interest and if you know that there is something that they can do to help – then pitch! This isn’t every encounter – often you don’t have the right position in the relationship/situation to make the ask. Unfortunately I can’t teach somebody when to know – it’s an art – you can just tell. But sometimes you have to take the risk and go for it.

Acceptable Ask: Would you mind if I call you to see if you had 30 minutes for a coffee or a drink? I know that you’re hosting this event and many others – My friends and I are DJs that play XYZ music and we have over 500 people in our list. The venue we’ve been playing at is not accommodating and we’re looking for a better place.

Most of time they are willing to meet or chat over the phone. However, make sure you move the conversation to a face to face meeting or a phone conversation.

Less Acceptable Ask: Here’s a CD and a link to my SoundCloud. Can you please check it and let me know your thoughts?

Yes, I get asked this all the time at clubs. If I’m interested in your music I naturally will check it out.

Also Not Ideal: Can you get me to gig here on Saturday night?

This is also not the best – I just met you, does it seem sensible that you have earned my trust enough to bug somebody super busy?

OVER-DELIVER

DJs who get gigs are the people who actually get things done. They tell you that they’re working on remix projects with local producers and they get the tunes signed. They tell you they’re going to land a gig at venue X and they do. They engage their fans on email, Facebook and Twitter. They consistently put out podcasts. They get their gigs listed in local newspapers and blogs. They make progress.

You need to over-deliver and communicate back with influencers showing the progress you’ve made. Before you know it, you’ll become a hometown hero and an influencer.

Mohamed Kamal is an ex SiriusXM DJ/Producer turned entrepreneur from Washington DC. He is the Founder and CEO of Gigturn, a platform that connects DJs with fans and gigs. Check out his music production courses here.

Header photo credit: A Polaroid Story

  • Pingback: 3 Unbelievable Techniques you never knew about landing DJing Gigs - Sonophile()

  • Darle Desmond

    Hello Mr. Mohamed Kamal : So your a big name in the dj industry ! Well here I am ! DJ DUB.L.D that’s right ! Better recognizes. Canada’s best kept secreted. I’m ready for the big boy’s now so get ready to help me to become a SUPERSTAR. Thank’s Bro !

  • Aniket Gowda

    Thank you Mohamed for such a worthy article. ‘Traction’ part seems to be very essential for every DJ to begin with. Loved it!

  • Pingback: The essential guide to securing a DJ residency - Insure4Music Blog()

  • Katie

    Interesting article. I used to struggle approaching promoters due being worried that maybe they wouldn’t take me seriously but if your confident (never cocky) sociable and always aim to perfect your craft, then you can most definitely get those nights!!

  • Pingback: How To Practice On Club DJ Gear You Don’t Own | NUTesla | The Informant()

  • Pingback: How To Practice On Club DJ Gear You Don't Own - DJ TechTools()

  • WordPlay Entertainment
  • Pingback: Club Dj Contract | Computer DJ Traktor()

  • Gish

    Blah blah blah 500 people.

  • Pingback: Dating Club Promoter | Dating Around Me()

  • Anonymous

    A MUST READ TIP LIST FOR ASPIRING OR RISING PROMOTERS (trust me):

    -Bring girls. Tall ones. All girl parties over twenty should be paying $400-$500 if a crew is aesthetically right by NYC nightlife standards. Model crews of girls can pay up to $100 per girl.

    -Make sure each member of your crew has photo ID that says they’re 21+. High end clubs never scan IDs. Low end ones and independent ones sometimes do. (They don’t like heat from cops.) If security starts turning away your crew at such a venue bribe them. You can usually work out something financially feasible.

    -Make sure your gay boys are pretty. Also, if you want to make more money ask them to bring girl dates. Almost all promoters who do all-gay parties only make $150-$250. Those who tell you differently are probably fibbing. Women are the most valuable human resource in nightlife.

    -Never come into a club through a lower level manager, DJ, or another promoter. Your pay will be substantially less and you may not get paid at all. Email the event marketer or owner controlling the party you want to work. Ask to come in for a meeting. Negotiate hard and sell your crew. Post-meeting ask them to send you an email outlining your payment, comp liquor allowance, and pay cycle. Email is legally binding. Text message, Facebook message, and verbal contracts are a good way to get yourself robbed.

    -Don’t work Rock N’ Roll parties or ones that play obscure dance music. They lack commercial appeal and tables are generally sold sparsely at them. Top 40 DJs make people want to spend money. This means there’s a bigger budget in the night. This means you can ask for more realistically. This means you are more likely to get paid.

    -Be kind, friendly, and warm to the bottle waitresses and bussers. This will make your night much easier and keep your party together. Flirt with the bottle waitresses, but do not have sex with them.

    -Only work bottle service venues that have a big influx of clients and a doorman with a harsh reputation. This will make you more credible and marketable as a promoter.

    -Mass text, mass Facebook invite, and guerrilla advertise. Hire subhosts if you need to. (Popular, pretty, and magnetic nightlife socialites. Preferably in their first three years of college.) Impose yourself on everyone and develop your insidiousness.

    -Don’t fuck your girls or gays. It’s a sure way to eventually alienate an individual and their friends from coming out to your parties.

    -Avoid participation in gossip and rumors (even if they are about you). Let people talk and keep your mouth shut. If they’re talking about you it’s good- it doesn’t matter if what they’re saying is negative or positive.

    -Work corporate outfits as opposed to independent ones. If there’s an event marketing powerhouse behind a party they have a larger budget, network of clients, better DJ connections, and are much more likely to let in your attractive underage crew members.

    -Never accept per head deals for pay. (Example $7-$10 a head.) Cutting costs is always the suits’ priority. Tallies often end up not reflecting a promoter’s actual production. Ask for a flat. Get the flat agreed to in email.

    -Don’t use drugs or excessively drink. It will cause you to become sloppy, produce less, and eventually burn out or get fired. Promoters die fairly often. (Personally, I have a lot of dead friends and coworkers in my prayers.)

    There’s a good start. Ask me any other questions you may have.

  • This article is a great tool for beginners to get a foot in the door at Venue’s. I also believe Networking is a huge advantage. Find Dj’s in other areas and network with them for possible trades. They are your foot soldiers and will help get your name in the mouth of promoters and owners.
    Christian Slick
    Numark Artist…

  • I am Promoting a Florida Rapper here in SLC UT ,who I looking to perform at one of our clubs but I’m having truble getting club owners n such to look at the info I have sent them on FB and was wondering if there any one has any tips on how to do so? She gose by the name JemIIni and can be found on Youtube and can be googled. She is amazing on so many levels please check her out n let me know what ya think. Thank you

  • Anon

    This is one of those fantasy articles that does not apply in the real world. Seems more like an article displaying acts of sucking up.

  • Really interesting stuff! Don’t forget also that social media networks are your friends and you can also approach promoters from there! That’s how I met a lot of the people I work with now that have always plugged me in the best Venues in Hollywood

    http://www.ReignMediaLA.com

  • DJ Zeno

    I’ve been spinning since the early 80’s from vinyl to mp3, and if you’re trying to get a club gig the answer, like winning the lottery, is “You have to be in it to win it!” You have to use all the advice that’s been posted here. Whether it’s being on SoundCloud, handing out mixes, speaking to promoters or walking into a club and offering your services. The more you put yourself out there the more chance you have of being recognized, like an actor (without connections) looking for a job. It’s difficult, (when anyone with a laptop and software will spin for free), but if you’re persistent and love your craft you might just get that lucky break. It’s sad to see a DJ with poor skills in a club when you know you can do a much better job, but that’s the nature of things, it happens in all professions. This just drives me to try harder and not worry about what someone else has. The bottom line is it won’t come to you.

  • Wow what an awesome article

  • Anonymous

    😀 great article… i am pitching to start a new residency in a month or two. outgrew my old one and am moving on 😀 i could always post a thread in the forum on my experience 😀

  • DJ MiXX

    You’d be suprised at how many of us DJs have no clue how to talk to someone. Many of us focus on the how to play records or th how do I get a gig and not the actually what I need to do to talk to someone. Many DJs have the arrogants “cocky, concided, or confidence” We all have something that drives us, its just a matter of turning into postive energy to get the “influencer” excited about you the DJ. This a great article

  • John Tranter

    good read ive been preaching it for years now i need take my own and yours advice lol

  • Moolah

    Great, how to talk to people – what next, how to breathe?

  • Megowan

    Great article! I feel like I’ve been really starting to follow through on some of this advice, it’s a great checklist for those trying to play the game.

    Of all the suggestions, I highly recommend throwing your own parties and booking fellow promoters. Those promoters work hard to build their scene and create a place to present themselves. By doing the same, you become one of them and so they are much more likely to interact with you on a personal level rather than just another punter at a club with a virtual dj setup. It also creates the basis for a fair trade: I book you for my event, you book me for yours.

    But one word of advice: try to be creative with your parties. There are plenty of nights all about raging and bass. Having an ace up your sleeve, such as a silent disco stage, firespinners, and/or some gogo dancers can make a huge difference when partygoers are faced with 6 other bass events that night. My ZEROdB parties tend to have all three since I’m a fire performer and silent disco company owner in addition to DJ/Producer.

  • i did the soundcloud thing for awhile myself..doesnt really work! lol

  • Great post, I think what you say here applies to pretty much everything in life, not just DJing

  • Chrisdafunk

    A read of the game by Neil Strauss although it is based on picking up girls, if u look at the steps involved they can be used in business networking or looking for gigs etc, approaching a promoter directly can be problematic as they have probably been given hundreds of cds numbers twitters etc that night so you have to be different and approach in a different way and not just be another ‘wannabe dj’

    • chrisdafunk

      sorry should have read other replies, seems others have the same idea of ‘the game’

  • Good article! There was just one area that rushed… the email list. How do you build up the email list at the venue without it feeling weird or mess up the vibe? Someone with an ipad?

  • wow these are some secret weapons!!

  • rbx

    stupid article, djtt… this is crap advice on all counts… here’s some better advise on getting booked in your local scene… step 1… buildup your soundcloud account with really good dj mixes and original tracks.. step 2…go out and party with your friends… burn mix/promo cds and put a sticker with your contact info on there and give them to anyone thats mildly interested… step 3…dont be a serious douche…just have fun…

    ps-why on earth would someone that likes jamming out to sweet tunes ever waste time memorizing some hokey “elevator speech” like the dude who does bookings for some nightclub is fuckin obama and you really need to impress him?! just spend that time and energy on your art… wtf,djtt, really?!?

    • antifm

      youre going under the false impression that YOU would be the only one taking this approach you detailed. This article is about stepping up your approach to it all and NOT just doing the half assed way about it like i keep seeing a TON of other djs doing.

      Your comment is (im sorry) what is infuriating me lately. Just because you have friends and mixes on a soundcloud account does not mean you know how to market yourself. And that marketing can mean EVERYTHING when its comes to the purple cow method.
      Handing out CDs…… everyone else is doing that. So there is nothing special to it.
      Having a webpage like everyone else on the mass website with the same things…… still nothing special so …..
      why would anyone want to book that person if all they can do is, follow the leader, or at least follow the sheep?

      • rbx

        yeah dude, i think you are a dumbass if you are spending enormous amounts of time marketing yourself as a dj… i have never booked someone off of marketing or over marketed myself and i dont respect people that do… in fact, i once completely cockblocked a dude from other gigs for fronting with me by sharing the story with other people, if you are getting so many gigs that you need an agent or are part of a larger collective with marketing power, then fine, but we are talking about kids reading this website thinking that they need to spend more time doing social media crap and selling themselves more as opposed to say… just get better at your craft and learn to have fun with it… i guess it depends what you think is cool… if that al wasser troll the grammies guy is your archetype then i guess go on ahead with your bs… just because the market is supposedly oversaturated with talent doesnt mean anyone should go around advising newbies to get more into selling themselves… i would argue that this is the opposite message that bedroom djs need to hear… the truth is that most people who fancy themselves to be djs or promoters or whatever actually are fronting really hard with all this “traction” bs… it is garbage… kids need to get taken down a notch by way of reality… the only worthwhile part of this article is where the op talks about needing actual tangible accomplishments to site as evidence for why someone should be booked… but even there its like, hey, im more prone to just hit people up based off of compatible style and not being an asshat than anything else

        and handing out demos works… thats why people do it… law of large numbers… and really.. how many people are doing this in physical form and not just a link to sc? if you believe in yourself… make a physical demo and a very good one at that… but dont be shocked when other people dont give a shit… you just need to get your media into the hands of one person that gets your style…

  • Interesting article. I’ve been a entertainment director for 6 years and would never book someone who told me they would bring x amount of people. I book based on performance ability and the ability to take direction. Sound cloud links are great however DJs starting off rarely get booked to play what they want to play. This was more relevant during the vinyl days. Professionalism & humility are huge since 90% of the DJs I meet are arrogant jerks. While most venues / promoters to work off the ” if you bring people” mentality I think that it breeds shitty music. I won’t EVER book anyone local without hearing them live and seeing how they read a crowd. I could go on for ages about this but I’m tired. Oh and I too am a DJ, with 15+ years experience, and promoters / managers to come to DJs when they know they will get quality results. Stick with it and be IMMENSELY patient.

    • It’s all dependent on the venue and management. Like every business some priorities are important than others. Some venues don’t care how much people you bring because the place is already packed and it’s more music driven. Clubs like that are mostly operated by DJs them selves and only make up 10-20% in a city.

      The crowd is mostly music enthusiasts, b-boys/dancers, DJs/producers and college students. You won’t find a random person from the suburb who decided to go out on a Saturday night in there. So it caters to a great niche and that’s their direction. So booking decisions for a place like that would be about qualifying a DJ on skills and music programming.

      Majority of other clubs appeal to the masses and the promoters that run them need music that appeal to the masses, hence your idea of “shitty music”.

      I don’t believe there is “shitty music” – There’s the “good shit” and there’s the “other shit”.

      • Juan

        Yes

      • I agree with lots of what you say however I find the major flaw of most venues is that they lack consistency. Our venue is full of bridge & tunnel folks and yes it is always busy. I firmly believe that a venue that focuses on a staff that is friendly and courteous as well as solid music will persevere. Perhaps my views are more reflective of what’s wrong in the industry. I know that the majority of successful small clubs rely on resident DJs. The big ones don’t have residents and are much more dependent on the draw of a promoter / DJ. Think of restaurants , you always go places where the food is good and staff is great. You don’t care who the chef is. Yes sometimes your willing to put up with bad service for awesome food, or ok food because you know the service is top notch.

  • johnny

    “Great, I’m a DJ too and the vibe here is different from most places”
    pause “Do you have a card? I’d like to talk you more about your Thursday
    nights”.

    oh god, if some random person came up to me in a club and said this, i would NOT take this person seriously.

    you wanna know how to talk to promoters? try talking to them like normal people. most promoters aren’t too big of music heads anyway (that’d be producers), although there are of course exceptions.

    also, if you’re a local and not a known producer, no promoter is going to book you without knowing you first. so make sure you’re a regular at the night before you even think about asking for a gig.

  • Awesome article. Solid advice from the promoters perspective is the best angle you could take. You definitely couldn’t have put this article out at a better time (for me at least). Keep it up guys!
    PS Article Idea along the same topic. “How to make a mix that grabs the promoters attention.” I make mixes of all different genres but I never know what mix will appeal to the promoter. You can promote yourself a lot but what if your mixes don’t grab the promoters attention. Length? Style? Vibe? Variety? Vocal Drops?

    Maybe not enough material for a full article but just a suggestion.

  • Michael Kamburov

    Not that brilliant as it looks.First emails for most of people mean nothing they are not that important, secondly the club that is our target may not please my people (emails that i have),may be people that i promise to bring are bussy or don’t have any interest to come at that time and finally to have connection with 500 people for example i have to make production that they like it otherwise i have to be god to make meatings to reach souls to that many fans i don’t think that is the history of David Guetta,Carl Cox or Armin Van Buuren 🙂 respect

  • Richard Nesbeat

    Great article, Some DJs still believe gigs come to them . really. Club promoters are not well known for knocking on peoples bedroom door.

  • Awesome article, gonna follow it from step 1 😀

  • djswillo

    Thank you very much ! The question was currentely exploding in my head (an my note book… 😉 !

  • ParkerBoyDJs

    For me this is the Best article. Good info. Grrrrreat job!

  • -how can DJ can organize a monthly event ??
    -from where he can get the Console ?
    if a DJ didn’t get any paid gig yet ?? :/
    -reply (like for a beginner) !

    • can you clarify what you mean by ‘from where can he get the Console?’

      • Jaidon

        I think he is trying to say, ‘how can I organize an event if I don’t have any money, because I can’t land big gigs?’ My answer: DJing isn’t profitable especially at first

  • Gabe Gandres

    great now all the freejays are gonna learn to land $20 dollar gigs even more efficiently. we are doomed

    • You are absolutely Right! More than half the djs who are gigging are a bunch of talentless, button-pushing, cue-point idiots. Many of them either work for NOTHING, have a connection, or are at venues being manipulated by the owner (i.e. the “rotating-dj-play-for-free-for-one-night” scam).

      And let’s not forget the “connected” DJ. For every truly talented DJ there are 100 “DJ PAULY Ds” and “I’m the adopted son of Tom Cruise and I made $200,000.00 Dj’ing at the age of 16 in clubs made for 21 and up”!!

      The writer is correct in detailing the need to connect with promoters/owners, but I firmly believe that just like boxing, the way to measure a good DJ, is to throw them in the ring and let the crowd decide ( that’s the era of DJ’ing I come from)!

      • DJ MiXX

        I totally agree

  • damn good article!

  • This article is very good… Although it does come off like one of those “how to meet chics” articles in GQ or Maxim.

  • Great article full of sound advice that I will use! Much appreciated!

  • joseph

    Great article. I just recently learned that patience is a virtue when it comes landing gigs these things take time and won’t naturally happen over night.

  • Great article! Will keep this in mind next time im out scouting places.

  • Am I the only one who’d love for Neil Strauss to get in undercover in the DJ bizz and write a sequel to The Game? 😉

    • Djswillo

      hi! Any link about this? Thx 🙂

    • David De Garie-Lamanque

      I’d be more interested in a documentary by Louis Theroux on superstar and poser DJs…that would be hilarious

      • Katie

        that would be hilarious!

  • Anonymous

    just in time! i really enjoy these articles. i have an A-list DJ coming through town but i need a venue to support the night. although not 100% related, this advice is very relevant, so thanks.

  • Rutger Willems

    finaly a intresting article, it has been a long time DJTT