Classic TechTools “Travel and DJ”

Its time to bring back another techtool classic from the vaults. This week its my article  on paying your travel expenses by djing. Most djs think that gigging abroad is only for the uber-famous tastemakers. In reality, its not, there are many  ways you can travel all around the world, dj clubs and  cover all your living costs without being a famous dj. Before returning to San Francisco to run TechTools full time last year,  I spent almost 4 years playing gigs around the world and  loving every moment of it. In this article I suggest 5 different ways that you can do the same.

Originally Published: October 2008

Written By: Ean Golden

Ah, the mysterious and appealing life of a jet-setting DJ. Who has not seen a show featuring the latest out-of-towner and wondered: How did this punter manage to get paid for traveling the globe? While there are several roads that lead to that elusive goal, most take years to accomplish and involve a fair amount of right place/right time kind of luck. So, for those of you that don’t have a record-label contract or a cover of DJ mag, here are five immediate ways you can use DJing as a vehicle to travel and other kinds of gigs most people usually overlook.


Several years ago I gave a lecture at a local audio school to a group of up-and-coming DJs. The gist was simple: Don’t wait around for someone to call you with a plane ticket to Bali. Make it happen yourself, and make it happen now! About 12 months later, I bumped into one of those students, and he proudly told me how he had personally put my plan into action by hitting the pavement. He had secured a lucrative gig DJing for a cruise ship. The relationship has blossomed, and now he could feasibly spend most of the year hopping between islands while playing for wealthy guests and giving DJ lessons. His experience proved my point: It’s not that hard to secure good gigs; you just have to think creatively and make it happen yourself by talking to people who don’t yet realize they need your services.

There are nearly 300 cruise ships operating out of the U.S. alone, and many of them will most certainly hit a port city near you at some time in the coming year. The cruise ship is an often overlooked but logical choice for a DJ gig because it already has everything you need to make a good party happen. For example, a typical cruise line offers several thousand people, no shortage of drinks and the budget to pay you well. Many lines are now are equipped with full nightclubs and sound systems that will give your local bar a run for its money.


Not all gigs are created equal, and their benefits come in a variety of forms. Even though a gig may not pay much, that doesn’t mean it can’t help you land more lucrative jobs later. There are untold numbers of sports teams around the world — professional and amateur — and all of them usually play music during some part of the game. A friend of mine, DJ Solomon, has been a resident DJ for the Golden State Warriors for eight years, and even though the gig never paid as well as club appearances, he continues to play during the games because of the number of new clients he meets there. Your local pro team is a long shot? Then pitch an idea to a smaller amateur team. Meet with the director of marketing and offer to play a few games for free. Once you get your foot in the door and establish a value, then it’s easy to ask for a little cash after that.


It seems that all types of resorts always try to offer more entertainment focused at a younger crowd, and that is especially true in the skiing/snowboarding industry. From playing music in the bar lounge as the day winds down to setting up a stage mid-mountain, there are lots of places where resorts hire people to entertain their guests. Approach the program director of the local resort and tell him that, in exchange for a pair of lift tickets, you will bring in some speakers and DJ equipment and play music for most of the day. Bring a buddy along and you can trade off spinning tunes and riding; you can’t ask for a better DJ atmosphere than that.


This is another exposure-versus-benefit thing. Playing between bands may not prepare you for a five-hour Ibiza marathon set, but it will put you in front of large audiences, gaining exposure to a lot of people who may book smaller clubs and venues and making you comfortable playing for a big crowd without the pressure of rocking a giant dancefloor. These gigs usually come word of mouth, so make friends with some of the bar staff and ask around about filling in for their resident DJs. If you can successfully become their go-to backup jock, then it won’t be long before a regular gig presents itself.


There are more small- and medium-size tropical resorts around the world than you can shake a passport at. Most of them are trying to pull in the young, cool crowd with disposable income, so you just have to convince the owner that having a DJ program will upgrade their image and appeal to that audience. Sound daunting? A large number of these resorts already have clubs and bars built in and a regular DJ lineup of locals. It’s not unreasonable to ask for free accommodations in exchange for a few sets as long as you can pitch yourself as an in-demand DJ from another country. Invite your girlfriend or buddies along and make a free vacation out of it. Do a few of these for free, and before long you have several “international tours” under your belt, which will do a lot for boosting your DJ cache.

Still not convinced that you can pull off any of these methods? Then enter the DJ TechTools Mix competition sponsored by Remix magazine and Karma Resorts. Win the grand prize, and you will have scored an all-expenses-paid, weeklong residency DJing with myself and several other international DJs at the gorgeous Karma Resort in Bali, which boasts a killer outdoor club. The contest ends today though- so you better sign up now and upload a video fast!

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  • cards

    The only thing missing in the control panel was the MIDI Fighter.
    Thanks for the positive approach to obtaining new gigs.
    Definately uplifting and inspirational.

  • LarryW

    Whoah awesome DJ tools, need some of these for myself :))

  • DJOG805

    I’m going to the U.K this summer (end of MAY) and then flying out to the Middle East (Amman Jordan to be exact) if there are any people on here that need a DJ from the the U.S. I’m more then willing to help out. (R&B/HIP HOP/ELECTRO/MESH-UPS/REMIXES/HOUSE)

    • Martin Aquino

      yo im a dj i can get u sum gigs i need ur gigs can u do iut hmu

  • jasonmd2020

    [quote comment=”28545″]Surely on a cruise line they’d want you to get involved with party and game organising, themed shows, trivia games, bingo, kiddy games, other entertainment, play whack music for the old folks, a lot of microphone work and general shit club DJs wouldnt want to do. Im saying this because I researched it before. If anyone thinks they can get a job on a cruise line literally just as a DJ playing music for the masses they’re going to be headed for disappointment. [/quote]

    Depends on the cruise. A friend of mine is in an Industrial group, and his band along with about 5 others play a Goth cruise every year!

    As for the sporting events: Just saw The Chicago Wolves this weekend. Def Leppard and Bon Jovi are NOT hockey music. I might have to hit them up…

  • And what of it?

    Surely on a cruise line they’d want you to get involved with party and game organising, themed shows, trivia games, bingo, kiddy games, other entertainment, play whack music for the old folks, a lot of microphone work and general shit club DJs wouldnt want to do. Im saying this because I researched it before. If anyone thinks they can get a job on a cruise line literally just as a DJ playing music for the masses they’re going to be headed for disappointment. And if Ean or any very lucky select few managed to get a gig just lounging around on a cruise ship playing cool music in the evenings and not have to get involved with crap like bingo calling or high amounts of guest contact and microphone work then I want to know what company it was for… cos I dont mind doing the work, but Im useless on a microphone, and I know it will involve a lot of that kinda stuff. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    • AV

      Hey i went on cruise recently and although i was not the DJ, i got to know him pretty well. From what i saw he DJed, sometimes by the pool during like the castwaway party at the beginning and after port,,,but other than that he only did stuff at night in the Club, during the day he worked out , ate , suntanned and junk, and he didnt do any microphone work except last call for drinks and made fun of one guy trying to jerk. haha

      i went on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Epic

  • Whyte

    Funny to see this article here. I’m spending a winter season here in Canada at the moment, and have been playing in clubs around town for the last months. Just doing it when i have days of from my job as a snowboard instructor.

    Living the life!

  • Jack Creamation

    Whens the next contest?

  • virtual dj tutorial

    just read your post. thank for good info. I’m still learn to you.cheer

  • yc

    Oman here, so certainly not as tight about it as Saudi (I do know a few Saudis and I know they’re quite laid back themselves) – but yeah, you get my drift then. I’ll keep digging around to figure out if there’s any kinda scene for my kind of music here, I guess.

  • Riot

    Just did five months in Nicaragua and found a bar on the beach to spin at and it was a blast to play to people from all over the world…You get some great HONEST feedback and it’s a great opportunity to find out about what other people listen to and a great way to make some extra $ to keep the beach dream alive….Macbook & my VCI…Mejor!!!

  • DjLego

    @yc, hey buddy I was in Saudi Arabia for 8 months not long ago, needless to say there are NO clubs, of any kind there, but people have full blown nightclubs installed in their (huge) houses, away from the religious popo’s eyes, got a couple of gigs and realised Saudi s are pretty chill peeps, just my two cents, I don t know where you go in the middle east, but house parties are always a good place to start…

  • yc

    @shane: just what it says. in places without one, people aren’t supposed to be dancing. else the owner can get in trouble – think of it like serving alcohol without having a liquor license in europe or north america. it’s weird, i know – especially since im from berlin where people pretty much dance the night away on any night and absolutely anywhere.

    Anyway, not entirely sure if my minimal/tech house/dubstep preference would work with the very generic crowd here. I refuse to play house or prog house personally, and that’s definitely the easier stuff to get into for a crowd thats not usually die-hard into EDM.

  • f0tif0

    hey pips competition is already over or something?

  • JJ Jungle

    About to fly off to Costa Rica today, and still trying to figure out what to bring with me to be able to play on the beach. So far, I’ve got laptop and a controller, but I’d love to bring the kitchen sink:)
    Can’t wait to rock it beach style.

  • DJ Tank Thailand

    Kind started my ball rollin with this page, time lime wise. Started with a Serato Scratch Live, that got blown up at a club with bad grounding. Got a BCD 3000 which got me thru a few hotel gigs, club gigs and a huge New Year at an Island resort. Graduated to my VCi-100 which I love because of the extra ease I have when doing event organizing gigs like for product launches or even weddings…I can let my ITunes run thru the sound card a set of background music for a few hours until I am ready to get the show going with a live Set on the VCi, on the BCD the sound card was built in and I didn’t have to know how to be able to do what I can do now. Will now try to upgrade to Scratch Pro and use the VCi for cue juggling and effects. I like the feel of Vinyl…I do more mixing than effects so it would suit me. It has been a fun progress and I am looking for forward to the future…gotta keep pushing and of all things listening to what your next clients needs are and for that next opportunity. Living in Phuket most of my clients are private parties or hotel M.I.C.E. my club gigs are mainly for fun and to keep up with the latest music to that my party people movin and groovin.

    Great work guys…keep it up. Got the banana pancakes, mango shakes and buckets waiting!

  • Shane

    WOW yc! That sounds crazy! What does a dancing permit do?

  • yc

    Hm. I fly around a decent amount, mostly to the gulf/middle east to visit my parents – I wonder if I could possibly set something up there. Unfortunately since we’re talking about muslim countries here, beach parties (despite beautiful and huge beaches) are basically inexistent. Even the (very few) bars/clubs around here require dancing permits, and my music taste doesn’t exactly allow me to spin for lounges and such (I just dont have that kind of music repertoire or feel for the style; my music of choice is tech house/minimal). Dubai’s around the corner but appears to be flooded with DJs searching for jobs, so that’s kind of useless, too. I’ve also got ties in Lebanon but the lebanese scene is even more cutthroat from what I know. Guess I’ll have to see with hotel bars/clubs or something for gigs, despite absolutely hating the generic crowd that’ll inevitably turn up…

    anybody have any experience with those kind of gigs? Music wise, how to land them, and all that sorta stuff. Might be worth a try, especially given that I do the traveling part anyway…

  • Fred

    Hi ean……do u have the macao beach image in a higher resolution?? Cuz it look realy great.^^



    I love the airplane controls,
    Serato and Traktor. Perfect.
    The only thing missing in the control panel was the MIDI Fighter.
    Thanks for the positive approach to obtaining new gigs.
    Definately uplifting and inspirational.


  • Daire O'Neill

    Hi, I’m a DJ here in Tokyo at the moment, if you tell me more about when you’re coming over, I could try to slot you in at one of our parties. No promises though! Email me if you’re interested:

  • JoeJaguar

    Going out to Tokyo in a couple months going to spend time with the wife’s family and maybe a gig 😉 What would be a good way to get a gig out there? I posted a few times on craigslist Tokyo but now response yet.

  • Geoff

    What did you use when you traveled? A vci-100 and laptop maybe?

  • DJMutagen

    *sigh* November 2008… I’d love to play a beach show… Maybe people will gravitate when i’m on the coast in Washington this weekend! 🙂 I can only hope! Good article though!

  • Shane

    Oldie but goodie.
    I smell complaints coming…