DJs Unemployed by Coronavirus: Now What?

One of the biggest events in the past 50 years is unfolding right now: COVID-19 is putting millions of lives at risk, shutting down the global economy, and bringing the live event industry to a grinding halt. This is probably the most devastating event to take place in the lives of most career DJs. What’s happening is unprecedented, and most DJs in the country are currently unemployed.

Today, we’ll discuss the ins and outs of what to do as DJs in the brave new world that the coronavirus crisis has created.

What Is Going On?

The first known case of COVID-19, commonly called “coronavirus”, can be traced to November of 2019 in Wuhan, China. Fast forward four months later, and the disease has taken the world by storm.

The economy is in absolute freefall. Entire countries have banned travel in and out. Many of the world’s major cities have shut down restaurants, bars, and nightclubs out of fear that the disease may spread further.

Going beyond the impact on human health, there are untold catastrophic secondary impacts of a global pandemic. One of them is the impact on the the live events industry.

Even in the wake of events like 9/11 or the global financial crisis of 2008, people could still go out and forget about their troubles. This pandemic, however, has essentially made it such that most governments are mandating that all large public gatherings are banned.

The DJ world has been absolutely rocked by these developments. From platinum-selling artists to the DJ at your local dive bar, it is safe to say that the majority of the world’s full and part-time DJs are currently unemployed.

When Will It Be Over?

At this point, there is absolutely no telling when this will end. There’s a dark, but very real possibility that the pandemic could force large venues to remain closed for many months on end.

MIT released a news brief stating that “social distancing” efforts could remain in place for up to 18 months.

That’s just one estimation, and things could return to normalcy much sooner. Then again, they also definitely could not.

It’s Not Just You. It’s Everybody.

While the coronavirus has absolutely decimated the income of most DJs for the month of March, it’s important to recognize that it’s not just you who is suffering.

The live events industry as a whole has taken a nosedive. To illustrate this, we can look to the stock of Live Nation. They’re the company responsible for music festivals such as Glastonbury, Electric Daisy Carnival, Paradisio, and more. They also own or operate countless music venues of all sizes around the world.

What’s happening to them over the last month highlights what’s happening to the industry at large:

Their stock has dropped a total of 68% this the beginning of the year, 55% in the last month alone.

We are currently facing an industry-wide crisis that’s merely a blip in a larger cycle of complete and total economic downturn.

But, despite the fact that this is an issue that’s impacting almost every actively performing DJ on earth, it’s up to you as to whether or not you will weather this storm.

Were You Prepared, Or Not?

In the past, we’ve covered how to get your personal financial affairs in order. This is partly to ensure your money is actually being saved and put to good use so that it grows over time – but also a huge part of being financially healthy is for moments like this.

DJing is a job with many ups and many downs. The insane highs of packed nights at the club are very much balanced out by greedy nightclub owners, gigs drying up, and an often volatile work environment.

Nobody could have predicted a global pandemic shutting down the majority of the world’s nightclubs and bars. That said, every personal finance expert in the world suggests that the most important aspect of being financially healthy is having six to twelve months of living expenses set aside for emergencies like this.

On top of that, it does not hurt to take a long, hard look at your spending and cut all unnecessary expenses that are currently bogging you down.

The truth of the matter is that whether it’s 6 weeks, 2 months, or an entire year before things go back to normal, they eventually will. And when they do, your first priority should be saving the disposable income you recieve into an emergency fund so that you are well prepared to take a long hiatus should something like this ever happen again.

That being said, we cannot change the past. There are, however, some things you can start doing today to alleviate the obvious strain that the coronavius has placed on DJs.

Take Action: What You Can Do Today

Replacing Lost Income: Is It Possible?

The default move most workers will make in a situation like this is filing for unemployment.

Unfortunately, most DJs are not eligible for this as they are considered to be independent contractors instead of employees. If you happen to have your business incorporated, there is a chance you are eligible to receive unemployment benefits while put out of work by this crisis.

Read more on if you are eligible for unemployment in this piece from The Balance Careers about collecting unemployment as a self employed individual.

Note that qualifying for unemployment this is an evolving issue. Some unemployment insurance experts recommend filing for it even if you think you won’t qualify – exceptions are made on a case-by-case basis all the time.

Most DJs are simply not going to eligible unless they’ve incorporated their business. This is, perhaps, one of the few examples that exists highlighting when it may actually be beneficial to be a DJ as an actual employee of a company.

By choosing a non-traditional career path like being a full-time DJ, you’re tasked with being extremely self-reliant. And, is in times like these that a side-hustle can be invaluable.

Side Hustles

“Never depend on single income. Make investment to create a second source.”

– Warren Buffett

DJing most likely started as a side hustle for you – and thinking of others is a smart way to weather the storm going on right now.

Finding new alternative gigs is something that you must get extremely creative with. There’s many side hustles those with a knowledge of DJing can pick up.

Remember this: you are never too old to learn another skill. We live in an era in which being able to quickly adapt and teach yourself how to do something new is as critical as ever.

Here are a few common DJ side hustles that may be worth exploring during these trying times:

Starting a blog or a website

Starting a money-making website is pretty easy, but it may take months or years to scale to the point where it becomes anything close to your main income source. Learning to monetize a site like this often involves posting Amazon affiliate links in which you gain a percentage from sales, or using Google Adsense.

While this is not a quick-fix by any means, now can be a great time to diversify your income and your skillset. There’s tons of ways to start for free or cheap. Remember to find a niche and stick to it – there’s a lot of people creating content out there and having a unique approach will be the only way to succeed.

Music production & ghost producing

Ghost producers are some of the highest-paid people in the music industry at the moment. While becoming a competent music producer can take years on end, this is one skill that never goes out of style. Ghost production comes with some moral baggage for some, but for many in the game, it’s a reliable paycheck and a great way to constantly be building a skillset.

Chances are, you already know plenty of DJs who would pay big money to have tracks written for them. Everybody wants to be a producer, but most people don’t want to learn to produce!

Many mixed-format DJs also have artist side projects that enable them to earn income from touring and royalties.

It’s common to hear DJs talk about how they want to “learn to produce.” Well, you’ve now been given a minimum of 8 weeks to get your feet wet. Give it a try!

Again, this is not a quick skill to learn by any means, But, it sure can be profitable when done right.

DJ Lessons

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If you’re a professional DJ with an impressive resume of gigs, DJ lessons are a no-brainer when it comes to making extra cash.

Countless people want to learn how to DJ, even if just for fun. Whether it be young children whose parents want to enrich their child’s education, college kids who want to throw banging ragers, or just older folks looking to pass the time, you’d be amazed at how big (and untapped) this market is.

Getting started with DJ lessons can be as simple as setting up a small studio space in your house and putting an ad on Craigslist. Prices can vary, but charging anything from $15 – $50 an hour is entirely reasonable.

Plus, your students can quickly become close allies in the industry if they make something of it. They can help you cover gigs, assist you with setting up, and just be someone nice to hang with while you are working.

This truly is a win-win situation. The connections you make through doing DJ lessons can also lead to private event bookings such as weddings, corporate office parties, and birthdays.

One thing that’s worth noting is that during this time of “social isolation”, interacting with strangers and new people is highly discouraged. Find ways to teach remotely instead – like over a video chat!


Numerous websites will often pay per article to write about DJ-related content. If you’re naturally creative, writing can serve as a great way of recording your experiences, getting your name out there, and making some money.

Interested in writing for DJ Techtools? We’re open to new pitches from experienced writers. Email us your ideas at editor [at]!

Related Jobs in the Industry

There are companies still hiring even in the midst of this slowdown – consider checking out Resident Advisor’s Doors Open or EDMJobs for jobs that related to the music industry at large.

Sharpen Your Skills: Making Yourself a Better Product

The worst thing you can do while unemployed by the Coronavirus is to use it as an excuse to sit around and do nothing. There’s nothing wrong taking some much needed time for rest and relaxation. Sadly, we could all be unemployed for months. We must be proactive.

That being said, now is a perfect time to get ahead of your peers and make yourself into a better DJ.

Think of today as a free opportunity to update your music collection from today’s hits as well as to decade’s past. Ever wanted to perfect your collection of 80s hair metal? Now is the time! Been putting off organizing your music? Try adopting a tagging system today!

On the other hand, this serves as a prime opportunity to improve your technical skills when it comes to scratching, turntablism, use of FX, three to four-deck mixing, and various other skills that most DJs never develop.

The point is to prevent your skills from stagnating and to use this downtime as an opportunity to grow. Your audience and your wallet will thank you in the long term.

It’s Gonna Be Alright

It might sound crazy, but we’re serious when we say that everything is going to be okay. Keeping a cool, calm head during a crisis is one of the best ways to make smart decisions for yourself and your loved ones.

That said, we may be in for a hard few months when it comes to our finances. Numerous businesses may close altogether. There’s no telling what our local nightlife scenes will look like after this is all over. When clubs do reopen, you can come back stronger, more skilled, and better organized than ever before.

In the end, it’s up to you whether or not you will use this as an opportunity to make yourself better, or allow global events to get the better of you.

Choose wisely, and stay safe, friends!

Keep Reading: Ean Golden’s 4 tips for DJs to thrive in social isolation

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