Creating a DJ Stage Name
Although it is ultimately your music that will do the talking, two very important considerations to bear in mind are your DJ name and image. Yes, we all know that beauty is only skin deep, but the music business can be very fickle, so awareness of how you are portraying yourself is all important, as is the name you choose for yourself.
Your name is what people will know you as for the rest of your career, so it’s a major decision. Does your name have a ring to it? Are there any other DJs out there using the same name? Do your research. Is it easy to remember? Is it easy to pronounce? If you have been using your real name, and it is something like ‘John Smith,’ maybe you should rethink it. Be honest with yourself. Does your name sound OK or is it boring? My advice is to make the stage name simple, yet unique. Many performers across the arts (television, stage, music and creative) change their name to an alias that is more original, exciting and catchy. There is nothing wrong with this. If it helps your career, then embrace it.
Before you choose your name, do your due diligence and Google (and Facebook search) the names. Are there other DJs using the same name elsewhere in the country, continent and world. Are you likely to confuse potential punters? Ultimately, you need to ensure that if someone recommends ‘that incredible mix by DJ……….’ that it is going to be you they are talking about, and not some other namesake in New York. Always think on a global level.
Whilst you are researching your name (even if you are keeping your own) you should go to www.godaddy.com and type it in (e.g. www.djjonnysmith.com) to see if anyone has already registered it. You can register your preferred name within minutes for less than $19 a year.
It’s a good recommendation to invest in some professional photography. You are instantly more marketable if you have some high-quality images that promoters can use. Not only does it show people that you have invested in yourself to look professional, but once you have these images you can use them for numerous promotional purposes: business cards, flyers, e-shots, press releases, press kits, CD covers, websites, email attachments.
If you’re concerned about price, think creatively. Go to a local university or college and post a notice up on the photography students’ board, telling them you are looking for someone who wants good experience, with exposure opportunities and portfolio content, in return for a nominal wage and good reference. Post on a local message board such as www.craigslist.org, www.gumtree.com or utilise a social networking site (Instagram/Facebook, etc.) and reach out for some assistance. You will be pleasantly surprised at how many people are hungry and willing for experience. Make sure that you check the portfolio of the candidate’s work. It is also true that on occasion, ‘If you pay peanuts you get monkeys’.
Ensure the applicants have the skill and ability to create what you want and deserve, and only pay upon satisfactory completion. It is worth noting that this is also a very good idea if you are looking for any skilled job on a shoestring budget: design, marketing, administration and even accounts. There are always people looking for opportunities to practise their skills: just ensure you do not take advantage of someone’s good will and enthusiasm. It must be a win-win agreement for both parties.
Something I’ll talk about later on in this book is ‘modelling’, in terms of emulating people who are getting the results you want to get. Look at the imagery top level performers in any walk of life use. They are usually professional images. An amateur photo of you spinning in your home set-up or in a club somewhere won’t position you in the same way as proper ‘press shots’.
Have a look at images you like. Where are they? In a studio setting? In an urban cityscape? In a natural landscape? What are the colours and styles used? Give your photographer some parameters to work within, maybe a little direction and possibly some guidance for a few locations. Alternatively, let them work their creative magic and leave it to them. Also have four or five different outfits to hand so that it looks like you’ve had a number of different shoots taken over a period of time.
Money spent on photos and design is money well spent. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of investment in your image. The expression ‘the quality remains long after the price is forgotten’ holds so true in this context.
Business Cards, Stickers and Design
Continuing on the theme of image, it’s essential that you get yourself some business cards made up. Again, use a friend, student, a professional freelancer on https://www.upwork.com/ or https://www.fiverr.com/ to source an artist.
There are hundreds of places to get stationery printed up very affordably. With many you can design effective cards instantly using their superb free online software. Unlike a promotional CD, you can always carry business cards in your pocket and you should hand them out generously. There’s a marketing term called ‘Top of Mind Awareness’: it’s when you’re the first thing people think of whenever they think of ‘needing a DJ’, and you help create this by sending out regular mixes, news and by sowing the seed with a business card.
It’s also a thought to get some neatly designed stickers made up. Because of their nature, stickers tend to have a long ‘shelf-life’ as they get stuck on books, surfaces and bags, ensuring good exposure for very little cost over a sustained period of time.
Promoting Your Own Events
Becoming a DJ in your bedroom is obviously the first stage of your development. Depending on your level of skill and enthusiasm, you will reach a stage where you will want to take your craft onto the road. By now all the demo tapes and CDs that you have given to your friends will give you the confidence to take your new-found DJ skills to the stage.
Many DJs begin to turn on their entrepreneurial genius and start promoting their own parties, which is a fantastic way to get your name heard by local club and bar owners. With the right mindset, it can propel you to a certain level of success. This success is not gained after throwing one party, however, success is a long-term goal and you should never give up and continue to throw parties on a regular basis. By doing this you not only gain experience of playing to the crowd, you also begin to learn how to do business and negotiate deals with venue owners.
The first thing that you will need to do is find a good venue that can cater to your needs. If you also find a good bar manager with a good venue, this will be to your advantage as they will help to make your night a success with promotional offers, etc. Find the music hotspots and popular venues in your target area, where people who love your music hang out. It always helps if the people that like your music are already going to your preferred venue, especially in the early stages before you’ve built your following.
It’s always a good idea to spend a few weekends frequenting potential venues to see whether you can ‘see yourself promoting a successful party in each spot. Once you are happy you have found the right place, start making the arrangements to call the venue and ask for the manager or owner of the venue. Make sure that you are talking to a decision-maker: a person with authority, and HAVE CONFIDENCE. It is advisable to approach venues midweek as opposed to in the evening, or Mondays (which is often a banking, admin and accountancy day) or Fridays (when they will be focused on the pre-weekend build up). You need to think of various ways to make your event stand out. Perhaps it’s an invite-only event, fancy dress, secret venue, themed; anything you can think of that will be appealing to the punters.
It’s also a very good idea to think of a brand name and develop a logo that is recognisable and can be identified as your own unique brand. To get inspiration for your own brand and logo, have a look at what the current promoters are doing and spend time considering what you do and don’t like from other companies. Its always good to know what the competition is doing.
The book The Art of The Club Flyer is dedicated to this whole industry and is a good starting point. To get your brand and logo sorted, look for a graphic designer who has a good track record and is willing to cut a nice deal with you.
DJ Image & Rebranding
So, now you have your image, brand and logo sorted, it’s now time for you to approach your preferred venue and propose a deal to get them to give you a chance at promoting your event.
There are a few things to bear in mind before approaching a venue. The first thing is that bars and clubs are businesses and they require customers to keep the business open. Secondly, the venues may already have successful promoters in place doing a great job, but this does not mean that you can’t get a piece of the action: there may be a struggling promoter and the venue may just give you a shot to see if you can do the business.
Striking a Deal
When you have found your venue and you have met the bar manager, you now want to strike a deal that is a win-win. There are various ways that bars will approach a deal. The first deal is the minimum spend deal. Some bars/clubs will suggest that you generate a certain amount of money from drinks/bar sales (generally £1,000), but this greatly depends on the size of the venue. You then want to strike a deal that will give you a percentage bar split once you have hit this minimum spend (often around 10-15%). This deal isn’t the greatest as you will only make money once you have hit your target, but if you’re confident you can deliver, it may prove lucrative. The second type of deal is just a straight cut of the bar sale regardless of minimum spend (again around 10-15%). This type of deal is generally popular amongst bars and DJs, and is recommended for you to use. The benefit is that you don’t have to hit a target.
The final type of deal involves asking your guests to pay for tickets. At its simplest you keep 100% of ticket sales and the bar keeps 100% of bar spend (or a mutually pre-agreed % split on each). This deal is great as it will pretty much show how well you have performed by the amount of tickets you have sold. Of all the deals mentioned, the latter two are the best. So put your negotiating skills to the test and go for it.
Always ask for more than your target, even if it may seem ridiculous. For example if you want a 10% commission, initially ask for 15% or 20%. This way when the venue owner says they can strike a 10% deal, it makes them feel like you’ve conceded. It’s an age-old selling formula. Items will always be marked up higher than the vendor expects to sell for, knowing that by allowing a ‘margin’ to be knocked off in negotiation they will settle for a lesser amount, which makes the buyer believe they have got a good deal.
Here are 10 Essential DJ Negotiating Tips
DJ Contracts & Performance Agreements
Before confirming with the venue that you will want to proceed with the promotions, make sure that you confirm a few things before drawing up an agreement. Make sure it is outlined what responsibilities both yourself and the venue have. The venue should be responsible for having a decent sound system and DJ set-up. Most venues provide their own system but in rare cases, you may have to. Preferably, go with a venue that is well equipped unless you aim to increase your fee and charge an extra amount to cover ‘hire’ of any equipment that you provide.
Make sure that the venue has the appropriate number of bar staff on the night so that your guests get served promptly and are not kept waiting (if there are customers in a venue, great bar staff result in great sales for the business). Lastly, make sure that the venue (if need be) provides some friendly security staff on the entrance and inside. A friendly security presence is always welcomed by guests.
The next thing to do is get everything in writing; don’t worry, you don’t need a lawyer, just draw up an agreement for both of you to sign. It shows great professionalism and business acumen, and the bar manager will be impressed by your entrepreneurial approach.
DJ Insurance & Financial Aspects
It is imperative that your equipment is insured against damage, and that you also have the correct public liability insurance in case of accidents. Join the Musician’s Union, as they offer a range of legal and insurance services connected with public performance. All your equipment should be tested and approved in accordance with public health and safety regulations (some venues will actually check this, and not allow you to use any equipment that does not display a valid and up-to-date certificate).
Always make sure that payment is arranged prior to the performance. Most mobile DJs will do many of their gigs through booking agents who will invoice the client and take a percentage, but any private bookings will require an upfront agreement of fees and a contract. This should stipulate the fee and any other requirements, such as refreshments or changing facilities. It is important to charge a reasonable amount of money for playing a function. Check against other companies or individuals in the marketplace so that you can put a correct value on your services. As with any business, the initial outlay for your PA and lighting will be recuperated over a period of time and a number of gigs, not all at the outset.