How to Be a DJ

To be a true DJ, you need to have a real passion for music and the way it sounds, both in isolation and In a sequence. Many great DJs were cutting and editing DIY tapes well before they ever purchased a set of turntables, just because they were fascinated with the idea of continuous back-to-back music. You are joining a worldwide community of people who spent their school days hanging out in record shops, tuning in to crackly pirate radio stations late into the night, passing around hot mix tapes and desperately searching through piles of records to find the elusive gem at the top of a cherished ‘wants’ list

There is an excitement and a hunger for music that must accompany DJing. If you don’t have it, then you will not develop that all-important reckless approach to bank balances that a record collection encourages!

For the modern DJ, you have three main options (depending on your equipment choice): vinyl, CD and downloaded MP3/WAV files. It is unhelpful to get caught up in the ‘format war’, as music is music however you choose to buy it.

Behind every good DJ there’s usually a really good record shop. These are the places that have historically been responsible for giving life to huge selections of music that wouldn’t have otherwise been picked up by the commercial chain stores. The independent shops are where the real enthusiasts work, the ones who will stock a track which hasn’t been on any playlist, hasn’t got any obvious commercial potential, and may only sell a few units. Why? Simply because they believe in it, think it’s great and want to share it with people.

These are often people who are so passionate about their music that they sacrifice much better paid jobs and careers simply to be engrossed in doing what they love. Now that deserves respect! In recent years it is a real shame that the majority of specialist record shops have closed. The advent of megastores, downloading, CD and digital DJing and file sharing has accelerated the demise of some of the best underground ‘institutions’ around the world. Good record stores have helped spawn whole music scenes and have traditionally provided a back-bone to musical movements around the world.

Whilst it’s true that a small percentage of independent stores can be rather pretentious and snooty about their specialised knowledge, the majority are delighted to share their expertise and passion. Indeed some go beyond the call of duty: citing just one example, Play Music in Leeds was renowned for providing chairs, customer membership (and discounts), drinks and (if you went at the right time) a full-on costumed party club atmosphere with ‘name’ guest DJs playing surprise sets – obviously in addition to the great music which was the focus first and foremost.

Ultimately the purpose of independent stores has been to ‘spread the love’ – just as a DJ wants to share his collection. Discovering a shop that supplies music that really does it for you, and then getting to know a member of staff who understands what you’re into is one of the best things you can do. More importantly, with their musical knowledge, they will help shape your musical taste and present you with music that you wouldn’t otherwise have discovered. One step down this relationship line is where they will start to order music with you specifically in mind, even if it means just getting a single copy because they think it will be up your street. In some instances, if you’re a regular and dependable they will even start ‘bagging’ records for you.

Many high-profile DJs will take a trusted record shop worker’s word on a track, even if they don’t like it at first. And more often than not a good shop worker will be right: the track may just need some listens to ‘grow’.

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