Want to be a DJ? Who better to get the lowdown on what you need, and how to make your way in the business than Mai’s DJ Jordan Lee?
Jordan Lee, how long you been DJ’ing for?
12 to 13 years, yeah but I only started taking it seriously for maybe like six or seven.
What got you into DJing?
I wanted to be really good at something for the rest of my life and nothing had hit me yet.
My friends needed a DJ for their rap group so I jumped in with them and started opening up before the group went on at local parties.
Break it down, How does one become a DJ?
While some already have a deep, wide knowledge of music, this can still be developed if you don’t. For example I grew up in the 90s almost only listening to Rock & Metal, once my DJ journey started my knowledge and taste of Hip Hop & RnB became way more extensive after listening to other DJs and researching/downloading music in my downtime.
During your DJ career you’ll discover lots of cool music and genres. I’ve delved into lots of other genres, some that naturally excited me to DJ and others that I needed to please other people at certain gigs. DJing will naturally widen your musical horizons.
Equipment, What do we need?
Back in the day you basically had one option - turntables and a mixer and lots of records. Which is very expensive these days, it's easier & cheaper than ever so I suggest getting a cheap controller (an all in one unit). You just need one of these and a laptop
I suggest starting off with an entry-level controller from Pioneer DJ such as the DDJ-REV1 or DDJ-FLX4.
Once you've got your controller, you've got your laptop, you’ll need a good DJ app to use.I'm always gonna suggest ‘Serato’ which is a New Zealand company that revolutionised the DJ world, it's super easy and intuitive to use.
Most controllers come bundled with software so if you look for a controller that supports ‘Serato’ or Rekordbox you should be good - I personally have always used Pioneer DJ products. They’re so intuitively designed without being overwhelming, their line of products also flows on really well from each other, so once you outgrow your entry level controller you can move onto the next thing really easily.
Most entry level controllers should cost around $500-600. The Rockshop or Mixfoundation are great places to shop around at.
How does one get gigs?
There are a few different approaches. The one approach I don't recommend is turning up somewhere and demanding that they let you play! Go to places that you feel comfortable at and could imagine yourself DJing there. Connect with the bar staff, owners and support other DJ’s playing.
Start playing at family and friends parties (even if not invited) .Free events for your school and local community. These will be awesome experiences that could lead to endless opportunities.
Once you break into the club scene in town, you should start making $100 per hour pretty quickly (that’s been the standard for almost 20 years). Once you start making a name and following that makes the venue more money you can leverage whatever rate you think is fair with them.
Try branching out into the private event business - Weddings, Birthdays, Balls etc. Completely different from nightclubs but can be really rewarding not just emotionally but financially. Since someone’s whole event is relying on you it’s pretty common to charge $1000 and upwards for private events.
You can create revenue and a following without even leaving your room these days. Platforms like Twitch, Youtube, Instagram, Tik Tok are the most powerful tools for growing a following in today’s day & age of DJing.
What are some rules to being a DJ?
Do not show up to a gig if you're the opener and play all the biggest, hottest tracks before the headline DJ, that's one quick way to never get booked again.
How important is it to have a good array of music?
It's super important, including clean edits and radio edits, you need to have a library that will suit playing any kind of gig. If you're playing early in the night you may be playing old school funk and RnB, then for you know the ‘prime time’ of the club you might be playing Drake & Beyonce then at the end slow jams and songs for umm… The Uber ride home lol.
Everyone, You’ll need those clean versions of songs, really important for doing family events or radio and community events because there's nothing like playing explicit songs cussing to the bunch of eight and nine-year-olds have parents look at yourself and yeah… definitely have clean tracks sorted!
Where do you source your music from?
There are specific places that you look for music as DJs, sites that are fully designed to supply digital music - called record pools and they will source all the music from the labels. You pay a monthly subscription and get access to download all the songs you want. You can also download individual songs from platforms like iTunes and Amazon.
Lastly, any words of advice for any upcoming DJs who really want to pick the skill up?
For sure! Be in it for the right reasons. If you love music and setting a room or event’s vibe you’ll make a great DJ. A bit of practice every week and homework on curating playlists go a long way. It can become just a job but if you’re putting time into making the most of your DJ journey, not only will you feel fulfilled but everyone else will notice.
If you're keen to give DJing a try, or know someone who is, check out the video below for your chance to score a Pioneer DDJ-FLX4 DJ Controller!