Also known as:
Artist, Disk Jockey, Selector, Radio DJ, Club DJ
Amateur to Professional
What does a DJ do?
The DJ’s fundamental job is that of a music selector. It is up to the DJ to decide the journey they wish to take listeners on, be it a club, bar or on the radio. To do so, a DJ needs to build up a catalogue of music suitable to their audiences. A DJ will have the skills to mix between records (songs) without pause, unless intentional. They’ll also have the ability to add effects or use techniques like scratching to manipulate sounds in new and exciting ways. Performance DJs play the equipment as an instrument, creating a wide range of new sounds and melodies with their music collection.
Watch and read (links to videos /cases studies):
In this video Craig Richards (former resident for fabric, London) takes his audience – both live in person and online via streaming platform, Boiler Room – through a series of songs that he believes will create the energy needed for that environment.
James Hype – Pioneer DJsounds Showcase
DMC World DJ Championships
What’s a DJ good at?
- A good DJ is very perceptive – they will read people and pick up on their energy.
- They’ll have an extensive knowledge of music genres, artists, and other DJs in the industry, and keep up to date with social and musical trends.
- Researching to find new (and old) songs to play and organisation skills are required to keep playlists and music collection organised.
- Foresight in deciding which songs to play next (sometimes planning two/three songs in advance).
- Timing and rhythm – you need awesome listening skills to be a DJ.
- Improvising. If the audience is not enjoying a DJ set, the DJ needs to change tact and head in a new direction with their listeners.
- DJ-ing is a very social industry and good communication skill are essential.
- You need to think in a logical way and problem solve when operating the equipment.
Tools of the trade:
- Headphones, music (lots of it), DJ decks and computers.
Who does a DJ work with?
DJs work with club promoters and radio stations. When DJs become more in demand they will often have an agent to represent them, and some will also have a manager to ensure they are making the most of very opportunity available to them. Performance DJs can also work alongside a band as one of the musicians. DJs may also work alongside an events manager or wedding organisers.
How do I become a DJ?
At School or College:
DJ lessons can now be taken as instrumental lessons in some schools around the UK with FutureDJs and there are also private courses available from experienced DJs in electronic music colleges. UK exam boards AQA, OCR and Eduqas now recognise DJ decks as a musical instrument so you can us them as part of music GCSE. Along the way, you’ll need to explore the inner workings of music, from rhythm and dynamics to pitch and texture. And learn the value of perseverance, patience and practice.
Gain work experience / Build a portfolio:
Get out into the music scene, when you are old enough, and start networking. Warming up for an already established DJ is an excellent way to build up a reputation and experience within the environment you wish to work in.
Look for an apprenticeship/get a degree:
There aren’t any apprenticeships or degrees for DJ-ing specifically at the moment. There are degree courses available in music production and music technology at many universities across the UK.
Search for jobs:
You can find jobs online and through local contacts. Work hard to build your network from there. If you showcase your skills well, you might sign with an agency to find work on your behalf. It is a good plan to build up a strong profile on social media and make your own music. A performance DJ can enter competitions to help raise their profile.
You might also be interested in:
Radio DJs will often use mixing skills, but also need fantastic presenting skills. You could start on a school/college/university radio station to play your favourite tracks and your own music.
Is the role a skills shortage?
This is a job in high demand but it is important for aspiring artists to work exceptionally hard to get noticed. An aspiring DJ needs to practice a lot and exercise persistence and patience. It should always be noted that the beyond all of the technical skills a DJ should possess, the core of DJ-ing comes down to being a great selector and really understanding how people will react to your music. DJs can also separate themselves from the pack by becoming a music producer too. 90% of the top DJs are known for their music production and the songs they release.
For more inspiring ideas on careers in the Creative Industries check out: https://discovercreative.careers/#/