So You Want To Be a DJ?
By Ashley Holden
Bringing insight from local professionals that took the dream and made it their reality
“Prove them wrong by being good and being better and being diligent and uncompromising with what you’re trying to achieve.” – DJ Thornstryker
If music were food, DJs would be the sous chefs. Each one has all the same necessary ingredients to make something magnificent; however, each result will be much different. It is the job of the DJ to mix those ingredients in a way that ensures we not only enjoy our meal, but that we also keep coming back for more. Just as master chefs come in numbers, there are numerous people trying to step on the scene and become the next best DJ. The question is then raised, with such a saturated market, how can one possibly stand out above the crowd and be successful? If this is you, the first thing you must ask yourself is, what are you bringing to the table?
“Once you find the problem and then the solution, you too can make it.” – Corey “Mr. Lightshow” Smith
If you go online now and search for the top DJs in the area, there is no doubt you’ll get more than you bargained for. There are lists and lists of people that want to become the next hottest DJ but unfortunately not all will make it. Not to discourage anyone looking to enter the field but there is a level of realism that must be understood. It is an art. And like any artist you must take the time and necessary research to perfect your craft. Much too often people make the mistake of thinking this is a job anyone can do. Besides, with all the free software out there, how hard could it be, right? Wrong. They couldn’t be more mistaken. Long time professional, DJ Paul Martindale says, “You can get all the music, but whether you mix it well and it sounds good is what matters.” Once you’ve grasped that this job won’t be easy and are ready to take your craft seriously, you’ll find that there will be plenty others that will do just the opposite. There will be people that scoff at you and tell you that it is not a “real job.”
“There are people that think they can enter this career with the bare minimum” - DJ Paul Martindale
Emily Thornhill, better known as DJ Thornstryker, house DJ for the Detroit Pistons, says, “Haters are going to hate. But that’s how you know you are doing something right, unfortunately.” We are living in the age of the dreamers and doers. Nine to five jobs are becoming obsolete and more and more people are determining that now is the time to go after the things they truly love.
So, you’ve gotten past the scoffers. You went all in and now you’re back at question one, “What do I have different to offer?” Well meet Corey Smith, also known as “Mr. Lightshow.” He has built his brand around not only being a successful DJ, but by also providing an elegant light show and certain fog effects that add an entirely different element to any event. Not only does he create a fun atmosphere, but he also enhances the dancing experience to make that moment most memorable. He originally aspired to be a police officer, but like Thornstryker, who aspired to be a dancer, Mr. Lightshow knew that if he didn’t go after this career in music he would never be completely satisfied.
“I’ve done my research and I practiced and practiced and practiced my butt off.” - Mr. Lightshow
It was not an easy journey however. Like anyone who’s taken on the dare of self-employment, they’ve had to overcome battles and learn from experiences on the job. One case in point would be an experience of Emily’s. Like many other female DJs, she battles with ensuring she is receiving equal pay for some of her shows where she’s known men to get paid more. Another would be the beginning of Corey’s career. He is self taught and therefore came across many roadblocks where he was not prepared for a gig and absolutely, “stunk up the place,” he says. Crap happens, but when you truly desire something you find a way to get over it. Whether it’s investing in the latest equipment, hiring a manager to help you get paid fairly, or even taking the time off to perfect your craft and making a huge comeback. Whatever the obstacle is, NEVER STOP. “Obstacles can be fun, just find creative ways to get around them,” says Thornstryker.
“Elusive quality adds value.” -DJ Thornstryker
So, you’ve gotten past the scoffers, and you’ve even found something unique to bring to the table. The final and maybe most important thing to always remember is that this is also your business. You must, “Expect a certain wage,” says Martindale. When starting off, it’s acceptable to take a little less for gigs knowing that you are not yet seasoned. Once you’ve found your way around the block however, you must always remember that your work has a certain value and that’s how you begin to seal your brand. Deliver a product that is fresh, memorable, and worth the dollar spent. Emily says it best, “Your job is to make sure people have fun.” At the end of the day, that’s what it is all about.