You started out DJ’ing because it was fun, but there does come a time in the life of most DJs when they want to get paid. No doubt in the early parts of your career you will probably take gigs for free, but if you want to get paid, and get paid more money I’ve developed a strategy for doing so.
If you read on, you will see me reveal a three-point strategy to help you get paid more for your DJ gigs. If you read this guide in full I can’t promise that it will lead to being able to give up your day job, but it will be you in a better position to demand higher DJ fees.
Let’s be brutal though.
Yes, it’s possible to make a career out of being a DJ, but most of you reading this will never make any good money from your passion.
You aren’t going to earn a multi-million dollar fortune like Calvin Harris, Tiesto, or DeadMaus do.
But if you are prepared to hustle and work hard, then there’s no reason why you can’t be a full-time DJ whilst getting paid more money for your skills.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it and find out what the secret is to getting paid more as a DJ. In my opinion, there are three aspects to it which are:
Each point in the strategy will give you what you need in order to get paid more money for your DJ sets. It’s then up to you to apply what you learned here.
I will now go into each point of the strategy in detail.
Part 1 – Promotion
As a DJ just starting out, there will be times when you might do a gig for free. This can give you invaluable experience, and get your name out there on flyers and social media. After all, everybody has to start somewhere.
But moving forward, you want to stop being a “freejay”, and instead earn some money for your DJ’ing skills.
If you are going to getting paid for gigs, then it’s essential that you lay the groundwork in promoting yourself and building a great brand and online profile.
Many promotors, event owners, managers, and organisers will be looking to book a DJ who not just rocks the crowd and gets the party going, but also one which will mean they get more paying people through the door.
They will be looking for a DJ that has not just got the relevant DJ’ing ability and experience, but also one which has some great promotion behind them. Promotors will want to leverage this promotion for their own benefit.
If you can show yourself as being popular, with a following, and a great reputation, then it stands to reason that you will be able to get paid more as a DJ.
But what are the building blocks in promoting yourself as a DJ?
How to Promote Yourself as a DJ
I will be writing some lengthy articles in the future on how to promote yourself as a DJ and have already put some content together on certain aspects such as setting up a DJ Facebook page, and putting together a well-written DJ bio – both of which I recommend you read.
But for now here are some essential activities which you need to start doing now, if not already. By having great self-promotion in place, you will be able to present yourself as a professional DJ, who demands higher fees for your sets and gigs.
Let’s get into the promotional aspects in a little more detail.
1. Your DJ Name
Spend a lot of time choosing your DJ name, importantly making sure that it’s not already being used by someone else. This is the cornerstone of your brand, and the name you choose should say a lot about who and what you are as a DJ.
It’s evident that different music genres seem to have different DJ naming conventions. For example, dubstep tends to have DJ names that sound like hazardous materials, whereas trance DJs might have something a little Germanic-sounding.
If you get it wrong, it could turn off a promotor or event organiser.
Let’s be honest, DJ Osama Spin Laden probably won’t be earning too much money from wedding bookings this year.
Think about the types of DJ gig you want to be getting, and choose a name that’s going to be suited to that type of music style and event.
2. Your DJ Logo and Brand
Back in the 1990s, when dance music was becoming more mainstream, I can’t recall any DJs that used logos. That all seemed to change from the year 2000 onwards when the Internet become more widely used for promotion.
Nowadays any DJ worth their salt has a great brand and logo which is synonymous with their name. Look at any flyer or poster for a high-profile event, and in most cases you will see the DJ logos being used, rather than standard font-written names – you can see an example below from the massive Creamfields Festival in the UK.
Having a great DJ logo is essential, and forms the bedrock of any promotion that you can do to increase your profile – with an increased profile leading to better paid gigs.
A well-designed DJ logo will help you stand out from the crowd, in particular on flyers. It will also give you a professional edge which many event organisers will be looking for.
But, unless you are a designer, or have a friend who can design you might get little stuck at this point. I would recommend hiring a professional designer to do your DJ logo, but this needn’t be expensive.
My recommendation would be to use this website here where you pay just $29 for 20 designers to create you a logo – you then choose the best one. Money well spent.
In terms of what your DJ logo should portray, the best ones are instantly recognisable, and will be usable on business cards, websites, flyers, posters, and all types of marketing materials.
3. DJ Photography
Having some amazing photos as a DJ will help you promote yourself better, leading to better paid gigs.
Imagine the following scenario; you have a gig lined-up and the promotor asks you for a hi-res photo of yourself which they can include on their event artwork… and all you can give them is a crappy Facebook profile photo or a shot of you on holiday.
Doesn’t scream “professional DJ” does it?
If you want to be paid more as a DJ, then you will need professional photography. This will include a bank of hi-res photos that can be used not only on your own marketing materials, but also be supplied to event organisers.
But what type of photos will you need?
Well this very much depends on the type of DJ you are, your music, and the types of events you want to play at.
If you are a wedding DJ, then having a photo of you looking moody in a dark alleyway probably isn’t going to present the right image – but it could work really well for urban DJs such as those playing dubstep.
Think really carefully about how you want to portray yourself, and the type of imagery the gigs you are targeting would be looking for.
Whatever you do, don’t make the same mistakes these DJs did; go check out FACT Magazine’s Worst Ever DJ Promo Photos – a fun read!
As a final note, all the best DJs have a media pack that they can email to a promotor within a second’s notice. A DJ media pack will include:
- DJ biography in text-based format
- DJ logos in different formats – including a transparent version
- DJ photos in hi-res formats
- Links to mix demos
4. Social Media Presence
Having a well-managed social media presence as a DJ is an essential aspect in getting paid money for gigs. In my years as a promotor, I would always check out a potential DJ’s social media pages before booking them.
Because I would want to book a DJ who I knew had some degree of following and fans that he or she could help promote the gig to… and as a promotor I would be prepared to pay more for DJs who had a larger online presence and profile.
If a promotor has the option to choose between 2 different DJs, one of whom has 1,000 local Facebook fans, and one of whom has none, then is stands to reason as to which would be preferred… and thus be paid more money for a DJ gig.
It’s a fact of life that promotors will be looking to book and pay DJs who they believe can also help to promote the event.
Build up a large and focussed social media following so that when it comes to discussing how much your DJ fee will be you can bring this factor to bring to the negotiating table. But more about the fee negotiation process further down the page.
5. DJ Mixes
It’s very rare for a promotor to book a DJ without first having heard them play. Put together a collection of mixes to suit the types of venues you want to play at and have them at hand to suit different scenarios.
Put it this way, let’s say you have seen an opportunity to play a funky house warm-up set at a local club. You will need to demonstrate to the promotor that you understand their venue, the crowd, and can put together a DJ set for the event in question.
There is an art to producing a mix that a promotor will listen to, and I’ve discussed in length previously about how you can increase the chances of a promotor listening to your mix.
Go read that post now so you can increase the chances of being paid good money for a DJ gig – having demos to suit different scenarios will increase your chances of being paid for DJ’ing hugely.
Part 2 – Networking
My second recommendation as part of the three-pronged strategy is networking… with networking being without doubt one of the best routes you can take into getting paid for DJ’ing.
There are two main types of networking that DJs can adopt to help them get paid gigs. Offline and online, both of which require similar approaches. But you should never fake it.
KC Kokoruz of DJNewsNet.com has this to say on the matter, and I wholeheartedly agree with him:
“You need to religiously spend a dedicated portion of your day interacting with people who you believe can help grow your business, as well as helping others grow their business in the process.”
He goes onto say:
“Networking can’t be fake. You need to genuinely want to have a relationship with another company. If you make it all about what someone can do for you, the other person will see right through you.”
Someone else I really recommend is Tim Ferriss – this 7 minute video give some great insight into successful networking.
Networking is a fun game where both parties have widely different opinions on how a mutual relationship will work. But the key part of this statement relates to mutual benefits.
It’s not always what people can do for you, but what you can do for people. Please always remember this, and you will create long-lasting and fruitful partnerships that will benefit your DJ career.
As a DJ, you should be trying to create relationships leading to you getting a paid DJ set. The promotors will be looking to build partnerships with people who can help get numbers through the door of a venue to create profitable events.
Your objective here should be to build relationships and network your way into people’s thoughts. This involves socializing, helping, and providing value to the groups of people who hold the key to you earning an income from DJ’ing.
Here are some ideas on how you can start up networking from day 1 of being a DJ, even if you are still only a bedroom DJ just starting out.
1. Be Active on Social Media
This could mean joining Facebook pages of local venues or events that you want to play at and actively participating in the conversation.
Most promotors will be all over social media like a rash, trying to drum up support for their events. Join the chat, post comments, post links to your mixes, but above all add value.
There’s fine line here between spamming, and being a valuable contributor to an online discussion, so tread carefully and don’t go over the top.
Nothing says “desperate” more than a DJ randomly appearing in a Facebook group for the first time and posting a link to their demo mix straight off the bat. It’s a one way route into being blocked, ignored, and flamed on social media.
2. Attend Events and Venues
Get yourself known in the scene that you want to DJ in, and with no exceptions, support the events that you want to get paid to play at.
That means going to the venues, buying a drink, becoming known there – promotors are far more inclined to book people that they know, and who have supported their venues and events.
3. Always Have Your Marketing Materials on Hand
When out and about, always have a demo mix to hand, or your business card. Opportunities are constantly available, and sometimes when you least expect it.
It’s not just about giving demo mixes to promotors though. Some of your best networking opportunities will arise with the clubbers and punters who actually attend events.
Give out CDs – clubbers love getting them after all, and they could be your biggest promotional tool when aiming to get paid gigs.
If the clubbers are requesting that you play at an event, then it’s a very hard thing for event promotors to ignore, believe me.
Part 3 – Negotiation
The final part of the strategy for increasing your DJ fees and getting paid more, is the negotiation process.
Negotiating your DJ fee and price with a promotor or even perhaps a couple who want to book you for a wedding, is an art form in itself.
If you can learn to negotiate, you will never feel cheated again when playing a set, I promise you.
However, you need to remember first the type of place that you will be DJ’ing. You can learn the art of negotiation all you like, and be a Jedi master at mind-tricks, but no matter how good you are, a small bar in your local town isn’t going to pay you $5,000 for a set no matter how hard you negotiate.
The point here is; know your audience.
With a little bit of research and networking you should be able to get a feel for the types of prices the venue or promotor pays DJs, but bear in mind, guest DJs and resident DJs will get paid differing amounts.
Are you looking to become a resident, or have you been approached to do a guest DJ set?
Talk with other DJs who might have played there before, and try to get a ball-park number on what DJs are getting paid. It’s also worth checking out what similar sized and type of venue would pay.
This will give you the baseline against which you should be paid, and will then give you the number in your head that you aren’t prepared to go any lower than.
Once you have that fee in mind, it’s time to enter the negotiation phase, and remember, most promotors will be trying to screw you for as little money as possible – it’s in their best interests to not spend out as promotors are business men and women. You need to take the same mind-set when approaching getting paid.
So, if you are ready, let me take you into the psychological battlefield which is the art of negotiation.
The Art of Negotiation
The promotor of the party or club might approach you first with a price. Or they might ask you how much you would be prepared to do the gig for. Both scenarios could mean that the either you or the promotor feels the need to push back on the price.
When it comes to negotiating a higher DJ fee so you can get paid more, I believe that there are 6 main factors involved. Here are those 6 factors that will help you negotiate better
1. Focus on the Results
The promotor wants people through the door of the club, a great atmosphere, money being spent behind the bar, and a buzz around the event.
Your job here is to keep the negotiation focus purely on the results that the promoter should expect to receive from booking you for a gig. My tips are to keep the conversation focussed on the facts, which could be along the lines of:
- You as a DJ have a local / national following who will support you
- You have a wide social network to which you can promote the gig to
- You will put on a stunning show that the clubbers will remember
That’s just a few examples you could use, I am sure you can think of more that relate to your situation – just focus on results though.
If you are big-name DJ already in the particular music scene or geography, then it goes without saying that your name on the flyer could bring the customers in, leading to a happy promotor and great results.
But what if you aren’t a big-name DJ? What results can you promise?
As a beginner, you want to get paid, but you will need to put more leg-work in.
Many promotors will be looking for a DJ that’s going to help him or her promote the gig (I know this sucks, but it’s unfortunately true in so many cases). So again, focus on results, and explain what you might be prepared to do in order to get more numbers though the door.
The key take out here is that promoting events is a numbers game, and promotors listen to numbers – e.g. results.
Just lastly on this point; It is so easy for both DJs and promotors to take things personally. By focusing on the results and the gig as a service, it means that you can assign a value to what you are bringing to the party a lot better.
By having that value in mind before you enter a negotiation, you should be able to stick to your guns a lot better with the price that you want to be paid for the gig or set.
2. Be Wise, Not Smart
Rony Ross, founder and executive chairman of Panorama Software, a provider of business intelligence software to 1,600 customers in 30 countries suggests that we frame a negotiation around mutual interests, and not just those of your own.
You can read more about her views on negotiation in this excellent article on Forbes about taking your ego off the table.
She is quoted as saying:
“Always show respect and understanding for the other party. Framing the negotiation around mutual interests rather than your interest alone helps both sides feel good about it. And if you’re respectful, it’s more likely the other side will reciprocate.”
The point made here is that if you are DJ looking to be paid more money for your gigs, is to not focus on short-term gratification that will bolster your ego, but instead focus on the end result.
Be respectful during the negotiation process, don’t take a position of arrogance or power, and frame any discussions as how the gig (and your payment) will benefit all parties involved.
3. Avoid Making It All About You
During my time as a club promotor I dealt with plenty of DJs who made the negotiation process all about them with statements such as “I want XXXX amount, and I want the best hotel possible, and I want a top of the range fan in the DJ booth” – amongst other things which is story for another time!
This is a terrible approach to negotiating more money, with a recommended route instead to be along the lines of “we need to reach a solution on the price”.
This is a very different approach which shifts the focus psychologically onto the price being a collaborative problem that both parties need to resolve.
The key here is to not offend or put the promotor or event manager off by how you handle the negotiation process.
Promotors hate arrogant DJs. Don’t be that DJ.
4. Build Rapport
Following on nicely from the avoidance of being arrogant, is building rapport with the event manager or promotor. By building rapport and a good relationship, you will undoubtedly create far better communication.
Yes, the event manager might be an idiot, and they themselves might be a little bit arrogant, but put that to one side and perhaps even try to stroke their ego a little.
If you can get on well with them, then it’s far easier to come to an agreement on how much you can get paid for a DJ gig.
I won’t lie, this is probably the hardest aspect of all when it comes to negotiating. You might have to really make it look like you genuinely like a person who might not usually have any interest in forming a relationship with.
In terms of building rapport, I would recommend you focus on some of the following rapport-building behaviours:
- Always use their name early in the conversation
- Find out what you have in common with them
- Ask about their interests, family, likes, and dislikes
- Look for common ground so you can develop a bond
- Be empathetic towards their needs as an event organizer
- Ask open questions that require more than a yes or no answer
- When you agree with them, say you do, and then say why
- Build on their ideas, and suggest additional ones
- If you do disagree, then do so politely and explain why
- Offer them compliments and be polite (but don’t over-do this)
- Don’t criticize their ideas
5. Use Body Language Effectively
A very important recommendation is about body language. Body language is one of the best things that you can master when negotiating about money, but obviously can only be used when in front of the person physically.
It’s all about engagement; using your eyes, body language, and how you listen to a person. Some tips on using body language with a promotor in the price negotiation would be:
- Look at them for around 60% of the time
- Use eye contact, but try not to make them feel uncomfortable
- When they are talking, show you are listening and make encouraging gestures and sounds
- Don’t forget to smile!
6. Lastly, Remember What You Are Worth
And finally, please remember what you are worth as a DJ. Don’t lose focus of the fact that you have put years of your life into learning your craft.
It’s not just about your DJ skills though, it’s also about potentially the equipment you might be bringing to the gig, as some events might not have the right set-up.
And probably your biggest expense of all, other than your time learning to be a DJ, is your music collection.
The event owner, organiser, or promotor is getting this whole package for the night so don’t undervalue what that means.
If you have done your homework correctly, and put the time into finding the best gig for you, and know what the going rate is then you already know what this venue or event should be paying.
You’ve earned the right to be paid properly for your DJ’ing services, so never forget this, and don’t wobble in the negotiation when it comes to asking for what you are worth.
At this point, I would love to share an awesome tip that I saw on the DigitalDJTips.com website – you can read that here – but this is how it goes:
The famous artist Picasso was walking down the road one day when a woman recognised him and asked if her could draw her portrait. He said yes, he would and was finished within minutes at which point she asked him how much she needed to pay him.
His response was 5,000 pesetas to which she replied; “but it only took you a few minutes to draw!”.
“Madame,” he responded, “It took my entire life.”
So what do you think you can take from story this as a DJ?
My view on it is to always try to remember what you are worth when getting paid. DJs have spent years of their life practising in their bedroom, moving onto live gigs, buying equipment and music.
Add that all together and don’t forget what value you can bring to the party.
I hope that you have enjoyed my take on how to get paid more as a DJ, including a strategy on demanding higher set fees.
Talking about money is one of the hardest skills that anybody can learn. It can put you outside of your comfort zone, which is why I’ve focussed so much of this article on the negotiation phase.
Just remember what you are worth, but you need to back that up with the relevant experience, skills, and profile – the above tips should help you to develop part of that.
For more hints and tips marketing and branding, please read my guide on how to promote yourself as a DJ.
I would love to hear what you think too, so please feel free to leave some comments below.