When I first started out running nightclub events in the UK back in the early 2000s, it wasn’t long before I started to get approached by DJs who wanted to play at my events.
I was running hard house events on the south coast of England, which at their peak would have attendances of up to 1,500 people… so as you can imagine, this was a hot gig that any DJ in the (albeit small) hard house dance music scene would want to play a set at.
And it wasn’t just bedroom DJs, or those starting out; it was also established DJs in the scene and their promotors, pestering me on an almost daily basis to have a set.
Their primary approach method would be them emailing me via my event’s website. You have to remember that social media was in its infancy at this time, and other than websites such as DontStayin.com and MySpace, this was pretty much the only route in, other than coming along to the event in person.
Now I am going to let you into a secret.
Most mix tapes or mix CDs that I was given went straight into the bin.
Harsh. But true.
But occasionally, just very occasionally, I would listen to their mixes, and on even rarer occasions even end up booking them to play a set at the club.
If you are a DJ, want to play a set at a nightclub or event, and want the promotor to listen to your mix then there are some golden rules that I would recommend you follow.
This isn’t a hard and fast set of rules that will work every time, but it should help you to stand out from the crowd, and increase the chance of your mix being listened to by the promotor.
Before we go into those rules, let me set the scene a little bit more with some common mistakes that DJs will make when putting mixes together to help them get gigs.
Common Mistakes DJs Will Make
Here are some examples of how an email or conversation might go from a DJ to a promotor. Bear in mind, I am doing this from memory, but generally speaking this is how the dialogue would go between me (the promoter) and them (the DJ).
For narrative purposes let’s call our example DJ, DJ Hasntgotaclue.
(Disclaimer: If your DJ name is DJ Hasntgotaclue then firstly, wow, just wow. You can also get in touch and let me update this article with a different made up name.)
DJ Hasntgotaclue: Hey man, I really want to play at your event, it looks awesome! Here’s my latest mix which you need to listen to. You can then book me to play your party!
Promotor: Thanks, have you ever been to one of my events before?
DJ Hasntgotaclue: Erm, no, but it looks amazing, and my mix will be spot on for your crowd. Go on, listen to my mix you won’t be disappointed!
Promoter: Maybe you should come along one night and get a feel for the club and the crowd?
DJ Hasntgotaclue: It’s ok I watched a clip of your night on YouTube, I would be perfect. Go on, take a listen!
Promoter: OK so I had a little to your mix. It’s not too bad, little bit fast though. It’s all peak time tunes at about 155bpm. Do you play any warm-up stuff?
DJ Hasntgotaclue: Nope, don’t do warm-ups. I only play the most banging, up-front tunes and tracks that are guaranteed to get your crowd rocking. So when I can come and play a set?
Promoter: We’re actually fully booked for the next 12 months, but thanks for your interest. If you are ever at one of our events come and say hi.
So that was just how an example conversation might go, and in truth I am probably taking a few liberties with the level of politeness offered from the promotor.
I am sure you can see the problems for yourself with this type of approach when trying to get a promotor to listen to your DJ mix so that they might book you.
Don’t make the same mistakes as DJ Hasntgotaclue.
Tips On Getting a Promotor to Listen to Your DJ Mix
So here are those tips I promised with a little bit of explanation behind each point.
Go to the event a few times and make yourself known
Promotors live and die on how many people they get through the door of their event. It’s their baby, they are proud of what they have created and the vibe they are looking to project to the crowd.
Nothing irritates a promotor more than being approached by DJs begging for sets, unless they have actually been to the event themselves. Obvously for bigger name DJs, and more established acts this doesn’t really apply, but for those starting out in the scene it’s essential.
As a promotor, I would have much rather given the opportunity of a set to someone who had invested their own time (and money) in at least attending and supporting one of my events, than someone who had never even bothered coming along to at least one or two parties.
But when I say make yourself known to the promotor, don’t act like a psycho stalker.
Don’t harass them.
On the night of an event, most promotors will be a bag of nerves for the first few hours. They will anxiously be watching the door to check numbers coming in, monitoring the DJs and dancefloor, and most likely talking to a few trusted friends during the initial first few hours whilst the place starts to fill up.
As a promotor, myself it wasn’t until about 1am that I truly started to relax and might then have a beer and feel socialable –then I might have been little bit more open to having conversations with people.
Once you see that the promotor is in that comfort zone, that might be the best time to go and say hello. Then over the next few weeks introduce yourself a little bit more.
After a couple of weeks, you might then find that it’s a far better time to give the whole “budding DJ” spiel and be far better placed to give the promotor a CD or link to an online mix or set.
The final word: Promotors are far more likely to listen to your DJ mix if they see you have committed yourself to their event, and actually been on the dancefloor yourself.
Consider the type of set the promotor might want to hear from you
Of course, you want the headline sets, the adoration of the clubbers, and to play to a packed dancefloor.
Reality check time.
If you are just starting out, or are a relatively unknown DJ you aren’t getting those peak time sets my friend.
The most likely scenario, and this is providing that the promotor has even bothered listening to your mix, is that you will be the warm-up DJ.
So, with that in mind, produce and label the mix as being a warm-up mix, cos you aren’t getting the peak-time set. No fucking chance.
Lower those beats per minute, pull back on the balls to the floor hardcore speed, and set the tempo appropriately for how an unknown DJ would in reality be playing on a bill of headliners.
Think about how you name your mix and the psychology behind it
I would also label the mix as the name of the event. So, for example, if the club night is called Frenetic, then call is the Frenetic Warm-Up Mix.
From a psychological perspective, this is going to appeal way more than a generic mix CD or mix set to any promotor – because remember, it’s their baby and they are rightly proud of their creation so make your mix name stand out from the generic ones the other DJs will be putting together.
Whilst I don’t run club events any more these days, I do understand marketing and the psychology behind it.
People react far better to things that are echo back to them what they are all about… this is why you should label the mix appropriately based on the name of the promotor’s club event – believe me, it works a lot better.
Follow the music policy of the club event you want to play at
This is so obvious, I almost feel dumb saying it, but I would lose count the amount of times that I would be given DJ mixes to listen to that had absolutely no correlation to the music policy of my night club events.
Why the fuck anyone would think I would listen to a happy hardcore mix CD when I was running hard house events in the UK is beyond me… but it happened, and it happened a lot.
Guess what happened to those mixes? After 5 seconds of listening, they went straight into the bin.
Do your research, and go to the event. Understand how the night progresses and what the resident DJs and headliners play. Based on that, structure your mix to be reflective of the night you want to play at.
Ask for feedback on your mix from the promotor
As I’ve said, most mixes handed over as a CD or USB are going straight into the bin. Similarly any DJ mixes hosted on online streaming services such as Soundcloud, Mixcloud etc, will never even see the play button being pressed.
The ones that I was more inclined to listen to as a promotor were the ones where the DJ asked me for feedback. Here’s an example approach that you could use on email, or in passing conversation to the promotor, based on what we’ve already learned.
“Hi Mister Promotor, I’ve been coming down to your events for a few weeks now and really enjoy the nights. I am actually a DJ myself, just starting out and hoping to play out in public soon. I’ve actually put a little tribute mix together which I think encapsulates what a warm-up set should sound like at your events. I would love to hear some feedback on what you think, as want to get better over time. Could you give it a listen please and tell me what you think?”
As you can see, we’ve hit off all the key factors which should increase the chances of the nightclub promotor listening to your mix. They are:
- DJ has attended the event and knows what it’s all about
- It’s a warm-up set, with the correct tempo, style, and BPM
- DJ is asking for feedback, so is requesting something that’s not to hard for a promotor to come back with
Once you’ve given your mix set to the promotor give it a week, and then follow-up again.
Bringing your friends along or selling tickets bullshit
Now there is an elephant in the room which I’ve not spoken about yet which is the dreaded “bring your friends along” or “sell tickets” bullshit.
This is a shitty tactic that many promotors will try to pull on you. It might be along the lines of the promotor saying something like this to you:
“Yep sure, I’ve listened to your mix, and you can play a warm-up set. But, only if you bring 25 paying friends along and sell some tickets for me.”
These types of promotors are utter cunts and it just shows that they don’t have the confidence in themselves to pull off a successful party or are just shit at their own job.
But, it could be the way in which you do get in the door.
I won’t lie though, if the DJ is popular, has a circle of supportive friends that he or she is seen at the events with, then that can be a factor.
Back in the day I would have budding DJs come to my nights and be fixtures on the dancefloor for a few months, and have a group of friends with them.
With those DJs I would always listen to their mixes if they passed them to me, because I wanted the DJs who played for me to be popular, to have a crowd that supported them, and be a supporter at my event. Why wouldn’t I?
But I would never ask them to sell tickets to guarantee them a set, nor would it be the factor in me listening to their mix with the view to playing a set.
I will probably talk in more detail another time about the types of shitty promotors who pull the selling tickets tactics, or only let you play if you bring along a guaranteed amount of paying friends – but that’s a discussion for another time.
My last word on this particular aspect is this: if you feel comfortable with this whoring approach to DJ’ing then embrace it. It won’t be the last time you whore yourself out as a DJ, even when you get to the highest levels of being a headliner!
Let’s Wrap This Advice Up
So to wrap up, I hope this blog post has given you some much needed advice on how to get a promotor to listen to your mix, with the view to booking you for a set. This is just my advice based on my many years of being a promotor. I have also created a guide to DJ promotion – it’s got loads of hints and tips on how you can market and promote yourself.
Of all the mix CDs or online sets I was handed, I probably listened to only 5%. If you want to be in that 5% get clever, and the tips above will hopefully help you with that.