DEALING WITH NERVES as a DJ!
Most new DJs struggle with nerves, especially early in their careers. It can feel all-consuming and throw you off your game when it’s time to press play on that first song.
Don’t worry; it’s natural, but let me share some tips and experiences that helped me overcome this fear.
The dreaded microphone!
I was at a point in my career where I felt I was missing a connection with the crowd. I had a great set of weekly residencies but little crowd control and used my mashups and creativity to connect with the crowd.
But I saw other friends using the mic and getting the crowd in the palm of their hands. This only elevated their sets further, something I was missing.
What did I do about it?
Opportunity – I was asked about starting a new residency at a gig demanding I play top 40, cheese and party hits. I had to play a wedding in a club every Wednesday night basically.
The audience wouldn’t care too much if I did anything creative on the decks. At that point in my career, I didn’t aspire to play these gigs like this however could I use the opportunity to my advantage?
Accountability – I bought myself a microphone. By spending money on it, I had to find a way to use it, and that gig was the answer!
Commitment – Say yes! Throw yourself in at the deep and and you will be forced to figure it out. This is something I have always done when hitting those ‘road blocks’ in my career.
“Put your hands up!”
The first gig I did, I kept it simple, yet my delivery was terrible! Shouting ‘put your hands up‘ down the mic, probably every five songs got boring for the audience after the 8th time, but I had made the first step. The following week consisted of ‘put your hands up’ and a quick countdown before a drop!
But by the third, fourth, tenth and fifteenth gig my confidence had grown. I was able to curate the event beyond just the music. I came up with interactive games, challenges for the crowd, group photo’s and much more. I hated the music… don’t get me wrong!
But, I didn’t take the gig for that, I forced myself to take the gig to learn a new skill that would help me for the rest of my career. It gave me the confidence to then talk on camera, and even up on stage. You can come see my speak on stage on a few weeks. Full details later in the email!
This was a shot from that Wednesday residency. It was around the time when Mo Farah, a British long-distance runner, won a medal at the Olympics, and his celebration, ‘The Mobot’, was all the rage! I’m a huge fan of incorporating popular culture into my DJ sets. It helps attach the experience to a moment in time and provides something engaging for the audience. This was the perfect crowd interaction for this kind of event, and it required a bit more than ‘put your hands up’ on the mic to achieve.
Here are some ideas to help you step out of your comfort zone and even prepare to play to an audience before getting that first gig.
Set up your phone, hit record. Not to create content, but to see what you look like when you DJ. Perform to the camera, get comfortable with yourself first! Smile at it, dance, bop to the beat. Give the camera (your soon to be audience) something to watch as well as listen to. Trust me, you will feel extremely stupid to start with but the more you do it the more you relax and shake off the awkwardness.
An exercise you could do is simply practice reciting a book or article to your phone camera and then watching it back. Do it 5 times in row and a I guarantee after the fifth time you will have broken down some personal barriers!
Play for friends!
Invite some mates over and just DJ. Take requests from them. Get them to challenge you with song requests. It’s all good practice for when you inevitable get a gig and have people throwing requests at you every few minutes! Friends will hopefully be more supportive of you and want you to succeed and drop a banging mix! This can help you relax and get into the flow. You also know your friends music tastes and can drop the right music at the right time, your first experience of playing to a crowd.
You don’t even need anyone tuning in, the simple act of going live on YouTube or Twitch helps you overcome those nerves. However, if you feel confident in front of friends playing to a small group of strangers can help calm those nerves for the real thing. This is also a great opportunity to start using a microphone. Simply let people know what tracks you’re dropping. Take inspiration from radio shows and try incorporate some fo that into your lives!
Own the stage!
When you land a gig, it may not have a physical stage like a band would play on at a gig, but even a make shift booth in the corner of a bar can be thought of as a stage. Own your environment, have fun and show it! You never know who is looking. Look up, smile at people, put your hands up and enjoy the drops as if you were in the crowd too. Become part of the audience by connecting with them. Own your stage!
(Later in my career, I found myself on an actual stage in front of thousands of people and the microphone allowed me to get shots like these!)
Back to the drawing board!
I’ve spoken on stage before but it’s not something I do often. Therefore, I am back in the position I found myself in at the start of this email. An opportunity came my way which I said yes to and then sent this email about it, holding me accountable to it and lastly I need to deliver by planning and practicing, my commitment to it being a success.
(Interviewing James Hype 5 years ago for Crossfader’s one off DJ Industry Workshop in Leeds)
I’m very excited to be back on stage and it’s something you can expect more of from the Crossfader team in the next couple of years. We’re keen to help the world not just online but in person too. We plan to bring the team, the knowledge and our insight around the globe in the coming years.
Songs I have on repeat!
Dusky, Denham Audio – Everything I Do – Garage drums got me on this one!
Roisin Murphy, DJ Koze – You Knew – The vocal processing is really interesting and hooked me in. Also, the simplicity of the song has some genius about it.
The Streets – Troubled Waters – UK culture all rolled up into one song!
Fred Again… , Obongjayar – adore u – I just don’t think he can do wrong can he?
Denis Sulta – In~Narito – You know when you’re driving and Spotify delivers some gold and you have to just crank it the F$£K up!
That’s all form me this week! Enjoy the tunes and I hope to see some of you at the Link Up event next month!
We’re here to support you!
We hope these tips have pointed you in the right direction. Even with this knowledge, be prepared to make plenty of mistakes and fail a few times. It’s all part of the journey and will give you valuable experience that will make you a better DJ. Ultimately though, success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about putting in the time and dedication to achieve your goals.
But there are ways to speed things along! As well as our Complete DJ Package, designed to help you achieve your DJ dreams fast, we offer a range of comprehensive beginner courses to take your skills to the next level!