Joe Lobel went from being virtually unknown to taking the world stage by storm and becoming one of the most successful UK DJs in a matter of months!
His impressive resume now includes sold-out worldwide events and festivals, sharing the stage with top talents, French Montana, Central Cee and Aitch.
We caught up with the UK’s wordplay king on our Off The Record podcast to find out from the man himself how he turned his setbacks into successes!
Here, we reveal Joe’s top tips and advice, based on his own experience, to help DJs get into the spotlight!
From local gigs to global success
Pre-2020, Lobel was making a name for himself with several local residencies. Then COVID hit.
The lockdowns that followed meant DJs struggled to continue doing their thing, having to live-stream or put their careers on hold.
Joe spent the time reflecting on his ambitions and thinking about the best way to reactivate his career when the time came. With a fresh attitude and loads of ambition, he hit the ground running once restrictions were lifted and the world began returning to normal.
Joe went from touring the UK’s club scene with a well-known brand to quickly being invited to guest appear at one of the biggest club nights in the country.
After this, the bookings came in thick and fast, and the size of the events he played continued to grow and grow.
Before he knew it, Joe had cemented his reputation as a solid performance DJ supporting French Montana and going on to share a stage with Central Cee and Aitch at festivals!
He is now performing all over the globe with rarely any downtime.
The secret sauce behind his success? He tells us it’s not magic but hard work and strategy. These are his best bits of advice for anybody looking to emulate his success!
Lobel pushed hard for his DJ career to take off after COVID. He rose to the occasion and created his own success at this uniquely challenging time, so knows a thing or two about coming at a situation with the right attitude!
Before the lockdowns, he made his first guest appearance on our podcast to discuss how his career was just starting to take off. Then the world shut down, and DJs and live entertainers were, as Joe puts it, the first to lose work and the last to see it return!
I just made ends meet. Helped people out with little jobs. Painting, did some deliveries for one of my friends. I really felt like just before COVID, everything was bubbling in the right direction. I thought I’m going to be getting somewhere soon. But then Covid just locked us off so badly.
To value what you do is perhaps the most important takeaway from our chat with Joe, as, in this highly competitive industry, DJs will often accept gigs that aren’t paying the standard going rate.
Lobel decided he didn’t want to sell his talent and craft short. He knew that if he let his standards for work and pay slip, it could have a negative effect on his earnings once restrictions eased and the clubs returned to normal.
I tried my best not to devalue myself during COVID. There was a little bit of time where there were some gigs coming for £40, £50 sometimes. I tried my best to stay away from those to keep my value intact.
Everyone was dying to get behind the decks, so I wouldn’t knock anyone for doing that, but in my head, I had it quite clear, you can’t take X amount of fees now because it’s COVID and then come back and be the guy who says here’s the price I’ve raised it to!
Instead, during the lockdowns, Joe concentrated on getting through this rough patch in his career and figuring out his DJ path.
Having just survived almost two years with virtually no DJ income, the time was right to take the risk and give his career all of his efforts with no jobs holding him down in one location!
For the next phase of his journey, he focused on getting himself onto the country’s DJ radar through plenty of self-promotion!
Create Impressive DJ Content
After moving on from residences, Joe began touring with well-established brands performing UK hip hop and R&B for massive student events in 2021.
Whilst DJing for a brand didn’t bring him many new fans, playing consistently in front of big crowds meant he could film loads of killer social media content that put him on the map!
With his impressive content, Joe was able to start getting booked for gigs as a guest hip-hop DJ, rather than a brand ambassador.
I was in the really fortunate position to be travelling with a student brand that had really strong events
I wasn’t being booked as a headliner, I was there to support a brand. You might not be gaining fans, but it does give you a canvas to get content. Even if it’s a mobile phone video, I’m playing the hottest records in the country to a room full of students going absolutely crazy. I can then take that and build my own platform with it.
He then took this footage and used it as a CV to approach promoters and get his own bookings.
It’s a bit of smoke and mirrors at the end of the day, I don’t want to say fake it till you make it, but there’s an element of making what you’re doing look as big as possible. That’s branding, isn’t it.
Joe’s simple and effective content worked well, showing promoters what he does and what he’s about within seconds of watching, without the need to scroll and scroll to figure him out.
It’s great that the socials have got three pinned posts. I’ll always have either the most current and relevant or the most engaged with content at the top of my socials so as soon as you go on my Insta or Tiktok you’ll see what the biggest wordplay I did in the last 6 months was, maybe my tour dates and then the one that went the most viral or something.
You don’t even have to be on top of everything or have it be perfect so long as you’ve always got three pinned in. That’s a good tip, I’d say.
One thing that has helped Lobel’s content stand out is his strong sense of artistry and fresh fire tunes, which helped him get noticed! His clips perfectly blend technical skill with great track selection, creating trademark moments that make him stand out on socials!
Know who you are as a DJ
Embracing your individual style and strengths as a DJ is really important and can significantly impact your professional success.
By sticking to what you do best, promoters and other industry pros will get what you’re about and what events you are best suited to, which can drastically increase your odds of getting booked.
Some DJs can do multi-genre stuff and be very successful. But for the majority, sticking to specific genres helps to establish a strong identity, making them more desirable to promoters.
It depends what your goal is. There’s a lane for people that play hip-hop, house, drum & bass all at once and maybe they also produce. I’m good at mixing house music, but I think, out of my skills, I’m best at doing hip-hop mixing. So I thought, ‘Let’s just not dilute it!’
After playing around with mixing all sorts of music, Joe decided to double down on mainly hip hop, R&B, afrobeats and other related genres, establishing himself as a specialist.
Hip-hop crowds generally don’t want to listen to house music. Maybe people that love the Travis Scotts don’t want to listen to tech house slammers, EDM or Big Room. I’ll alienate a lot of people if I’m throwing those in my sets, so I thought let’s just streamline it and dive fully in.
Sticking to specific styles and genres has other benefits, too. Strategising and networking is generally easier as deciding who to connect with in the industry becomes much more straightforward.
For Joe, one of the best career moves he made was to streamline his music and hone his own style.
It’s also easier for the promoters. They all look at my profile now and go, OK, this guy is a Hip Hop DJ. He plays UK Urban, Drill, Afrobeats… You can find that out in 5 minutes, there’s no confusion.
Networking is the make-or-break skill every DJ needs to master to keep the work coming! During lockdown, Joe was still very present on his socials and kept in touch with the industry contacts he had made before.
When asked about his ability to click with people and build relationships, Joe admits that he’s actually quite lucky as it comes naturally to him.
I’m quite personable. It doesn’t daunt me to be in a room full of people I don’t know. I definitely enjoy meeting new people. I’ve always been a bit of an attention seeker. Most DJs have got to be attention seekers!
Not in a cocky way. I’m friendly, try to make an impression on everyone I meet, make a little joke or dig, have a laugh with people.
Joe avidly uses social media as a major part of his daily networking to foster natural friendships with people in the business rather than just looking for opportunities to grow his work.
I like to keep up with people. I see something on insta like It’s your birthday, I say Happy Birthday. It doesn’t need to be like “It’s your birthday, let’s get a gig in!” Do it genuinely and honestly. Be friendly with people, not just for personal gain.
Like Joe, if you’ve got mad skills on the decks and some great contacts in the business, it’s only a matter of time before you start landing those all-important gigs!
Whoever is friendliest with the promoters, if you can also DJ well, you’re going to be a way ahead of everyone else!
Connect with your peers
And particularly for those just starting out, Lobel’s best networking advice is to connect with other DJs, as well as promoters.
And once connected, keep the relationship going with a friendly catch-up every so often. Work can come your way from anybody!
Joe also spends time getting to know other DJs and club personalities, including our very own DJ Lawrence long before his come-up started!
I used to spend a lot of time just going out, and meeting up with other DJs. I think being a DJ’s friend is a good starting point, even though you might not get to the promoters straight away. There’s this mentality that there isn’t enough room for other DJs or that it’s a bad thing. It’s a great thing, I think!
They might need cover one night and think, that Joe guy, he came, he was cool, he’s an alright DJ, lets get him on! Or the promoter might come over, and they might be like “Hey, this is my friend Joe.”
Unlike most professions where individuals work in groups or teams, DJs mostly work alone, so it’s difficult to connect with a network of like-minded people.
As well as the obvious benefit of connecting with others who share your passion and understand what it’s like in the DJ game, keeping in touch with other DJs gives you a great support network, inspiring and motivating you throughout your DJ journey.
Crossfader is as much about creating community as it is a learning platform. Our exclusive Discord server has boards dedicated to talking about gigs, gear and general DJ banter, plus a private Facebook group to connect directly with us as well as other DJs and industry contacts worldwide.
And If you’d like to connect with a global community of DJs and industry professionals, our Complete DJ Package gives you just that, as well as unlimited access to ALL Crossfader content and courses with no costly subscriptions and a guaranteed path to success! Click the link for more info on this game-changing opportunity!
Focus on your socials
In today’s industry, social media presence is the DJ’s resume, and very few DJs achieve the gigs they want without it.
The reels, shorts, videos and stories are the first places people go to see who you are and what you can do. Posting as frequently as possible gives you the best chance of getting noticed by those all-important agents, promoters and event organisers.
Going viral on social media didn’t happen overnight for Lobel. He remembers talking to Crossfader in 2019 about his TikTok uploads and taking the advice that sooner or later, one of his videos would explode, and the rest would follow.
To get the best quality content onto his socials, Joe invested in getting his work filmed professionally, but acknowledges that not everyone is able to do this. However, there are workarounds that all resourceful DJs can use, and Joe would also film his own content when he had to.
If you’re in, say, the residency game, it’s tough to be getting professional videographers to follow you to your gigs.
If you’re at the level to do it, then great. But If you’re not, iPhones are awesome, and they capture more than enough. I’ll always record the audio straight through Serato as well so I’ve got a clean audio feed if I need it. That’s a cheat code for sure!
At every gig, there’s always somebody there that can either film on the phone or there’s a photographer that might have a video setting on their camera. And it doesn’t have to be long. If you just say, ‘Bro, please, can you just film this particular part of the set for 10-20 seconds’ you’ve got yourself some content.
Be persistent and keep at it!
The key to going viral is persistence. Even if your videos have a professional polish, without consistency, the social media algorithms won’t pick up on them and dish them out into people’s feeds.
Joe definitely didn’t have it easy at the start. He was uploading frequently, but his clips were getting virtually no views. It was a while of steady low-figure views before he noticed an increase in interest. But with consistent uploads, this slowly rose until, almost all of a sudden, the clicks started flooding in!
I came out of Covid with a clear plan. I’m just going to get loads of content! Clean, good content with good audio and good mixes.
And then I just started posting and posting, and it starts off so disheartening because you paid X amount for someone to come and film and the post lands and you think it’s amazing. The audio is clean, the video looks great, and it gets only like 30 views! It’s painful!
And then you get maybe 100 views and then maybe you get 6 views, and you need to delete and re-upload it.
I just kept going like a madman!
Although it can be frustrating, this slow progression can actually work in a DJ’s favour! When there’s little to no engagement in your content, you can comfortably experiment with posts to figure out style, production values and to gauge what content gets a reaction.
Plus, when the interest finally picks up, there will be a back catalogue to discover and get stuck into, rather than a clip or two, quickly to be forgotten!
On TikTok, if you do something that is a talent, people want more of that and the great thing is, I’d invested in loads of content, so when one did go off, I could re-upload some of the old ones. When one goes viral it brings up all the others!
Central Cee’s summer 2022 smash Doja inspired Lobel’s first major viral wordplay video, filmed at Ministry of Sound in London.
My thing is wordplay, so I build up to about 6, 7, 8 in an hour set and I go from this disheartening stretch of time where the max views I was getting was probably around 5,000. Then one got like 10,000 in the first fifteen minutes, and I was getting so excited! Then it just kept going! I think that one is on 6.5 million now. I just stuck at it!
The stars had aligned for Lobel’s first viral clip. He had a great crowd, a great technical wordplay mix and a professional video capture of the event. But this was also off the back of his non-stop posting, so the TikTok algorithm knew who he was and who to push the clip to.
Ultimately, success came from simply filming his set and putting it up. There’s no cheat code or secret behind it. Just create and post consistently until you break your way in! All you need is a good smartphone camera and a great moment in your set to film!
Post clips that showcase your skills
To get noticed in this very over-saturated industry, it’s important that there is a strategy to your posts. Each upload needs to be effective in quickly showing off your strengths, talent and vibe. It’s the highlights in your sets that will make people take notice!
For Joe, his USP is clever wordplay tricks, and so his posts all display this impressive skill, coupled with him dropping the hottest cuts for big crowds. A winning combination!
Just like your tunes, you’ve got to drop those clips right!
If you’re doing a TikTok video, or an Insta’ reel at the start when you’re trying to build a following, just make it short and snappy. Don’t have this 3 minute build-up to the bit where the song drops and then it’s flat. Have 10-15 second videos.
Now as it’s gone on a bit, luckily a lot of people seem to tune in to my clips and wait for the routine as they know what’s coming. But when I first started, it was about getting into that thing you want to show quickly and making your captions engaging.
And pay attention to the trends. If you’ve seen a tune that’s trending on TikTok and you think of a mix for it, maybe reflect the bit that’s trending in your caption.
Do your research
DJing is as much about knowing your music as it is about your skills on the decks, if not more!
Lobel’s mixes got him noticed not just because of his mad wordplay skills but also the tunes he chooses to drop in his sets, which are all absolute bangers for his target audience.
He is able to achieve these awesome sets and mixes by simply keeping on top of what’s trending and what people on the scene want to hear.
It can be really helpful for DJs to dedicate some time regularly to scrolling through social media platforms for inspiration and to figure out what audiences are loving right now.
Spend time on the social media platforms, stay in touch with what’s poppin’ for sure. I feel like I’m getting a bit old to be scrolling through TikTok all day long, but it is research!
There are tunes that have gone so viral on TikTok and for a DJ it’s like a leg up, like someone saying right, mix that tune! That’s one of the things I definitely do. People are going to watch it because everyone is talking about that tune right now.
Consider if the lifestyle is right for you
DJing is a fantastic career choice, there’s no question. There is nothing more fulfilling than doing something you love for a living. Although we wouldn’t change it for the world, there are some drawbacks that should be considered if you’re hoping to emulate the success of DJs like Joe.
Different types of DJ work bring different lifestyle requirements, so it’s important to consider what type of DJ you want to be and what sacrifices you’d be willing to make to achieve your goals.
Joe tells us about the regular challenges he’s experienced since blowing up on the scene.
You don’t want to sound ungrateful. There are pros and cons to everyone’s job. Airports are a faff. There are so many delays, I’ve missed a lot of flights, cases go missing and it’s stressful.
Keeping up a social balance and being away from family and friends is tough. Seeing your wife or girlfriend, your friends, your kids. I know that with my girlfriend and friends, I might be away for 10 days and then I’m back, and then I’ve got a day and then I’m off again! You’re trying to see all the important people to you but you’ve got to balance that.
For many touring DJs, there’s this regular internal battle going on. You appreciate that DJ life isn’t forever and that you should be accepting all the awesome opportunities that come your way. But if the work clashes with family commitments, getting your priorities in order can begin to feel like a constant struggle.
The French Montana show was my sister’s 20th birthday. All my family get together for that every year and this was the first year I’d not been to it because of the show. It was just one I couldn’t refuse!
For some, touring the world, or even the country, is not an option as they need to be close to family. They may find that the local residency game is their ultimate idea of success for balancing work-life needs.
Others may find they are in between and could tour the world at certain times of the year and not at others, such as playing the party islands in the summer months.
Whatever your goals it’s important to consider the whole picture when working towards future ambitions.
Be friendly to everyone
As well as connecting with valuable contacts, Joe makes a point to maintain good relationships with everyone he works with.
As DJs, it’s easy to get caught up in only networking with people we believe will bring us future work that we forget to make an effort to be friendly with the others we work with, such as bar staff and security.
Getting his first major gig supporting world-famous rapper French Montana didn’t happen the traditional way through an agent or manager but rather through the person he least expected to have the biggest hook-up of his career to date!
This was random! It was down to my network! Somebody that I used to work with text me out of the blue. This guy used to scan tickets on the front door of an event in a little town outside of Leicester, I mean, this is a tiny little event I did a few times.
He just said to me, “Since I last saw you, I’ve moved to London. I work for this company and they’re throwing a series of events at arenas with plans for some serious people. Can I put them in touch with you?”
I was like, “I’m free every day for the rest of time!” He sent them my number, and they got in touch…
And all because of how I treated the guy. Whenever I saw him, I’d be like, “How are you? Let’s go in for a shot!” Be friendly to people because you just never know!
Invest in your success
Joe Lobel’s hard work and dedication have seen him achieve his goals in a relatively short amount of time.
His success as a DJ was ultimately a result of the series of investments he made into his career. Whether through his time, resources or earnings, Joe put everything he had into progressing and getting better at what he does.
Alongside focusing on self-promotion and getting his best work seen by those in the industry, Joe has been consistently honing his craft, advancing his signature wordplay skills and cementing his style.
The combination of all this hard work and growth led Joe to the success he has today.
No matter where you are in your DJ journey, you can apply Joe’s tips to further your career and get noticed!
And we’re with you every step of the way!
We here at Crossfader understand first-hand what it takes to make it in this tough industry, and we are committed to helping you achieve your DJ dreams.
We here at Crossfader understand first-hand what it takes to make it in this tough industry, and we are committed to helping you achieve your DJ dreams.
If you’d like to fast-track your success as a DJ, our Complete DJ Package can help you get to where you need to be to secure the gigs you want and boost your career! With a hassle-free, 60-day money-back guarantee!
Watch our chat with Joe below on our Off The Record podcast and click here for access to our full range of episodes with loads more industry chat, expert opinion and advice from those killing it behind the decks!