First and foremost, let’s not beat around the bush – this is a complex question to answer! Yes, it is certainly possible to become a career DJ and many achieve this ambition and more. It’s possible to earn decent amounts for doing what you enjoy on the weekend, and one thing can lead to another…roll the dice and work hard or you’ll never find out!
Furthermore, it’s a tough and winding journey which requires perseverance and dedication. Fortunately, earning pocket money to cover your gig expenses is relatively easy – promoters and venues know that they need to pay to attract good performances. So, without further ado, let’s take an in-depth look at how much DJs of all levels earn.
1.)When you’re Starting Off…
This is often the hardest and longest stage of DJing to overcome. Starting off isn’t really about earning money anyway, though, it’s about honing your skills and craft to become a better DJ.
By concentrating on your DJ skills, you can put yourself in the best position to take gigs confidently and perform to the best of your ability.
- Always take opportunities to play at parties or on other people’s gear
- Always message local events operators for opportunities
- Take interest in other DJs and get involved in the local scene
- Record mixes and post them on SoundCloud.
- Get your social media accounts in order – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Earnings: At this stage, concentrate on gigs, not money! The more the better – more socializing, networking, practice and exposure. Local sets will pay anything between zero to $100 or so. Sometimes, promoters will pay for your expenses including fuel or travel and you should always expect them to pay for entry costs! Overall, though, you’ll want to get your name out there at your own expense. You might have to spend money to start making it – consider it an investment!
Expenses: Unless your venue or promoter/events organizer is covering you, you will have to pay for travel, drinks, food, etc. Also, never discount the cost of your music – ALWAYS download good quality copies from BeatPort or similar. They don’t cost much – it’s worth it.
2) Intermediate / Upcoming Talent
So you’ve been on the grind for some time, have forged your own style, played sets which people talked about after the event and have maybe dipped your toes into music production. You’re on your way to earning more than pocket money.
Reaching this position will take time and work, and a social media presence. Don’t ghost in the background, promote yourself!
- Get stuck into creative and advanced mixing techniques to separate your style from others
- Contact other DJs regularly and ask if they want to join you for B2B (back to back) sets
- Consider producing your own music – this is usually a prerequisite of reaching the next step – it’s necessary to class yourself as a ‘DJ producer’, not just a DJ
Earnings: At this stage, you could be getting offered anything between $250 and $1000 or more. If you graft hard and earn yourself sets most weekends then you can make a full time living at this stage of the game. If you’re producing music then that’s even better – market and sell it alongside your DJing. Obviously, work will be hit, miss, or seasonal, so it’s often hard to give up the day job at this stage.
Expenses: Expenses should now decrease. Promoters should definitely pay for travel, whether it’s train, bus, fuel or flights. Entry is a given. Drinks should be too! Don’t take liberties but don’t be scared of asking for a thing or two, whether it’s your favorite spirit and mixer or just Coca Cola!
3) Well-Known Touring DJ
At this point, whilst some do get through purely as DJs, you will probably need to offer something else. This might be awesome scratching ability (think of hip hop), or live set routines which use tons of analog gear and funky equipment (think of Berlin techno DJs).
Most of the time, though, you will need to be a producer cranking out tunes and albums on labels to reach this point in your career. It’s a full-time job and you’ll be earning a very large wage, easily equivalent to high profile bands and music artists. After all, that is basically what you are at this stage of the game, you’re no bedroom DJ!
- Produce music and send your tracks to labels. Start with small indie labels and work up.
- Get yourself on tour!
- Employ managers and agents to get you more bookings in bigger venues.
Earnings: At this stage, the limit is lifting skywards and your earnings have the potential to go through the roof. Ok, we’re not talking rockstar levels yet, but put it this way – world touring DJs don’t need second jobs. You can earn anything up to $30,000 for one set.
Summer season touring festivals worldwide can take you in a colossal amount of money and that’s before your factor in record and mixtape sales.
Expenses: Expenses basically drop to nil. People will do stuff for you – whatever it takes to make you happy and get you around! You may also pick up gear sponsors and maybe sponsors from other companies – clothing companies, audio tech, etc.
Obviously, that isn’t a cue to take liberties and you’ll still need to organize the main things: your music and your performances. Also, don’t take responsibilities lightly at this stage, you’ll need to hit deadlines for tune production, hit up photoshoots and take gig opportunities alongside other artists on your label.
4) World-Wide Fame
Seems like a pipedream? Well, some people have to reach this stage of the game so who is to say it can’t be you? We’re talking about names like Calvin Harris’, Tiesto, Deadmau5, Martin Garrix, etc. No hiding the salaries of these DJs – they make millions, $50 million plus!
Reaching this point will take hard work, creativity, skill and a bit of luck! However, always take solace in the fact that someone out there has to get there! It’s simply inevitable…So, on that note, get going! One thing is for sure: you won’t become a famous DJ without throwing yourself into the industry and culture!
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