How to never get booked for a DJ set again

Last year, Ten Walls showed the world just how quickly a career can end.

After he got caught out making homophobic comments online, promoters around the world removed the Lithuanian producer from their line-ups and vowed not to book him again – a pledge that, 12 months later, they’ve mostly stayed true to.

But being a bigot online isn’t the only thing that will (very rightly) cost you bookings – especially if you’re a new DJ trying to get your start in the local scene. From going way too hard in your opening set to hassling promoters on Facebook and not supporting the events you want to play at, there’s a few common faux pas that aspiring DJs are prone to making.

Here, we’ve asked a cast of Australia’s top promoters and club bookers what would stop them from tapping a local DJ for a set – so read on, wise up and watch your bookings multiply.

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Franky Tapia, Chinese Laundry

#1 Do: Support the event you want to play at
This is a fundamental. If you are not present or showing your support for a club or club night you wish to play at, why would the promoter book you? Again this doesn’t happen overnight, it may take weeks or months. But being present, patient and showing you are keen to be a part of something will get you more of a chance of getting a gig then not.

#2 Don’t: Facebook message the promoter
The Facebook message asking for a gig is something most promoters (myself included) don’t take notice of anymore. The message should only come after you have introduced yourself and been present at a few nights. You want to build or establish some form of connection before asking for a gig. Being a complete stranger and asking for availabilities isn’t going to get you anywhere.

#3 Do: Be humble
Don’t talk yourself up, I don’t care if you are an ex-DMC champ or supported so and so. Being humble and wanting to develop yourself at a club comes a long way. If you are going to talk to the booker, tell him that you want to learn. That gives the promoter the opportunity to be able to help and develop your skills over time. Telling us that you’ll “smash it on any set” doesn’t sound too appealing – it actually makes you sound like a jerk.

#4 Don’t: Being aggressive
If you get knocked back, take it on the chin and keep going. The worst thing you can do is show aggression. Just be calm and thank the booker for their time. Don’t say “yeah whatever man, thanks I guess I’ll take my mixtape elsewhere “.

#5 Do: Send in the correct mix
70% of people who send mixes to Chinese Laundry get them get right. What you need to do is send a mix with music that caters to the night you wish to play at. That’s why if you want to play at a certain establishment, you need to know the night, the music and the people. For example, don’t send us an hour long mix of Melbourne Bounce. That’s music we don’t, and won’t ever, play at the venue.

#6 Do: Be patient
Patience will be the key to your success – the booker hasn’t forgotten about you. When the time is right and there is the correct event for you to play at, they will contact you! If you get impatient after one or two days and start pestering them with messages asking for a date, you’re less likely to get booked.

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Gracey Dewhurst, Ferdydurke

#1 Do: Take intros seriously
Not attaching music and/or a little bit about yourself in an entitled AF email directly to a booker is a big no. This should be self explanatory. Consider reaching out like a job application and please put your best face forward. Some jokes would be nice. You don’t have to write jokes, but I would definitely appreciate them.

#2 Don’t: Be a bigot
Misogynistic, racist and vile views spewed on the internet and in real life is another no. You are trying to represent the company that I work for, and my company is progressive and tolerant. I don’t want your bigoted views representing us. I don’t care if you dress up your misogynistic shit under the guise of an argument about “Real DJing”. If you can’t break into the scene and you are constantly saying “God, PC culture is so OTT” – maybe it’s you, mate.

#3 Don’t: Attack the promoter
There have been times that I have pointed out to people on the internet that five minutes before they had abused me for being a “feminist” they had emailed me requesting supporting slots for internationals, and had the reasoning thrown at me that they wouldn’t have abused me if they knew it was me. That’s some insane logic.

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Dave Stuart, Something Else

#1 Do: Know who you’re messaging!
Do your research on the party and find out who to talk to before hitting send.

#2 Don’t: Send copy paste emails to every promoter in town
We can tell straight away if you’ve just spammed every one with the same message – it just looks like you just want a gig and don’t care enough about the actual event.

#3 Do: Play good music.
When sending a mix, send one or two mixes at most. If you’re only new to the scene chances are the promoter will take the less risky option and put you on early, so make sure the mix you send is suitable. And nine times out of ten the more different/deep/eclectic the more you’ll stand out.

#4 Don’t : Just send a link to your SoundCloud/Facebook page
Most promoters put on parties for the love of it and have other jobs, so spare time is at a premium. That means we don’t have time to go through all the mixes on your page to find one we might like.

#5 Do: Attend the parties you want to play at
I can’t stress this point enough. As a promoter, I want to book people who have a personal interest in what we do. Make sure the music you play is 100% suitable, and what you love. I also have a terrible memory, so if i see you hanging out at our events it’s going to help remind me to book you.

#6 Don’t: Take bookings for two gigs in the same night
This one is Sydney specific, but given Sydney club nights only go for a relatively short time – i.e. 10pm – 3.30am – it’s pretty selfish to take up two sets in the same night. Share the love a bit.

#7 Do: Be proud of where you’re playing
When you get booked help the promoters out where you can and be excited about it. It’s been pretty refreshing to see most promoters these days booking people on their merits not their guestlists, so return the favour and help out.

#8 Don’t: Hassle the promoter for another gig straight after you’ve played
By all means say you enjoyed it and will be back…but getting a message on the Monday when I’m still hungover asking for another set when I’ve got a whole heap of other DJs I’m trying to fit in comes across a bit needy. Getting an email from you every week asking when you can play again just makes me switch off.

#9 Do: Ask for feedback.
I’m more than happy to listen to your mix, give you feedback on your set if you’ve played for us. Getting feedback from someone impartial is a great way to learn/gain experience and about a million times more helpful than your mates saying “SICK MIX MATE”.

#10 Don’t: Be a dick
If you ask for feedback, don’t get narky if it’s not what you wanted to hear.

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Paul Azzopardi, Soapbox

#1 Do: Support the events and know the brand 
If a DJ doesn’t choose to party at my events before the started playing, I am less likely to give them an opportunity.

#2 Don’t: Shit talk
If they are the kind of person that talks rubbish online – be it talking down other people’s events, other DJs’ abilities, making outlandish political statements or hate rants – they are not going to get a look in at all with me.

#3 Do: Get your demo mixes right
Anyone can give me a peak time mix, but I am not going to book a new DJ for peak slots. So hearing mixes that are creative, have depth and also show they know their music is more likely to get a look in for a set.

#4 Don’t: Be arrogant
I have no time for arrogance and neither do most people. Be humble and don’t expect that people owe you anything just because you can beatmatch two songs together.

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Photo credit: Sam Whiteside/Voena

Vi Hermens, Motorik

Pro tip: You always come to the party first. Preferably often. If you want to be involved, you’d better understand what music is being played, what the vibe (such an ethereal concept, vibe) is, and hopefully you’ve even been voted best on ground and/or MVP at the afterparty – by that stage, you’re probably our mate and we’ll invite you on board.

#1 Do: Be part of the party, the experience and the team before you ask to get involved

You will be an immeasurably better performer and better human being for it.

#2 Don’t: Expect to name your price
If you’ve never played the party before, you’re gonna have to accept a standard deejay fee. You can’t name your price. When you wipe the floor with the room and have people chanting your name at the end of your set, then maybe it’s time to negotiate.

#3 Do: Be smart about who you do (or don’t) work with
If you work with an agent, try get one that has a clue and a conscience. Both things are important. Not only will your chances of a gig improve if your agent has a good working relationship with promoters, you’ll have much less chance of getting ripped off, which is a bonus. Also: if you’re just starting out, you don’t need a booker. Trust me.

#4 Don’t: Get involved in online drama
Every booker, promoter and touring agent in the country talks to each other, they love a good gossip, and especially love talking about stupid shit they’ve seen online. I wish I could take my own advice on this point more regularly.

#5 Do: Stay as humble as humanly possible.
The best guys and girls in this world are the ones who are pushing for their crew, letting their music do the talking, and always have time to hang out with everyone after the gig. It’s sad that we don’t have Ajax around anymore to demonstrate the highest form of this art.

#6 Don’t: Believe everything you hear.
Some people will embellish stories so they come off as heroes/hard done by/the nice person. See point four. It’s really easy to get involved and then completely fuck certain people off, mostly for no good reason. You never know who will be booking that party/festival you desperately want to play at in a few years.

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Nergal Youkhana, Charades

#1 Don’t: Be disrespectful or rude
If you have a shit attitude towards others, there is no point in me booking you because the main reason we put our events on is to create a connection between the performer and the punter. There is also absolutely no time for bigots, racists, homophobes and any other form of hatred on our line-ups, or anywhere else for that matter.

#2 Do: Dig Deeper
I’ll look at your music style and what you have to offer – if the mix you send in feels like a Top 20 Beatport charted selection, you will not be called upon. Dig deeper and find music that reflects your style and personality, not what you think people want to hear.

#3 Do: Attend our parties
It’s nice to know that you support what we do. We have created a small family through our parties and we want to build on that, so coming to our nights will give you a better chance of playing for us. If you understand what we are about and you can relate to it, we want you to share that experience as a DJ / performer.

#4 Don’t: Email every promoter at once
Don’t just blanket email promoters in your city because we all talk and if you’re sending a disco mix to a bass promoter, you’re probably going to look like a dick. Be specific about which parties / crews you want to be a part of.

Katie Cunningham is the Editor of inthemix. She is on Twitter.

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