Show me the money

I want to share some things I have learned about making sure you get paid. For the sake of this article i am going to try and map the progression I followed, and have seen others follow. I will share about contracts and getting your cash, but I think we need to fill in some blanks on the way; as I feel its all part of the same package

So you buy yourself all the gear you need to get yourself Djing; what's next? No matter how humble we are, I am sure every DJ has had a daydream about spinning to a 100,000 of his adoring fans for thousands of pounds, dollars, or euros. It's good to dream, without a vision for the future, how else do you motivate yourself to turn up at a gig where you aren't getting paid, your playing to zero people, and your worried about the security of your DJing equipment. Okay, as a Christian, we are inspired by a motivation to be obedient to the Lord Jesus. Paul got paid for his tent making — so it isn't bad to dream of making some cash doing something you enjoy.

I want to share some things I have learned about making sure you get paid. For the sake of this article i am going to try and map the progression I followed, and have seen others follow. I will share about contracts and getting your cash, but I think we need to fill in some blanks on the way; as I feel its all part of the same package


You aren't going to make a dime playing to your mom while she watches soap operas. Any working DJ will tell you a different version of how they made it; and I have my own opinions, so here we go…

For me one word sums up the the difference between a DJ who gets paid and a DJ who gets shouted at for making to much noise during E.R. — PROFESSIONAL. The moment you think about taking money for playing other people's music to people in a bar, night-club, or wedding chapel, you need to make sure they feel like they are getting their money's worth. This starts way before you put your £200 headphones on in your town's biggest nightclub on the first leg of your world tour. It starts when you decide to tell people you are a DJ. If you think like a professional then there's more chance you will act like a professional, more chance you will look like a professional, and more chance you will sound like a professional. You catching the drift?

Make sure your demo CD (make sure it is a CD and not a tape, unless you have been asked to give a tape) sounds as good as you can make it. Make sure it looks good. Think how you would feel if you received the package you mail out to promoters. Would you think "Hey, I am looking forward to listening to this" or "Hey, can you pass me that drinks mat?" I am sure I don't need to tell you to put your phone number/email address on the CD, and not the case as that can go missing. Go ahead and make a promo package, include: CD, Biography (keep it cool/professional "I am an excellent DJ who can play to any crowd" is better than "My hobbies are reading, writing, and dwarf tossing." Sell yourself, never lie; but don't be shy!), Flyers, Business Cards, anything that can make you look better than someone else.

Never say no to a gig that you think you would rock at, even if it pays no money and it it's in a rubbish venue. You need the experience When a promoter asks you where you have played before, you will be able to say something, It could be the difference between getting a paid night or not. Most DJ's have had to do this type of thing. This is your training ground. You still need to give these nights 100%. Even if you are in the place alone, look at it as a chance to practice playing through a bigger sound system than you are used to. Believe me, the first time you play through a large PA rig, it will be quite a lot different from practicing in your room. On a night like this you can learn so much. You still need to put in everything you can so that you look like a pro DJ.


Talk to people, try and hang out with other DJ's, preferably ones that are being paid to DJ. Even if they aren't, it's good to socialize in your local scene. There is no better way to get paid DJ gigs than through friends. The amount of times you will hear a DJ say "A buddy of mine asked me to play … he's paying big money … so of course I said yes." Let other DJ's hear your demo. Ask them how you can make it better. Give your demo to your friends. Give them to young guys who play their car stereos to loud. Give give give … then burn some more and give some more.

First Night on the Job

Imagine you're at your first night (paid or otherwise). What do you do? Research! Go to the place as a customer on the same night you are booked to play (IE the week before). See what's being played and make sure you know what music you are expected to play. If the manager says "Play 2 hours of normal club music", confirm he means the same kind of music you do. I got the sack from a club for playing Basement Jaxx. I thought it was commercial tune; and it was a week before the track came out in the shops. It was being played on all major radio stations! I had been asked to play party music, that meant music the manager had heard at parties; and not sneaky promos/white labels I liked. It never does you any harm to ask for the music policy to be clarified. Also make sure you know what gear you will need to take.

Most Clubs will only need you to turn up with a bag of tunes and a pair of headphones, but it does vary — so ask. Take everything you may need with you. Records, CD's (I prefer to carry both, in case the player/s for one medium break during the evening), headphones, spare headphones, carts/stylus (you wold be amazed how many clubs don't carry spares), slipmats (I have been to clubs where DJ's had to provide their own), Microphone (if you wanna make money DJing learn to use one, fast, even if its just to call last orders),and a bottle of water (on your first night don't expect free drinks). Basically make sure you aren't left staring at a crowd of people who want music that you are unable to provide. You will earn the respect of any DJ, Promoter, or Bar Manager if you have the gear with you to put their night back on track when something breaks.

The most important thing I have to say is, treat it as if you were at your first day at a "real" job. Turn up early, dress well, and be polite to everyone. Do exactly what you are told. If you are scheduled to finish at 2 AM, then finish at 2 AM exactly, unless you are told otherwise. Make friends. It isn't what you know, it's who you know; so take this chance to make some contacts. Have a demo CD in your record bag, or at least some business cards in your wallet. If you do these things; you will generally get your money without having to ask for it. You aren't in the position to call any shots yet. If your given the chance to stretch your wings, do so; but only when you have the opportunity given to you. Don't try and snatch it to early.

You are offered a residency

How does this change things? Once you have peeled yourself off the ceiling; you need to start thinking smart. You aren't faking it any more. You ARE a professional DJ now. You still, at all times, need to act like a professional DJ. Make sure your boss knows why he is paying you to be his DJ. The moment he thinks he could get someone else to play for him, he will start listening to the demo's that are landing on his desk.

You also have some new concerns, DJ'S HAVE TO PAY INCOME TAX ON THE MONEY THEY EARN DJ'ING. Sorry about the capital letters. I have noticed many DJ's are under the mis-guided impression that they are exempt from Tax. Even if you only earn $25 once a month, it's still taxable. You need to pay it, and you probably need an accountant to help you. A good accountant will save you so much tax money, she will pay for herself.

Dave Richards has been producing a mixture of tribal, tech and progressive music for about ten years now. He has had releases on Next Dimension Music, PWM Records, Deeplife Records and more. In 2002, he became the owner of and since then has developed the site’s name and favorable reputation across both the Christian and secular scenes. Currently, Dave works as the label manager with his partner in crime Kevin Oneel at MK837. World domination through “Jelly Doughnut” diplomacy is sure to follow.