Heading into 2021, the art of DJing has become more accessible than ever. Just about anyone can get their hands on a DJ Controller, make a half-decent mixtape, and throw it up on Soundcloud or Mixcloud. But more often than not, if you’re just getting started; that mixtape can often fall short. Amassing minuscule amounts of plays and even fewer shares. Which in turn, is not going to get you very far when your end goal is to get hired for your first, or your next DJ gig.
Preparing a quality mixtape is vital for getting hired as a DJ. It represents you, your style, and the kind of DJ you’re aspiring to be. Almost acting as the musical equivalent of your business card. So, how do you make a mixtape that stands out in a saturated market? All while giving you the blueprint to get you on your way to getting hired as a DJ?
In this article, we go over a few of our top tips and tricks to making a mixtape that stands out. As well as how you can use it to get yourself hired!
- Making your mixtape
- Getting Hired
Making Your Mixtape
Making your mixtape! Assuming you’re already familiar with the tools of the trade, this article won’t teach you how to use your DJ Controllers, Mixers, and DJ equipment. But we will give you the tips you need to produce a quality mixtape!
Know Your Audience
The first thing you want to consider when you set out to create a new mixtape, is to know the audience of your mix. It might sound like a given, but the songs you choose to mix together will all depend on what your mix is for. For instance, if you’re making a mixtape to promote a certain club night, event, or festival. You’ll want to make sure you’re including the tunes that are going to be played on the night.
If you’re making a mixtape to try and get in the door with an agency or nightclub promoter, you’ll have to stand out. You won’t pack your mix full of Hip Hop songs if you’re trying to establish yourself as a dance club DJ. Likewise, you also wont want to fill your mix with the entire Beatport Top 10. Doing so is a great way to immediately sound like 90% of other DJs; and if you’re lucky enough to get your mixtape in front of that club promoter, you don’t want yours to blend in with the plethora of other mixtapes they’ve briefly skimmed through before yours.
Carefully Choose Your Music
We briefly touched on it in the previous tip, but carefully choosing your music is vital to producing a mixtape that stands out. Again, it all starts with including music that no one else is. Yes, it’s important to include songs that people are familiar with and that will get the audience vibing. But going the extra mile by scanning blogs, charts, undiscovered Spotify playlists, and DJ Pools can help to shine your mixtape in a different light. Especially when you’re playing one-of-a-kind remixes, edits and mashups. Remember, you want your mixtape to be unique!
But most importantly, you want to choose music that gets you genuinely excited. If you love what you’re playing, you’re probably going to do a better job when you’re mixing it together. This will also likely translate on-stage when you’re playing your mix in front of a crowd, and your on-stage performance can be just as crucial as the music you’re playing.
Length Of Your Mixtape
Before you get into the nitty-gritty planning of your mixtape, you’ll need to decide on the length of your mix. When it comes to mixtapes, there’s no set length that your mix should adhere to. Traditionally, the industry-standard tends to range from half an hour to an hour. Though this may differ if you’ve been given a specific length by a podcast you’re guest mixing on or if you’re planning on recording your entire nightclub set.
Study The Pros
The best way to make a mixtape that rivals the pros is to study them. Jump onto YouTube, and you’ll find hundreds if not thousands, of DJ Performances. Giving you an inside perspective into the mix techniques of your favourite DJs, so you can analyze their tricks, and how they present their mixes. As a result, you’ve got the perfect resource where you can learn new tricks, and then integrate them into your DJ set with your own spin on it.
Whether it’s as simple as the way you blend your songs together, or more advanced concepts you might not be familiar with like mixing in key.
In a constantly evolving industry, it’s important to study the biggest names and the current trends. Not only will this ensure you’re constantly developing your skill set as a DJ. But you’ll also be ahead of the curve when it comes to trending techniques and tricks.
A good place to start is the In The Lab YouTube series by MixMag.
Plan Your Mixtape
The lesser DJ is likely to finalize their songs on a whim, then haphazardly mix them together one after another. As a result, you’ve got a mixtape that’s incoherent, shows no progression or balance, and simply falls short. And although thorough planning might add substantial amounts of time when it comes to putting your mixtape together. It will all be worth it in the end when it becomes the reason you get hired for your next gig!
So, grab a pad and a pen – or open up a blank document, and start planning. Now’s the time to finalize your song list, track order, transitions, and how you’re going to mix them together. Be brutal, you might have to end up cutting one of your beloved songs from the mix if it doesn’t fit with the progression of your mixtape. Because you don’t want an hour’s worth of “warm-up” songs, just as you don’t want an hour full of club anthems that never show any balance.
Traditionally, Dance DJ’s tend to resort to beatmatching, Hip Hop DJ’s resort to hard cuts and Radio DJs tend to simply fade out. While it is possible to make a top-notch mixtape that relies solely on beatmatching transitions; using a combination of mixing techniques and transitions can help you blend certain tracks together that may not have otherwise fit. Especially if your mixtape consists of a mixed-bag, genre-wise. However, there are times when the seamless beat matching technique is going to give you the best result throughout the mix. Particularly if you’re solely playing a single genre.
Mix in Key
When recording your mixtape, you might find that some tracks simply don’t work well together. They might be the same genre, and the same BPM, but for some reason, they just don’t fit. While some DJs possess the innate ability to know exactly which tracks will complement one another; others may find it tirelessly frustrating. More often than not, in situations like this, it all boils down to the key of the track.
Transitioning from one song into another using a very different key is something that will often be picked up on, even to the untrained ear. Your listener will often sense the disharmony and feel that something about it is off, which could resort to them turning off your mixtape.
So, unless your goal is to create discord among your tracks – which can definitely work in certain artistic approaches. Mixing in key is sure to improve the musicality of your set, and ensure your tracks blend seamlessly together.
Looping, Filters, EQ & Effects
The use of Looping, Filters, EQ, and other effects all comes down to personal preference. Some DJs utilize the aforementioned tools as much as possible to bend the mix to their liking. Whereas some DJs opt to avoid using them altogether. At the end of the day, its important to develop your own unique style when it comes to effects. So whether its heavy fader popping, EQing, or quick overlays; find what works for you, and use your own unique manipulation and mixing techniques in order to separate yourself from other DJs.
Get Your Levels Right
When you’re at a club and you’re DJing live, you can totally get away with disregarding the levels in your mix. People are either too drunk to notice, or they just don’t care. But when you’re putting together a mixtape, its a completely different conversation. If your listeners are listening through a low volume set of headphones, they’ll quickly notice when those tracks are too quiet. Or worse yet, if they’re listening at an already loud volume; no one wants to blow their eardrums when the next song that comes on is twice as loud.
So, once you’ve recorded your DJ Set for your mixtape. Take the time to open it up in your favourite audio editing software or DAW, carefully listen to your mix over again, and monitor your levels. Take notes and then make any volume and EQ adjustments you might need so your mixtape is sonically enjoyable.
There you have it! Hopefully, the previous 10 tips have helped you plan and record a mixtape that’s going to set you apart from the crowd. But how can you use your new-found mixtape to get you hired?
Mixtape Name and Artwork
Something as irrelevant to the way your mix sounds and all the planning and thought you’ve put into it; but almost just as important in getting your mixtape heard, is how you name your mixtape and the artwork you attach to it. With the ability to make all the difference in whether someone presses play on your latest release or not. If your artwork doesn’t attract the attention of the listener, they could easily find themselves skipping over what could have been the mixtape that gets you hired.
So choose a catchy name that represents the mood and style of your mixtape, as well as you as a DJ. Then, design an intriguing piece of artwork to accompany it. Whether it’s made up of an eye-catching image or a carefully crafted design, It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. But neglecting it can definitely be detrimental to your mixtape. You should also make sure you include your DJ logo on each mix, so your listeners can quickly identify your brand and the creator of the mixtape.
By now, you will have recorded your mix, chosen your name, and created your artwork. Now, you have to decide how you’re going to distribute your mixtape.
In 2021, the way we listen to music is purely digital. Your standard laptop or computer doesn’t even have a disc drive to play CDs. So it’s safe to say that burning your mixtapes to a CD is a thing of the past. However, choosing to go the CD route can definitely set you apart from the rest. With so few DJs burning mixtapes to CDs, it wouldn’t surprise if your mixtape CD ending up playing in the car ride home from the club.
That being said, online media sharing and streaming sites are where it’s at. Uploading your mixtape to several different online platforms only gives your mixtape more chances to be heard. So if you haven’t already, set up an account on MixCloud, SoundCloud, and YouTube. These are all popular and great places to get started.
And if you’ve got connections with club promoters and potential clients; it’s never been easier to get your mixtape in front of the right people. And likewise, it’s never been easier for them to listen to it within seconds through a simple click of a button.
Another form of distribution that has enormous potential in getting your mixtape heard, and potentially hired is podcasts.
Podcasts are most commonly a platform for conversation and interviews. However, a growing number of DJs are also taking to podcasting in the form of mixtapes and mix shows. Offering a way to showcase your talents as a DJ while giving your listeners a variety of music to listen to. In turn, also creating a nice accessible portfolio to help land you more gigs, while increasing your followers at the same time.
So, you’re going to be making regular mixtapes if you’re looking to gain your following and get hired. Why not make it into a podcast series?
Turning your Mixtape into a Podcast series
The good thing about podcasts is that they all run off a single RSS feed. Which can then easily be distributed to a number of podcast platforms. Getting your mixtape podcast online requires you to obtain a separate online host for your podcast audio files. Ideally, this will be separate from that of your personal website host. As they’re generally not capable of withstanding the high demands thrown at them with podcast downloading and streaming. Podcasts hosts often give you an avenue for distribution and even monetization. One of the most popular podcast host solutions would have to be Libsyn,and coming in at only $5 (starting price) a month, it’s quite an affordable option. Plus it’s also the trusted platform for some of the most famous and popular podcasts such as The Joe Rogan Experience.
Once you’ve got your hosting plan set up and have uploaded your mixtape podcast episode, your podcast host will do the rest of the work for you. Uploading and distributing to all the most popular podcasting services such as Spotify, Stitcher and Podbean.
If you’re thinking about turning your mixtape into a podcast (Highly recommended), and are looking for some more information. Head over to our previous article dedicated entirely to podcasting. Covering everything including what podcasting is; why you should start a podcast; how to start a podcast; and how to grow your podcast into a success!
Anyone can upload their mixtape to Soundcloud and or Mixcloud, and just about everyone who creates a mixtape does. It’s easy and requires almost no effort. But there’s one thing that is commonly overlooked, and it’s no doubt the number one way to getting you hired as a DJ. The power of Networking.
It’s important not to stay closed off in your bedroom or studio when you’re trying to make it as a DJ. But that being said, you can often come across as an unwelcomed nuisance if you go around ambushing the promoters at the club. So a good place to start developing connections is via the power of social media. Once people know who you are, and respect you; they’re much more inclined to listen to what you have to say when you meet them in person.
But just like the club example above, you definitely don’t want to spam the hell out of your mixtape on Facebook and pray to the DJ gods that you’ll get something from it. This is counter-productive, and no one likes people that do this. The key to developing your network online is to join groups relative to your niche and continue to provide value. Adding to that, it goes without saying, there’s no point joining communities that target dark, underground techno beats if your specialty is Hip Hop, and so forth.
So chat, contribute, help out your fellow DJs, and above all, be yourself. These are the things that over time will provide you with valuable connections in the industry. And as a result; you’ll end up landing yourself more gigs as a DJ.
Taking it to the club
So, you’ve been networking online, you’ve now made some connections, and hopefully got a few of the right people to listen to your mixtape. Now you’re at the club. The key here is not to make a direct B line for the event organizer or club promoter. No one wants their night ruined by an annoying DJ who’s only there because he wants to get a gig. So be personable, make your number one goal simply to meet people and make connections. That’s going to be your best bet at establishing a network and allowing you to get your mixtape to the right people, and have them actually want to listen to it!
Finally, the most important tip of them all is to keep doing all of the above things! Making one mixtape isn’t going to establish you as a DJ that everybody wants to hire. But consistently putting out fresh content in the form of top-notch mixtapes and mix podcasts. Along with networking with the right people, will certainly go along way into getting you hired.
If you’re just getting into DJing and don’t yet have a DJ Controller to make a professional mixtape. Check out our post on the most popular DJ Controllers to take into 2021!