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The Secret to Being an EDM DJ: Advice for Newbies

The Secret to Being an EDM DJ: Advice for Newbies

I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been asked over the years, “What advice would you give a newbie who’s just starting out in the EDM DJ business?”

It’s a perfectly valid question, but no one ever wants to hear my answer. Especially these days …

When I started making electronic music over 20 years ago, it wasn’t “cool” by mainstream standards. In fact, the local music store in the town I lived in as a kid, which sold primarily guitars in those days, laughed at me for pursuing a career in electronic music. Fast forward two decades and now you can’t throw a rock without hitting a DJ or producer.

So, here we are in 2015, and EDM has become the most widely accepted genre of music on the planet. Why?

For starters, it’s relatively easy to make compared to, say, rock music, where you’d need a studio and at least three halfway talented musicians to make anything resembling a song.


 “The problem with the current state of affairs in the EDM world is that everyone is trying to copy everyone else.”


Secondly, it’s the path of least resistance. Most mainstream DJs have set the bar pretty low for what people accept as a “live performance” these days. This has resulted in a barrage of kids trying to follow in their footsteps—kids who aren’t looking for anything besides fame and glory.

The problem with the current state of affairs in the EDM world is that everyone is trying to copy everyone else. The system that’s been set in place rewards the copycats and discourages the pioneers who are trying to do something new and unusual.

Another problem is that the technology has gotten so good now that it’s made people lazier than ever. We have the greatest music tech that mankind has ever seen, and we use it to simply “get by.” It’s a colossal bummer.

Of course, this isn’t true of all DJs. Take DJ Craze for example. Here’s a guy who essentially manipulates turntables like musical instruments (it’s called turntablism), mixing, scratching, sampling—executing incredibly difficult tricks on the fly, which results in no two of his performances being alike.

So what do I say to newbies who want to DJ? I say, “What makes you unique?” (And no, sorry, throwing cake at people doesn’t count.)

Over the last 10 years, I’ve had to ask myself this very question several times over. It wasn’t an easy answer for me, either. Admittedly, after doing music for two decades, I’ve sort of distanced myself from making tunes for the dance floor and have gravitated towards electronic music that is formatted for a real live performance (keyboards, drums, vocals, etc.) But I’ve continued to make DJ mixes in my spare time because I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for EDM.


“Think long term instead of aiming for short-term success because pioneers last for decades and copycats come and go.”


I take more a thoughtful approach to my mixes. Instead of downloading the most popular tracks on Beatport, I try to find fairly unknown music that fits a premeditated theme, like a concept album.

For example, one of my latest mixes was called “The Last Mix You’ll Ever Need.” I created a custom intro, then took a bunch of songs I loved, mashed them up with other songs I loved, and then added samples from movies, speeches, and so on to try to convey something greater than what any of the songs by themselves ever could. The result was something I was very proud of:

The Last Mix You’ll Ever Need

If you like, you can download the Ableton session to see how I did it.

Another recent mix I did was called “Life Is Still Beautifuller, Still”—the third in a series called “Life Is Beautiful.” Again, I created a custom intro using the theme from “Gladiator” mashed up with a Deadmau5 track. Then I added a ton of samples I found on YouTube, as well as various movies.

Life Is Still Beautifuller, Still.

Look, no one ever said that being original was easy, and frankly, it’s a difficult time in the evolution of EDM to find a niche that no one has thought of yet. But with a little vision, drive, and creativity, I’m certain you can come up with something that will set you apart from the rest.

You’ve gotta ask yourself, why would you want to be a carbon copy of someone else? Wouldn’t it be so much more fulfilling to be known as a pioneer? Think long term instead of aiming for short-term success because pioneers last for decades and copycats come and go.

Here’s the thing, though. Being original takes time (and courage), so don’t be lazy and don’t give up!

Also, learn your tools inside and out!

And most importantly, don’t forget that music isn’t about doing what’s popular; it’s about doing what’s in your heart. (I believe they call that art.)

… and for God’s sake, people, leave the cake at home.

(Written by J. Scott G.)

The Secret to Being an EDM DJ

As creators and curators of forward-thinking sonic weaponry, surrounding ourselves with virtuosity on a daily basis is a must. Truthfully though, we find it even more thrilling to surround ourselves with phenomenal people — brilliant, courageous, funny, driven, compassionate and enlightened minds who are here to make the world a better place and evolve humankind forward.

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24 July 2015 Articles , , ,

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