A travel agent sells products and services (such as tickets to a resort) on behalf of a supplier. The tickets are bought by the agent for a discount, and then sold to the end customer.  The agent’s profit is the difference between the advertised price and the agent’s discounted price… in other words, commission.

But travel agencies were realized in a whole different era. These days, there are so many free alternatives to the traditional travel agent… one might wonder why they need one at all. How does a travel agent compete against convenient and free alternatives which serve the same basic purpose?

A similar thing has happened to DJs. A common question is, “How can I be paid as a DJ when so many people are willing to do it for free?”

1. Sell Something That’s Better Than Free

  • The idea: make your service as a DJ (or promoter, for that matter) something that’s worth paying for.
  • It’s unlikely that the problem is with your mixing or technical skill. Those problems are easy to spot, and you probably already know if it’s there.
  • The key is building true fans.
  • Even if you only have 10/20 hardcore supporters… they are your support network. LOVE them and connect with them.
  • Don’t beg them for support… give them incentive to support you on their own.

2. Get Serious About Your “Why”

  • Get honest with yourself. Clarify your personal philosophies on music, DJing, and your local scene. Then, find out the best ways that you can support your music and your scene while staying true to yourself.
  • Over time, people notice your passion and drive. This goes a long way, because it gives you a visceral connection with other passionate/driven people. Build a fan base of people down for that cause.
  • There’s nothing that will earn you true fans faster than connecting with someone on an emotional level.
  • Diluted scene? Look outside of the nightclub, too.

3. Add Value

  • In the digital era, none of us are just DJs. At least, not if we want to be noticed by anyone.
  • Common complaint: we have to be marketers, promoters, writers, PR experts, social media gurus, etc. This is the world we live in. Don’t lament this fact.For the first time, we are all actually in charge of our destiny.
  • Technology has allowed us to forge our own path.
    • We don’t have to wait for an opening in the market… we create our own market.  
    • We don’t need to hire a promotional team and hope they do a good job.
  • Every observable thing we do, adds (or detracts) from our personal brand.
  • Bonuses help you “cut through the noise”.
  • Value-add examples:
    • Free download vouchers to fans at your shows.
    • Playing a big show or exciting new venue? Plan a pre-game, and bring a bunch of “primed” and excited friends to the show.
    • Start a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, etc. which delivers relatable or interesting content to your fans. (Wink.)
    • Gift bags to the first 20 people in the door.
    • You need to build your audience, and you do that by giving to them. A lot.
  • When you’re doing nothing but asking all the time, people begin to ignore you. “Support my show!”, “Buy my new album!”, “Like my page!” It gets tiresome. Give first and give often. Then ask.

It’s easy to get jaded or frustrated, when “those darn kids” keep showing up in the booth with their laptops and 2 months of experience.  

But it’s important to remember that what they do has no bearing on what you do. Being shut down because of the “state of the scene” is an excuse to cop-out and give up. But, that’s not being fair to yourself and to the work you’ve put in thus far.

Viewing this as motivation, instead of defeat, would be a much more productive use of your time.