A DJ is a DJ is A DJ…NOT!!!
Whenever I tell someone that I am a DJ they instantly think I am a radio DJ. I will then shake my head and proudly tell them no, I am a mobile DJ, at which point they instantly think this is some kind of second job and ask what I ‘really do’. In fact this reaction has happened so much that I sometimes wish there were different names for all of us DJs. Overall there are Radio DJs, Club DJs, Mobile DJs, DJs who play with bands, Global DJs, and of course bedroom DJs. It’s easy to get confused about the differences.
The one everyone knows about is the Radio DJ, i.e. that’s why they ask me if that’s what I am. The radio DJ really had its hey-day in the 50’s and 60’s when personalities ruled the air waves. People like Kasey Kasem and Wolfman Jack dominated in those times. Today we all have probably heard about Howard Stern, but technically he is a radio personality. Times have changed, and basically a few corporations now own all of the nations’ radio stations, so the radio DJs’ job has changed as well. He no longer picks the music, but does make some announcements here and there. A Radio DJ typically is a low paying job now-a-days and it is ultra competitive to reach the top few spots filled by people like Ryan Seacrest.
Next on our list we have the Club DJ.
If you are over 21 there is a good chance you have seen one in action. A club DJs’ job is to entertain the crowd through music and very few interactions. In the process he is making sure to build and kill the dance floor so that people will drink more and make the club owner money. Again there are very few people who can reach a top spot in this industry because just like in Minnesota there are only a few clubs that will employ top talent. Club DJs can make between $50-$150 a night.
DJ Tiesto, Calvin Harris, David Guetta, Deadmau5, Skrillex, Steve Aoki are all examples of Global DJs. The Global DJ role has changed the most in the last 5-8 years. Before, if you were a really great club jockey you moved to a large city and got noticed, then got to travel the world playing for crowds of 20,000 or more. The music they used to play was called House, or Techno. Now-a-days global DJs create their own music, called EDM, so good that they have famous singers looking for them to create beats for their songs. It is not unheard of to see crowds of 50,000 or more jamming to a global DJ who is mixing live. These guys and gals have stage shows that blow away just about every band on the planet and are currently the highest paid of us all.
If you have heard of Lincoln Park, Limp Bizkit or just about any urban group then you know they have a DJ in their band. Their job is to accent music or to bring a heavy beat to the music that their bands play. Typically you need to have some serious scratching skills to even be considered for a job like this, and your technical knowhow is pretty high. This is what I would call ‘niche’ DJing and most people who get this job didn’t start out DJing to be in a band - they were really good at house parties or clubs and were asked to join.
Before I move on to Mobile DJs let me just say there are millions of bedroom DJs across the planet. There is an entire industry of tools being sold to them. Although they don’t get paid, this is usually the first step to becoming a club or mobile DJ. A lot of times they are teenagers, thus they can’t work in clubs yet. This is where great DJs begin to hone their skills, and eventually become world class DJs.
Finally let me introduce you to what I do; mobile DJ. Mobile DJs are typically business owners who want to control what they do. A lot of times we have gotten out of the club DJing because you can’t make a living doing that but can here. We are salesman, promoters, advertisers, event planners, music masters, trouble shooters, comedians, counselors, entertainers, roadies, Master of Ceremonies, sound techs, and lighting riggers at a minimum. The most common misconception is that we only work when the speakers are on, but in reality a great mobile DJ may work between 25-40 hours just on one event. A mobile DJ is really a bit of all the other DJ types rolled into one. The best mobile DJs attend seminars and workshops geared to strengthening the many different areas of what we do, and yes these do exist as I went to 2 national conferences and one regional one just this year.
As you can see, when you say the word DJ it can mean many different things. So when you ask me again what I do, please don’t think this is just some side job and really be in awe of the many things I can do. I have been in this field for 25 years and I still love it, I couldn’t imagine being anything else.