DJs play recorded music for an audience, live at a venue or on the radio. They operate a wide range of technical equipment. They chat to the audience between tracks.
You could be:
choosing a programme (set) of music and chatting with the audience as you go along
using CD, vinyl or digital formats to play music live
using multimedia equipment such as headphones or laptops with relevant music software to play and edit music live
use different techniques like beat mixing, pitch control, scratching, cross fading, sampling and sequencing to give variety
developing your own set style of music.
There are three types of DJ:
You could be:
working at special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, parties or fundraising events
picking music to suit the audience and occasion
taking equipment to the venue before the function begins and setting it up
playing music all evening, coordinating the lighting to fit the music, entertaining the audience between tracks, making announcements and playing requests
dismantling and removing equipment at the end of the event.
You could be:
picking and playing a programme of music to suit regular listeners
co-ordinating studio output: personal microphone, music output, phone lines, travel, weather, jingles, adverts and news
making sure there is no dead air time by keeping up a steady, natural flow of chat, music or features
planning the programme in advance, arranging topics for interview and listener phone-ins
interviewing celebrities and the public on a wide range of issues
interacting with the audience by phone and using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook
ensuring a smooth handover between presenters, before and after the show.
You could be:
appearing regularly at a particular club
working out a set (programme) of music to suit the audience
planning the set for maximum variety and effect to create the right atmosphere
playing and mixing records, ensuring there is no gap in the music
adding extra music of your own, using for example, drum machines or synthesisers
creating your own mixes using short samples and working these into the set
co-ordinating the music with any lighting effects.
The figures below are only guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
At first some DJs do unpaid work to get experience. Most DJs are freelance and on average charge from around £150 to £600 a session. DJs with exceptional experience may charge from £600 to £800 a session. Well-known, named DJs can charge in excess of £800 and for those who achieve celebrity status (very few) earnings are far more. You would need to pay overheads out of your income, such as travel costs and equipment maintenance.
You usually have to buy your equipment out of your own money. If you receive bookings through an agent there will probably be a fee to pay.
Radio DJs work in small air-conditioned studios.
Club DJs work in crowded places which may be hot.
Mobile DJs work in various venues including halls, pubs and clients' homes. Again, the atmosphere is often crowded and hot.
Depending on the venue and type of event you may work indoors or outdoors.
In some cases, the noise level is very high and you should protect your ears.
Working hours can be long and irregular and you work mainly in the evenings, at night or at weekends.
Mobile and sometimes club DJs need their own equipment, music and transport.
To begin with earnings may be low or non-existent. You might work freelance, with possible gaps between income and may need a 'day job' to make ends meet.
You may have a regular slot as a radio or club DJ and as a mobile DJ some times of the year may be busier than others, for example weddings in summer and Christmas parties.
You do not need formal qualifications, but it helps to have some subjects at National 4 or 5, particularly in English, Maths, Music Technology or a computing or technological subject.
Technical training can be useful. There are full time NC (SCQF Level 6), HNC (SCQF Level 7), HND (SCQF Level 8) and degree courses (SCQF Level 9) in sound production, music technology or sound engineering.
Mobile DJs must have a driving licence and it is also useful for other DJs.
Mobile and club DJs mostly work in licensed premises, where you need to be 18 or over.
The entertainment industry is a highly competitive field. Most DJs work freelance.
Getting in depends mainly on personal contacts.
Relevant experience is important. You may find work experience placements by contacting student, community or hospital radio stations, BBC Recruitment or RadioCentre.
You should be able to provide prospective clients with a demo disc or digital file you have made yourself.
What Does it Take?
You should have:
a confident and extrovert personality, quick wit and ability to chat with strangers
technical know-how — not only aptitude with the mixing equipment, but also knowledge of the latest music software developments
knowledge of and a passion for a wide range of music, for example, rock, house, garage, dance, pop, jazz, or from particular periods such as the 90s
alternatively a specialised knowledge of one or more types of music
good co-ordination, timing and sense of humour to keep your audience interested
creativity and a sense of rhythm
the ability to work under pressure and think on your feet
business and promotional skills if you are self-employed.
You should be:
good at networking in order to get work
punctual and well-organised
enthusiastic, confident and full of stamina.
You may be able to study part time for qualifications in broadcasting or in music and audio technology.
You can do short courses in DJ skills and mixing.
You need to get as much experience as possible in order to build up a reputation and get better paid and more high profile work.
You can get useful experience by doing voluntary work on hospital or community radio. This may help you move on into longer or more lucrative contracts.
There may be opportunities for experienced DJs to work abroad.
The Creative and Cultural Skills website has a careers section called Creative Choices which covers careers information, jobs and opportunities in music.