I’m talking to become a mobile or wedding DJ and not the rock star playing in the big clubs. Is DJ-ing hard to learn and can anyone become a DJ? Let me answer that question what skills, dedication and talent are really needed.
Becoming a wedding DJ is not easy. It will take a lot of time and effort to master the art. Talent, multiple skills and some investments are required to become a successful wedding DJ:
- You need to be very passionate about music,
- you will need some talent for it,
- You will need to practice a lot and learn how to mix music,
- you will have to be confidant talking to people over the microphone,
- you need to make some serious investments in DJ equipment,
- you need to be able to sell yourself and run a business,
- you need to have all the paperwork in place like licenses, insurance…
But that’s just the small summery. There is a lot more detail to cover as there is a lot more to it than you realize. We’re not there yet, so stay seated.
What does it take to become a wedding DJ: A detailed overview
- Unconditional Love for Music… For All music!
- Sense of Rhythm
- Health of the DJ
- Age of the DJ
- A female DJ
- Nationality of the DJ
- Mixing skills
- Technical skills
- Prepare to make investments
- Speak to the crowd
- Shrink your ego
- Social skills
- Sales and Marketing skills
- The legal stuff and paperwork
- Practice! Practice! Practice!
- Say Goodbye to Your Social Life
- Willing to work hard
Let’s dive into the details…
Unconditional Love for Music… For All music!
Your unconditional love for music is requirement. No shocker here I hope. If you are not obsessed by music, there is no point in continuing. You have to breathe music.
I’m talking about all famous music genres people can dance to. If you are going to spin a wedding, you will have people from all ages and different music preferences. You will need to know about Disco, 60ties, 70ties, 8ties, rock ‘n roll, twist, romantic slow songs, hard rock…. and MUCH more!
If you only care about your own genre of music, like hip-hop, dance, techno or rap, forget about becoming a wedding DJ. I suggest you try to become a club DJ instead.
Because you need to know it all! You need to know the hits and period of a specific genre. If I tell you “Billie Jean – Michael Jackson”, you need to know that it is from the beginning of the 80ties. Chuck Berry? Late 50ties, early 60ties.
Why do you need to know this? Because you, my friend, need to become the expert in music.
On top of that, you will need to start learning what kind of people like what genre. This will only come over time with a lot of practice.
Sense of Rhythm
You need a good sense of rhythm. There is no way around it. You don’t have to be a musician (but it will definitely help) or a good dancer; but at least you do need to be able to clap your hands to the beat. If you can’t do that, it will be very difficult to mix music.
You need a basic understanding on time signatures, bars, upbeat, and how modern music is constructed. Again, this will help you a lot when you have to mix music. Understanding and hearing in what key a song is written, and if the song is in major or minor key, are big benefits.
Do you need to have talent to do become a DJ? Yes you do.
The most important skill for a wedding DJ is the choice of music. A successful DJ needs to evaluate what song to play and when. Of course, dependent on the people on the dance floor. I
If the DJ can’t mix, can’t talk in the microphone, is very awkward and his gear looks rusty, BUT he DOES PLAY THE CORRECT MUSIC that people want to hear and dance on, the overall idea about him will still be fine.
I think you agree that playing a hard core metal song is not going to work very well if all people on the dance floor are above 60. This one is pretty obvious. But trust me, it’s not always that clear and easy.
Do you need talent for this? Yes, in a way you do. You will need to learn it and in the beginning you will make a lot of mistakes, but you will get better at it.
You will have to sense when it is time to shift gear on the dance floor. Sometimes people want to be brought up and you have to bring in faster music, with more energy. But after a while, this genre is burned out and people want to go down, so maybe you want to switch the genre or even when the time is there, to a romantic slow song. A good wedding DJ well sense this. It is called dance floor management. It needs practice but you do need some sort of talent for it.
You also need talent to remember more than 5 song names and how to work with a computer. We’ll cover this later in the article.
How much talent you need? I think that practicing is way more important. Nobody is born with the skill how to DJ a wedding. If you put the work in, probably you will pull it off. But I have seen people who are just completely untalented. It shouldn’t scare you off, I think most people do have enough talent to become a wedding DJ if they work hard enough!
Health of the DJ
Do you need a good health? It sure will help! It means working long hours, especially during the night, so you better be ok with that.
It’s putting gear up and take it down. If you can’t stretch your arm above your head, it’s not going to work out very well.
If you are in a general good condition, I think it’s not an issue.
And even then, I have seen people in wheelchairs, completely rocking it! Just keep in mind you will need assistance is setting the gear up and this kind of things.
What about the age of the DJ?
Do you think you are too young or too old to become a wedding DJ? What is the ideal age for this, if any?
I wrote an article about what’s the perfect age for a wedding DJ. You can read it here.
A female DJ?
There are way more men working as DJ’s then women. I see absolutely no reason a woman cannot do an amazing job as well. There is really nothing more to say about this. There are some very skilled female DJs out there, but for sure we need a lot more of them!
Come on ladies, we’re counting on you!
I hope we can all agree we don’t need this kind of discussion. Of course, it doesn’t matter what nationality you have!
The only thing that is important is that the DJ needs to understand the culture of the people he is performing for. He will need to know what are the hits and what genres are the people dancing and partying on.
If you would put me to play music at a wedding at the North Pole, I’m pretty sure the Eskimo’s won’t find me a great DJ as I know nothing about what they want to hear and what the traditions are.
Other than that, if you are from Mars, but you know my culture and you know what I want to dance to, let’s do this.
Skills you need as a DJ
Another important item is learning how to mix. Basically the song you are bringing in, needs to have the same speed as the one that is playing, so a nice transition is made. Abrupt changes are annoying and will make sure people will leave the dance floor (conscious or unconscious).
I won’t go into detail how to mix. I could write a book about how to mix and how to learn and master it. Maybe one day I will do that.
For now, it’s important to realize it will take you a lot of practice to learn how to mix. Compare it with learning to play an instrument. Nobody was born with the skill to play the piano. Nobody is born with the skill to mix music.
If you practice a lot, in 6 months you will be able to mix 75% of all the music. The next 25% will take years to master.
But you need to learn it. There is nothing worse than a DJ that cannot mix! Without a smooth transition, you will change the songs with a hard cut. If there is no decent mix, people will stop dancing.
Nowadays there is lots of software on your DJ laptop that can auto-mix for you. Don’t do it! If you rely surely on software to mix, I can promise you that one day it will go horribly wrong.
Besides, what kind of DJ are you if you can’t mix!? There is a name for that: Microwave DJ! Please don’t become one of those.
You need to know how a sound system works and how everything is connected with each other. Speakers, mixer, media players, lightning, laptops… it all needs to work together with a lot of cables.
One button in the wrong place, or one cable not placed correctly and there is only silence. Is it rocket science? No, not really. But after all those years it still happens that during the soundcheck I only heard crickets…
I even followed a basic course in electricity. I wouldn’t be able to put electricity in my own house, but I am able to fix my gear and cables if something goes wrong.
Music is bought and managed on a laptop. Lots of DJs are even playing music from a computer. It has a lot of benefits:
- Digital music is much cheaper to buy
- You immediately can search and find the right song, no panic in browsing boxes of CDs.
- They cannot get broken, like CDs or vinyls
- It can be backed up easily
- It saves a lot of space and you don’t hurt your back in dragging the boxes around
But you will need a decent amount of computer skills. You don’t need to be an IT engineer or programmer, but you do need to know how to operate it and if something goes wrong, you need to be able to troubleshoot it.
Prepare to make investments
We are not talking about the time investments and effort it will take you. I’m talking about hard cash.
A wedding needs a lot of equipment. Speakers, amplifiers, mixers, media players, cables, lights… Because you need to bring it to the venue. Club DJ’s bring their laptop or even a few USB sticks. You will need to bring it all.
You can start small and buy the cheaper stuff or even second hand. But a $3000 to $5000 dollar investment doesn’t look too far off.
You can pay it off when you start working, but you’ll need it pretty much all upfront to start.
And of course you need transportation to actually bring the gear. A big car or small van will be required. They won’t come cheap.
If you can make the investment, becoming a wedding DJ can be for you.
Speak to the crowd
A wedding DJ will need to speak to the guests. All kind of stuff will need to be announced, You’ll need to communicate in a clear and professional way to the guests.
I don’t like to talk too much to the guests. Especially when people are already dancing I really don’t see any added value. It distracts people from dancing and that is the last thing we want. We are not a radio DJ!
But before that, we need to announce the wedding couple, the family, calling people to the tables, informing the guests there is still cheese in the other room, you name it… You do not want to come across as an idiot.
If public speech makes you nervous, you’ll have some work to do. There is no way around it for a wedding DJ.
Shrink your ego
This is an important topic where a lot of DJs, even professional ones, fail!
Listen carefully: the party is not about you! It’s about the wedding couple and the guests. You have to make sure the wedding party is amazing and the dance floor is packed the whole night. You need to be invisible and let the dance floor speak for each self. You are not David Guetta or any other hotshot DJ.
If this means playing music you really dislike, so be it. You are not playing music in your bedroom in front of your half-drunk friends. You need to play the music what people want to hear and what fills the dance floor.
Also, people won’t give too much about you. For sure, they are not going to adore you like a rock star. If you think you’ll have a bunch of admires in front of your DJ booth, think again.
A good wedding DJ is invisible. He’s there to make the party a success. That’s his job. All the rest doesn’t matter! So if you are in this for the fame, I suggest you may want to try football instead.
As a wedding DJ, you will be around people. Not only when you are playing music. Again, remember a wedding DJ is not some sort of hotshot on stage, similar to a rock singer. You will be approached constantly with all kind of questions and requests.
Also, you will need to sell your services. If people come to talk to you to request info and prices, you need to be at your best. If you are awkward, weird and smelly, changes are not that high they are going to book you. Nobody wants to hire an idiot to play music at their wedding.
Being social and engaging is crucial in the success to become a wedding DJ.
Sales and Marketing skills
No doubt you need social skills. But that’s not enough. Running a DJ business is no different from running any other business.
You need to sell yourself for the right price and put your services on the market. So you better know something about creating a website and how to promote yourself. People are not going to come and knock on your door to ask you to play at their wedding.
So a wedding DJ needs sales and marketing skills. He needs to know how to handle business phone calls, how to build attractive websites and how to communicate his story to the outside world.
Yes, you can outsource everything. You can let a marketing agency create your website, and a sales team to call around to get your booking. But I don’t have to tell you this will cost you a fortune. If you are serious of doing this, you have to learn to do those things yourself. It will pay off.
The Legal Stuff and paperwork
You will be self-employed. Either you are working full time as a DJ or you are doing this additionally on top of your day job. It doesn’t matter, you have to make sure the paper work is in.
Check what is needed to be self-employed in your country. If you are in the US, this is a good starting point:
Don’t forget about Insurance! I’m not only talking covering yourself, but also your guests. Ever thought about what would happen if a heavy speaker falls down on the head of a guest? Exactly… Check out your local insurance company or broker, I’m sure they will have stuff to cover this. Consulting a lawyer is probably a good idea. Also, get in contact with an accountant. Probably they won’t know anything about DJ-ing, but they know a lot about paperwork…
This stuff is not optional. To become a DJ you will need to make sure your paperwork is sorted.
Practice! Practice! Practice!
You will need to practice. Let me repeat: you will need to practice. Let me refine: You will need to practice a lot!
It is true about every skill you want to learn in life. You will need to practice. The only human who never practice everything, yet he is perfect in everything is James Bond! And he is not even real…
Before you start performing for people, making sure the dance floor is alive, you better be sure you are not going to screw it up with a bad mix or any other horrible mistake that will make you blush.
Screw-ups and mistakes will probably still happen in the beginning. It’s not fun, so you better practice is doesn’t happen too often!
You can become a DJ if you are willing to practice a lot!
Say Goodbye to Your Social Life!
Some people want to become a DJ, because they like to party. They like being around other people, dance and have fun.
Being a wedding DJ is not about that. Yes, you will be around people having fun, and yes, you will be on a party every weekend (taken you are successful). But you will be working instead of partying.
You see, you are not part of the party. Instead, you will have to make sure the party is happening and is enjoyable in the first place. Is this a good feeling? Yes, absolutely. But it is very different from actually partying with your friends.
You will literary don’t know anyone on the wedding party. Yes, on occasions people will come and talk to you and that’s great. But it doesn’t matter how social engaging you are, the majority of the time you will be by yourself behind your decks. Working of course. It can become pretty lonely.
Another thing: when are you partying with your friends? Saturday evening, correct? Guess when you will be working. It won’t take too long before your friends will ask you to come to a BBQ on a sunny Saturday evening, which you will have to cancel because you have to go and set your gear up.
You can become a wedding DJ if you don’t mind spending time with yourself. Even if you are around a few hundred people, who don’t care too much about you.
Willing to work hard!
To become a DJ or wedding DJ, you will need to work hard to get there. And if you are there, it is even more hard work!
I wrote a complete article about how much work it is to become a wedding DJ, you can read it here.
I hope I gave you a good overview what it takes to become a DJ.
You will have to agree it takes a lot of time, effort and even money to start and maintain a wedding DJ business. I don’t want to scare you away, I just want you to realize what it will take.
I want to end on a positive vibe, because it is also a hell of a time! If you really want this, go for it, because indeed it is amazing to be a wedding DJ!