In today’s economy, many people are switching professions to follow their passions. They realize that making a living and finding fulfillment doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive—it’s possible to follow your dreams and put food on the table at the same time. If you have a passion for DJing and want to make it a full-time job, then look no further. This guide will explain the five steps to making your DJ hobby into a career.
Live performance is the most straightforward way to make money as a DJ. Weddings are the bread and butter for many DJs—these gigs often pay well and include multiple-hour sets. At the same time, weddings can require a longer setup time, so mobile DJs are better suited since they’re used to setting up and taking down equipment quickly. Along with that, corporate gigs tend to pay well, but like weddings can be more tedious when considering the logistics: transportation, setup, breakdown.
Many DJs specialize in performing at nightclubs and bars. For these gigs, you can expect less time setting up since many clubs have PAs you can hook up into. By saving time with the setup and packing up, it’s easier to perform more shows per week.
An often overlooked type of gig is house shows and private events. I know I perform my best when I feel in control of the environment, and playing at my own house or a friend’s house allows me to feel more in control. It can be more challenging to make money this way since opportunities may come around less often. But if you do get the chance to DJ an event like this, have a voluntary tip jar available for your audience and make a more memorable experience by setting the mood with lighting, décor, and other effects.
Produce Original Music
It might seem daunting to make real money through streaming royalties when realizing how much money you’re making per stream. Fractions of a penny per listen mean you have to garner tens of millions of streams to make a respectable salary. Still, a good marketing plan or backing by a label can pay off. The key is to produce music catered to a target demographic.
Another way to make money from your original music is by producing soundtracks. You might be thinking of feature motion pictures, but in this day and age, a lot of different video mediums use copyrighted music—from YouTube instructional videos to commercials to video games. The demand for unique music is greater than ever.
Sell Your Knowledge and Equipment
There’s quite a demand for people who know what they’re talking about, especially for DJs. If you want to sell your music knowledge, consider providing lessons at an hourly rate, making DIY YouTube videos, or writing blog posts.
If you’re opting to sell your knowledge online, you’ll need to monetize your videos or written tutorials. For YouTube, you’ll need to rely on streaming royalties.
For blog posts, you can monetize in a number of ways. One way is by becoming an Amazon affiliate. This means that in your blogs, you include links to specific Amazon products that you recommend—say you have a pair of headphones that have done wonders over the years. In your article, you include a link to the Amazon page for the product, and every time someone clicks the link and buys the product, you get a cut. This is a great opportunity to practice your salesmanship, but beyond that, you’re helping other DJs decide the best products to buy.
You can also make quick money by renting your equipment to other DJs. Maybe you have a beefy PA that other DJs covet. As they save up for that piece of equipment, it’s worth it to them to rent it in the meantime. Assuming they don’t ruin the PA, it’s also worth it to you.
As we all become more interconnected, it’s becoming more feasible to survive on fan funding. Platforms such as Kickstarter make it easier than ever for fans to donate directly to their favorite artists.
Once you have a decent fan base, you can direct followers to support you directly through platforms like Patreon. You can charge a membership fee for fans to access exclusive content or make it more voluntary. The choice is up to you. As the internet continues to connect people around the world, it’s easy to believe it will become more commonplace for artists to make a living through direct funding by fans.
Another way to make money is by selling merchandise to fans. Merchandise can be anything from t-shirts to CDs to posters to vinyl records. By creating limited-supply memorabilia, the scarcity makes the products worth it to fans.
With digital streaming, CDs seem to be on the way out. However, vinyl records are more popular than ever. Demand for vinyl records is significantly higher than our manufacturing capabilities.
Today there are unlimited possibilities for artists to sell products. One newer and more innovative way artists are making money is by selling non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These digital collectibles can take on many forms, including VIP tickets or original digital artwork. If you’re new to NFTs and what they’re all about, check out this article about NFTs and electronic music.
As you can see, it’s possible to make a living as a DJ though it requires hard work, dedication, and some patience. Some DJs are concerned that pursuing their passion full time will be too much tedious work and ultimately take away their drive for it, which is a fair point. It might seem like “selling out” to create a well-planned marketing strategy, but at the end of the day, many DJs want to pursue their passion versus keeping it as a hobby. And for most, the positives outweigh the negatives.
Matt Kolbe is a producer, audio engineer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer. He plays keys, writes songs, produces for the progressive psychedelic rock project Noodle, and his solo work spans genres of electronic, jazz, bedroom pop, and more.