“Jesus is a DJ” – DJ JesÃºs Climent with a full professional DJ set. Photo Courtesy: Quim Gil
Have you ever considered pursuing a career in the limelight as a professional entertainer? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told toÂ DiversityJobs and is one of many interviews with individuals in the entertainment profession which, among others, include a Singer, a Circus Performer, and everything in between.
I am a mobile DJ, audio producer, engineer and hip-hop performer. I’ve owned my own entertainment business for three years, but I’ve toured as an artist for nearly six and produced for seven. If I were to describe myself in three words, I’d say tenacious, adaptive and passionate would be most appropriate. In an industry never short on talent, I think these traits are essential. Growing up as a rural white male, tenacity was an especially important trait needed, given my career choice. If you don’t fit the mold, sometimes the only choice you’ve got is to break it.
A Keen Ear Required
Throughout my career, my jobs and responsibilities have grown and evolved. Far from simply playing music, being a DJ requires a keen ear and an ability to piece together music in such a way that each song blends into the next, emotions flow naturally with the crowd and every surprise is a pleasant one. Playlists must be ordered and meticulously maintained, only to be scrapped half of the time in favor of something more appropriate. Fader cues must be hit, transitions perfectly timed, and three to six inputs juggled at any given time.
Before the show, the real work must be done. There is tons of equipment that must be set up and checked, for which I thankfully now have help, along with hours of planning and tweaking of details.
Once the Lights Come Onâ€¦
On the performance end, there are seemingly endless rehearsals, sound checks and walk-throughs to push through, not to mention travel, often the most brutal part of any show, before the fun can begin. Regardless of your dedication level, hours and hours of engine drones and desolate highways will make you question your career choice.
Once the lights come on, of course, the work ends. Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life, as they say.
Put Your Love of Music to Good Use
Overall, on a scale of one to ten, I would have to say my satisfaction is a legitimate ten. Although there are unquestionably some tough times, being able to entertain a crowd of people by following your passion more than eclipses any drawbacks to the job. My role as a DJ allows me to put my love of music to good use, providing the backdrop to hopefully allow everyone in attendance to have the time of their lives, but I live for performances.
Knowing that I’m able to share my thoughts and feelings with a crowd of like-minded people and make an emotional connection with them allows me to look forward to getting up every morning, and makes all the work that goes into those moments all the more meaningful and exciting.
â€œGruntsâ€ Starts Career with Grunts
Starting out in this business was hardly glamorous, and would surely turn many people away but I don’t think that I’d change a thing. I began as a member of the road crew, not-so-affectionately referred to as “grunts”, of a more established DJ service.
My status generally found me relegated to the most menial work available – from carrying hundred-pound speakers, to running wires to cleaning and sweeping up after an event. I had no way to perform unless I happened to find something on my own time, little access to equipment in order to gain experience, and no real concept of how to advance in the field. I knew, however, that I was on the right track.
My hardest-learned lesson is also probably my biggest break – perhaps the moment I can most credit for my success today. I had saved up enough money working as a “grunt” to buy my own basic set of equipment, and I’d rented a local venue to host my first real event. I worked feverishly, perfecting every last detail, promoting non-stop through every avenue I could manage and making sure that everything was in place. I’d anticipated a crowd of two hundred people – what I thought to be a fairly conservative estimate.
Only SIX people showed up. I was completely devastated and had never wanted so desperately to quit but I went on with the show. Afterwards, one of the few people who showed up and stayed for the whole event offered advice that has stuck with me to this day. An event is made in the preparation, not in the result. I’d worked as hard as I had ever worked in my life, poured every ounce of my passion into the preparation and into the show itself, and none of that had been invalidated simply because no one showed up.
Not only was this a hard earned lesson, it was probably the most valuable thing I’ve learned about the working world in general. Do your absolute best, follow your passion, and you’ve succeeded regardless of the result.
Murphyâ€™s Laws Wonâ€™t Put Me Off
Although I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for the world, there are certainly stressful times. Between juggling playlists and input devices, interacting with audiences, handling requests, managing lights and stage effects and everything else, Murphy’s Law is always right around the corner. It’s stressful, it’s hectic, and it can be exhausting, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.
And, since I work for myself, I’m able to control when and how often I work to a large extent. I’m also able to set my own prices so long as the client is willing to pay it. I generally charge between $200-400 per hour, depending on the event and services required, and while work is never guaranteed, I’m often able to choose when I’d like to work.
There is no formal education required in this field but there are several necessary skills needed. A passion for music and a love of people is a must, as is a flare for entertainment. Strong leadership and organizational skills are also critical to success, as is a commitment to preparation and planning.
If a friend of mine were considering this career path, I would encourage them only if they were truly passionate. It’s not always easy to stand in front of several hundred or more people and deliver an entertaining, emotional show, and it’s even harder to push through the massive amount of work and preparation that goes into making the show possible. If you’re going to choose this path, you’d better have the passion to carry you through the rough spots.
Vanessa Price works for LatPro.com and JustJobs.com and is one of their content specialists. The article above would help someone considering a career as a Professional DJ and also with the pros and cons related to that job.