With pretty much the entire planet still firmly in the grips of a COVID-19 lockdown, no one really knows when life might return to some sort of normality. One thing that is certain, is that bars, nightclubs and venues will most definitely be the last to re-open and return to full capacity like they were in the pre-coronavirus world. If you’re beginning to feel a bit like it’s Groundhog Day and struggling to find ways to stay motivated and productive during this time, we’ve put together a list of 7 tips that can help you make the most of this time while being a DJ.
1. Organise Your Library
Possibly the most time-consuming task depending on how big your library is, but probably one of the most beneficial things you can do. Whether your library is scattered over multiple USBs, external drives, or a mountain of folders across your computer, taking the time to properly organise your collection is guaranteed to make your gig preparation a lot smoother. Find a system of categorising and properly playlisting that works for you — whether it’s by genre, decade, feel, or any way you like.
The highly powerful, but often under-utilised MyTag function in Rekordbox is an excellent starting point for that can transform the way you think about playlisting and labelling your music. In this video from Resident Advisor, Avalon Emerson shows how she makes use of this functionality in her gigs.
When you’re in the process of organising your tracks, think about which ones you play often, and which ones haven’t been touched for a long time. Some people may want to ditch those unused files and free up space, while others might collect them into a playlist and have a go at throwing them into mixes. You never know, you might just uncover a hidden gem that brings a new lease of life to your sets!
2. Record A Mix (or Several)
Recording mixes can give you a variety of benefits. For people starting out, listening back to your mixes gives you a chance to critique your skills and think about what you can improve the next time you get on the decks. Remember: not every mix you record needs to be shared online. Getting in the habit of hitting ‘record’ when you practice and then subsequently listening back to those sessions will only help you grow as a DJ.
Aside from being a practice tool for beginners, mixes are also a great way of connecting with your fanbase at a time when gigs look set to be cancelled or postponed for the foreseeable future. Sharing a mix online regularly is a great opportunity to connect with others and gives listeners a little something to help them get through the lockdown. If you regularly share a mix, you could well be on your way to starting your own online radio show if you put your mind to it!
3. Overhaul Your Social Media Pages
Unless you have a full team behind you, chances are you’re in charge of maintaining your own social media. Take a full day to properly go through all of your pages and revamp them. Think about the wording of any descriptions, and make sure everything has a professional feel to it. By all means, take inspiration from your favourite artists and profiles you like, but remember to truly make them your own. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few pointers to get you started:
Update your profile pictures and cover photos
Update your bios
Share new mixes (and productions)
Create a feeling of unity across your different platforms
Share memorable moments/gigs
4. Network with DJs and Promoters
This is a point we picked up from our good friend from Pioneer DJ, Sam Shepherd, in our recent exclusive interview with him. Going out to clubs, gigging and being on the road is such a vital part of networking in this industry. Although lockdown has taken that opportunity away from us, there’s probably never been a better time to reach out to people in the industry, since it’s highly likely everyone will be stuck at home.
Show some genuine interest in building connections with promoters, especially smaller local ones. Reach out to artists that you might not have previously had the courage to, share mixes or your own tracks if you produce as well, and find ways to keep building your connections within the industry. As Sam said, you might only get a handful of replies for every dozen or so you send out — but people are in a far more likely position to reply and respond positively right now than at any other time. The same goes for anyone who reaches out to you. After all, we’re all in this together.
5. Get Into Producing
There will be many DJs reading this article who have always said they want to try producing, but just don’t have the time to, or who may be wary of investing in software that they’ll never properly get into. If this is you, there are a plethora of software manufacturers who are currently offering extended trials, free downloads or large discounts on a whole range of music-making applications. One example would be Ableton, who are giving a full 90 day trial of Live 10, which is more than enough time to get to grips with the very basics of music production.
If the thought of learning to make a full track is a daunting prospect, why not start out by getting comfortable making your own loops that you can include in your sets? This is a great starting point to help get to grips with the basics of production and provides yet another way that you can truly make your sets your own and stand out from the crowd.
You could build even further on this and learn how to make your own edits of the tracks you love to play out the most. This is a great tool that almost every DJ at the highest level employs, and there’s never been a better time to learn how to do it yourself. If you want a helping hand getting started, check out our Ableton Beginner's Course and Track Feedback pages.
6. Try Live Streaming
By far and away one of the hottest topics of the moment, we could go so in-depth with live streaming that it warrants its own blog post entirely. There are various platforms online that you can use to reach your audience, each with their pros and cons. Facebook and YouTube can present issues with copyright, while for Twitch this is more of a grey area at the moment. Mixcloud has launched a beta version of its own live streaming platform, but you’ll need a Pro subscription to be able to go live on the platform. Thankfully they’ve announced they are extending their trial period to 90 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic which should give anyone enough time to get to grips with the platform.
Regardless of which platform you choose, we recommend giving live streaming a try at least once if you haven’t already. It’s probably as close to being in an actual DJ booth playing out to a live audience as any of us will get any time soon. We’ll have a full blog on the site soon which covers streaming, but a few quick tips would be to focus on audio quality and have a nice clean setup on camera. Does anyone really want to see the dirty laundry pile on your bed when they’re watching you mix?
7. Practice new techniques
Whatever your format of choice is, there’s bound to be a new skill you can learn to throw into your mixing and breath new life into your sets. Have the confidence to go outside your comfort zone and challenge any perceptions you may have about whether or not certain techniques belong in any style! The possibilities really are endless these days, so here are a few recommendations to get you thinking:
Confident on vinyl but can’t scratch? Give it a try.
Using a controller, but never explored the creative possibilities of hot cues? Now’s the time to learn.
Never tried 3 or 4 deck mixing? If your setup allows, then get stuck into it.
Only ever mix using long blends? See if you can try incorporating shorter transitions into your mixing!
Usually stick to the same genre? Have a go at bringing different styles into your sets and find a way to really set yourself apart. Some scenarios obviously call for staying within boundaries, but a truly skilful DJ can find a way to work almost any style into any set.
The 7 points above are by no means the only things you can do with your time during lockdown. Some of you might try all of them, and some of you may only get around to trying one thing. Above all else, remember that this challenging time isn’t a productivity contest. No one really knows how long this is going to last for, and the most important thing is looking after ourselves and each other. The ideas above are just some suggestions for ways to keep yourself busy, but by no means does it make you any less of an artist if you don’t do any of them!
Are there any other tips that you’re incorporating into your lockdown routines? Hit us up on social media and let us know, and we might just share some of the best tips!