Where did you first DJ? That’s something I always like to ask my fellow turntable musicians. And yes, we are musicians. Don’t even get me started on that. We might not create the music from scratch, but we do make music. If we were to simply play one track after another then perhaps I would not consider us musicians, but that’s not what we do. We run tracks into each other and play them on top of each other in a creative way. We change what is there. We make it better.
Anyway, back to the question I like to ask. The reason I like to ask it is because you get so many different answers. I love hearing where people started. First of all, it tells you something about the kind of person they are. If you know where they started and you know where they are now, which you obviously do, then you know a lot about who they are. You can imagine how they got from one point to the other. You can imagine what it must’ve taken to make that journey from their beginning to their present.
On top of that, hearing the DJ’s beginning is usually a source of amusement, too. Very few people started somewhere that doesn’t elicit a chuckle. Even if the gig wasn’t horrible, as so many of them are, it was usually at a horrible location. But, as I mentioned, most gigs in the beginning are not very good, and that makes for humorous stories.
And with that I have something to confess. I, DJ Tom, also have a first gig. It’s not really embarrassing, at least not to me, but it is kind of funny. As a teenager, I played the birthday party of a local kid. I was a trumpeter in my high school marching band and I spun the typical children’s tunes, mixing these cheesy songs into each other and adding some trumpet riffs I cam up with. I wasn’t very good, so my mixes were terrible, but the audience was under 10, so who cares. I do feel my mixes were pretty creative, but my spinning skills were just not there yet. Neither were my scratching skills, but I did a lot of scratching because I wanted to show off. In the end, the clown the parents had hired to entertain the kids was far more popular than I.
After that first gig, I actually played several more birthday parties. I did not make much money from that, but I gained valuable experience. My spinning was not good, so I needed these types of gigs. They were great. It didn’t matter if I screwed up, so I got free practice time in front of an audience, young as that audience may have been.
From there on, I moved on to weddings. Obviously, I could no longer screw up the way I did before, but by now my skills were such that I didn’t. Of course, I still made the occasional mistakes with my beat matching, but that’s not such a big deal at a wedding either. The tunes I was asked to spin were always pretty straightforward and the audience was very unsophisticated, so they really didn’t even notice it if I did screw up.
I had a good collection of popular wedding tunes and I brought them with me to every gig. If anyone had special requests, they usually just gave me the track, so it made finding music easy. It was a great way to practice, without having to put in much work. I did not have to work on new mixes all the time, making it easy to earn some money while still having a real job on the side.
Obviously, though, this is not the dream. No DJ wants to play weddings his whole life. And we definitely do not want to play children’s birthday parties. Eventually we want to get into clubs. So while I was playing the weddings, I started producing my own tracks on the side. Doing this is what finally got me my big break. A promoter noticed one of my tracks on Beatport and he hired me to play a club night he was promoting. I killed it that that night and got asked back and the rest is history. From then on the gigs just came flowing in and I quit my job soon after. I was a full-time DJ.
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