This may come across as a little bit of a biased blog, seeing I was a DJ before I was a music producer. But, what I have realised is that over my nine year period as a Melbourne-based DJ/Producer, I have had many people come to me to first see if their music they have made will work in nightclubs, so I believe this is a very important blog for any upcoming producer who wants to eventually get booked for DJ gigs.
Understanding what music works in a nightclub
When your’e a DJ, first you are chucked right into the deep end. You don't know what music is really going to work until you start playing more gigs and gaining experience from trial and error, learning how to read a crowd and learning how to turn off a crowd by playing other producers’ music.
The key to getting a crowd rocking is to play and study the types of tracks that get them rocking. This sounds simple, but many DJ’s just don’t do it. This is why many producers can be left guessing when it comes making a track that will make them dance versus make them leave. I am not saying to always make your music please your fans first, for you as a music producer have to always make music for yourself first, but if you want to be a DJ/producer and want to play live shows and play your own music to an audience, you have to keep them in mind and break down what makes them sing, dance have a good time.
This is all learned by being a DJ more so than just a passive listener, because you can feel, understand and read the crowd better from a DJ’s perspective, and learn so much in the process. We have to become almost like detectives and go out more to play and watch what exactly we can take home from watching other people play. This takes out most of the guesswork and uncertainty when producing music, because you will realise with confidence that what you can create will potentially work.
Gathering ideas from other DJ/producers’ music
We have to break down individual elements from our favourite artists, genres, and sub-genres to see how we can make them our own. If there is one book I can recommend for this it is called Steal Like An Artist, a must read for all artists, producers and entrepreneurs. As being a DJ first when you know what works, you take that back to the drawing board and use this music for inspiration, just as long as it’s what you love. As a DJ, you will always be on the lookout for new music and be subjected to listening to so much of it. Use the music that works as a guiding tool to find more music that both you and the crowd will love.
When you want to produce your own music, you will have an abundance of ideas and inspiration to generate and work from because it all works in a nightclub for the most part. The hard thing is to articulate those ideas from your head into your D.A.W, which takes years of hard work but at least you will have a deeper understanding of music and be kept up-to-date with what is current and at the forefront.
Understanding energy better and volume control
As a DJ, you have to know how to control the volume and energy throughout a mix and a set; so does the producer. Volumes and energies are a major factor to making music that works in a nightclub. Your productions have to build energy and tension, and then release it to create progression and movement, just like a DJ’s set should. If this is not achieved, people will walk out of the room or lose interest quick. Just like if they were to listen to your music that did not have that understanding and application of volume and energy control.
Now I think music producers can get a new appreciation of why being a DJ first can have many benefits, and excel your productions and make them work more in a nightclub.
It will make you a better artist all round
I have seen many very talented producers that just cannot connect with a crowd. This can happen by playing a producer’s set but playing hit after hit and not really taking the fans on a journey by building anticipation and controlling the energy throughout an entire set. In order to DJ in a nightclub and get residency, you have to hold a crowd by playing more of a balanced set.
Producers can get a little too impatient and just want to let it all out in one go, where as a more experienced DJ/producer knows how to create anticipation and release the bangers when the crowd is ready. So don't think you can't try to get some DJ gigs while producing your own music, it will help you to become a better all rounded artist.