Q&A: How to perform with confidence as a DJ

I received a great Q & A this week from one of my readers, asking me the following question:

“Mike, I have trouble engaging with the crowd when I DJ on stage through body movement/gesture, as sometimes I feel shy when on stage. How do I overcome this to be more confident as a DJ?”

 Since I used to have this problem as a DJ in Melbourne nightclubs, here was my answer:

Be authentic

The number one tip I can give DJs while performing onstage pertains to authenticity. If you cannot be yourself while you are on the decks, you will never be able to feel fulfilled and enjoy the entire set, which defeats the purpose of wanting to get booked for gigs and become a successful DJ. You have to be vulnerable on stage when performing, and that can intimidate a DJ.

The key to being authentic is to really say, “Stuff it. I will express who I am up on stage and showcase what I have to offer through me and my music, despite whether people like you or not.”

You have to go on and avoid putting yourself up on a pedestal while trying to be perfect for everyone. When you do that, you put too much pressure on yourself and will always struggle to enjoy your set and get into the zone, which is your own authentic self.

The overly self-conscious DJ

Take the focus off yourself. DJ’s can often be too self-conscious while up on stage. The same goes for a public speaker. Whenever you're the center of attention—and DJs always are—you will always be too worried about what other people think about you and how they are judging your performance. The funny thing is, a lot of the time they are not thinking entirely about you, and are instead off in their own world thinking about themselves and what others think of them. If not, they are looking at their iPhones whilst listening to you play.

Come to the realization that not all eyes are watching you in every moment of every second and minute. Loosen up, dance and sing to your own music, as if you are in your bedroom and no one is watching you. Once the crowd sees that you’re happy and enjoying yourself, they become more comfortable in the nightclub.

Always look up and engage

Always learn to look up, as bedroom DJs can have a tendency to keep heads down more often than not, it becomes a habit. Sometimes we can become overwhelmed with all of the technology in the nightclub, and we begin to worry we might do something wrong. Remember you’re not in the bedroom anymore. Shake the habit. You're performing a live set onstage and the people don’t want to be ignored. A confident DJ knows his worth and always has his head up, reading, smiling and having fun with the crowd.

How to move on stage

Moving your body and making gestures really depends on three things: the genre of music you play, how you choose to react to it and how the crowd reacts to it. You can always move or dance to your own music without the crowd’s permission but if you are playing a genre like progressive, you're not going to be jumping up and down like you're playing big room EDM. The point I am trying to make is that it is more about going where the music takes you and feeling it.

Find your zone and be comfortable in your own skin. Not every DJ has to jump up and down and wave their hands in the air because they see others do it. But what I will say is that the more you engage with your physiology, the more confident you become. Read what Physiology is here.

It is all about getting into a peak state in order to perform at your best, while moving to the music the way you interpret it, as well as the crowd, which bring me to the next step.

The crowd’s energy can bring confidence

The crowd is your best friend. If they are not moving it is hard to get into a peak state, and if you feel they are not enjoying it, you most likely won’t either.

The crowd vibes off you and the music, and the more they move, the more energy will be in the room. This will lead to boosts in your confidence. This will really help influence the way you choose your music and move your body, based on the reactions to the music.

It is all about ‘the feels,’ as people so often say, but it’s really all about being authentic and comfortable in your own skin, as experience will also bring confidence over time. The takeaway is to always engage your physiology in order to get into your peak state, as this will make a massive impact on how you feel and make decisions.