How to Get Started as a Professional DJ
If you want to be a professional DJ, you have to become a business person. Some venues require you to have public liability insurance, a licence to play copyrighted tracks, and an ABN before you even drop your first beat. Professional, portable equipment – a couple of powered speakers, DJ lights and a midi controller – also increase your chances of getting work as a DJ.
If you’re playing someone else’s music in public you need a licence to do so. The good news is that most venues already have a licence for bands and DJs to play copyrighted music. That’s why a cover band doesn’t get sued by AC/DC when it plays Highway to Hell. Legally, you need two types of licence, from PPCA and APRA. If the venue doesn’t have a licence, you can phone up to find out if you can get cover for that particular gig.
Australian Business Number (ABN)
This is how the taxman keeps track of all that money you’re earning. If you are working for yourself and aren’t employed by a DJ hire company, then venues will either want the details of your business (if you’ve set one up) or they’ll want your ABN. You apply for your free ABN on the tax department’s website. If you start earning enough to live on, speak to an accountant about how to structure your tax and what you can claim back in terms of travel, music and other expenses.
Get yourself some insurance
If something goes wrong with your equipment and it causes harm to a member of the public or to property, you could be liable to pay damages. Public liability insurance of up to $5 million can be a requirement by some venues before you can play.
Behave like a professional
Being a professional means you are consistent. It means that you turn up on time, sober, and with all your equipment in working order. It means that you perform for as long as you’re supposed to and that you perform music appropriate to the setting – there’s no point playing acid jazz at a 50th wedding anniversary. Your first gigs are the ones your reputation is built on. It’s hard to come back from a bad first impression. Also, decide how you are going to communicate and stick to that method. Don’t suddenly start using Facebook if you’ve previously used email – be consistent.
Tools of the trade
To make the right kind of impact, you need the right equipment. Check ahead, and if the venue doesn’t have its own PA, take your own. This should consist of an active speaker system, which is easy to rig and requires no separate power amp, a mixer and DJ lights.
You might also want to invest in a wireless speaker system, such as the Alto Professional Truesonic TS112W, which frees you from the tyranny of cables – and the people who trip over them!