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DJing Abroad: How To Book, What To Expect

DJing Abroad: How To Book, What To Expect
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(Hypebot) — Partying and dancing are popular pursuits the world over, making it possible for DJs to continue to pursue their careers abroad. Some things will change however, and here we look at how to prepare and what to expect.


Guest post from Trilltrax

For the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of living abroad in Beijing, China for both work and play. During that time I held two DJ residencies, both of which had their own set of challenges. DJing abroad removes the regional music you may play and places you higher up the social ladder. 

This input will hopefully give you an idea of how to prepare and land gigs abroad. 

Billboard Top 40 will not be the most sought out music. Contrary to popular belief, countries are not behind when it comes to popular music. With VPNs, travel companions and festivals, it is not hard to know what songs are rotating on the airwaves. 

With that said, be prepared to have some niche music for the varying audiences. Tourists come from all over the world. You can win popular points if you are able to cater to tourists, by playing a bit of their home countries music.

Latin music from different regions, Afrobeat, U.K. Hip-Hop, K-Pop and local music are just a few suggestions. Learn your crowd. Speak to them and figure out their taste in music. Curate their musical tastes as well as yours.

The goal is to be well rounded and find various songs that you and the crowd can enjoy together. If you go about cataloging a lot of music for a style you don’t like, then you’ll more than likely not enjoy the night. 

Study and build.

It is important to be versatile in the equipment provided. Know how to troubleshoot. You are in another country and their sound technician may not speak your native language.

Understand how other DJ’s play prior to you and seek their advice on any technical issues the gear may have. 

Pioneer CDJ’s and Technics 1200’s are a venue standard global. For smaller traveling gigs, DJ’s have had portable controllers. Club setups, however, do not. Bring your own adapters. Do not be negligent in assuming that they will provide everything.

Here are a few tech issues I have come across: 

  1. CDJ buttons/knobs non-responsive – Result: Having to turn the device on and off all night

  2. Turntable needle not touching the connector – Result: Having to constantly clean the internal connector and the needle for a solid connection

  3. Serato DJ crashing – Result: Having a pair of zip drives on standby to play on CDJs or have the sound tech pull up a house mix until computer resets

Networking is vital to getting gigs. If you are preparing to go, visit the company’s social media accounts and website. See what they’ve built already. Find patrons who visit there or DJ’s that play there and talk to them.

What makes the venue special? What style of music is preferred? 

The latter question can have two parts. Figure out what the booking manager or owner wants, but also find out what the customer wants. Sometimes patrons are tired of hearing the same thing each night, yet go because there aren’t many other options. 

As a foreign DJ, you have the advantage. Other foreigners will know promoters and what the best venues are to visit. Speak to them. Be humble and seek opportunities to play. In some cases, it may be as easy as asking, “Can I DJ here? I’m a DJ back in my native country” 

Be prepared.

Have your music edited and all your software backed up. Sometimes luck can happen where you may be called last minute. Even if you don’t have gigs lined up, still do your due diligence as a DJ or music curator. Organize and strip away unwanted material.

Visiting these venues beforehand is also a good idea. See the layout and the people. How are they reacting to certain songs? Where is the DJ setup? Are they MCing the event at all?

Show up early. This is a new field you will step into. Security may stop you, as they don’t know who you are. Transitioning from one DJ to the next may not happen as smooth as you would like. 

DJing abroad can be an exciting opportunity that challenges you as a DJ. Keep it simple and be humble. Have your business cards prepped as well as your EPK to deliver.

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