Let me ask you a question…
Have you ever excitedly uploaded a DJ mix onto the web in an attempt to show off your mixing talents, only for it to completely bomb?
You get hardly any plays, no likes or reposts and you end up feeling like what’s the point!?
And what’s worse is it probably took you hours upon hours to record…
You know your mixing is good enough and you feel like you’re finally ready to step behind the decks at the club but your demo mixes aren’t giving you any traction.
You’re sick of having to start your mix over and over again …trying to get it perfect each time!
Then when you finally manage to record a take all the way through, you play it back and discover that the sound quality sucks…
…and it just doesn’t quite flow the way you’d imagined.
Well I know that I used to really struggle with recording my own DJ mixes and I know it held me back in my DJ career for a long time because I simply didn’t know what I was doing…
…even when I did finally manage to cobble together a mix. I knew it wasn’t the best I could do, it still had a couple of poor transitions and it had taken me hours-upon-hours to record!
I would listen to the mixes on professional compilation albums and wonder how they sounded so crisp and loud and perfectly mixed.
The worst thing was that I thought I knew it all when in reality all I was doing was pressing the record button and crossing my fingers…
And that meant that I didn’t have the single most important promotional tool for standing out, getting fans and securing DJ bookings…
A high quality DJ mix.
Think about it, DJ mixes are an integral part of any DJ’s success…
Your mix is not only the equivalent of your business card and the way that you present your craft to the world, it’s also going to be your core content in all of your marketing efforts…
What do you do on Facebook?
Post Your DJ Mixes!
What do you do on Twitter?
Post DJ Mixes!
What do you do on Soundcloud or Mixcloud?
You’ll probably be uploading your DJ mix right?
What about when a club promoter asks for a sample of your work… You need to send them your DJ Mix …it’s like a resume for DJ’s.
But why is it that some DJ’s record mixes that seem to blow-up instantly on social media and reel in paid DJ bookings which lead to a lucrative career behind the decks while the rest of us are stuck with a recording that falls on deaf ears with no likes, no plays and …no point?
I now know a thing or two about what makes a successful DJ Mix and I’m going to share my system with you now.
But before I do…
You should know that you don’t need a big social media following or a fancy DJ setup and expensive production studio to start seeing amazing results from your DJ Mixes.
You simply need to get started and you need to have a plan…
STEP 1: Eliminate Mistakes in your Recordings
Your DJ Mix should represent your live DJ set, but that doesn’t mean you should record it live in one sitting.
Let me explain…
Everyone and their auntie is a ‘DJ’ these days, and everyone wants to get gigs.
Long gone are the days of DJ’s visiting the record store to buy expensive vinyl records. Nowadays, every track is available online to any level of DJ with just a few clicks of a mouse.
So standing out is more important than ever!
Remember your DJ mix is your business card, it showcases your musical taste, technical skills and the ability to build an interesting set.
…and handing a club promoter a demo mix with the mistakes left-in is the equivalent of handing over a crumpled up, dirty, dog drooled business card which will inevitably just be thrown in the trash.
The business could be wonderful, but the first impression tells otherwise.
The same is true with your DJ Mix, if a promoter does sit down and listen to your mix he want’s to hear a fully beat-matched, professional finish with perfected transitions.
But mistakes can happen to the best of us all the time! So what do you do?
Well, you DO NOT need to stop and start your recording at the beginning again and again every time you make a mistake!
This is known as recording your mix ‘live’ from your decks, from the beginning to end and is traditionally what most bedroom DJ’s will do because the don’t know any better.
But this method is the hardest because even the smallest hiccup in one of the transitions means that you’ll have to start over…
…again and again and again until you get it right!
This takes hours and hours of your time and it’s easy to become disheartened and end up thinking you’ll try again tomorrow, but you never do!
So instead of wasting all that time with little to show for it, you start recording your mix and if the inevitable happens and you’re not happy with your mixing on a transition because:
Your beat-matching was out of time.
Or the bass dropped in too quickly on your incoming track.
Or maybe someone just came into the room and started talking to you so you had to pull down the fader to hear them…
If any of these situations occur you simply need to stop and rewind your track and then redo the mix WITHOUT stopping the recording.
Then, after you’ve finished the recording, you can use sound editing software to replace the bad mixes with the redone versions.
This is the same method we teach in our DJ Mix Blueprint course where every single mistake you could possibly make can be edited out after you have FINISHED recording your mix.
You can go in after the event and remove the bad sections whilst stitching together the good pieces of audio so no one will ever know you went wrong in the first place.
And it’s NOT CHEATING!
If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d be teaching DJ’s to record their mixes in perfected chunks and then stitch them together on a computer I’d say you were crazy!
…and I still agree that a beginner DJ should start with recording their mixes live, if only to perfect his skill. There’s nothing more pathetic than a newbie with a mixtape done in Ableton who can’t beat-match two tracks in a club.
But after spending time within the industry, I’ve come to learn that this is exactly how the pro’s do it!
Do you seriously think that those perfect mixes on compilation albums are recorded live in one sitting on the decks?
It’s naive to think it’s cheating, and if you want to stay on your purist djing high-horse, I’m afraid you’re going to get left behind!
As you get better at your craft, your time will be more valuable and you’ll feel less of a need to prove anything to anyone.
That’s why all the big professional DJs do their commercial mixes on a computer, and there’s nothing wrong with that: those guys know how to rock the party live and so should you!
NOTE: Want an exact breakdown of how to completely eliminate mistakes in your recordings? Watch our FREE training video for step-by-step instructions on what to do during the recording process.
STEP 2: Strive for Superior Sound Quality
The quality and style of your DJ mix is a reflection of you as a DJ.
Akin to receiving a technically poor mix filled with mistakes, another promoters pet-hate in a DJ Mix is poor quality of sound.
You simply can’t hand in a demo mix that sounds like it was recorded inside a tin can and expect the promoter to think you’re a professional.
In a former analogue world it used to be tough to get this right but these days with digital setups there is no excuse for a mix that sounds too quiet on a car stereo or way too loud and distorted on an iPod dock.
Yet a major concern for most bedroom DJ’s when recording a DJ mix is how to get the volume right.
…and that will all be down to your levels.
Now it will be natural for the audio volume to fluctuate throughout your DJ mix (DJ’s often do this intentionally to add dramatic or emotional effect) but generally a professional DJ mix for a compilation album or radio broadcast will maintain a consistent audio level.
The key is to record the whole mix at a low level allowing you to even out any inconsistencies or fluctuations in the editing process afterwards.
When it comes to audio, it’s always easier to add to the signal than it is to take away!
Think of it like a chef making a new recipe, the chef can add new ingredients to the pot easily to give the dish more depth and flavour but once he’s added more and more garlic or too much salt it becomes very hard to remove and that dish becomes pretty much spoiled.
It’s a fine balance and it’s the same with your DJ mix and your potential to ruin the recording.
When looking down at your mixer or over at your DJ software remember that your level meters are there for a reason and that red is BAD!
If you have red LEDs showing up anywhere while you’re DJing then you’re probably overdriving the system and you’re more than likely going to be experiencing both distortion and ‘clipping’.
Clipping is where the audio level coming out of the system is too much for it to handle and it literally cuts off the waveform, creating that horrible distortion sound that no one wants to hear!
It’s just like the chef analogy, if you put too much audio signal in, then you’re not going to be able to take it out!
Unlike the majority of techniques shown in The DJ Mix Blueprint course, you can’t fix clipping afterwards!
There are a few digital tricks to try and repair it but nothing really works.
Even DJ’s well versed in audio engineering can be caught in the middle of a mix when all of a sudden they look up and see red lights everywhere because it’s crept up on you and ruined the quality of your mix without you even realising!
The key to avoiding clipping and distortion in the recording process is to record the mix at a low level and then master it nice and loud at the end.
STEP 3: Make it Original
At a risk of confusing this blog post with an article about cooking, let’s go ahead and use another culinary analogy…
As any decent cook will tell you, no matter how much salt and pepper you add, you can’t make great food from poor ingredients.
And you can’t expect to get DJ bookings off the back of a DJ mix with the same old tunes everyone else has.
Your mix needs to show that you have a vision of how to progress a mix from start to finish.
Going the extra mile to get great material and then compiling it with your own creativity is key.
You don’t need all the best new tunes (and DO NOT just play the Beatport Top 10 in your genre).
Your mix should tell your story so you’re going to need the best blend of tracks for what you’re trying to say, and you need versions that will work in the mix…
The best way I’ve seen to guarantee a truly unique mix is to add in your own DJ Edits, this method bleeds originally and transforms the mix into something much bigger than the sum of its parts because you can be 100% confident that no-one else has the same content.
A DJ Edit is a version of an existing track that was created by YOU using the finished track only as your starting material.
Unlike remixing or creating mashups you are still only working with one track without adding extra parts that didn’t exist in the original and subsequently it’s pretty easy to do.
You can find out more about creating you own DJ Edits here.
Learn to re-edit and reimagine your sets. With tools like Traktor Remix Decks, Serato Flip and the increase of free DAWs (digital audio workstations) to chop-up and change your music, the possibilities for making your DJ mixes stand out are more accessible than ever before…
STEP 4: Cater Your Mix
By now you might be asking yourself questions like:
“How long should my mix last?”
“How long should I play each track for?”
“Should I show off my technical skills or just keep it smooth and uncomplicated?”
Luckily, there’s only really one question you need to ask yourself that will in-turn answer all of the above for you…
“What is the purpose of this DJ Mix?”
Have a think!
Is this mix a demo to give to a club promoter to hopefully land you a new gig OR is it aimed at your fans to help get your name out there and build an audience on social media?
These two examples will both result in an entirely different planning process and by determining the purpose of your DJ Mix, you’ll start to be able to answer all of your initial questions.
For instance, a DJ Mix designed to give to a club promoter will likely need to highlight your technical ability behind the decks, it will probably be shorter in overall length in order to focus the listeners attention and it should presumably contain tracks that fit with that promoters own brand and music style.
Conversely, if you are recording a DJ Mix to share online and build a fanbase you may want to make a smoother, longer and more flowing mix so as not to annoy the listener with constantly chopping and changing tracks, you may want to play more new and undiscovered tracks that you’re audience hasn’t heard yet in order to brand yourself as a tastemaker and music mogul.
There could be a variety of reasons for your mix, just make sure you are clear in your own mind who your target audience is and who you are ultimately recording the mix for…
TIP: Make it the right length, 20 minutes is probably too short and not enough time to showcase your individuality and skill. However, longer than 80 minutes and you’ll put the listener off and encourage them to skip through without waiting to hear your mix transitions.
STEP 5: Brand your Mixes
“Your DJ Mix will be the core content in all of your marketing efforts.”
You might think that branding your DJ mixes is only necessary if your mix is aimed at your fans in a bid to help get your name out there and build an audience on social media…
But, like it or not, these days your online persona will ultimately determine your credibility as a DJ, no matter what the purpose of your DJ Mix is.
Even if you’ve specifically recorded your mix to give to a promoter to land you a new gig, if they like your efforts the first thing they are likely to do is look you up online.
Now we’ve all heard stories of the promoters who just look at Facebook likes when considering booking a DJ, but if you don’t have a solid catalog of a few mixes, and some form of online presence most club owners won’t even look twice at you!
For years Soundcloud has been the ‘go- to’ place for DJ’s and producers posting mixes online but it became a massive headache for copyright infringement so Soundcloud introduced a new content identification system that informs users of copyright violations and removes mixes.
Soundcloud can still be great for uploading re-edits, remixes and original productions however the bottomline is that you can no longer post a DJ mix and expect it to remain online.
There are countless platforms for posting mixes online but each can have their own pitfalls.
If you want to publish your sound without the possibility of being accused of stealing music then we recommend using Mixcloud.
No matter which service you use, it’s important to give your mixes very strong visual branding as well as an equally distinctive sonic brand.
A logo is central to your personal DJ brand as it’s the one thing that is guaranteed to appear on all of your promotional material from flyers to Facebook to DJ mix artwork.You’ll notice that the most successful Pro DJ’s have their own eye-catching and unique logos, yet the majority of smaller DJ’s still miss out on this opportunity to stand out.
Fortunately you don’t need to be a world class designer to have your own logo. Once you have an idea you can easily get your design made up online on a website like Fiverr.
Once you have a recognisable logo you can start to add it to the artwork on all of your mixes to create brand consistency across all of your networks.
If you really want your DJ mix to stand out to your fans and club promoters you need to have something to be remembered by and a great way to do this is by overlaying DJ drops or jingles in the mix.
Think about mixes by famous superstar DJ’s, the majority will have a professional sounding intro to each mix or podcast episode and then have DJ drops and jingles throughout…
And of course if you don’t want these saying your name you can give your mix series it’s own brand or create your own podcast or radio show.
Now you can of course add your own sound effects in during the mix either with samples or with a mic but you’ve already got lots to think about during the recording process so i suggest doing what the pro’s do and add it in afterwards.
You can record these yourself to add in later or have them professionally produced.
This kind of branding is very memorable and will undoubtedly make people start to associate you with the music you play, which is pretty much the best marketing a DJ can do!
How do I get started?
It starts with understanding that your DJ mix is the equivalent of your business card, it showcases your musical taste, technical skills and the ability to build an interesting set.
But it’s also your first opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and build credibility with your audience so you must strive for perfection with every element of the mix.
After that, it’s a matter of determining how you can use your DJ mix to make the biggest impact on your own DJ career.
Can you record perfect mixes with no mistakes that sound better than all the DJ’s in your area?
Should you stop worrying about trying to record your mixes ‘live’ and save yourself hours of headaches by following the same system that pro DJ’s use?
Could you make some subtle adjustments to your setup before recording to eliminate the risk of clipping and distortion?
Should you stop making mixes for the sake of it and start recording each one with a very specific purpose in mind?
Could you add professional artwork and branding to your DJ mixes for very little upfront cost?
Can you use DJ mixes to build a large online following and begin to stand out in your area and start securing those paid DJ gigs?