how to be a DJ

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The Independent Culture
One essential prerequisite to becoming a successful club DJ is playing dance music. If you are hoping to earn a decent living from this profession then you have little choice. Don't be too perturbed if you don't know anything about house music, there's a wide choice: garage, handbag, techno, ambient or industrial to name but a few. Your particular choice will shape your prospective career so it's essential that you choose the right kind.

Every serious DJ needs a set of decks, basically consisting of two turntables and a mixer. With this equipment a DJ mixes one record into another so that revellers hear a constant stream of music. When you play a record its beat, or rhythm, is set at a particular speed. Two different records will almost certainly have been produced at dissimilar speeds and by using customised turntables, with the capacity to alter (ie speed up or slow down) the pitch of a record, a skilled DJ can effectively take two distinct songs and blend them into one.

At first sight, the art of "mixing" may appear simple, but it can take years to master. More significantly, this skill defines a clear distinction between the two breeds of DJs currently in existence.

The first kind ply their trade at church discos or wedding receptions around the country and will play mainstream popular music for all occasions. This kind of DJ will not necessarily "mix" songs together and will play records, tapes or CDs purely to create a party atmosphere for all ages and musical tastes.

The other type of DJ will rarely compromise on the music they play; if you don't like their particular brand of music then tough luck. The prospective club DJ will also be a passionate member of the "keep vinyl alive" campaign as vinyl is an integral part of DJ culture owing to its "mixability". Tapes cannot be mixed and while CD mixers are in existence, the human element is practically made redundant by a computer. This movement dedicates its energies to bemoaning the constant rise in the price of vinyl records and the meteoric rise of the "evil" CD.

The equipment that you will need to buy can be very expensive. There exists a wide choice of turntables to choose from while a mixer is also essential. This can cost anything from pounds 100 for a basic four track, to pounds 1,000 for deluxe models that perform every function imaginable, bar making coffee. Retailers will naturally attempt to dupe you into spending more money than is necessary but your initial outlay should not exceed pounds 700.

Anyone considering a purchase should shop around for the best deals. Money can be saved by paying cash or through buying second-hand equipment, though an expert second opinion is always recommended.

Armed with the necessary equipment, all you have to do now is be discovered. Good contacts are useful in many professions but they are essential for an aspiring DJ. Student venues offer a good training ground by providing essential experience.

With new clubs opening all the time, another option is to bag a slot at the beginning of the night when few people have arrived. The pay for this kind of warm-up spot is virtually non-existent but it will gain you access to clubs and, more importantly, increase your contact base.

Scott is 21 and has been a DJ for three years. He has worked at clubs like the Wag, Cafe du Paris and Raw and sums up the attraction of being a DJ. "It gives you a chance to present your own music and to present your own personality," he explains. "It took me about two years to learn how to mix and I practise all the time, not for adulation but because I love the music... it's fun to get paid for doing what I enjoy."

At the moment, Scott earns around pounds 50 a night; if he makes it to the top he can command in excess of a pounds 1,000 a night and have the opportunity to earn bigger fees for record producing.