Money is important, and, as a DJ, there are plenty of ways to earn a living. Whether your goal is to make a living and go full-time or generate a side income stream while having fun, you have opportunities.
The types and viability of the income streams available to DJs have changed and shifted over the years (mass adoption of the internet, streaming and decreased physical record sales, Telecommunications Act of 1996, etc.). If you're looking to make money as a DJ today, you've come to the right place.
Though it's not easy, DJs can make a good living with their craft if they understand how to leverage their skills in the marketplace, manage their finances, and comprehend how their top income streams work.
Note that in this article, we'll be discussing DJs, not electronic music producers. The two are often confused. DJs (disk jockeys) play recorded music (from other artists) for an audience. Electronic music producers play their own music live, which often requires aspects of DJing in their performances.
Part of what makes DJing a tough career path is that you won't own any intellectual property (unless you also write your own music). Therefore, you can't rely on back-end royalties as musicians do.
We're going to do things a bit differently in this article from the other “make money as a DJ” articles online. I'll share a variety of methods to make money for each potential income stream and offer resources for each. The lines between certain income streams may become blurry, though I'll do my best to stay on topic.
With that written, let's get to the income streams:
The top 8 ways to make money as a DJ are:
- Live gigs
- DJ lessons
- Rent out DJ gear
- Get sponsored
- Affiliate marketing
- Sell merchandise
- Radio work
1. Live Gigs
Because DJs generally play other artists' music (primarily or exclusively), there are generally no back-end royalties to be had. The bulk of their performing income, then, is from active performances (playing live to an audience).
This could mean finding jobs at bars, nightclubs, restaurants, weddings, and maybe even your own concert in the park. Gigs are probably the most desired jobs that a DJ can have, but it sometimes takes a while before gigs provide you with a reliable source of income.
A gig could be a residency at a club, where you perform on a regular basis. You can strike a deal with multiple establishments to fill out your days and weeks with reliable, repeatable gigs. Note that residencies of this sort will generally have house equipment (including a PA system and DJ decks) for you to use.
Another gig worth considering is that of a “mobile DJ”. This involves owning your own gear (often including a PA system) and taking it with you wherever you perform. Think of weddings, house parties and corporate events for this style of DJ gig. These jobs can be among the highest paying.
Start advertising sooner than later so people can find you and start hiring you. It takes time, patience, and hard work to become a successful DJ.
2. DJ Lessons
Many people want to be DJs, but they don't know how to use the equipment or where to start. You can help them by teaching them how to become a DJ. As you teach DJ lessons, you can make a lot of money and support your DJ career.
This is where having a website and a social media presence will come in handy. Along with showcasing your skills and experience, you can offer lessons on your site!
Make sure you list everything you can teach, what you charge per lesson, and how much experience you have as a DJ. Put this in an easy-to-see place on your website to get a lot of traction.
Consider how you want to teach DJ lessons before you publish the information on your website or social media. You can give people DJ lessons online, in person, or publish a series of instructive videos. Be flexible and provide multiple ways to be taught if you want to make a lot of money teaching others how to DJ.
3. Rent Out DJ Gear
Renting out your gear might be just what you need to make some extra cash as a DJ. If you have the equipment that others need and aren't going to be using it when they need it, consider renting it out for a fee.
You could even charge extra for delivery, setup and teardown if you have larger setups that require the additional work to transport and connect.
An ideal time to do this is when you might be taking a “break” from the world of DJing for a little while or when business is slow. You can go onto your website and advertise some DJ gear available to rent and see what happens. You might be surprised at how many people will be interested.
However, when you rent your gear to someone, you need to make clear the ground rules. Sure, they're paying you for this, but you need to make it completely understood that you want your gear back in top-notch condition.
Most people will take good care of your stuff, but not everyone will. Ensure all renters sign a clear contract and understand that they need to return it quickly in the condition they received it.
4. Get Sponsored
Network and collaborate your way into a sponsorship deal.
Who do you ask to sponsor you? It's your choice, but try starting with some small or local DJ shops/stores and see if you can get anywhere with them.
Companies may not sponsor you financially, so you may not start making money directly from the sponsorship. However, a non-financial sponsorship isn't a bad thing.
For example, it could mean getting your favourite gear for free, which in turn shows your fans how great the sponsor's brand of equipment is.
At the very least, you will start getting some good publicity. Plus, if you're polite and work well with others, you may find that more and more people might be willing to sponsor you. Start establishing good connections, and you won't regret a thing!
If they end up sponsoring you financially, the deal will likely be to create advertising for their brand/store name. This could mean making flyers for your next event and including their name on them, making t-shirts with their logo, adding their branding to set either through visual or audio, or anything else you can mutually agree upon.
5. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is another way to make money by effectively promoting someone else's products and services.
The affiliate marketing opportunities are plentiful for DJs. Let's consider a few options.
Become an affiliate with an online store for DJ equipment.
For example, I'm an affiliate with Sweetwater, which has a great selection of DJ equipment (this is an affiliate link).
Use a website or YouTube to review your favourite gear. Add affiliate links and earn a commission every time your subscribers purchase the equipment you suggest.
Become an affiliate with an online course for DJs if you haven't created your own course through your own teaching endeavours. This can be as simple as signing up for a MOOC (Massive Online Open Courses) affiliate program and promoting courses from your peers.
For example, I'm affiliated with Udemy, which has superb DJ courses available (this is an affiliate link, too).
Additionally, if you source music from a variety of online platforms, check to see if they have affiliate programs as well.
If you have an audience, you can make money with affiliate marketing!
6. Sell Merchandise
Merchandise is one of the ways that many entertainers (not just DJs) make money nowadays. You'll need to have a fan base to be successful in this area, but if you're creating cool merch, nobody is going to hesitate to buy it or at least check it out and see what you're all about.
Now, you might be wondering where exactly you need to start. There is a lot you can work with under the merch umbrella, but you don't want to try producing one of everything. Some of the easiest and relatively cheapest pieces of merch to produce are sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats.
As your merch continues to sell, you might add to the number of products you sell to fans.
7. Radio Work
This method of making money as a disk jockey has been around for a while.
Work your way into a gig on commercial radio, campus radio or start your own online station.
If you can get yourself a spot on commercial radio, you'll likely be paid per hour, per show, or by some other unit-based metric.
If you opt to start your own station, you'll be looking to secure sponsors for the show and/or sell ad space between songs.
Streaming is a numbers game. The amount of people using streaming services has increased dramatically in recent years and will continue to increase.
This income stream is worth mentioning, even when many artists struggle to make money because of how little they pay artists, let alone DJs who play other artists' songs.
Note again that you won't be making money from royalties as a DJ playing other artists' material. In fact, many platforms (like YouTube) will “demonetize” any stream that features copyrighted content from other creators.
Mixcloud is highly recommended by DJs. You can upload streams easily, and you won't have to worry about copyright laws or anything law-related because the platform will take care of most of that for you.
While it might take a while to get to the point where many people are listening to what you put on the streaming service, picking some sort of streaming platform for your mixes is a great way to get out there.
But even if you don't get the money from your streams, it can still be a worthwhile endeavour to put your mixes up on platforms like YouTube for the simple reason of exposure.
If you want to make good money as a DJ, it's critical that you think of yourself as a business. Businesses need traffic to be successful, and any extra awareness you can get in regard to your DJ skills will ultimately work in your favour.
For more info on copyright, check out My New Microphone's Beginner’s Guide To Music Copyright: Composition & Recording.
Related Ways To Make Money With DJ Skills
I wanted to give you 8 direct ways to make money as a DJ. In this section, I want to share a few additional income streams worth considering if you already have the skills as a DJ.
The first related way to make money with DJ skills is to produce music yourself.
To become a successful DJ, you must have a strong sense of how music works. If you can learn how to write and produce music, you'll have many more opportunities to monetize your skills.
Firstly, you'll own your intellectual property and can make royalty money every time you or someone else plays your copyrighted music.
Second of all, you'll open doors for new live gigs, composing for media, selling your music, additional streaming revenue, new collaborations with musicians, and much more.
Another skill you'll develop as a DJ is the curation of music. It's important that your sets flow together nicely and have a certain vibe about them.
Take these taste-making skills and apply them to curating playlists on online streaming services. You'd be surprised at the earning potential of simply grouping songs together for listeners!
If you've been DJing a while, you're likely aware of what it takes to put on a successful event. Take these skills and apply them to your own events and shows or offer your knowledge to other companies as a contracted promoter/event coordinator.
A Note On Networking
Building and developing a solid network could mean the difference between failure and success. This is why collaborations and working on finding sponsors can be great steps toward making money. The larger your clientele, the more people will start recognizing your name.
But how do you build that network/clientele?
Essentially, networking is all about creating good relationships. When you help people out and act as a very cooperative collaborator, people will want to form a good working relationship with you. Treat people well at gigs and events, and they will want to work with you again in the future.
Reconnecting and staying connected with past clients is a good idea too. If you perform well at the event they hired you at previously; they'll be much more likely to rehire you. Plus, they might even be willing to spread the word and recommend you to friends, family members, coworkers, and whomever else. You might even ask them to leave a review on your website so others can see that you're a reliable choice!
Collaborate with a singer, artist, or another DJ that is popular and has a large following on social media. If their fans like you, they will follow you on social media and potentially hire you for events.
Start small! Begin by supporting local businesses so you can gain their support and favour. Those who shop at those stores will see your poster and support of the business and want to support you. You can even start working with people you meet at events, such as wedding photographers and party coordinators. This is a great way to partner with people who are willing to support you and endorse what you do.
Build a website to advertise your skills, network and make money. You can showcase what you can do by adding photos and videos of previous gigs and events that you performed at. You can also sell merchandise, make special offers, and much more on the site. It's a fantastic way to spread the word about your career.
Allow fans and clients to contact you on your website via email, text, or social media. This will allow fans to feel connected to you and clients to schedule meetings and gigs easily.
If you list a way to contact you on your website, companies that want to sponsor you can easily contact you. However, companies will typically contact you on social media if they want to work with you.
More My New Microphone Articles On Monetization
- 52 Ways To Make Money In The Audio Industry
- Top 10 Ways To Make Money As A Voice Actor
- Top 11 Ways To Make Money As An EDM Producer
- Top 11 Ways To Make Money As A Record Label
- Top 11 Ways To Make Money As A Songwriter