5 tips for a DJ career

 25 January 2013

Tommy Four Seven got his first club residency at the age of 17 and has worked his way up to launching his own record label. He shared five pieces of advice for succeeding as a DJ.

Tommy Four Seven has worked as a DJ, both producing his own music and playing in clubs. Photo: Ralf Obergfell
Tommy Four Seven has worked as a DJ, both producing his own music and playing in clubs. Photo: Ralf Obergfell

Starting out as a club DJ

"I'm Tommy Four Seven, a DJ and producer. I'm also a record label owner.

"I got into this when I began sending my music to various people in the industry. This included mixtapes to promoters, along with demos of my productions to record labels and DJs.

"I was given my first residency at a club night in West London at the age of 17. Soon after that, I got a weekly residency at a night in Vauxhall.

"Playing out this regularly gave me the opportunity to hone my skills, and helped to raise my profile around London."

Signing to a record label

"I got my first signing when I sent a demo to a French house music label called Brique Rouge. They had world distribution, so in terms of who could access my music, this gave me a global audience.

"My first DJ booking agent came from Sedition DJs. I signed up with them at 18, and again it opened up more opportunities to play around the UK and raise my profile.

"The music industry is a business. Your branding is important."

"I put out further releases on Brique Rouge and other labels, and soon I was getting invitations to play overseas – Amsterdam, Lithuania and Tahiti."

Building business skills

"Personally, I am very ambitious. To be doing what I do now, and more, has been my goal since I was 15 years old.

"I eventually signed up for a BA (Hons) in Music Technology at the University of West London

"To help with your understanding of running your own record label, it's also useful to attend a few business courses."

"Rather than profit alone, I gain a lot of other things from running my label. For example, there's the added press. Doing some branding work makes it worthwhile, and I gain more of an income from the increase in DJ bookings that comes with promoting the label.

"Artists such as Richie Hawtin are an inspiration in terms of building a strong record label and a healthy DJ and production career.

5 tips for succeeding as a DJ

"If I could go back and do everything again, I think it would have helped me to understand a few things.

1. Create your own personal brand 

"The music industry is a business. Your branding is important.

"If I could go back and do this again, I would have taken more care to build a stronger brand and sound around my Tommy Four Seven guise. 

"This would have meant being 100 per cent certain about the music I was sending out. I'd only be looking to sign to labels which fully represented what the ‘Tommy Four Seven sound' was about."

2. Know your music scene 

"You need a real knowledge of the appropriate music scene you want to work in. Passion is key, and so is enthusiasm."

3. Learn about copyright

"An understanding of the issues you may encounter with copyright, publishing and licensing is really useful for DJing."

5. Be persistent

"I am very ambitious. What I do now has been my goal since I was 15 years old."

"If you email a promoter, be sure to follow up by attending his or her event. Afterwards, follow up again with another email."

5. Network as much as you can

"The music industry is a very small circle, and well-paid jobs are sparse. Many people are less willing to help others, so it's imperative for people seeking to work in the industry to get out there and network. Networking is vital."

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