Do I need a DJ Agent?
Do I need a DJ Agency or Agent?
This question is often asked by our DJ students. The answer is not a simple yes or no so here is our guide to what DJ agencies and DJ agents are and if you should work with one as a new aspiring DJ.
What is a DJ agency?
A DJ agency is a company or individual who arranges DJ gigs on your behalf, so you can concentrate on DJing. They source DJ gigs for you and some agencies go one step further and organise all your travel plans and payment too.
DJ agencies make money by taking a percentage of your DJ gig income to cover their costs. The normal cut is about 30% but this can vary depending on the contract.
In most cases, a DJ agency is worth it, as long as they are good at finding gigs for you. It might cost you 30% of your DJ income but they should be able to negotiate higher DJ fees meaning you get the same or even more money. It's difficult for many DJs to talk money, so by having someone else do this for you it often means you get paid more.
There are various types of DJ agency for different types of DJs so first you need to learn what the differences are...
Mobile DJ agencies
Mobile DJ agencies like Epic DJs organise DJ gigs for all sorts of events including weddings, birthday parties, corporate events bars and clubs. They often advertise on the internet for gigs from the public and then assign a local DJ. These DJs are those who normally have their own equipment and lights, sometimes more for big events like weddings. The DJs for these gigs would be expected to play music the mixed crowd likes, often commercial music everyone would know.
DJs playing for these DJ agencies are not allowed to simply turn up and play the music they like, for example you wouldn't play techno at most weddings. Please note this blog is mainly about artist agencies and celebrity DJ agencies. If you are a mobile DJ you can disregard the rest of it. If you are a mobile DJ you can already approach a mobile DJ agent in your area. As long as you can be reliable at the job and have the music and skills they require they is nothing stopping you trying to get signed to a mobile agent.
To be signed to an artist agency is the main goal of most DJs who want to be known for their particular sound or genre. A Techno DJ would want to be signed to an agency that specifically caters for Techno DJs, and has contacts at the clubs, festivals and venues booking Techno acts. The same goes for any genre. However, when artists become famous they can often be signed to some of the major agencies like Paramount artists who specialise in headline acts of all genres.
Celebrity DJ agencies
Once a person becomes famous for any reason, perhaps they are a famous singer in a band, a reality TV star or a famous sports personality; they often enter the realm of the celebrity DJ. DJing a club appearances are a great stream of income of famous personalities and there are agencies that have been founded to support these acts. In order to join the agency you must simply be a famous person, often they are not trained DJs and come to schools like LSA for help.
Do you need a DJ agent?
No. DJs do not need to have an agent but sometimes it can make the process easier. DJs can organise their own bookings but this can sometimes mean they spend less time in the studio doing all the creative work they really want to do. A DJ agent can make your life a lot easier for you because it's like having your own personal tour manager. However, to get signed to a DJ agency you need to very well known or famous in your genre, scene of overall in society. An agency will not sign you unless they think they will earn a large commission on your many gigs. If you are a new DJ it's highly unlikely they will consider you.
The chicken and egg situation conundrum
The problem for many new DJs is how to get gigs without an agent, or how to get an agent to get the gigs for them. Which one comes first? I can tell you from first-hand experience that a DJ agent is not going to be interested in you unless you already have a steady stream of DJ gigs, they need to see you are in demand for paid work. Once you can display this you can approach one hope for a signing. Sometimes DJs employ the help of a friend or relative to be a quasi agent for them. Often having someone else approach promoters on your behalf gives a more professional appearance and makes the promoter take you more seriously. It's also easier to have someone else negotiate payment on your behalf. If you're on your own and need more advice on sourcing your own DJ gigs read this handy guide.
A word of warning, avoid the scams!
Unfortunately there are many scam agencies out there. Avoid paying monthly or paying up front to be on any roster that promises you DJ gigs. These are most likely a scam designed to con you out of money on the promise of DJ gigs that never materialise. Also avoid signing lengthly exclusivity contacts with anyone. If they tie you into a long contract and don't deliver the gigs you may need to completely re-brand or fight an expensive legal battle.
If you want to get DJ gigs coming to you, you must first make a name for yourself. Make yourself famous in your scene and the phone will start ringing. The main way for DJs to do this is to create charting music. You should set yourself apart from normal DJs and produce your own original work and become an artist in your own right. If your music becomes popular then venues, clubs and festivals will want you to DJ. If you want to kick start your DJ bookings enrol on our 1-2-1 Production Courses. Click here for more info.