Asking if there are different types of DJ is a bit like asking if there are different types of doctors or different types of teachers. They all do what is essentially the same job but they do the job in a slightly different way.
Are there different types of DJ?
Absolutely, there are several ways in which we can group DJ’s into ‘types’. One possible way to segment DJ’s is by genre of music which is an interesting way to group DJ’s together. DJ’s can obviously play any kind of music that they choose. Whilst it might work to group them together it may not really mean much at all. Good DJ’s will obviously be able to play more than one genre of music depending on where they are playing and what the audience are expecting to hear. So this leaves us with DJ’s that can cross several genre segments and may not be specific enough to pinpoint a particular DJ down.
Venue is another way to segment the DJ market. DJ’s can play at festivals, clubs, weddings, parties and so on. A better way is to segment them by what they actually do and the skills they have.
What types of DJ are there?
Lets take a look at the types of DJ and skills they need in the music industry.
Paying someone else’s music is one thing but producing your own is a completely different ball game. These DJ’s not only play music but they also create their own or remix other tracks. Whilst club DJ’s are the top of the list, producers are on another level. DJ Tiesto is one of these and his track Adagio for Strings is one of my absolute favourites. I have it on vinyl too as its one of the first tracks I bought. Calvin Harris and David Guetta are two more examples of DJ/Music Producers. Both of them are very high earning DJ’s and the music production is a big part of that income.
This is probably the most romanticised type of DJ. Smoke machines, laser displays and 15,000 people dancing to every beat of the music you lay down. This is proper Ibiza style clubs with massive name DJ’s pulling in the crowds. This is my favourite type of DJ and exactly what I think of when I think about DJing. Two of my favourite DJ’s right now are Laid Back Luke and DJ Tiesto. These DJ’s tend to have massive followings and residency at one or more clubs. Lot’s of travelling but great nights out in many different locations.
This is an interesting type because it could be split into two more specific types. The first being the radio show host type DJ. They do lots of talking between tracks that they play and give people something else to tune in to. An example here would be Scott Mills or Greg James. The other type is more or less like a club DJ but playing to a massive audience over the radio rather than to a smaller crowd at a single event. Another example for this type of DJ would be Pete Tong.
Also known as party DJ’s are a vital part of the music scene. They are the equivalent to the small businesses of an economy. They go everywhere take their own equipment which they will setup, use and take down after the event has finished. Mobile DJ’s can perform at many different types of event like weddings, birthdays or corporate events. We all know the party doesn’t start until the DJ starts playing and these DJ’s are there to keep it going. They will take music requests and do shout outs to the audience and make sure that everyone will have a good time.
These are the technical specialists. They use loops and effects to make a completely original set that you will not get to hear again as every time can be different. They are the Kings and Queens of the equipment they use and often they will scratch which is a technique that can take years of practice to master. This is the type of DJ that enters competitions and performs tricks that will blow your mind.
For an excellent example of a turntable battle check out the below video. It’s under three mins long but shows just what you can do.
There are countless other examples of turntablists but the above was one that I had imprinted in my mind plus its Star Wars! Please forgive me if you are not a Star Wars fan but I think that is one of the most impressive examples of what can be done.
Even in the DJ focused part of the music industry you can see the different types of DJ that exist together and do the same job but in different ways with different skills. It is worth having in mind what type of DJ you want to become as the focus of your goal. There is quite a bit of overlap in the types mentioned which gives you enough space to forge your own path.
There is no reason why you can’t go from mobile DJ to club DJ over time as in the end it will come down to how you market yourself and the skills you possess. If you want to be a DJ/Producer then you are going to have to split your time between DJing and also composing/remixing. So make sure you have the time available for what you want to achieve.
To start with you might just need to accept any gig you can get in order to get some cash in to invest in your own equipment or in your learning new DJ skills. You might even want to take some of that gig money and put it into a marketing or PR course to help you build a following.
The larger your audience/following the bigger venues you can play and the more exciting you will look to a manager/promoter.