Getting People to Play Your DJ Mixtape
The most common question we get from DJ’s and producers has to do with getting people to play their demo in a sea of mixtapes.
In a time when everyone seems to be a DJ, there are so many mixtapes that many people don’t know where to begin. Most of the time, music fans don’t even have time to listen to mixes by famous DJ’s. And there isn’t a lot of incentive for them to play the tape of an unknown producer, although there is a small community of people out there who genuinely enjoy listening to an online radio program that features undiscovered artists. So what should you do?
When creating a DJ mix, it’s important to keep in mind that the two most important aspects are production and promotion.
I. Producing the Mixtape
A. Choose good content
No one wants to listen to a whack mixtape. Developing a musical style is one of the most important aspects of your identity as a musician, which in turn affects everything you make. Unless your plan is to appeal to as many teenage girls as possible then you will need to be original. We will go further into this under branding.
First of all, is your DJ name interesting, or do ten other people already have it? If your name is too ambiguous, as is the case for DJ’s that use a commonplace first and last name, then it will be difficult for people to search for you online. Music industry reps don’t have a lot of time to conduct research expeditions for every artist.
A fluid DJ set also contains a deeper message or journey through an abstract universe. Don’t just drop music without any rhyme or reason. Sequence each song in a way that flows together aesthetically and tells listeners a story.
Reruns are boring, so don’t use the same old basic beats that everyone uses. Playing unique music is a great way to draw interest to your mixtape. The audience will ask where you got it and soon will start to rely on you for those unground, B-side tracks that they won’t be able to find on their own. If you’re a music producer, try to remix or revamp some of your older songs when you include them in your mixtapes to keep it interesting and fresh.
B. On length and quality
Make sure your volume levels are right and your recording is on point. If your DJ mix contains poor quality audio, then most music professionals will stop listening to it after about 60 seconds. Generally a mixtape should be no longer than 60 to 80 minutes, or the length of time in a compact disc. Some experts recommend no more than 30 to 45 minutes.
Most DJ’s have an original drop they like to throw into their sets, so that others know who they are. That’s great, but if you say your name too many times, or the sample doesn’t match the style of the DJ set, then it can just get annoying. On the same token, a lack of DJ drops can take away from your identity and brand as a DJ.
C. Collaborate with someone
Collaborating with a high profile artist increases the likelihood that their fan base will listen to the mixtape. Play a back to back set with another DJ or produce a compilation for a rapper. (Rappers also need mixtapes.) Once their fans perceive you as an associated act, they’re more likely to pay attention to you in the future.
Don’t overdo it though; chances are if they’re pretty well known, there are a lot of other people hitting them up to collab. If you can’t work with somebody famous, it’s better to work with someone in your DJ crew that shares similar musical interests. Concentrate on producing a high quality mix that grabs the music industry’s attention. Your combined networks and fanbases will still get you more exposure than just doing something on your own.
D. Design interesting cover art
Think about it. How many times have you played a record you didn’t recognize purely for the sake of its awesome cover art? Other artists appreciate exceptional cover art and it makes them want to listen to the music behind it. Furthermore, the design should reflect your personal brand, as well as the theme of the DJ set.
You should definitely include your DJ name on the cover of the mixtape so that it’s instantly recognizable.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does anyone know that it dropped? Everything we mentioned is important, but it doesn’t matter if no one has access to your music. Once your mixtape is complete, you are ready to start promoting it.
II. Promoting the Mixtape
A. Have a marketing plan
Focus on your target demographic, their interests, and places where they might be. Each promotional campaign should appeal to those types of people. Working with companies that share your following is a great way to reach new listeners. For example, sometimes music producers will debut their mixtape on a high traffic website or magazine. You can also collaborate and cross promote with other artists and then include them in your strategy.
You don’t need to spam people online or over promote yourself in general. Adjust your expectations and be prepared to work hard for a long time. Success is a hard work.
B. Brand yourself
There are a lot of aspiring DJ’s, so something has to make you stand out from the crowd. Branding helps others to remember who you are because it give them something to associate you with, like a memory trick. Otherwise you’re just another person that works in a nightclub and then tweets about it — every day.
The DJ name is the brand name. Every brand needs a logo that they can tie in to everything they do to emblazon their moniker onto the music world. If you’re not particularly artistic, then consider commissioning a graphic artist online. It’s usually fairly easily and inexpensive. You can also hire a design firm, but this typically comes at a much heftier price tag.
Remember when we mentioned you have to be original earlier? Branding should be incorporated into the mixtape itself, in the form of DJ drops and other elements of your personal style. The type of samples or music you play will brand you as much as a logo does.
C. Website and social media
These days, an important part of branding yourself involves having a website and social media pages. Publishers, fans and potential customers are used to searching for everything online. If your name does not pop up on the first page in a Google search, it will seem unprofessional and little sketchy.
If you produce multimedia on your laptop, then you’re probably savvy enough to build a simple website on an interface such as WordPress. You basically only need a biography, contact information, and links to your social media. A lot of DJ’s also include their tour schedule, a page dedicated to their latest music or even a blog. To build a flashier and more impressive website, you may need to contact a web designer.
Decide which social media platforms your potential fans are more likely to use. Create a profile on those websites if you have not already. This helps with search engine optimization, and makes it easier to research you. Fill out the profile information completely and correctly so that readers have a better idea about your music. If you are too brief, it confuses people, but if your description is too long, it may seem pretentious.
Don’t neglect social interactions with your online community. Engage with your fans and encourage feedback. Participate in forums, comment on the latest news and like other artists’ stuff. Other producers will appreciate the support. Fans who feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves often turn into loyal followers.
D. Build a local fan base
You don’t just wake up one day and decide to be a DJ, then sign a deal with your favorite label on the basis of one mix. When you send your mixtape to various music companies, they will check to see if you are a practiced DJ with a local fan base. Obviously a professional DJ are able to meet a lot of people because they play so many sets. If you don’t build a native audience, then larger entities may perceive you as being naive or unprofessional.
Hit up local media outlets before all the big magazines and record companies. Independent music blogs located in your area, nearby college radio stations and cable television shows are great sources of press. You should also connect with other neighborhood DJ’s and artists and make sure they know about you. Eventually residents of the area will see you as a bonafide part of the local music scene, an impressive feat.
E. Send out mass emails
One way to get people to click on the link to your mixtape is by sending out messages to every single person in your contact list and even some media companies. However, as many people do not read every single email they receive about new music, some resort to sending private Facebook messages, or even text messaging.
Still it’s better to ask and hope for the best, than for no one to hear your tape at all. Keep in mind that we recommend doing this sparingly. Constant email blasts will eventually just cause people to get annoyed of you and disregard your emails and messages. Don’t be that guy.
F. Give people an incentive
If you want others to click play then consider giving them a good reason. Pay-with-a-tweet and free download campaigns are cool, but they only work if people actually want the MP3 in the first place. You could have a contest that encourages social interaction. Or release the tape on behalf of a charity group. Again, many people will click on something just because it has a famous person affiliated with it, or if the cover art is really interesting.
The best incentive you can give is to produce a fire mixtape that the public wants to hear over and over again. Once you get them to listen to it the first time of course.
If your mixtape doesn’t catch on, don’t despair. Even famous DJ’s have trouble getting their mixes played. Most of us don’t have time to really listen to an entire hour of music. It’s still a good demo and aficionados may revisit old mixes after you’ve gained a little more credibility.
BPM Supreme is a source for DJ and production culture delivering exclusive performances, interviews, behind the scenes, tutorials, and much more. Keep checking our BPM Supreme Blog to get the latest in DJ trends.