Fancy Plans Presents: How to Be a DJ

July 16, 2009

Yes. Being a DJ is this fucking cool.

Still on a brief hiatus… originally posted February 28.

The phrase “Everyone wants to be a DJ.” has never been more true than it is now. But should everyone be a DJ? Should you? What about that guy? What about if he wore a cat-in-the-hat hat?

Ask yourself this question: “Are my musical tastes superior to everyone else’s?” If this answer is “yes,” than DJing is the career path for you.

While other how-tos may waste your valuable time with instructions on beat matching, practicing and other such non-essentials, Fancy Plans is here to get you into the action!

Let’s get started.


Room Two, aka the "Broom Closet"

Choose a Name
Don’t underestimate the value of a good name. You will need something short, catchy and original in order to stand out in a lineup of 20 other DJs on thousands of discarded flyers. Some DJs have taken on other personas or nicknames (DJ Tonka, DJ Hell, DJ Qualls, DJ Pro Tools) while other have had more success with a single name (Uberzone, Sasha, Dubfire, Trentemoeller, Ableton). Be creative. Misspellings are not only welcomed, they’re encouraged (Deckwrecka, Boys Noize, DJ Doc Rok, DJ Demonixx, teh Internet LOL).

Choose Your Genre
To put yourself ahead of the pack, pigeonhole yourself into as small a genre as possible. The harder it is to define what the hell it is you’re playing, the easier it will be to appear to be doing it correctly. Some suggestions are microhouse, fidget, minimal, techstep, happy hardcore.

With your new, incredibly obscure brand of music in place, you’ll be able to look down on those who seem irritated, bored or have left the gig completely. They just don’t “get it.” Those who do “get it” will plant themselves on the nearest wall/bassbin or hover in front of the DJ booth stroking their chins thoughtfully. Your local record store will also appreciate your genre choice as they will finally be able to start cleaning out the “Misc” bin.

Put Together Your Set
As you may have noticed, raves and other DJ gigs are not about spontaneity, “working the crowd,” or any other form of mutual enjoyment. Any gig you DJ at should be about you and your amazing, but obscure track selection. If your skills (can also be spelled with a “z” for more wackiness) and track selection are dialed in, your crowd should be unable to tell whether they heard one track or ten over the last hour.

Some do’s and dont’s for building your set:

DON’T Line up the hits
Although your crowd may have spent a lot of money on tickets, drugs and absurdly expensive bottled water in anticipation of a good time, don’t insult them by playing tracks they recognize and/or like. This may work for the Fatboy Slims, Paul Oakenfolds and Judge Juleses of the world, but you do not want to be sucked into their world of drugs, groupies and steady income.

Yes. They can be taught.

Yes. They can be taught.

DO Educate your crowd
As discussed earlier, your musical tastes are beyond reproach and you have finally been given the opportunity to show the world how much their record collections suck. Granted, a lot of your rare picks may go over their heads, but they will be better people by the time their cascade of jeers and water bottles has chased you from the decks (Fun fact: “decks” refers to the wood that generally composes the floor of the DJ booth, much like the “decks” on a boat! Better bring your sealegs LOL!)

Quick test: if they’re dancing, they’re not learning. If the dancefloor seems poised to erupt in an actual good time, hit the unappreciative Neandrathals with some Aphex Twin, Autechre or Labradford.

DO Be aware of your surroundings
As if the general hostility from the dancefloor area wasn’t enough to contend with you may have to fend off ill-informed clubbers who would like to request music, other DJs and their considerable disdain, and irate club owners who would like to express their irritation with your set having chased most of their money out the door.

DO Get paid in advance
This is crucial. Due to your unparalleled genius, you’ll only be invited back by the most masochistic of promoters.

We hope this primer gets you started on your path to stardom, local or otherwise. Future installments will cover other tangential information such as:

Choosing Your Medium – Vinyl, CD or Laptop? Battling the Purists.
Beatmatching – Not Worth the Effort?
DJ Lingo – Decks, Wheels of Steel and Beyond
Advanced DJ Lingo – Trainwreck, Punters and Beyond
Getting Gigs – Does Your Immediate Family Member/Significant Other Own a Club?
Unfortunate Haircuts – Your Ticket to Fame?
Club 69 Remixers Guide – Add a 4/4 in One Easy Step



  1. Hadn’t thought of being a DJ but it appears I may be a good fit. D.J. Ram has a nice ring to it and I could easily toss together an obscure yet specific post-punk bollywood industrial sound.

    I’ll look forward to future installments. If this actually counts as education, I may be able to get some grant funding. You okay signing some stuff if I need it?

  2. With this new stimulus package in place, they can’t help but hand you a grant, valid signature or not. I may be able to get ahold of some pork myself as a quote/enquote teacher.

  3. I’m ready to go! DJ StufNfunk…

    • …proud purveyor of trance, goa and his own particular idiom, riddlefunk.

  4. DJ PhunJelli

    • …master of electronica, dubstep and various esoterica. Note: PhunJelli’s set may also include a slideshow.

  5. ‘Riddlefunk’, that’s awesome.
    “It’s got a beat, but I’m too confused to dance.” Debbie Schultz
    “I wasn’t sure if it was music or not.”
    Carl Azmanhoff
    “It reminded me of construction work and antacids.”
    William “the Mouth” Sandberg

    • Good stuff!

      Reminds of a quote from “Great Pop Things” by Colin B. Morton and Chuck Death about Brian Eno, who they claimed was the forefather of “ambivalent music” which you were never sure whether you were listening to it or not.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: