Can Anyone Really Do It? What EDM Agents Look For When Signing A DJ

by Ashley Segerman

So you want to be a DJ? Join the club. In today’s world, most young people are no longer striving to become the next Aerosmith, but instead, dreaming to become like top DJs, such as Avicii and Tiësto.

With Gen-Yers left wondering what exactly they need to do to get their foot in the door, we've put together a comprehensive list of what agents look for when signing new talent.

1. The Music

While this might be an obvious point to some, you’d be surprised how many people overlook it. Just because someone can play the newest and coolest songs at their friends' house parties, the ability to make your friends jump around while you change the songs on your iPod does not constitute you becoming world famous. The ability to produce and make your own music is vital.

The music you are making is the first thing that will catch the ear and interest of any agency. Learn to produce and make your own beats because without a strong musical basis, you're no different than your buddy at his frat party pretending to be spinning something that he doesn’t even know how to “spin.”

2. Management Team

The team representing and standing behind any artist is almost as important as the artist alone. No one wants to work with a team that does not know the difference between a residency in Vegas and a residency in the state of California. Having a management team that has a history of success and understands the industry is a major plus, although not completely essential.

However, on the other side of the spectrum, having a young, committed manager that truly believes in the project and is willing to put their all into the success of the artist, will entice the agent. At the end of the day, every manager started off this way, so if they really believe in the artist, then it is a good sign because it will make others intrigued.

3. Team Label

Although an aspiring DJ does not need a label to represent him or her to get noticed, it certainly helps quite a bit. In today’s music climate, there are so many kids able to now produce and make music in their bedrooms or basements; it helps to have a label behind you to enhance your credibility. Many great artists and their music get easily drowned out and lost in the crowd because they are self-releasing.

Being signed to a label gives the agent the assurance that there is a solid team behind the talent that knows how to and is capable of getting the music out to the “right” people and fans. An artist who is not signed to a label should have an understanding of how a label works and which he or she fits in with in order to target him or herself as a competitor with similar artists.

4. Image

An artist's image is one of the primary things fans will see when looking at the artist's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles. Having a good image does not necessarily mean you have to look like Ryan Gosling. Let's face it: Many DJs are not even that good looking, but they do have something that separates them and makes them memorable.

There are different types of images that work as gimmicks. Take Deadmau5, for instance. Everyone knows when they see that oversized mouse mask, it's Deadmau5; this trademark image has helped make him known worldwide. Another example is Steve Aoki, who is known for being completely out of control, pouring champagne all over his fans and just being downright outrageous at his shows.

Having a distinct and recognizable image includes the artist logo, personal style and music, all being synchronized and coming together as one.

5. Cosigns

In electronic dance music, an artist must have cosigns. In order to have the respect of others in the industry, having support from other artists is key. Since many DJ sets include mixes and clips from other artists, having good relationships with those artists helps get your track out. Top DJs, such as Gareth Emery, have the reputation to take aspiring artists under their wing and try to help them achieve success.

Once you have that support, the bigger artist has the ability to bring the newcomer out for supporting slots, music festivals, radio shows, collaborations, etc. Put it this way: Every DJ wants the relationship between Usher and Justin Bieber, with a top DJ.

6. Authentic Relationship In The Industry

The music industry is a very tight-knit community. Imagine high school, but instead of bitchy girls and jocks, you have business executives on speed and agents with power egos. In the same way you gain popularity when people are constantly talking about you in the cafeteria, you gain popularity and get noticed in music. When the “cool kids” are talking about you, it gets your name out there amongst the people who matter the most.

However, if everyone in the industry thinks you’re a pretentious douchebag who is hard to work with, you have a better chance of being an outcast, rather than being accepted into their world.

7. The Plan

Every aspiring DJ needs to have a game plan. An artist should work with his or her team to come up with a table that has a one- to two-year plan carved out. Artists should have an idea of where they currently stand, where they see themselves in the future and how they plan to reach their goals in the future. With this plan, it makes it easier for the agent to flush out the plan to build and execute it and eventually make the artists goals become a reality.

8. Live Shows

Being able to replay a set you’ve produced in the studio and throwing your hands in the air while doing it is one thing, but playing a live set is a distinguishable and sought-after trait. An artist should be able to adapt to the crowd he or she is playing for, since every city and venue is bound to be different. The set an artist plays at a charity function should be different than the one played at a warehouse party in Brooklyn. Having the ability to shift a set to read what the audience wants is crucial.

9. Publicity/Press

We all know the power of social media these days to make or break you personally; it also applies in the industry. The only difference is that to become famous, the phrase “no publicity is bad publicity” really does apply.

When people are talking about you, it’s a good thing; if there is nothing to talk about, you are not considered worth discussing. It is obviously much better for people in the industry to know who you are because they are the ones who run the show. Once you’ve concurred that, you should be interacting and keeping your fans interested.

10. The First 30 Seconds

First impressions are everything. When an agent, or A&R, is researching new artists, he or she will often go to your fan page and play your track with the most buzz, listening to the first 30 seconds. No one has the time to sit around and listen to your hour-and-a-half-long track and hear that awesome drop you made 45 minutes into it. Make the first 30 seconds count and get the audience's attention; your chances of being remembered are much higher.

Ashley Segerman