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Become a Salsa/Kizomba/Bachata DJ

You want to become a Salsa DJ and you’re desperate to uncover exciting new Salsa tracks and unleash them on the dancing public. Perhaps you dream of being the one with the status-symbol headphones over your ears sharing the energy with the crowd people dancing right before you. Maybe you just want to earn a little pocket money from your hobby? Whatever the reason, we can help. But it’s no good just sitting there and talking about it, you need to get moving. It’s easy to launch yourself as a DJ provided you know a few insider secrets. I learnt the hard way so you don’t have to. Here’s how to become a Salsa, Kizomba or Bachata DJ.

 1. Is your heart in the right place?

It goes without saying, but you really need to be passionate about Salsa. Have you any idea how much music you need to listen to on a weekly basis to become a decent DJ? If you’re looking for a ‘get rich quick’ scheme, then you’re in the wrong place and besides, people will see straight through you. However, if you truly love Salsa and you completely love music then you might be on to a great thing.

2. Know the music

There are so many people out there who jump up and say ‘I’m a Salsa DJ’ yet if you ask them some really basic things about the music they fall flat on their face. Try it out on a DJ of your choice. Stride straight up to the box and ask “What is the artist and name of this track?” A decent DJ will be able to tell you straight away and might even be able to give you an album title too. A rubbish one will fob you off. To me DJs like this are as useless as a surgeon that doesn’t know basic anatomy. Don’t be like them. Take your time, do your research and know your music.

3. Stay up to date

Music is constantly evolving and growing and new music is being released daily. After a few years of listening to the same old stuff, Salsa tracks soon sound tired and dull especially if you’re playing them week after week after week. Do yourself a favour and keep your ear to the ground for more great stuff. For some great inspiration, head over to our DJ Picks pages where some of the best DJs share their top tracks. It can also be great to head over to YouTube and search for ‘salsa 2014’ or ‘Kizomba 2014’ or even just google it. You’ll soon find brilliant websites and blogs to follow (like this one!) and will have a whole host of tracks at your fingertips.

4. Find out which Salsa tracks people love

 As a DJ you are not simply playing music for yourself to listen to. Your job is to bring people onto the dance-floor, to get them dancing and to keep them dancing. It’s not an easy thing at all. This is the time to do some more research. Watch the tracks that people really love, make a mental note of the floor fillers and ask among your friends for their top tracks.

This DJing business is not all about your personal taste guys. Sometimes you will have to play the odd track that you absolutely loathe (speaking from experience here) and smile as you do it. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often.

It’s also important to remember that not every track can be easily danced to. This is where your experience as a Salsa dancer will be invaluable. Again, listen to the tracks that other people play and experiment with your own stuff. Tempo and rhythmic complexity are two key areas that you should bear in mind and can make or break a Salsa track for dancing.

5. Know your equipment

Put simply, you’re going to need to know which buttons to press. Depending on your interest, this can get as complex as you want it to. Ask around and you’re likely to find someone in your group of friends who knows a thing or two about DJ equipment.

6. Get yourself visible

No, I don’t mean donning a high-viz jacket, I’m talking marketing. I know it’s a dirty word to some but it’s necessary. People need to know where to find you if they want to book you.  It might not seem immediately obvious but  marketing yourself will really help to grow your DJ brand.

First step is to get yourself a website. You can get a basic website for free on some sites or pay a little to get your own professional, self-hosted site. WordPress is great for this. Make it look pretty, tell people how to contact you, stick on a biography and upload some content, whether that’s news, music videos,music articles or whatever.

Next, get yourself on Social Media if you aren’t already there. Think about a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Google+, Soundcloud or Reverb Nation. Communicate with your friends and fans and post stuff on a regular basis that your audience will like.

7. If you don’t ask you don’t get

You might not like it, but you are going to have to ‘hustle’ if you want to get bookings. Contact club and events organisers, festival organisers and people you know and offer your services as a DJ. This may have to be for free or at a low price in the beginning, but it’s great experience to have and will get your business off to a great start. Don’t be afraid to ask- this is how most Salsa DJs got started.

8. Keep on learning

It’s impossible to know everything there is to know about Salsa, Kizomba or Bachata music, so don’t worry. Stay modest, keep your two feet on the ground and be willing to keep on learning continuously.  You can always be better, know more and grow more so don’t be afraid. Just keep an open heart and you will go far.

9.  Just do it. Now!

What’s stopping you?? You’ll soon achieve your dream of dazzling the dance-floor with your amazing tunes if you get started now. I challenge you to take action today. Go ahead- learn more about Salsa music, figure out the buttons, register that domain today, do whatever it is you need to so you can get that career off to a great start!

It’s easy to get started  provided you know your music and understand what dancers need. The rest of it can all be learned, and anyone can do it. Becoming a really amazing Salsa, Kizomba or Bachata DJ is another post altogether. Take the first step and be brave. You can do it.

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Comment COMMENT?

How did you get started as a Salsa, Kizomba or Bachata DJ? What tips would you share with out readers? Wannabe DJs- do you have any questions?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image © Andy Grant , Bill Rusham

15 Comments on Become a Salsa/Kizomba/Bachata DJ

  1. Good Article and Good tips !!

  2. Good article. I would add: “join a DJ pool”. You will get lots of tracks, new releases not available in the UK and also news about Latin Music.

  3. I will like to add something important ,a good DJ must know about sound systems , quality sound played at the wright levels it’s as important as playing good tracks
    That’s for me the base of DJing and of course good taste for music +crowd reading + the psychology behind the track selection ,you should be able to control the atmosphere and the mood state of the dancers ,giving them energetic tracks but also relaxing ones that balance its the key to avoid boredom and tiredness
    Sorry but love this topic lol

    • You have some excellent points there. I think one of the hardest things about being a DJ is developing the ability to read a crowd and understand what they need.

  4. I have been involved with Salsa as a teacher and as a DJ since the late 90’s. No disrespect to any of them BUT….. I see the same handful of Top DJ’s at most of if not all the major events. Why do we see so little of the regular club DJ’s who provide spectacularly for Salseros the length and breadth of the country week in and week out. Surely the Top DJ’s can’t be at every club or dance venue as well can they? So let’s hear about the others who are clearly masters of their craft but sadly going unnoticed when it comes to Congresses and Weekenders.

    • You’re right- usually we see the same names appearing at all of the top events and congresses. These DJs do seem to market and promote themselves a little more aggressively than regular club DJs- I wonder if that is why it happens? I’m all for promoting the lesser-known DJ. What do you think we should do about it?

      • Salsa is not only a passion but it’s business.
        Unfortunately for most of the congresses and weekenders organizers it’s merely business. Money, if you prefer. When it comes to booking DJs it’s not really “booking”, but rather an under the table agreement. What’s most important for those organizers is the number of people a DJ can bring to the congress. And that means how many full passes can they promote. So if a DJ wants to perform to a certain big event the first question that comes from the organizers is “How many full passes can you sell?”… If the DJ has the ability to book 50-100 full passes he will get a chance to play some time (an hour or two), but not in the main hall and not during the rush hours. However, it is still a chance for him/her to prove his/her class.
        As a resident DJ (4-5 days a week) in the largest and most successful latin dancing club of my city I had the opportunity to be heard by several organizers and I earned a regular place in many congresses in my country and abroad. But I always get paid and I never have to face the “full pass promotion” agreement. Luckily I cooperate with organizers who really appreciate my taste, style, dedication and efforts, but how many DJs really have the opportunity to prove their abilities in a crowded club which is often visited by congress organizers? Very few I suppose…
        What should be done? I’m afraid it’s all up to the organizers. Those of them who are really professionals should do some scouting. Visit places and venues and listen for the DJs that come closely to the idea they have for their events. Ask foreign congress organizers for the DJs they prefer in their countries. Offer opportunities to those that sound interesting or promising. Most of those DJs would perform for a price slightly higher from their daily work fee and the coverage of their trip and accommodation expenses.

        • You raise some really interesting points there. Another DJ friend and I noted the other day that the same old DJs do seem to be popping up at the events, congresses and festivals, and it would be great to change that so we can give the ‘underdogs’ a chance, shake up the scene and get some great new talent.
          I think it would really make a difference if DJs would try to promote themselves more than they do. When I started out as a DJ, I found that a few emails and friendly chats would go a long way. But of course I can’t speak for now.

  5. It’s not just what you know but who you know in the business.
    There are many salsa teachers that call them selves djs now a days.. I can dance salsa but I cannot teach as I don’t have the passion for it. Same thing aplys to salsa or any type of Djing out there you need to feel it read it and implement your your touch to stand out in the crowd.
    I love your article keep up the good work. x

    • I’m glad you have mentioned how important it is to know the right people. You can be the most talented, knowledgeable DJ ever but if you can’t get a gig, what is it all worth? I think there is a fine line between DJs and DJs (if you know what I mean). There are those that play a couple of tracks to keep a dance class happy, and there are those that really love and know their music. You’re right- it’s vital to feel it and to be unique.

  6. Great article!! Djing is not that simple but you understand this when you know all the things they have to think about! One other tip, know the music and let the songs play to the end if you’re playing Salsa!! 🙂

  7. Great inspirational article! I have been djing sometimes when i host events but would really like to learn more about it. What do you guys think about dj´s mixing songs together? In stockholm its very common for kizomba dj´s to mix songs but it rarely happens in the Salsa community. What are your thoughts on why this is the case?

    • Hey there! Thanks for the comment and sorry for the delay. Over here in the UK, we have exactly the same thing- with salsa the DJs cannot (and must not) mix tracks together, or else there is a huge backlash. But with Kizomba it seems to be a widely accepted thing.
      It seems that salseros want or need to have a clearly defined beginning and end to a track whereas the Kizomba-dancers are happy to keep going all night 😉 Perhaps that is a reflection of the intimacy of the dance.

      What are your thoughts? I’d love to know.

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