How to Fund Your First DJ Rig with NO Cash

I get it. DJ gear is expensive. It’s a pricey hobby to get into. Will I even be any good? Might I ever get any money out of this?
You don’t have to break the bank on gear before you pick up your first gig!
Even if you’ve never used a controller before, you need no more than 30 days from bedroom to ballroom. I know because I did it myself. There’s no reason you can’t either by crushing Ellaskin’s Beginner Lessons on YouTube.

You may be scared shitless to play your first event, not confident in your ability to play out. But guess what? You’ll never ‘feel ready’.

Think I felt ready to spin right after Major Lazer and Alok at Burning Man this year? Hellll nah!

And once you secure your first gig, you’ll be more motivated than ever before to quickly get up to par.

I talk about how to nab your first event in another post, for now let’s get to the nitty gritty of what you actually need and how to bootstrap your way into spinning your first event.

Breakdown

  • Controller – $150
  • Laptop – $150
  • Speaker rental – $100
  • Misc – $50
Controller
A used Mixtrack Quad can also be picked up for ~150 on eBay, here you get a 4 channel controller that will work out of the box with the free versions of Serato and Virtual DJ. Don’t lament over which controller to get! Buy one that is ‘good enough’ and move on. You can’t go wrong with any of the DJ software out there today. Serato has a small advantage with their video plugin, but most of us never actually ever use it anyway. If you really want to dig deeper, check out Phil Morse’s DJ controller guide. If you’re uncertain about the whole CDJ vs controller decision, this article walks you through the distinctions. In either case, pick an option and move on. Honestly making a decision and taking action is just as important, if not more important than what decision you ultimately make.
Laptop
A used windows laptop can be had for ~$150 on eBay. I bought one for myself one as my backup. All you really need is a 2.4 Ghz i5 processor and 4GB of RAM to get rolling.
Speakers

A pair of K12’s can be rented for $100 (including cables and stands) at your local Guitar Center, you’ll just have to put up a $160 deposit. It breaks down to 10% for everything you rent. Other shops will offer comparable rates floating around 5-10% of your gear’s MSRP, I just used Guitar Center as an example since they’re everywhere.

Misc
You don’t need the most expensive headphones in the world, in fact even cheap ear buds will work just fine for the first few gigs as long as you’re not in a loud club. You might need a $2 adapter to plug into you’re controller, but don’t let this become something keeping you from getting gigs! The other two cables we’re buying will run from your phone to one speaker (headphone to RCA) and allow you to daisy chain (XLR connecting speaker A to speaker B) in the event our laptop or controller craps the bed. Some speakers don’t have RCA connections on the amp, so check this out if you rent anything besides QSC speakers. Here’s a basic diagram of how to hookup your gear to save your behind in case of an emergency failure.
bare-speaker-setup
The key to funding your rig with no cash: get your first paid event before you buy anything. Locking up a first gig at $350-450 is not unreasonable, and that’s all you really need to get started. Even less if you already have a laptop. On top of that, getting your 50% deposit helps cover your controller and laptop up front.

But what do I charge?

Knowing what to charge for your services can be daunting. You certainly don’t want to undercharge and leave money on the table, but overcharge and you lose the gig entirely! Right now I’m in the process of designing a tool that will systematically tell you what to charge each and every time based on the event, your skill, and geographic location. You will easily be able to tap into the knowledge of DJs who have made a living spinning & getting paid, combined with country-wide data based on events in YOUR area, all at the click of a button. FREE! Check it out here, and if you want to be the first to know about updates sign up for my newsletter up at the top.

 

Cheers!