Is a career as a DJ or music producer viable?
If you want to be a DJ and/or music producer but have a disability we have compiled some advice on how you can do this.
Many DJs do analogue mixing but as a person with Athetold Cerebral Palsy this would be impossible for me. I cannot turn knobs.
I could be a "Push Play DJ" meaning I do mixing in advanced of playing. Mixing software has accessibility issues that I will mention later in this article.
You can be a DJ without mixing music. You would have to compile a list of songs before your set and choose which ones to play while you're doing a set.
DJ booths may not be accessible. Some would have steps to them. There might not be sufficient room in the booth.
If you're working solely off your own computer and the DJ booth isn't accessible the management might able to connect you up to the sound system elsewhere in the venue.
If you have low vision you could have extra lights in the booth so you could see better. You could bring your own.
Venues may not be accessible for wheelchair users. This would also depend on the city that you're living in.
A portable ramp for wheelchairs may help in this situation.
If clubs are inaccessible you could probably still produce music and/or live stream.
If you need wheelchair accessible transport you possibly would have to do a deal with a taxi company or have your caregiver take you. Taxi companies may be unreliable depending on where you live but it's possible that you could have an arrangement with them so you get priority.
Digital Audio Workstations
I have used Ableton Live but I didn't find this accessible with eye tracking. You have to drag things constantly. I would prefer double clicking and entering numbers to operate a program.
Software for producers could cost hundreds of dollars but it's possible funding could be an option. Crowd funding could be an option too.
Decks also cost hundreds of dollars. You may be able to buy used decks for less.
If you're not mixing music all you need is a computer. You probably could use a smart phone. You probably would have to buy tracks.
DJs typically get a few hundred dollars per night. I believe that this is good money if you're playing locally and are not paying for your care.
If you create unique music you could sell it on various platforms for additional income.
Many DJs also would have day jobs to better support themselves.
Software for playing music
If you can use a mouse picking the next song can be easy. I can't use a mouse so I would arrange the bulk of the list prior.
I ended up writing software to shuffle the songs for me. For my first gig I used VLC's shuffle feature. Unfortunately it kept repeating songs so it wasn't viable.
Getting a ghost producer
If you cannot produce music yourself you could possibly hire a ghost producer. This could be expensive but it is an option.
You could also get a ghost producer to mix music.
It's possible you could start off with regular music and save for produced music or mixes for later in your career.
In 2021 I decided to hire a ghost producer and release music. If releasing tracks independently you'll need to go through a music distributor. Usually you pay a small yearly fee (less than $40) to release unlimited songs under one artist name.
Unfortunately the first music distributor banned me without giving a reason. I tried again with Record Union as my music distributor and have found them to be very helpful. My tracks have been released successfully.
You could do house parties if you cannot play in clubs. Doing house parties can be a good way to get started as a DJ.
I occasionally play at house parties.
Working night shifts
Most DJs do gigs late at nights so you need to be comfortable staying up late.
You may want to have a quiet place so you can sleep through the day. Some DJs don't sleep during the day.
If you require care you would probably need a night carer. From experience it can be difficult to find one. Places to find one could be an agency or job listing website. There could be a job listing website targeted at students that could be useful.
Even if you find a carer you would need to make sure that they're reliable. A few of my nightclub carers stopped taking me out after one or two times. It wouldn't be acceptable to skip events if your carer backs out.
You may need to provide them with ear plugs and a way to signal them. Texting and vibrating phones could be a possible solution.
If they smoke they might want to go to the smoking area of the bar frequently and leave you in the booth.
You'd also want to communicate with carers when you want to get up and instruct them to be quiet while you're sleeping.
Traveling and care
If you need care while traveling it could be difficult to get it. You might need to arrange this with somebody you know and trust.
You would also need to budget in any extra expenses for them for example plane tickets.
I have an additional article that has travel tips for people with disabilities
If you're not mixing music you could use any touch tablet to select songs. This assumes that you can use your hands.
For a DJ who doesn't use their hand to operate a computer you could use a switch to select songs or you could use eye tracking. There might be other options. Whatever you use you'd want to make sure you don't accidentally start or stop music and could react to instructions fairly questions.
If you use eye tracking to operate your computer then this could be difficult in different lighting conditions. You may need to block out light on your tracker or increase light. If your party is outside you may want to put up a tent or umbrella to block out the light.
You may also need to have minimal interaction with the screen to prevent insomnia. You would push play and dance.
Another option could be going on radio as a radio DJ. You may need good communication skills or a commercial text to speech voice.
If studios are inaccessible you may be able to compile the show into a MP3 file and send it to the studio.
Many DJs perform via live streaming. You should probably get decent internet for if you do this. Live streaming could be an option if clubs are inaccessible.
It'd be useful for your career if you're willing to be a public figure. You may want to have a presence on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. Many DJs also release mixes on SoundCloud/MixCloud.
Clubs have flashing lights so this career may not be accessible for people with Epilepsy.
Thanks for reading
A career as a DJ may not be easy but if you do want to do this hopefully I have provided you with some solutions.