How did Adam Wiles become the richest DJ in the world as ‘Calvin Harris’?

100% pure grinding – and a true passion for the art.

Originally named Adam Wiles, he worked at a Scottish grocery store in 2004.  He lived with his parents and had dreams of being a musician. How did he get from there to making $63 million last year and dating Taylor Swift?   Results not typical, right?  But …  if you really get into this art of being a DJ…  I mean, even a fraction of that is more than a LOT of people make in a lifetime!

His marked entrance into mainstream popularity began about 10 years ago.  After producing a remix of All Saints’ single “Rock Steady”, his effort started to spread with popularity.

 

        

 

Enter the remix producer  <  Sample someone else’s hit, edit, enhance, back-beat, add personal flavor and release.  With some legal checks on copyright approvals of course.

Honestly, with enough time and practice you really only need a computer.  I’ve remixed several songs this way over the years, just for fun.  With sampling machines, keyboards, beat machines, and SO many options, this is a very realistic goal for nearly any DJ.

Dovetailing with remix producing, Calvin’s popularity began to trend up as a hired DJ.  To date, this is his regular job (paired with producing in his spare time) making up for a large portion of his $63 million earned in 2016.  Armed with a DJ Controller, USB stick and headphones..  this is the modern DJ’s lifestyle.

His fee is in the mid 6 figure (~$500k) range for playing night clubs.  To play a music festival, his fee rises to 7 figures.  Yes, that is at least 1 million dollars for a few days work.

Should you start learning a craft like this?  At the bare minimum, you’ll have a lot of fun.  You could start playing local parties.  You could start charging a fee.  Your name could explode if you do well and network a bit.

Step 1…   Be a couch DJ.

Step 2…   Invest in and learn a DJ Controller.

It won’t happen over night.  But if you get into it, you could have a lot of fun and start making extra cash on the weekends.  Meet a lot of people.  Networking.  The sky is the limit right?   You have to commit to it and cut your teeth in the art.  Develop your style.  Make sure it works for you and an audience.   Go get ’em, tiger.

Ever since I bought my first DJ controller (Numark MixTrack Pro 2), I’ve been hella hooked!  Well that, and using the DJAY app for fun on my iPAD…  which I actually used during a live gig a couple of times (line level input to my DJ Controller board from iPAD stereo output port) and it worked quite well.

 

Where’s your head at? Lets talk HEADPHONES.

From ear buds to noise cancellation and cup positions, lets talk Headphones!

Why do DJ’s need headphones? Well, so they can sample upcoming songs and play with queue marks and beat matching prior to the actual transition that the crowd hears. In the headphones, the DJ is listening to a closed signal that the audience cannot hear.

– Here are a few of my favorites –

Over the ear with collapsible cups to help queue in one ear and hear the crowd and exposed sounds in the other ear:

        

      

 

What do DJ’s use headphones for?

  1. Confirm beats per minute match
    • If the upcoming song is sped up too fast, it may sound bad.  Think of a song that is 100 beats per minute (bpm), sped up to 130 bpm.  That song may just sound too fast for people to like.  Don’t mix that song directly over.  Pick a new one!
  2. Confirm beat timing (ex: 4/4 time vs 6/8 time)
    • Music is composed in different rhythms.  Mixing a song that is 3/4 time to a song that is 4/4 time can be quite challenging.  It can be done, but it takes a quick transition and maybe effects to pull it off cleanly.
  3. Tune/Tone/Peaks
    • Matching the tune and tone of a song to the upcoming song is sometimes important, depending on the genre and feel that you want to portray.  If a song is in the key of A minor and you switch to a song in the key of B sharp, it might not flow well.
    • Some songs have shrieking peaks that are not good for transitions.  Some are good for transitions.  Most of the time a transition is a chorus part of a song that doesn’t have too much peaking or dead spots.
  4. Scratching and sampling
    • Some DJs get sample happy with Air Horns and effects.  Try not to annoy your crowd with too much fluff.
    • Queuing up a scratch point on a song and playing with it before delivering it can make all the difference in the world.  Most of the time you should do this before the gig to know what you like to scratch to.  Doing it on the fly requires a few practices in the headphones before flipping that fader across the first time.

           

 

Music Types, preparation and research

There is a time and place for every song.  How do you choose what to play and when?

What kind of a DJ do you want to be?   If you want to be a working DJ that entertains events such as weddings, corporate parties or other hired events you will need to approach your preparation with inclusive input from whoever will be hiring you.   You may have rules to abide by like no music with parental advisory ratings, volume limitations (sound ordinances) or specific timing to work into the set list for announcements or special songs.

If you are throwing a house party for fun, it’s up to you!  Just remember that your guests may not stick around if your set list isn’t setting the right vibe.  As the DJ, you are the life of the party.  You have the opportunity to set the night in motion and get people to let loose.

If you plan on booking gig’s at nightclubs and bars, you’ll need to establish yourself with promoters and build up a reputation.

Lets talk music types.   Top 40.  Hip-Hop.  Electronica.  House Music.  Trance.  Trip-Hop.  Trap Music.  80s, 90s, 2000s, 50s, 60s, Country, Latin, Reggae…   the lists go on and on and on.  Don’t be the guy that won’t play what he doesn’t like.  You have to appeal to your audience.  That’s your job, to identify with and know what they will like.

You should do research before any gig to know what will work well for the people who will be hearing the music.   It is normally a good gesture to let whoever is hiring you pick out 10-15 songs that you will guarantee you will play.  You will be responsible for sourcing this music with them or providing it on your own dime.  There are certain songs that will become part of most of your set lists.  There are some songs you’ll find that will work great at one party, but bomb out another.  Paying attention to your audience is key.   Know what gets people moving.   Have the awareness to know if a certain song is killing the vibe.  This is your job.  It can be stressful at times, but don’t let it show.

Must Have Songs:

   

   

   

 

Here are some gem’s that will get older generations or small kids to dance:

   
   

!!  Smart Phone Apps  !!

Always be ready to document a great song that you hear.  There are a few apps such as Shazam and SoundHound that will quickly listen to and attempt to tell you the name of the song you’re hearing and the artist.  They also allow you to research your history or most smart phones also allow for a quick screen shot to store your find in your photos.  See what works best for you.