Trials and tribulations of the Irish DJ

By Emma Darcy

A disc jockey or DJ is a person who plays recorded music for a live audience, on the radio, in a nightclub or at a festival. Either working for an entertainment company or freelancing, DJs in nightclubs and bars often have to spend thousands of euros on lighting, decks, booths and various bells and whistles in order to stand out and ensure a consistent flow of bookings.

Especially around this Christmas season, being a DJ can be a very busy, tiresome line of work. Often, DJing will not be a person’s full-time job, as the work can be an unpredictable and an unreliable source of income. spoke to Niall Hanley, a part-time DJ from Stradbally, County Laois living in Lucan, Dublin. “It is my part-time job but that’s really all it can be for anyone. There aren’t enough gigs for people to do this every day, and the only time there might be work five or six days every week is Christmas. So yeah, some days I end up working nine to four and then off out again from nine at night to three in the morning. So, in that sense, it messes up your sleep and routine.”

Gary McKeon has been DJing for over 15 years and still maintains that while it is often the most stressful, strenuous work he’s ever done, it still isn’t reliable enough to be a full time thing: “When a lot of people think of the whole DJing thing, they think like the DJs at festivals and those with their own music career, but that’s a different skill set altogether. That’s putting music together to make a fully original track. In bars and nightclubs, the skill is knowing what to play and when to play it. There’s a 21st birthday party with a combination of people in their early twenties and then parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents, so you can’t play the same music all night and you have to know how to please everyone,” Gary told

Niall spoke to us about the rare, but undeniably disheartening behaviour towards him at occasional parties or weddings.

“You’d be surprised about the abuse you get, the people who scream and swear at you for not playing the song they wanted as soon as they say. I’ve had people call me all sorts of really mean things just for saying I don’t have a particular song. People knock down the booth and laptop and all sorts of things. Then you spend half an hour before a gig and half an hour after lugging speakers and all the gear up and down stairs and into the boot.

“I love it, I love playing music and being proud of my set up and watching people decide to dance based on the music I decide to play. But people definitely underestimate how hard it is.”

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