Difference between DJ and Music Producer – with pictures

Table of Contents

What is a Music Producer?

A music producer is responsible for creating a song.
He (or she) is the one who coordinates singers, songwriters, instrumentalists (and other artists) to make 1 coherent song.

Nowadays music producers can be just 1 person with a powerful computer.
The music producer constructs a song out of melodies and samples.

For example: Taylor Swift (singer, songwriter) has a music producer to make her songs sound good.
Together they create a song.
Taylor Swift is an artist, not a DJ.

A music producer works in a studio that looks something like this:

The main equipment for a music producer is music production software, called a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Each layer (called a track) in the song represents a different sound/instrument.

What is a DJ?

A DJ plays one song after the other and mixes them together.
Some DJs are so good at their job that listeners won’t hear when one song ends and the other starts.
The music sounds like one big song that goes on for hours.

When you are at a birthday party and press play on Spotify, and click next to go to the next song, technically you are a DJ.
You play songs that Taylor Swift (or other artists) created.

The job of a DJ is to “read the crowd” in a club (or a birthday party) and select the right songs for the crowd to play.
A DJ can make of break the atmosphere in a club by song selection.

The main equipment for a DJ is: 2 players and a mixer:

A DJ works in a club or bar to entertain the crowd:

What does a DJ do?

A DJ blends one song into the other by mixing from one player to the other:

  • Mix Song 1 into Song 2 (from Player A -> Player B)
  • Loads Song 3 into Player A
  • Mix Song 2 into Song 3 (from Player B -> Player A)
  • Loads Song 4 into Player B
  • Mix Song 3 into Song 4 (from Player A -> Player B)
  • etc. etc.

On a DJ mixer there are also tons of effects like reverb and echo to “glue” songs together.
This makes the transition less noticeable.

What is the difference between a Music Producer and DJ?

In short: A music producer creates a song, the DJ plays the music a music producer made.

Where it gets confusing is when a DJ is also music producer.
A lot of famous DJs we know (Martin Garrix, David Guetta, Afrojack) are both music producers and DJs.

Almost everyone can learn how to DJ, there is only so much to learn.
But the skill of a music producer is much harder to learn.
It takes a lot of time and effort to make a song sound good.

Therefore there are more DJs than music producers.

Why are so many Producers also DJs?

The big money is in DJing.
When you are a big name you can charge a lot for a gig.
As you might know, streaming doesn’t pay very well.

A residency in Ibiza or Las Vegas is a lot more lucrative than streaming on Spotify.

For most, their heart and soul lies with music production.
Playing you own music on a DJ gig is seen as the ultimate goal.

A DJ mixing
A DJ mixing

Do I need to be both DJ & Producer?

Not at all but the two skills help each other.

Being a musician who also DJs has various benefits.

  • Working as a DJ can teach you what music people react to. This is a vital skill.
  • You get to know the music you play intimately.
    This helps with your own music making on an unconscious level.
  • As a DJ you’re in a way naked.
    With the faders up everyone can hear you.
    Being able to stay in the zone and keep a flow going under pressure is a very useful lesson.
  • Also it’s a lot of fun and musicians sometimes forget that aspect.

Understanding music production can help your DJing a lot as well.

  • Knowing how beats in your preferred styles ‘work’ makes things instinctive.
  • If you know how key signatures function you can layer tracks in harmony.
  • With a little music production knowledge you can make your own acapella versions and instrumentals