The End Of DJing
The End Of DJing…
First off, if you’re reading this on your cell phone and you’re in the middle of a dance floor at a club, say good night to your friends, pay your tab, walk outside and step in front of a bus. The world thanks you.
I’ve been meaning to write this article for some time and I’m actually glad that I didn’t. So many things have happened in the years since this seed was planted and they all help to buttress my perspective. Whether or not you agree with me after reading this doesn’t matter to me at all. As a DJ and a person who might consider killing himself if he went deaf because he loves music that much, I live this. This is my life. If something happened and I never DJ’d another gig, I would be satisfied with my career. I’ve played all over the United States, in other countries and with too many amazing artists and DJs to name. I’ve supported myself playing music to make people dance. I have no complaints or regrets.
Also, as of writing this final draft, my heart is broken by all the recent calls from DJ friends who are “over it”. These are good people and great DJs who have reached their breaking point from terrible music, unresponsive or abusive crowds, less-than-savory nightclub staff (from bathroom attendant up to owner) and all sorts of other bullshit unique to the profession of DJing. The thing they love, their reason for getting up in the morning is damaged beyond repair.
This article is long because I care. Read the whole thing if you care.
A few years ago on Cinco De Mayo, a club I worked for booked the legendary Crooklyn Clan to perform a 4 turntable set. Some of you know CC from their record pool and classic party breaks, some of you don’t know them at all. But if you’re in the know, you know that Riz & Sizzahandz are 2 of the baddest DJs to ever do it. After the gig we did the late night grub thing and as if almost by accident, one of the most life-changing conversations I’ve ever had happened. I don’t remember the point of the story being told but at one point either Riz or Siz said “after DJing”.
“You mean when you guys stop DJing one day?”, I asked.
“No, when DJing ends.”, they said.
You could tell it was a conversation they had previously had at length and were in agreement about the concept. They broke it down like this…
“One day real soon, all of this is gonna end. Sure there will be people DJing but it won’t matter. When all the veterans retire, us, Jazzy Jeff, Rich Medina, Bobbito, Scratch, Prince Paul, all the good music cats, it’s over. We can’t keep the good music parties going, venues don’t want it because it doesn’t bring a bottle service crowd and all the good music venues are closing. People bought the buildings on either side of APT in NYC and called in noise complaints until it closed. Who the fuck does that?! And all the DJs are becoming interchangeable. All clubs play the same 100 songs so why pay someone extra because they do it better? Most of the crowds don’t care anyways. Can I ask you a question?”
“Yeah.”, I said with my mouth hanging open.
“I have about 5,000 disco records. Lots of hard to find shit I got from labels back in the day. I’m gonna rip it all to digital. You want it?”, Riz asked.
“Yeah. Are you serious?”
“Yep. What do you want?” .
“Uhh… Can I have all of it? Is this a trick question?”, I said.
“You know how many younger DJs I ask that question to and they all say the same thing? They say, “Gimme whatever will work in the club”. They just want 20 disco tracks to have their “disco set”. They don’t actually like disco. They don’t give a fuck about the music. They’d play the same 20 disco songs for the rest of their life and not care.”, Riz told me.
I was sitting at a table with 6 or 7 other DJs and nobody said anything. Good DJs. DJs that had been doing this for decades. None of us could argue with them. Our minds were blown.
I’ve told this story so many times in the past few years to DJs and nobody has argued with me.
Some people say that everything happens for a reason. I like to think that things happen for a bunch of reasons. I listened to an interview with Chuck D one time and he explained how Hip-Hop started because of a specific intersection of technology, geography, socio-economic climate, popular thought, music and other variables. It was a set of circumstances that will never happen again. The same is true for the rise of rock music, the reason certain fashion trends take hold or why revolutions start. There isn’t a singular cause behind “The End of DJing”, it’s a myriad of ideas, actions, trends other factors that will be the death of the DJing that we know and love. The tragic irony is that I’m watching it die at almost the same speed that it becomes more popular than it has ever been.
OBVIOUS STATEMENT ALERT: DJing is about music. Music is the most powerful thing in the world (next to love). When you realize that music can change your mood, make you cry, trigger your happiest memory, connect you with other people and change your perspective of a situation, you’ll listen to music differently. Watch a movie without music. Boring as fuck. Try to make love to your girlfriend with the wrong music on, it’s just. not. the. same. Lift some weights to the wrong soundtrack. Your workout won’t be your best. Trust me. This is my job. I’m supposed to pick the song that’s your ideal soundtrack to whatever you’re doing. And there’s a perfect song for every situation.
Popular music sucks. You probably just got kinda mad at me for saying that and I might not even be talking about what you like. The rock doesn’t rock. The Hip-Hop couldn’t be farther from what made the world love it. Pop is so carefully calculated for maximum catchiness it doesn’t have an ounce of soul. EDM is a bastardized Top 40 version of house. Country is unbearable for a million reasons (and I like old country music). Don’t even get me started on all the new popular music that sounds like the 1890s and has banjos. This is going to come as a surprise to younger readers but there were long periods of time in history when the most popular music was also the best. Not only was Michael Jackson the most popular artist on Earth, he made THE best music. Appetite For Destruction was one of the biggest selling albums and made Guns N’ Roses the biggest band on the planet at the time because the band and the album were amazing. I don’t even think my brain could handle listening to the radio in the 50s, 60s or 70s. I would die of sheer enjoyment.
In some weird twist of irony, now often times the worst music is the most popular. Rack City, bitch.
Popular music has been in a steady decline. In 2003 a US survey calculated that 43% of all songs played on the radio were produced by the Neptunes. (If you don’t know who the Neptunes are, walk in front of a bus.) 43%?! And it was good. Not necessarily my preferred choice for “good music” but good as far as club classics. Timbaland was churning out good party music from his aptly named studio “The Hit Factory”. Usher. Timberlake. Lil Jon. People were making music you wanted to play, wanted to dance to and wanted to listen to. Where did everyone go? Did you guys get bored of making great club music? Play DMX “Party Up” today. Still gets a reaction. Play the most popular song from 4 years ago. You will get the middle finger.
People used to listen to music in the home. When I woke up my dad had classic rock radio on in the house. The bus driver was playing his favorite station on his little radio on my way to school. My mom had on Anita Baker in the car. My parents owned records and a record player. Read interviews with Jay-Z or Whitney Houston or Just Blaze. They’ll tell you what their parents were listening to. There’s no music in the schools, there’s no music in the homes. Music isn’t being taught on instruments or even just as a listening pleasure. It’s not hard to see why kids don’t know who Ray Charles, The Beatles, Madonna, Charlie Parker or Nirvana are.
True story: A while back I went to visit a friend who was working on a cruise ship. Some of the entertainment staff had been on the boat for a very long time (years) and hit me up for new music. No problem. At the time the biggest song was Big Sean’s “Dance”. The staff thought the song, along with several others I gave them, was a joke. They thought it was a fake song from a wacky morning radio show. They were appalled.
If you think popular music is good, you probably also think McDonald’s makes good burgers. One day if you’re lucky you’ll get a good burger and then maybe you’ll figure it out.
When I was growing up in the 90s in Pittsburgh, there were so many radio stations. We had classic rock, alternative rock, pop, jazz, oldies, soft rock, several college radio stations playing the most randomest shit ever, classical, talk radio, Top 40 and country. Each station had different shows with different formats. Late at night all the stations played whatever they wanted. Rock stations played local groups on Sunday nights and people could call in to vote on new songs. On most of these stations you could call up at any time and request a song. If you didn’t have money to buy tapes or CDs, you could get a fairly well rounded dose of music for free from the radio.
Now in Pittsburgh ClearChannel owns the country, rock, classic rock and Top 40 stations. They all spin the top 10 songs in their format every hour. The DJs on the stations don’t actually choose music anymore. People are fed the songs that labels want you to hear ad nauseam. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 removed the restrictions on the number of radio stations that a single company could own. Now ClearChannel owns 99.9% of the stations in the top 250 markets in the United States. (For more depressing statistics, watch the documentary “I Need That Record“.)
MTV used to play music videos. The entire video. There were programs like Headbanger’s Ball, YO! MTV Raps, Super Rock and 120 Minutes for specific genres. BET had Rap City. You could learn about new music of all kinds. Even the non-music programs like Liquid TV were refreshing and unique and stimulating. Now music channels play reality shows.
Here’s Lady Gaga’s DJ pretending to DJ on a talk show…
Speaking of reality shows… Now there are “reality” shows about DJing. If you think there’s anything real about reality shows, you probably think Pamela Anderson was born with a great rack, too. Having friends that tried out for these shows, were on these shows and worked for companies somehow involved with these shows, the behind-the-scenes stories that I heard were unreal. First, if you don’t drink Smirnoff and refuse to be photographed holding a bottle, you’re not going to “win”. I don’t care if you DJ and it cures cancer. These shows are about selling product, just like Sprite ads used Hip-Hop (showing my age) to sell product. If you watched any of these shows, hopefully you were entertained but know that it’s a big joke. Also DJ Hero is wack. Now go read a book.
Here’s an actual Smirnoff ad they ran during the Master of the Mix promo.
And here’s my conversation with a brand recruiter.
You really didn’t have any DJs on staff to help with this?!
A year after “The Story” occurred, again on Cinco De Mayo, a club down the street booked DJ Scene. (If you’re a DJ and you don’t know who Scene is, walk in front of a bus.) We had some mexican food before our gigs and he told me about what happened the night before. The opening DJ at the club he played the previous night was DJing on an iPad. This was right around the time when iPads had just come out. A fucking iPad. Scene said he played it cool, asked the guy what the software was, filed that info away and did the gig. Later that night when he got back to the hotel, he paid $20, downloaded the app and took it for a spin. He proceeded to tell me how you could essentially pick your tracks, pick your mix in / mix out points, choose some effects (if you’re feeling saucy) and with a push of a button it would mix the songs for you. This opening DJ played at a club big enough to book one of the best DJs in the world and he was using a fucking iPad.
(Opening DJs, you’re getting your very own article when I get some more free time. Don’t you worry.)
For those non-DJs reading this article, let me bring you up to speed on technology as quick as I can. Roughly 12 years ago, software was developed that allowed a DJ to play MP3s from their laptop using turntables or CD players as the control surface. This eliminated the need to bring your CD or Vinyl collection to each gig with you and spared you possible loss, theft, damage, etc. of said collections. This also allowed you to play music that wasn’t being pressed to vinyl on your turntable setup. All caught up? Good.
This technological advance brought with it the inevitable influx of countless people who previously didn’t have the music collection, motivation, intelligence, financial means or interest to pursue DJing as a career. It also allowed hard-working DJs to be more efficient and achieve things previously out of reach due to technological limitations. There was some good, but mostly a lot of bad. Most of the software was free so if a friend or bar had the hardware, your shitty music collection could now be the soundtrack to everyone’s evening. Yay!
As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…
It has never been easier or cheaper to be knowledgable about music and people have never had worse taste in music. It couldn’t be any easier to DJ and your average DJ couldn’t be worse in terms of technical skill or musical knowledge. You still can’t download practice or buy hard work for $1 from iTunes.
DJs: How many times has someone asked you for Tiesto and then not been able to name a Tiesto song? (Why is it always Tiesto?)
Now that club patrons only want to hear 100 unique songs every Saturday night (Thanks radio & TV!), clubs can save money buy hiring the cheapest schmuck they can find with headphones because anyone can download those 100 songs for free. I have seen my fair share of promoter-turned-DJ and club-owner-turned-DJ. There ARE clubs that value quality but if they were the majority, I wouldn’t be writing this article. It’s not completely the club’s fault, they’re basing their prioritization of the DJ on the crowd. Why spend your money on a gourmet chef when people want to eat hot dogs? (Why am I trying to become a gourmet chef?)
Think I’m exaggerating about the “anyone can be a DJ” thing, check out this article – How Hard Is It To DJ? - Granted, this doesn’t make you a DJ in the same way that watching Bob Ross and smearing paint around doesn’t make you a painter. (I also want to kill everyone involved with that article for saying that DJing is easy as counting to 4.)
If you’re bored, Google “iPad mixer” and “iPod mixer”. Enjoy that.
If you know a real deal veteran photographer, ask them how many dipshits bought a camera and started calling themselves photographers the same day. I own a camera. I also respect the craft enough to know that I’m not a photographer.
Everyone has the attention span of a chihuahua on cocaine. You probably have ADD and a taste for instant gratification. If you’re still even reading this article at this point you just scored points with me just for being able to focus for 10 minutes. My first press kit was 7 pages. That was too long for people so it became 2 pages. Then it was 1 page. Then it had to be a 60 second video. I had to compress a 10+ year career and thousands of gigs worth of experience into 1 page and 60 seconds. That’s some pretty small font. (If you’ve been rolling your eyes like “Who the fuck is this guy?”, you can download my press kit HERE.)
Your average club goer doesn’t go to a club for the music. They probably don’t go to that particular club because of the club. They go wherever their friends are all going or wherever it will be cool to post a picture from. I’ll wait in line for hours to hear a DJ or band I love, not to post a picture from inside the party. (I love your limited edition Hip-Hop clothes, it’s a shame you didn’t know any of the obvious Biggie songs. Why are you here?)
Once you’re wherever you’re going, JUST COMMIT TO BEING THERE. If you’re at a party with friends, there’s no reason to look at Facebook or Instagram or Twitter! Is there a different party somewhere else that you’d rather go to? Are there other friends you’d rather be with? I’m not talking about taking a pic and posting it, I’m talking about watching people thumb through their feeds in the middle of the dance floor. When I see your backlit face, I want to hit it with my fist. I’ve heard rumors about clubs where cell phones aren’t allowed on the dance floor. Pinch me I’m dreaming.
If you think I’m over-embellishing the cell phone point, here’s a short film that should make you real sad. If it doesn’t, you’re probably one of the wastes of life in the film.
If you’re a DJ reading this and you don’t have a journal full of stories about club owners shitting on you, you must be new here. There are stories about DJ AM, probably the greatest and most influential DJ of all time getting shit on by club owners at the height of his career. Don’t believe me, Jazzy Jeff got pulled off stage more than once by management recently. In case you only remember Jeff from a tv show in the 90s, he’s a god in the DJ world in terms of legacy and talent. Read. Again, there are good clubs and club owners out there. You know who you are. Unfortunately for you, the next 20 clubs and owners after you make DJs hate the title “club owner”.
Festivals / Festival DJs
I could write an entire separate article describing what I think about the music festival phenomenon but I’ll just paraphrase it by saying, it’s rubbish. Remember my point earlier about committing to something because of the music? Here’s a video from Jimmy Kimmel where they talk to people at Coachella about bands that don’t exist. Unreal.
There are very few DJs that do something worthy of a festival stage. DJs like Z-Trip and Swamp are working their asses off on stage seamlessly blending endless genres, scratching, doing tricks and more. You know, actually performing. (This is the part where you find out there’s no Santa Claus.) SPOILER ALERT: Most festival DJs aren’t DJing at all. They’re just playing one long pre-recorded track. How do you think the lights and visual all match the music perfectly? Sure they’re turning knobs, jumping around, making heart hands, playing air synth and even throwing cake at kids in wheelchairs like Steve Aoki, but if they died, the next song would magically mix itself. There are a few festival DJs that actually mix the songs together themselves (pretty risky when they’re all 128 bpm) but this isn’t really DJing.
The skillset that a club DJ acquires over countless gigs can’t be earned any other way than in the trenches. Reading crowds, on-the-fly adaptation, honing technical skills, troubleshooting equipment problems without missing a beat, developing a style, taking chances, fucking up and learning from it; these are the things make you a real DJ.
Avicii had some real choice comments about DJing. Guess what asshole? You’re not a fucking DJ. You’re a producer. I’d respect you more if you came out on stage, thanked the crowd for coming, shouted out your light tech, recognized your visuals guy and then explained that you sequenced the next 90 minutes of music for their enjoyment. After that, walk off stage and let everyone enjoy the Avicii music video. You’re not needed anymore for the show to happen.
One time my friend was DJing at a bar in Los Angeles. A guy came over and asked him if he liked Rage Against The Machine. My friend told the guy that he was a huge fan. The guy said that Tom Morello was in the bar, liked his DJing and wondered if he could come watch for a bit. Ecstatic, my friend said “Of course!”. After about 20 minutes and a few questions, Tom Morello had explained to my friend that he wanted to start picking up DJ gigs on the side. Tom Morello. The guitar player for Rage Against The Machine. One of the greatest guitar virtuosos of our generation. A man who’s made a massive career and countless money being the best at something. Now he wants to do what you do. Worse than you do it. Probably for shits & giggles. Good luck keeping your gig if he tells the manager he wants it. My friend almost cried.
Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite. Danny Masterson from That 70′s Show. Elijah Wood from Lord of the Rings. Tommy Lee from Motley Crue. Alicia Keys. Pauly D. Random dudes from random bands. Over-the-hill celebrities from reality shows. The list goes on forever. We all saw that Paris Hilton festival debacle. Good thing she just signed a huge contract to DJ in Ibiza.
These people get paid bags of money to come to your club. They either play a prerecorded track that they paid an actual DJ to record for them or worse, they try to DJ and fail miserably. At the end of the day, the club charged $25 a head, made 10x what they paid the celebrity and your mom got to take a picture with someone she saw on TV one time. The crowd doesn’t know any better and they’re drinking the Kool-Aid so they think it was great. Pretty soon your job has no cred and every celeb that needs to pay their taxes is putting on headphones. I’m sure legitimate painters feel the same way when people like Sylvester Stallone edge them out of that gallery show they’ve been working their whole life to get.
If you don’t want to puke yet, read about 73 year old Ruth Flowers.
I thought long and hard about what to write here. I may pen something about battles one day but I think it would be too long for this piece and it really deserves it’s own article. I’ll just say that a lot of DJs win battles and can’t rock a party, a lot of DJs can rock a party and can’t win a DJ battle. Some can do both. Some can do neither. There’s a lot of great things about battles and there’s a lot of bad things about battles. “My name’s Paul and this between y’all…”
(I’m also not touching DJ schools and DJ staffing companies…)
Wanna be on a DJ roster? Let me walk you through your new job at Super Epic Killing It DJs.
First step, they reach into your pocket and take 15% (at least) of all your existing gigs that you’ve worked so hard to build up. If you’re not unfuckingbelievably good and/or don’t have a healthy gig schedule, forget it. (If you’re just OK but have some juicy gigs, you’ll still probably work out.) Then they’re going to get you a few out of town gigs, minus at least 15% of course. Assuming you do the gigs well enough (DJ well enough, bro out with the promoter and owner well enough, engage in whatever activities you need to well enough (binge drinking, drugs, sex, etc.)) to get called back, you stay on. Hopefully they’re getting you enough travel gigs at a big enough purse to even out the money they’re taking from you at home, the gig you gave up at home to fly out of town and any expenses you incur from traveling (airport parking, cabs, food, etc.). I’ve also heard of contracts where you get the gig and if you don’t get the call back, you owe the roster money for their time and investment. Yeah. You’re fired and you get an invoice for 4 figures.
I’ll let you run your own math in your head but your travel gig probably doesn’t pay what you’re fantasizing it does. (They used to pay a lot more.) Also, when you do the math, remember that you’re leaving your house at 2pm Friday and not getting back until 5pm Saturday for example. I don’t know what you’re worth an hour but you should probably factor all those hours. (You really like sitting at the airport, don’t you?) Just know that leaving your house at 9pm, DJing for 4 hours, getting home at 3am, sleeping in your own bed at 3am and making $X might be better than flying out of town for double $X after you factor hours, cabs, airports, etc.
It’s not a bad situation if the math works and you can get pretty high up on the roster. Most rosters have many many DJs and you’ll be at the bottom of the scrotum pole. If the roster loses a club contract, guess who ain’t working? That’s right, these rosters expand or contract based on the contracts available for their DJs.
Note: I have many friends on DJ rosters and they’re great guys and amazing DJs. They work a ton and make lots of loot. I also look at the rosters and see tons of guys I’ve never heard of who don’t seem to be working a ton. Know your role.
Don’t know what this is? It’s where a dude you don’t know calls and asks if you want to play in his town. All you have to do is give him or his DJ a gig in your town. Sound too good to be true? There’s a lot of it happening in the club world nowadays.
I’ve done this a few times and at the end of the day I have very little positive to say about it. I think I’ve made a couple actual friends but mostly I met a bunch of fake people who want to be your friend as long as it puts cash in their pocket a few times a year and looks good for their schedule. I’ve had people come play my clubs that sucked beyond belief. I’ve had people sleeping on my couch that I wouldn’t piss on if they were on fire. I’m owed a handful of gigs in various cities (Cleveland I’m looking at you). I quickly stopped after I saw the full picture of it.
What actually works is becoming real friends with a person, someone you also respect as a DJ, and then doing business together. Win/win. If the business doesn’t pan out at least you have a friend and that’s what really matters at the end of the day. You can also try being such a good DJ and grinding so hard that you get booked out of town and then get called back for doing good work. Case in point, DJ Excel. Great dude, great DJ, roster free, busy as fuck.
It’s getting harder every year to make the same dollar. I see 3 main causes:
1. Clubs have a bad taste in their mouth from overpaying a shitty DJ. You came in with your fancy press kit, talked until the club owner had a hard-on and then sounded like sneakers in the dryer when you DJ’d. Now I gotta somehow convince this person I’m worth what you got paid, if not more. Thanks asshole.
2. Undercutting. True story: Once upon a time in Portland there were 2 DJs who split a Wednesday at a club for $150. 2 hours each, $75 each. DJ A tells the owner, “Why don’t you fire DJ B and I’ll do the whole night for $100?”. (They’re supposed to be friends.) Club fires DJ B. DJ A doesn’t realize that not only is his dumb ass working for $25/hr instead of $37.50/hr but he’s also lowered the club’s budget. Now if someone takes over Wednesday, the bidding starts at $100 instead of $150. I think DJ A also caught an ass whooping.
I’ve had friends (excellent DJs) lose gigs over undercutting, sometimes where the new DJ came in and played for free. They just wanted drinks and celebrity and girls. Someone in the UK who didn’t believe undercutting was real asked, “How can a good DJ lose a gig to a shitty DJ?”. This brings me to my next point…
3. Some clubs (a lot of clubs) don’t value good DJs. A good DJ is a bargain. Obviously you’re getting someone who can rock a party but you’re getting much more that you might not realize. A good DJ is professional, promotes his gigs, works to expand his promotional circle, has professional grade gear and keeps it maintained so it doesn’t fail, has a strong network of other good DJs to refer, interacts well with customers, etc. You might not ever notice that your good DJ isn’t late or drunk or high or yelling at customers or letting records play out while he talks to girls or even bailing on gigs. Most people don’t notice things when they work they way they’re supposed to. You notice real quick when you hire a scrub. Meanwhile that fight you had with your good DJ over $50 was a short term bad idea that will turn into a long term bad idea when he takes 10 of your customers across the street. (10 customers at $20 a head = more than $50)
(I had a friend in Vegas lose a gig one time to a guy who sold coke to the manager. The guy didn’t even DJ.)
Note: If you weren’t around for that pre-2008 economic collapse corporate money, you missed out on some “never gon’ happen again, just put the whole bar’s tab on my credit card and add 30% for a tip, charging companies 5 times what you normally would” money. Sorry kid.
Summary & Key Points
There will always be DJs. There will always be DJing. We’re not going to wake up tomorrow to find that DJs on iPads have taken all the gigs. I still largely love my job and I’m going to DJ as long as I can. I’m constantly learning about new DJs who are pushing the envelope and making big waves. We also still have a strong community of veteran DJs who I look up to and inspire me to always improve. I definitely get humbled every now and again when I catch a DJ set from someone who is just a bad mother fucker on the decks. These DJs, great fans and good music are the reason I do it. It just gets harder to enjoy it every year in some ways.
This article isn’t about me. I’m not a grumpy old man wishing for days long gone, I’m just not lying to myself about what’s happening. If you think everything is awesome and you’re killing it, maybe you are. Maybe you’re not and nobody has told you. I’m still DJing, I’ve just stopped taking gigs I absolutely loathe and I don’t work for less than what I should be paid. This article is a response to what I see happening around me and where I think some things are heading. It’s about losing the platform to play good music in clubs and the state of music and DJing in general. I’m just saying what a lot of other DJs have said to me recently. It doesn’t apply to every DJ, but it applies to a lot of DJs. If you’re reading this and you’ve reached the level where you can make crazy bank playing whatever you want or love your gigs (or maybe money) enough to disregard music you might have to play that you don’t like, that’s what’s up. You got to the top of the mountain. Maybe you actually like the music you’re playing. Sometimes I wish I could just turn my brain off, smile and DJ. I haven’t spent my life becoming knowledgeable about good music so that I can play only bad music. Trap? Really?
I went to DJ in Australia in 2011 and saw a whole concert venue full of 14 year old girls singing along to big room house, the same house music that was charting in the UK, and had to come home to playing “I’m Sexy And I Know It”. We can do better. Will we?
A friend and DJ I look up to told me he couldn’t believe I didn’t drink because if he couldn’t drink he would have quit DJing a long time ago. He said he can’t imagine getting through some gigs sober. He hates it that much sometimes.
A lot of DJs I know with great taste in music are putting out mixes of fantastic songs they can’t play out because, well, they can’t play them out. Crowds don’t want to hear new, good, exciting music. They want the radio and they want it right now. I get lots of great music every week. I just can’t play most of it for club crowds. DJs don’t listen to what they play in clubs in their cars.
Too many of my friends, no matter how good they are or how long they’ve been DJing have had to put up with some real serious bullshit from clubs, promoters, other DJs and crowds as of late. I’m talking 10-15 year vets. Nobody is above it.
What is really, really getting better about DJing? Yes it’s a fun job but if it’s your career you need to think of it in terms of a career and goals.
My advice? DJs not in the top 5% need to think about their next career. If you’re in the top 5%, you make so much money that it doesn’t matter what happens next. (If you don’t know whether or not you’re in the top 5%, you’re probably not.) If you’re not in that category, think about what you’re going to do post-DJing and invest wisely. If you’re making good money now, don’t blow it all on rims. I’m not saying you can’t DJ forever, I just hope the money you make in 10 years is better than the money you make now if you’re still on the decks. I hope the gigs are better too. If you can’t make the money you want at your gigs yet, don’t be scared to make money some other way while your skill set develops to the point where you can command more money. Don’t get taken advantage of by clubs. Aside from that, put out mixes of whatever cool music you love and try to throw parties where you play good music. Keep good music alive, it’s your job!