There are a lot of threads going around from DJs who are upset about not getting booked more, and especially, as much as they used to.
I’ve covered related topics but not specifically the idea of dj relevance. To stay relevant is a constant hustle and I’ve had some new thoughts on it I would like to share.
First of all, you’ll notice that the longer a dj has been around, the more likely they are to complain about not getting booked any more. To continually get booked as a dj, as a musician of any kind, as an artist of any kind, probably as a freelancer of any kind, you must stay relevant.
It doesn’t matter if you were one of the first electronic music djs if you don’t continue to prove your worth. To be honest, the earlier you started, the less competitive the field was, and the easier it was to get gigs. It was still necessary to hustle but there were not millions competing against you.
It’s true for me too. I bet you’d be surprised to know that I had just as many gigs in 1999 as I do in 2019. I look back at my schedule and can’t believe how many gigs I had as a new dj in the scene – I only started to mix in 1996, and my 1999 I was playing around the country and had my first international gig.
In retrospect, things happened quickly because I did have hustle, I was at all the parties, passing out flyers for parties I was promoting, passing out mixtapes to promoters and fun dancers I met on the dance floor. I cut my own inserts for my mixtapes, folding them by hand, picked up flyers and went out everywhere. It was a lot of work but it was a breeze compared to what I have to do now to stay relevant.
I’m not saying it was better then, it was just different. Now there is more consistency in my gig quality, and I get paid way better. But the first 3 years was a lot faster progress than the next 20, just due to the changing market. I made it through and stayed relevant but, I kid you not, it has been constant work to stay up and I went through a lot of the same feelings I hear out there now.
If you don’t know, the year 2000 saw massive change in the electronic music scene with the burst of the internet bubble and the collapse of many tech companies that were helping fund the parties. The underground warehouse and rave scene changed and a lot of the energy moved into clubs and monetizing on events became more alcohol-driven.
For a dj what this meant is that everything got way harder. My gig schedule was cut in half right at the time I was trying to make it and over the next couple years I killed my credit. Finally I had to focus more on work and started a teaching career.
But despite all that I kept working, and working, and working on my events and music to stay in the game.
Djs that made it quickly, and then dropped off at any point sometimes don’t realize that they were kind of fortunate to live in a time when it was easier to get gigs. I think the ones that kept pounding mostly got pretty famous. But the ones who did not stay up, who took breaks of any kind, who did not grind, grind, grind need to understand some things.
DJs need to understand that every year they are not active, a million new people have decided to become DJs. Its the trendiest thing ever.
These new djs don’t have the frame of reference you do, they know it’s gonna be really hard to make it, and they know that they are in a very competitive field. It’s truly harder being an old-schooler because there’s that tendency to glorify the past and wish it was the way it used to be. If you’re new, this doesn’t exist for you, and you are more in tune with modern booking trends.
DJing is one of the most fun jobs on the planet so you really have to bear in mind that means one of the most competitive. It’s not that easy to find a shit job either btw. So what are my recommendations to stay relevant? Well there are a lot of different ways to, so I’d say number one thing is find the ones you enjoy doing, because it’s going to take up a lot of your time.
I am lately very inspired to write, and firmly believe in sharing information and knowledge, so this blog and the MDJM channel I’ve just launched on YouTube every Tuesday at 2:22pm are examples of things I really enjoy, that aren’t directly to do with Djing or asking for gigs, but which bring attention and respect to me. I have a following amongst both old-school and new-school djs and producers, which is amazingly helpful.
Another thing I do is that relates to Djing is organize an extremely well respected party – Tropical – which celebrated 21 years yesterday. Like my dj career, I have never let up in promotion – we are on Tropical number 88 a week from Saturday, bringing Tropical to Eugene for the first time. I’m also staying active in my home town of LA, by celebrating our anniversary to bring in the new year with friends at Tropical Synergy 2020 NYE Gathering.
I also think I stand out in event organization for always trying to make the production better, as well as trying to make the world a better[place through $30,000 donated to charity and more recently, our zero waste initiatives
I also think I’m a really talented dj with a unique style but notice how little I mention this because that literally goes nowhere without hustle. You can see how consistency is crucial to relevance and anyone in sociall media will also tell you consistency is number one to building a following of any kind.
When I do seek gigs, I research the ones I really want to play and try to approach them positively, tactfully, and patiently. You won’t ever hear me complain about not getting booked more, I’m too busy working my ass off to stay relevant in ways that I actually enjoy.
So what if you have taken a break and are frustrated by your prospects in the scene right now?. Well, you’re going to have to get over yourself and figure that out.
If you struggle to find some ways to stay relevant that you think you will enjoy putting the work into, then maybe try something new like diving into production. That’s not easy either, I’d say my achilles heel is making time for it. But if you’ve kind of fallen off people’s radar and want to make a comeback, perhaps you do have time for it and this could be the ideal time to try something new (though no doubt equally demanding and difficult) Still, it may be less frustrating to try something new, than try to reach back for a peak you reached decades ago.
I would love to hear your thoughts as always.
#moderndjmusings #mdjm #benannand #zerowastedj