Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Rise Of The £50 DJ & Those Who Undercut

Technology has no doubt made our working lives a lot easier. We no longer have to haul crates of records to a gig anymore, and we can carry tens of thousands of songs with us on a laptop. In some ways it's a blessing...But I'll be real honest with you. The DJ game is pretty fucked up right now.

As all this technology and music is widely available, it means that any Tom Dick and Harry can become a fucking DJ. Once they've gone out and purchased a Serato/Traktor box and a laptop, and downloaded the Top 100 songs on Beatport or iTunes, they then automatically assume that they are ready to play out. As a result, standards are slipping. Before, we used to practise our mixing skills in order to make sure we were competent enough to perform in public. Nowadays, kids don't want to put the effort in. They don't want to practise. They don't want to learn how to put a coherent set together. They want to be able to start playing at clubs within a week of buying their first set up.

The number of DJs today are increasing at an alarming rate, and because they're all fighting for a spot to play out, and to prove their [lack of] skill, they are all willing to play for a cheap as possible, or even worse, undercut other DJs to get that gig.

Now, undercutting isn't new. It's existed for years, and is present in all other professions. But it really is at an all time high right now within the nightclub industry.

Not only do I find it morally wrong to use snake-like tactics to grab someone else's spot, I must ask you this. Do you not realise that by undercutting everyone and being happy to play for peanuts, you are in fact helping to drive prices down worldwide?

As I mentioned in my last post, you're only playing yourself if you are willing to DJ for £50; even if you are doing more than one night a week.


Now kids, you might think you're living the life by doing loads of gigs because you've undercut everyone, but let's do some simple maths and break it all down.

Let's say for instance, that you play up to 5 nights a week, from 10pm-3am (average nightclub opening times) for 50 quid a night. That's £250 gross income for 25 hours. You'll most likely leave for work about an hour before you're due to play, and will probably get home an hour later after you finish for the night. That's another 10 hours per week added on to your total.

You might spend a few hours a week getting new music, updating your social networks, etc. Let's say that takes around another 7 hours per week on average (1 hour per day). That's already 42 hours' worth of work per week for £250.

Now let's deduct the costs.

If you drive to most of your gigs, you'll no doubt have to fill up on petrol or diesel. The average person spends about £25 on petrol, so let's say for argument's sake that you spend £50, which also includes any car park fees that you might incur.

Unless you play really shitty YouTube rips in the club, you most likely buy your music via Beatport or iTunes, or a pay a subscription to an online record pool. £10 per week, maybe?

You might even fork out for food and drinks (depending on whether you get a bar tab thrown in), which might set you back another £10 per week, depending on how much you drink.

So with all those costs deducted, you work a 42 hour week for £180.

Divide £180 by 42 hours, and you get £4.29 per hour. Congratulations, you've just earned less than minimum wage! How stupid do you feel now?

Remember that DJ-ing can have its dry periods, so even if you are undercutting everyone to get work, you're not always going to have a regular income…

If you're one of those DJs who holds down a full time job however, and merely does this as a hobby, it's still no excuse to play for chump change. If you don't value your worth as a DJ, or aren't willing to take it seriously, then please stick to making mixtapes in your bedroom or playing on an internet radio station. Do not venture into our line of business, undercut those who do this as a career and fuck up their money. Not only will it hinder you from upping your fee later down the line, you could also earn the reputation as a snake within the DJ community, and even end up on the receiving end of a beat down. Trust me, I saw it happen to someone. It wasn't pretty, but that guy certainly learnt his lesson.

I propose that all new DJs must complete some kind of test or achieve some kind of legit qualification similar to tradesman, in order to go out and get legitimate work. That way, it'll separate the time wasters from those who want to succeed and build a career.

Overall, I know that as DJs, we are technically selling a service to venues and promoters. But please remember this - Cheaper does not always mean better. You get what you pay for.

Next time, I'll be addressing the issue of ticket selling bookings, and idiot promoters who expect you to play for free, seeing as they too are equally to blame for this current culture of £50 DJs.

Take care, and remember not to take any requests, even if they think "everyone will dance to it".

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Why I Hate The University Scene & Their 10+ DJ Lineups

The above image pretty much sums up these Urban events within the Uni scene...

I've done my fair share of student gigs over the years... Matter of fact, when I was first starting out a majority of my gigs were on-campus events.

If you're on the come up they're a great way to tap into your local scene and develop a fanbase, particularly if it's a weekly event. However, there are a number of things about them that really do piss me off from time to time.

Now, when I first started doing them there weren't as many DJs around; Back then it was just vinyl, CDJs weren't as commonly used, and you really had to prove your worth in order to get a spot at these events. However that has now changed and there are a million and one Uni DJs fighting for a spot...and of course they're all willing to play for peanuts.

Most of these guys really only do it because it's an image thing. They like the idea of linking girls at the rave and being able to strut around on campus saying "I'm a DJ" as if it gives them some kind of magical position within their university's social hierarchy.

Now, I have respect for people who graft hard to make it in this game. It's a tough world. Even more so now everyone rocks Serato. But if you're one of those Uni DJs who will happily travel from London to Nottingham, or Essex to Milton Keynes just for £50, then you're playing yourself. You are making no money whatsoever, and because the Uni scene is quite insular, that's really the only circle you're really going to move within if you're playing for that amount of money.

I've also found that the standard of DJ-ing is really low at these events. I've heard too many clangs to count, clashing vocals, and more YouTube rips than you can shake a stick at. If you don't aspire to do bigger things or work hard to perfect your craft, you won't be taken seriously, and you certainly won't be able to turn this into a proper career...unless you're just happy pretending to look like a don on social network sites with your laptops and Beats By Dre headphones.

One of the other main things that annoys me are the promoters who insist on booking 10+ DJs for their event. Why the fuck would you want to try and cram 10 DJs into pretty much one room for the space of 5 hours? It makes no sense. It's bad enough having to do the dreaded "Serato Swap Over" with just one other DJ, let alone a whole platoon of them. It becomes even more of a clusterfuck if they're using Traktor, Virtual DJ, or a MIDI controller. By the time you've changed over, you're lucky if you get 20 minutes before you then have to change over with the other DJ.

Because they're all so desperate to prove their worth, they all resort to playing the same fucking songs as everyone else. I swear the last time I went to a Uni rave I heard "Oliver Twist", "N***as In Paris", "Mercy" and that "Watch Me Do My Azonto" tune about 5 times each. 5 TIMES, MAN!

Hardly any of them specialise in a particular genre, so they all call themselves a "multi genre DJ", and pretty much play anything and everything under the sun in order to get that booking. Being versatile is a necessity, but please do it in a way that doesn't make you look like the a Mobile Disco.

If you're a promoter, and you're under the impression that all 10 DJs are going to bring a massive crowd with them, just to see them play for 30 minutes, then you are clearly mistaken. On campus, maybe... Out of town, let alone another county? Highly doubtful. I'm yet to see one uni DJ turn up from out of town with a whole army of fans in tow.

My advice to Uni scene promoters? Take that £500 you'd spend on (shit) entertainment, book three solid local DJs for £150 each, and then invest the change in flyers, or even dare I say it, a prize for a "like and share" competition on Facebook.

Better still, book two DJs and invest some more cash into a headline DJ or a PA. If it's a midweek event, their manager or booking agent might even do it for a discounted rate, especially if you promise them another booking later down the line...provided your night hasn't flopped.

Also, please give your raves better names than YOLO, Swagga, Overload, etc... There are probably 20 other club nights across the country who use those names. Also invest in a decent graphic designer, who will not use the standard stock template that I posted above. No one wants to see Ashanti, Drake, or any other generic woman on the flyer.

Next time, I will be be moaning about the rise of the £50 DJ, and how they are fucking up the scene.

Take care, and remember not to take any requests. Even if it is their birthday.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

The DJ Booth is not a fucking cloakroom

Here's something that really gets on my nerves. People who think it's acceptable to stash their coat behind the DJ booth, treating it like it's their own personal storage facility.

Similar to my earlier post about taking requests, if you refuse, some of these idiots get angry because you haven't granted their wish like you're the genie out of Disney's Aladdin.

There are a number of reasons why it's bad idea.

  • I'm too busy DJ-ing to look after your stuff. If it gets damaged/gets stolen due to other people storing their crap behind the booth you will no doubt blame me. I sure as hell won't be compensating you for the loss of your items, and quite frankly, I can't be arsed to have to deal with an argument with you and the club management.
  • Space is pretty limited in most DJ booths. If there is more than one DJ on the lineup, we have to store our own bags/jackets, as well as make space for our CDs/Serato boxes/laptops/vinyl, not to mention ourselves.
  • If you keep coming back and forth get your coat or handbag, it's inevitably going to distract me from doing my job. You may end up unplugging something, kocking the turntable or pushing buttons, which will not only spoil the crowd's night, but will also piss me off.
  • You may end up getting so drunk that you forget where you stored your coat. The last thing that security need is you causing a scene because you can't remember when you're stored your Topman blazer.

Moral of the story? Just pay the extra £2 to check in your coat at the club's cloakroom. If it's full, or if the queue is too long for you, then try again later. Chances are you've already paid to get into the club, and will probably pay for a cab home, so an extra couple of quid isn't going to hurt you, unless you're that desperate to spend it on a jagerbomb.

Better still, leave your coat at home. The weather is getting warmer now, so you can venture outdoors without risk of freezing.

Next time, I'll be ranting about a subject that needs addressing - University raves and events with 10+ DJs on the line up.