The DJ has always played a crucial and powerful role in the development of the music industry. Regarded as “key influencers,” it was often DJs responsible for “breaking” new music and artists via outlets such as radio, nightclubs, and even mix-tapes. As much as it was a profession, the art of DJing was most definitely a labour of love; not everyone who simply enjoyed music was willing to spend months searching for a record, or years developing their skills mixing, scratching, and learning their music inside-out.
Today, DJ culture can be found everywhere and is more popular than ever. From video games and major marketing campaigns to music videos and celebrities, everybody seems to want a piece of the lifestyle and art form. With such a bright spotlight being cast on to the culture, many DJs have made the transition from simply playing music to producing their own material and performing it at sold out venues worldwide. Subsequently, the DJ has become just as relevant as the artists who’s records they were once playing.
While all of this new-found attention and exposure has its benefits, the negative side is that seemingly everybody now wants to become a DJ. Ironically, the same technology that has been an underlying factor in the development and growth of the DJ, is what has caused the market to suffer drastically.
In 2011, there are more individuals calling themselves DJs than ever before. Countless celebrities, actors, and even musicians are being booked at venues worldwide and marketed as DJs, yet haven’t the slightest clue how to mix two songs together, read a crowd, or rock a party. Similarly, thousands of aspiring DJs who have spent a few thousand dollars on the newest equipment and downloaded all of the latest hits feel as though they are entitled to headline a nightclub. Why is this? Have human beings become so infatuated with being curators of what’s “cool” that we’re willing to defecate on an entire art-form and culture?
The playing field and market has become over-saturated to say the least. Deserving DJs who are great at their job have been stripped of opportunity and are being undercut by a new generation. Club owners and promoters often pay someone who has no clue what they are doing $200, as opposed to dishing out real money to someone who is an experienced expert in their field. It is no wonder that venues are turning around faster than ever these days, often times with life spans of only a few months. An experienced, diverse, and well-versed DJ should be able to evoke, interact, and play with the emotions of any crowd placed before them. Did these club owners forget about the importance of investing in their own business to ensure longevity and growth?
I firmly believe that investing in the development of your brand is a cornerstone towards growth and future success, regardless of the business you are in. Unfortunately, many DJs do not seem to realize this and feel as though their skills alone are enough to validate their placement and demand. In this day and age, DJs who are serious about making a career out of their passion must be willing to invest back into themselves and their goals. Regardless of whether you have been in the game since the 80s or are just beginning, be prepared to take 30 per cent of your earnings and put it back towards your brand.
This may encompass everything from marketing materials (professional website, videos, podcasts, logo, etc.) to professional management and representation. To be taken seriously in such a saturated market, you must be willing to present yourself as such. Conversely, while it is important to brand yourself and communicate with your fan base (utilize social media, etc.), it is just as (if not more) important to invest a great deal of time and energy into practicing and developing your skill set.
At the end of the day, DJing and producing should be about the music and a quality performance will always be the best marketing tool possible. The DJs who are able to tread the fine line between these two realms will see the best results in terms of growth, demand, and price over time. If you are not willing to invest in yourself, why would anybody else?
Toronto’s Wristpect has established himself as one of North America’s most sought-after DJs. A love and appreciation for several genres has allowed him to remain extremely versatile in his endeavors. He has worked with and DJ’d events for the likes of Eminem, Drake, Lady Gaga, BlackBerry, Lebron James, Adidas, Playboy, and more. www.wrlstpect.com.