Production. As I said in part 1, people are getting this drummed into them. Production, production, production! Yes it does help you get noticed and is a very important tool. But remember there are thousands of others doing the exact same thing with the same dream. It’s impossible for everyone to get the very few gigs that are available. Every few years we see a romantic story where a certain producer makes it to the big time (Deadmou5 is one of them), this in return creates an instant chase of others trying to do the same thing. It’s all about being lucky at the right time, unfortunately these stories are very few. What is a challenge is getting noticed and sustaining a long career. How many DJ’s and producers have we seen come and go over the past couple of decades? Good producers with continuity last. Keep making high quality productions with solid ideas and you’ll get a strong following. We all know how many releases hit the shops each week, so thank goodness we can add the best ones to our ‘favourites’ in the shops. This is a great way to establish fans. I constantly add good ones to my Beatport favourite list so I’m notified of when they make a new single.
Many people panic, thinking if you don’t produce tracks gigs won’t come in. The result is a half-hearted idea that isn’t well produced that they rush to get released. This can damage your quest even more. One solid track can get heads turning, so make sure you take your time and get advice of when it’s ready for release. Turning to a good record label will help, unfortunately there’s very few of them left these days. Anyone can start up a digital record label and churn out as many tracks as they want. A good record label will take you under their wing with support, advise and help you grow. This is what I do at JOOF, I have personal relationships with my artists, I constantly get them to tweak parts of the tracks, and help with engineering until my ears (and my team) give the thumbs up to release. No track will get released until we’re all happy. Finding a good label like this will help you no end.
Don’t fall into the trap of expecting your career to take off when the number 1 DJ in the World plays your track on his radio show and at gigs. I hear this story many times. Think about it logically. Armin (num 1 DJ) plays a good 30 tracks on his radio show every week, but we don’t see 30 new producers careers being launched every week. Ideally you want that particular DJ (that you want to support your music) to be playing your tracks each and every week, thus getting lots of airplay. Armin gets quite a few million subscribers on his Radio show/Podcast, so your track will be getting lots of exposure and you’ll be tapping into his fans. BUT you must be constant, people will lose interest (as do the DJs) if your follow up tracks are not as strong, well produced etc. So it’s important to target the DJ’s who you think will support your sound. Oh and don’t make the other mistake of feeling pressure to make music you don’t really like with the psychology that you’ll be reaching the masses by making big hits, and when your famous you can start making the music you really want. It doesn’t quite work like that!
As with DJing, there’s no hard and fast rule of what equipment to use. A good producer who understands music can make amazing tracks from whatever sequencer is given to him. Learn your tools, understand musical engineering and synthesis. My only advice would be to spend most of your budget on a good set of monitors (these are your ears) and a powerful computer. Don’t overload yourself with too many VST plugs. If you don’t understand how to use a: EQ, compressor, Synth then stop downloading more and more until you understand the tools you already have got? Just because a famous DJ or producer uses a certain synth or plug, it doesn’t mean that your music will magically sound like his if you get the same one! You can make it sound like his by understanding this complicated world of production and engineering.
Getting gigs. This is the million-dollar question and probably the most single question that comes up every single day for many aspiring DJ’s. I honestly feel your pain. You spend hours finding music and preparing sets at home, but there comes a point when you think is it all worth it because you’re not actually getting to play out? There’s a thousand DJ’s locally all trying to get the few gigs that are available. Many of the promoters of these clubs are actually DJ’s themselves, taking up yet another precious slot. Things look pretty bleak out there, especially in the Trance World due to the lack of clubs.
I have a solution, but lets look at the gigs that are currently available out there. First and foremost, you need to put yourself in the promoter’s shoes, and see things from his point of view. Most promoters are not rich guys. They are passionate music people who want to throw a good party! These guys have a lot of overheads; club/venue hire fee, staff wages, equipment hire, insurance, promotion then the DJ’s fee on top of all that. It can take them years to get established; over those years they often just break even or lose money on gigs. They need to balance the books (as with any business) and think carefully with every decision they make. A gig could cost them from $10,000 – $500,000 (or more) to put on. Ask yourself this question, if you where putting $10,000 of your OWN money into an event, would you book some random DJ asking for a gig? If it’s your own money, you will scrutinise every single financial decision you make in order to earn your money back from that event, and hopefully make a profit. When I used to run clubs many years ago, I used to be pissed at the amount of new DJ’s who wanted to play at my club who had never even stepped into the venue. I’d ask them, how do you know your sound will suit my club if you’ve never stepped foot in the club? You don’t know my crowd. I used to give the gigs to the regular faces as I knew they where dedicated to the club and knew the crowd very well.
This is how promoters work. You need to become a value to the promoter, as it’s his own money he’s putting at risk. Yes you get the promoters that see the value in you bringing 50 of your friends if he books you (I’ve already covered this and don’t agree with it) but the smarter promoters will see the value in the professional job you can offer, especially if you are part of his community. If there’s a club you really want to play at, I suggest you become a regular face there. Be sensible and don’t get off your trolley partying! Put your work head on and research the club/event and make sure that your sound will suit the club. Watch the flow of the night and how the people react, really get to understand that club (you’ll pick up DJ tips from this even if the gig doesn’t transpire).
The hardest step is trying to make contact with the promoter (Very are pretty illusive !!). This guy must get hundreds of emails and links of music every week. Being honest I doubt he listens to many of them, as it’s an impossible task. Most DJ’s will make a prime time set in their bedroom and use that as their demo mix. But think about it sensibly, if you where to get a gig you’ll be playing an early warm up set until you prove yourself. I suggest you show the professional side of your DJ skills and make a warm up set, as this is realistically what you are pitching for. The promoter gets so many ‘prime time’ sets from new DJ’s, it will be a relief he’s getting sets for the slots he needs. It will be rare you’ll find the personal email address of the promoter (unless you are lucky), so send to the info part of the website, I’m sure it will reach him eventually. If there’s a contact address on the website, then send him a CD too. Keep your email down to a minimum, don’t blab on as he probably wont read all of it. Keep it simple letting him know that you want to offer a professional opening set to compliment his guest DJ’s. Let him know that you are a regular face at the club and know the place well. Keep sending him up to date mixes, even if you haven’t had a reply. He or his staff will soon get familiar with your name, even if you don’t hear back from them. Your next step is to try and get to meet him or his staff, your best chance of doing this will be at his club. This is where you will earn brownie points as you are at his club/event. I think the face-to-face meeting is priceless, this is the moment you stop being an email and turn into a real person, it humanises the process. Don’t hound the guy; introduce yourself and let him know you’re that guy who’s been sending lots of mixes in hope to get an opening slot. Don’t ask him if he’s heard them, being honest he probably hasn’t or even heard of you, so it’s better not to make him uncomfortable. Also don’t hand him a CD, this happens all the time and he wont even take it home. A promoter in a club away from his office is usually two different people! The important thing is you have met and he knows your name. The next week, send him a more personal email saying it was great to meet him and thank him for taking time out to say hi. Also include a link to your latest mix. Try and find him each time you go to his event, just to say hi so that he is aware that you are a regular face. There comes a point where he gets to know your face, name and emails. This will help you stand out from the masses getting a more personal relationship hopefully opening the door to a gig.
There is another way, a much easier way to get gigs. I believe in 10-year cycles in the music industry and I’ve seen them come and go in my career. There’s always a familiar pattern within these cycles, especially with commercialism. Something good comes along, then all the big corporate companies/artists/DJ’s/agencies jump on it cashing in…trashing the good thing we used to have. I may come across as a purist sometimes, I assure you I’m not. I’m just a bloke who’s passionate about the more specialist side of things. I have nothing against commercialism; in fact it reignites the underground scene and is an important tool. We’re currently at the height of commercialism in the Trance World at the moment. Music has gone very pop and generic. DJ’s have become celebrities. Trance communities have got confused with a mixture of specialist and commercial fans not understanding each other and constantly fighting on their forums. The natural split is starting to take form. Specialist music lovers have stopped going out to mainstream Trance nights, it doesn’t interest them seeing a celeb DJ playing all the anthems. They want their hit of serious music, and want to be entertained by new fresh music. The specialist DJ’s, are finding it extremely hard to find gigs that don’t exist. History always shows, that’s it’s these very people that are frustrated with the current musical climate that start up their own nights. Danny Rampling, Paul Oakenfold, John Digweed, and Carl Cox even myself all did it! (These where the days when we were unknown new DJ’s). We had nowhere to play/go out that suited us so we made our own nights! This is what the Trance World is screaming out for today. These nights will guarantee you’ll be playing out every weekend. If I go back a few years I held six weekly residencies in London alone. All these weekly gigs were places I could play the music I loved. There was a regular roster of DJ’s that I played alongside, all with plentiful gigs.
It’s a perfect time to start your own night. The specialist Trance scene is not in a healthily place at them moment (the current promoters just seem to be playing safe booking commercial DJ’s), but we know there is a hunger for it. . The Worlds economy is in a very bad way too meaning there are plenty of clubs/pubs out there struggling to pull people into their venues. This is an ideal time to approach them because we know they won’t try and charge you a fortune for venue hire. If anything you should be angling to get the venue for free. My advice is to start small. All the World best underground nights start this way. 100 – 200 capacity venue is perfect (even a pub!). If you gather together your DJ’s for the night each will bring alone a good 20 – 30 people (fellow music lovers), before you know it you have 150 people. There in no better party than a small intimate venue with familiar people/faces all enjoying the same vibe. You know for sure those people will come back to then next event and bring more friends. Word of mouth will do the rest and before you know it, this will be a regular event. These are the best events I’ve ever played in my career, I actually crave them today and am actively searching to play more of them. It may seem a daunting task to put on your own night, I promise you it isn’t. The club/pub with take care of the actually running of the night leaving you to promote and set things up.
The scene desperately needs these new nights to introduce people to a more specialist market. As things stand we have no gateway to this in the Trance World, people try a regular Trance night, find it too commercial then move to something else musically. If I go back a decade we had a plethora specialist nights in every city across the UK, and the World. The saturation of the commercial World is offering a perfect platform for you to start your own events, as people are hungry for something new, fresh and interesting. History shows this is what people are looking for. Internet (Facebook etc) provides the perfect tools for you to spread the word. In this specialist World you’ll find similar people unite supporting the special events you are providing, they become ‘family’. You’ll even have fellow promoters from other cities helping with promotion, offering you gigs and you’ll do the same back because you all share the same passion. This wonderful World needs to come back, it just takes motivation from yourselves to do it. This is where I found my gigs at the start of my career, we made our own events thus launching my own DJ career as a DJ without any production. The days of true DJ’s will come back and you can play a part of this.
I will help in any way possible giving advise here or even playing for one of your shows where possible! I’m 100% behind supporting the specialist scene.
The commercial Trance World is the only scene that is competition led, as opposed to performance led. It’s all about winning best DJ awards, best radio shows, best resident, best album; then they hold their trophy at the end of it and get gigs from this. This award should actually go to the IT team! I’m letting you know this because if you chose this path as a career, you have to know what you are up against. It’s an unfair World. No matter how good you are, you need to join this competitive game. It reminds me of the pop World where you need an infrastructure in place for things to happen.
If you chose the more specialist path, the playing field is more even and you can break a career from simply being a good DJ (with no production). Word of mouth is a powerful tool in this World, if you’re good at your art of DJing then people will talk and want to come and see you perform. Remember this is a music lead scene, people don’t care about celebrity DJ, they want a professional performance and to hear new fresh music. In this World you have to be good at what you do, those trophy’s mean nothing. You need to be at the top of your game both as a DJ and musically then the rewards will come to you.
As you can see two different Worlds, and I respect both. It takes a lot of hard work and planning on the business side for the commercial guys to achieve their goals, so them reaching the top of the ladder I admire the dedication they put into this. Very clever guys. The same for the specialist guys who dedicate their lives to music alone, this I can relate too.
Ultimately you are the one who can make things happen by being motivated. Things don’t come to you….you have to get of your backside and make them happen.
Good luck J