Producers and DJs looking depressed!

Illum Sphere

Illum Sphere

I understand that looking serious is very important in a DJ/Producer headshot.  No one wants to look like the ridiculous clown the media constantly portrays them as and everyone wants to be recognized as an artist.

HOWEVER, I found this new Tumblr of a series of photos of DJs and Producers looking depressed to be absolutely hilarious.  It’s all about context and in this context it’s let’s have a good laugh about it all. Sometimes we take ourselves TOO seriously (which I love you for no matter what).

Producers and DJs looking depressed.

Need DJ Inspiration? Go To The Movies!

 

Photo Credit: Stereo Club of Southern Californa

I’m a firm believer that you need to know your history to get a sense of your present and see the patterns that can help define your future.  I do want to comment though that the idea that things will be the same again, like the way we used to do it, is already a closed chapter.  The conditions and environment and tastes and music are just not the same to completely recreate the vibe of the past – enjoy the nostalgia for what it is.  Innovation is taking the best from the past and bringing into the present as a fresh perspective.  Which is why I think you should schedule yourself some DJ inspiration movie marathon time.  Beatport has come out with a list of the best Detroit Techno documentaries ever made.  This doesn’t have to be about techno, there are a ton of hip-hop, house, and rave documentaries to mine for inspiration. DJ Tech Tools has a regular column devoted to DJ/Producer documentaries.  The point is to get to know the heroes that made it happen and if you were one of the lucky ones to go through the experience while it was happening, see what you can do to honor it.

The 10 best Detroit techno documentaries ever – Beatport News.

Even More Documentaries for Producers and DJs – DJ Tech Tools

HOW TO HANDLE PRESSURE

Pressure is not something to be taken lightly.  Well, let me back up.   There’s different kinds of pressure.  Pressure you put on yourself and pressure others put on you.   The pressure I want you to pay attention to first is the pressure you put on yourself.  That you don’t take lightly.  For a second, forget about everyone else, doesn’t matter who they are.  One thing I know about DJs is that you will obsess to no end on the littlest details and efforts, you are perfectionists and your own worst critics.  Sometimes it can be a vortex you get sucked into, a never ending loop of questioning and doubt and that’s just what can happen in your own studio!  Pressure can manifest itself in many ways, from obsessing to full blown anxiety.  Guess what, that’s ok!  It’s ok to have standards and push yourself, it’s ok to get a little nervous before a gig.   The problem is when the pressure is so paralyzing you are not moving forward, getting out of your own head, or being relaxed enough to get into the flow.  You have to maintain perspective in the face of pressure.  Some DJs go into things thinking ok, I know something is going to happen – it always does!  Then somehow they magically chill out.  It’s a quick fix though and doesn’t help with the long term grind of being a DJ.

Handling pressure is one of the biggest tools in your DJ arsenal.  Remember the openness of your mind and your heart directly affects your creativity.  The point is to pre-empt pressure before it becomes so acute you get twisted up and tangled in your own situation.  You need to stay ahead of pressure.  That means not procrastinating, knowing what you’re doing, working out ideas as soon as you have them, being organized, and reducing distractions (do you really need to be the 39th comment on a Facebook post?).  If you have your internal pressure valve on balance you will be able to handle the other kind of pressure, the pressure from others.

Everyone has a stake in your game at some point – regardless of your level.  Venue owners, promoters, agents, producers, labels, other DJs, to name a few.  All of them have expectations and in a lot of cases rightfully so.  How you handle pressure from others is nothing short of knowing what your priorities are at every turn.  You may want to consider the agent a priority because you’re at a certain level and want to be part of an agency, so making sure you’re responsive to them is your priority for the moment.  Venue owners, have to get above that bar guarantee!, may need some extra assurance so promoting may be your priority.  It all depends on your situation and what is most important to you.  I didn’t mention the audience or your music (your music can be an entity in of itself) because those will always be your priority depending on your DJ philosophy.  I’m just talking about the extra chatter and needs of others that you may perceive as contributing to pressure filled situations.

Above anything else you need to get to a state of comfort and confidence.   If you are on top of the noise inside your head first then anything else should be a breeze.  Pressure will always be there whether it’s internal or external, it’s part of the DJ vocation.  The thing to remember is that you can’t be everything to everyone, including yourself.

DJ STEREOTYPES

DJ Pauly D For SK Energy Shots

<begin rant/>

I’m heading into very controversial waters here but something has been nagging me for a long time.  In the past few years I have noticed an increase in the use of the DJ image as a prop or selling tool.  Far be it from me to stop the machine from promoting what we do but the executions are such trainwrecks it begs the question of what’s the point?  Brands, typically, like to target a certain demographic of people – usually young usually hip.  So if the current zeitgeist is DJ friendly you will see DJing everywhere – in commercials, in print, in movies, on billboards, in advertising in general.  My issue with this is that brands and their marketers really aren’t very savvy when it comes to profiling DJing in the work.  Have you ever noticed a commercial where you can just tell the person is not a real DJ and just an actor.  That burns.  There are so many DJs out there, why not use a real one!  Or how about the major screw up in the Smirnoff campaign where there is a dude hunched down in an exaggerated DJ pose (of course there’s a gorgeous lady looking intently at him) and there are NO slipmats or needles on the decks.  Google it, trust me, MAJOR screw up.

When I see these things I think of that scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesce keeps saying to Ray Liotta, “What am I fucking clown? Am I here to amuse you?”  I really feel we are here to amuse people sometimes.  There is stereotyping going on and whether it’s a caricature or not it gives people a really mixed message about what DJs are and what they do – which is a HUGE complaint in DJ culture – the lack of understanding from mass audiences about what we do.  So in essence, these messages are perpetuating an idea that we are props and in some cases the clown or party jester.  It’s nice to know that we are considered the embodiment of cool in a social setting, but do it right!

I will say there are some instances where it is done right.  Case in point, is the Blackberry campaign that profiled The Martinez Brothers in quite a thoughtful and sweet way.  They showed them playing their own music and just talking about what they do.  Sure were they shilling for a gadget, of course, but I don’t think it’s wrong for a DJ to endorse a tool that makes their lives easier (whether it’s for real or not).  The point is that it felt authentic, not a send up, no hype, real artists.

I was lucky enough to consult on a video shoot that had a party scene for a popular website.  The producer, Maryann Rounseville, took great pains in wanting a real DJ not only to capture in the video but also to play real music during a full day shoot because she knew the value of a real DJ and keeping the energy of all the actors and crew up and happy.  That’s rare and I applaud her for that approach and sensitivity.

Finally I just to want leave you with the image above of Pauly D.  I was walking in Times Square and this huge billboard was up.  I have mixed feelings about it.  Again, I do not want to fault a DJ for endorsing a product but is this the best way to show who we are with illustrated decks, cutesy musical notes, hands in the air with no crowd and just product product product?  I’m thinking no.

Pay attention to what’s going on if you aren’t already.  You’re going to start noticing it and the next time you ask yourself why don’t people get it, you may want to consider stereotyping as a possibility.
</end rant>

HOW TO FIND YOUR DJ STYLE

Credit: John Matthew Photography Flickr

I’ve posted some DJ exercises in the past that hinted on developing your style as a DJ.  I’d like to write a more comprehensive piece for you.  Hopefully this will provide you the mindset to think more broadly about your style.

 
Your style starts at birth, I really believe that.  If you think about your entire life, everything you have done, everything you have seen, everything you are contributes to your style as a DJ.  For better or worse everything in your past and present directly contributes to who you are as a DJ.
Considering though that DJs love tips and lists, I have compiled a series of questions to ask yourself.  Dig deep I always say!

 
1) Growing up, what did your parents listen to?  Whether you liked it or not, you absorbed that in some way.  How is it manifesting in your musical choices?  This includes if you played a musical instrument.  Based on my research most DJs played a musical instrument at some point in their life. Get back in touch with all of that.

2) What is your role in a group or social setting?  Are you the quiet observer or the instigator (hopefully in a good way!)?  Are you the confidante, do people automatically tell you their life stories?  Figure out the role you play when you are with people and chances are that’s the type of presence or vibe you should have behind the decks.

3) Obvious! Who are your DJ and musical heroes? It’s more than that though.  Really study and experiment with different techniques and equipment.  Stretch yourself to the max.  Don’t be lazy and find what you’re really good at (are you good at drops, cuts, long blends, creating music on the fly, empathy with the crowd) – that should point you in the right direction.

4) Who are the people around you? Are you in touch with an artist community aside from other DJs? Understand that inspiration and style can come from many different places.

This is about finding your uniqueness and if it’s one thing about DJ’ing, you need to stand out and be authentic.

If you haven’t seen the DJ exercises I mentioned check these out:
The Zen DJ Challenge: http://behindthedecks.org/2012/01/26/the-zen-dj-challenge/

The What’s My Sound DJ Challenge: http://behindthedecks.org/2012/06/28/the-whats-my-sound-dj-challenge/

The Out Of My Element DJ Challenge: http://behindthedecks.org/2012/04/06/out-of-my-element-dj-challenge/

DJs OUTSIDE THE MAINSTREAM

Greetings everyone!  I am happy to announce my partnership with the Dope Underground Beats project.   See me put DJs in the hot seat where I ask them questions about their inspirations and creativity (and they have no choice to answer my questions, because I’m so charming).   After that you get to enjoy watching and listening to an exclusive set, recorded in HD, of each DJ in their element.  If you need new influences, new music, a breath of fresh air if you will, tune in.

Here is more info for you.

Based on two premises, giving back to the DJ community and allowing for safe uninterrupted creative space, the Dope Underground Beats project is dedicated to profiling up and coming DJs and encouraging them to be in their element. The DJs are given one task, play what they want as if no one is watching. Freed of expectations, the DJ is allowed to express their true creative side and let their point of view shine through unencumbered. Mustapha Louafi, the brains behind the DUB project, has been a lifelong DJ and DJ community supporter. He carefully selects each DJ based on their individuality and musical sentience.

Each set is paired with an interview by Behind The Decks founder and DJ coach Cristina DiGiacomo that illuminates each DJs background, goals, influences and intentions for their set. In addition, sets are recorded and filmed in HD quality audio and video so the viewer gets the most immersive experience possible – throw a set onto your TV and you’ve got your own personal DJ in the room. As you explore each set one thing will become apparent, each set is like a fingerprint, no one set sounds or looks like the other allowing for diversity and the sense that you will find something truly unique.
www.dopeundergroundbeats.com

THE WHAT’S MY SOUND DJ CHALLENGE

The What’s My Sound DJ Challenge is meant for you to look closely at the elements of music that inspire you.  Perhaps you feel too influenced by the market or are stuck and need some grounding.  This is also a good exercise to help you identify your sound or style.  The big eye opener for me was at one time I thought my sound was “dark” (or that’s what I thought I should be or was told that’s what I should be), and really I was just fooling myself, because what I came to realize was that I was more “light” and “romantic”.  Give this a try – you may just learn something about yourself.

THE WHAT’S MY SOUND DJ CHALLENGE

Look at your track collection and pick 10 songs that you cannot live without.  Don’t just pick songs you got recently, really dig into your “crate” and pick ten songs.  Songs that if you were stranded on a desert island you could listen to for the rest of your life.   Don’t evaluate them yet, just pick them out.   Now, pretend those are the only tracks you have – forget about your collection.  Listen to every track. Don’t think you just know them because they’re your favorites.  Listen to them, really listen.   Now evaluate them – but evaluate them in terms of what they signify about YOU.   What are the elements of these tracks that are similar?  What sounds are you hearing that may be consistent through all of them?  Is there one theme or word that describes all ten?  These are your passion tracks.   If you have identified what makes these songs resonate with you, then you have identified your passion sound.  Moving forward, when you listen to new tracks you will evaluate new tracks in relation to what your passion sounds are.  This will help you continue to build a strong discography based on authenticity and individuality.