Contracts, Divas, and the Dancefloor: Things that can go wrong

Things happen and then things can go stupendously wrong.   This post is about protecting your sanity and the sanctity of the gig.   This is only the tip of the iceberg – share with me your stories ( I’m opening the comment thread on this post ) so others can learn from you.  The point is that there are many things you can do to avoid some of the problems that occur at a gig BEFORE they happen.

The Contracting Process:

When you sign up for a gig, aside from the usual who-what-when-where-why, it’s really important to know the unspoken details – they’re unspoken for a reason.  Check out the venue the week before on the same night or previous night you are spinning.  Read the reviews on the venue.  It’s important to know your venue.  What are the management’s expectations? Do they promote their venue at all? Of course you need to bring people but get a sense of how many. Some venues have a bar guarantee – in other words if the bar doesn’t make a certain amount of money, you are on the hook to pay the difference if the bar doesn’t make it.  Even if they don’t, it’s important to ask on average how much the bar makes on that night.  Do not delude yourself on the numbers.  Even in NYC a $4000 bar minimum is nothing to mess around with – you would be surprised how hard it is to reach a number like that.  I’ve seen packed floors not even reach $2K. You also should probably know by now that management may not always be honest with the numbers so as not to have to pay your rightful percentage – it’s tough economic times for venues and fuzzy math is commonplace. Make sure you ask questions – if the venue has multiple bars, for example, do they all factor into your minimum or only the one you are directly spinning near?  Very important: get something in writing!  I know it’s scary to present a venue with a contract or agreement of some kind but when you are dealing with money, especially if you are getting paid or on the hook for a certain number, you need something in writing.  At the very least, make sure communications with the management are emailed.  You also need an agreement with the management regarding music and gear.  Too many times I have seen DJs assume they can play their usual only to find out the management was expecting something else or worse, promoted the night as that something else.  I have seen DJs that were told there is a set up and walk in to find things missing or the system in shoddy condition.  IMPORTANT: Arrive as early as you can to a gig to check out the situation in case there is a problem – you have time to rectify it.

Promoters:

There are good promoters and there are not so good promoters.  Do not take what promoters (or anyone for that matter) say at face value.  Do your homework. See if anyone has worked with them.  Look at their site, social network, etc.  Really understand who you’re dealing with.  Do not agree to pay them a flat fee – if that’s what they ask for, run do not walk.  They should be paid by the number of people they bring in – not people on a list, people who actually show up.  I’ve seen DJs agree to a flat fee and sign on promoters who basically just blasted out an event on Facebook ( to mostly fake Facebook profiles or people not even in the country of the gig ).  Make sure that promoter runs in a similar circle as yours and also ask them what their promotion schedule is, if they are promoting another gig close to the date of yours chances are they will promote heavily the gig that enhances their reputation best ( which is understandable ) – hopefully that is your gig, but if it’s not you’re out of luck as they are not going to burn out their main resource, their people.

Menacing on the Dancefloor:

I love great dancers I really do.  But sometimes floor hoggers can clear a floor faster then you can blink your eye.   Most people enjoy watching them for fifteen minutes or so but then they want to get back on the floor.  If the dancers do not oblige you have a potential problem on your hands.  There is a certain danger people feel when there are dancers doing windmills and back flips in a small space – no one wants to get hit.  So people leave never to come back.  Also, be mindful of bad energy on the dancefloor – overall menacing can also effect things ( you or your DJ partner should always be walking through the floor checking on the energy ).  Alert staff – don’t try to deal with it on your own.  Remember you are the protector and nurturer of a good time ( See Building the Foundation of a Dance Floor ) and if there is an element that is negatively affecting the floor you must do something about it.  It is your job to keep that floor filled and happy, your success is judged on it – don’t let some bad apples ruin it for you.

Check the party schedule in your area:

This is obvious but often a forgotten detail.  It’s very important to know what parties are going on at the same time you are considering your date.  If a superstar DJ is in town or there are three huge warehouse parties going on at the same time you may want to reconsider the date of your party.

The lineup:

Another obvious and overlooked detail.  Know who you’re spinning with.  Listen to their mixes, see them play out.  I’ve seen DJs put other DJs in the lineup having never heard a mix only to find out too late that the DJ isn’t a good fit or worse, too junior to be up there. Also, it used to be that you could have a lineup where you have different styles of music all in one night ( ah, those were the days! ).  Now you have to really think about how to put your line up together.  Make sure you create your lineup based on the kind of DJ a person is – warmup, peak, 2am, closer.  Do not put someone who is a good warmup DJ in the 2am slot even if you are feeling pressure from that DJ.  You know your lineup, you know your vision for the party.  If they don’t like it – get someone else, you don’t need the headache of a diva.

Which leads me to . . .

Divas

If you have a diva on your hands – suck it up.  There is enough information out there and word of mouth that is known about DJs reputations so you should have known about them before you engaged them.  If a DJ is that important enough that you need to deal with it then you have accepted the responsibility.  Do your best to accommodate them and hope they bring it.  If they don’t then you have every right to call them out on it after the gig.  If you have a wasted DJ on your hands, keep an eye on them, if they are barely functional keep the previous DJ on or get the next DJ in the lineup ready.  DO NOT PUT A WASTED DJ UP THERE – they will effectively screw up and ruin the floor.  You are also protecting their reputation – it’s better they don’t go up there than do go up there and ruin their name.  They may curse you that night, but will thank you for it in the morning. Oh, and it’s up to you if you want to pay them anyway – it may be a good idea just to keep the peace and not cause a scene but totally understandable if you don’t want to because they have a personal issue with self control. Your call.

Do not expect DJs in the lineup to bring anyone:

You have to operate as if you are the only one bringing people.  Do not rest until you have done everything in your power to get the word out.  Do not factor anyone else’s people into the number you are expecting to show up ( that includes promoters ).  If people show up for other DJs/promoters – consider that a bonus.  Too many times I have seen DJs counting on other people to bring a crowd only to have that DJ/promoter not bring a single person.   It’s a cruel disappointment.

The Door

Make sure the person at the door and the bouncers know your entrance policy and the name of your party.  Make sure they are aware of what the guest list means – is it a reduced list or is it a free entrance list.  Make sure the bouncers/door person have a way to reach you in case there’s an issue at the door.  The best thing to do is have someone be responsible for all the non-DJ things that go on at your party – a trusted friend/organizer.  If you don’t have that person then you need to work out with your DJ partner monitoring the situation when not spinning.

Like I said this is just the tip of the iceberg of things to be mindful of, I would love to hear your stories as well.  You can’t control everything that happens but you can do your best to try and avoid these issues in the first place.

Recap: DON’T sign on for a gig and ask questions later.  Know your venue ( and your DJs! ).  Watch the floor, have ownership of it. Don’t assume anything.  If you want things done right, you have to take it upon yourself to make sure it gets done right ( or do it yourself ).

Open Question: What’s Next for DJing?

I firmly believe that DJ’ing and DJ culture as a whole has evolved so beautifully and elegantly. It continues to be an artistic pursuit that provides transformational experiences for many people (good job everyone!).  I was thinking – what’s next for us?   I’m musing on the stages of evolution for an art form and trying to frame it in terms of DJ culture.  I brainstormed a list of phases below.  I’m trying to work out what’s next for us and how we can keep evolving.  I can honestly say, I think our future is strong but also delicate.

I’ve kept the descriptions of each phase very general ( and somewhat cryptic ) because I want you to have some reference to what I mean – I’m sure I missed other ways to describe these phases.  Ask yourself these questions too: Where are we exactly in this spectrum in relation to DJ culture and in relation to music performance at large ( bands for example )?  Is a particular phase a function of location?  What important events have occurred or need to occur in music or technology that ushers in one phase from another?

Phases of evolution of the art of DJ’ing:

  • Pioneering – the first DJs.
  • Foundation – Small group of DJs working out the mechanics and method, the art form is being established.
  • Exclusiveness – Underground only for the select few.
  • Momentum – Forums for public performance, complete support.
  • Exponential Growth – DJs and market is fully immersed and mass audience are knowledgeable that DJs exist.  Variety of tool sets available.
  • Peak  –  Market saturation. Expectations and pressures at all time high.  Full understanding of tool sets. Potential for backlash.
  • Plateau – Technique/musicality is in stasis, longer periods of time between innovation which occur as blips not milestones.  DJs creatively regrouping. Backlash and commercialization evident.
  • Resurgence – Time has passed, less faithful and creative weeded out (although this can occur in any phase), core remaining group building foundations for next level.   Audience returns/new audience injects fresh energy and ideas.
  • Climb – Lessons from previous phases are applied.  Respect of art form re-established.  Fresh perspectives become norm.  Next phase in evolution is in full swing.

Another way to look at this list is as a cycle.  It’s quite possible you can apply the first phases to something that is happening right now in a particular technique, performance or genre.  That’s great – go for it.  The point is to find your center of understanding and take it from there.

I ran this by a trusted DJ.  We talked about when looking at it from music and performance history as a whole, DJs have only just begun (Exclusiveness/Momentum).  Looking at it from the inside, from the NYC DJ perspective, we are just cresting Exponential Growth and into Peak (again, debatable).  My gut feeling is we’ve got a potential bump in the road no matter what.  That’s Plateau. We need to think seriously about Plateau.  In my opinion, it could be the longest lasting and sedentary stage – triggering the next phase will be tough.  However, we could look at this way: Plateau might be what we need in order to take a breather and regroup from Peak.  I’d like to think that’s what Plateau can do for us, the questions still come however – are we there yet to even think about it, do we fight it or let it happen, is the concept even relevant for our culture?  I wish I had the answers.

Recap: We are evolving.  Where are we? What do we do about the possibility of Plateau? If you feel we are in a certain phase, think about what you can do as an artist to deal with the current situation and adapt/change/set yourself apart.

I’ve created a poll below.  I am curious as to where you think we are. Unfortunately, the poll doesn’t allow me to finesse location or your criteria for your answer so write to me if you want to explain or discuss this post further (BIO).

DJ Meditation Technique – Visualizing The Perfect Gig

'Headpone Meditation by Illusive Mind'

One of the things creative experts talk about is meditation and how it can bolster your connection to your creative self.  We all fantasize about the perfect gig ( and if you’ve already had one – well done! I still encourage you to do this exercise regardless – I’m such a task master! ).  What I’m going to walk you through is a visualization/meditation exercise that will allow you to play out in your mind a gig gone well.  I will throw some curve balls in this so as to mentally prepare you for things that can go wrong – but in this exercise you defeat all obstacles!  The point is to already work out in your mind triumphs and tribulations you will experience playing out.   What this does is allow yourself to experience your feelings in advance so that when the time comes to actually perform these reactions have already been incubated in your mind and you can recall very easily solutions and reactions on the spot.

The best time to do this meditation is a couple of days before a gig and a short session prior to a gig if you have time.  I also suggest that you do this meditation on a regular basis – it is your time, your safe space to reinforce in your mind what is important to you as a measure of success as a DJ.  In the beginning, if you have a partner, friend, or fellow DJ that can read these prompts to you so you don’t have to open your eyes to read them, that is ideal.  At some point you will no longer need the prompts below and you can do this on your own so that you can easily move through the exercise.

IMPORTANT: In order for this to be a productive exercise you need to try and be as specific as possible in the details of the experiences in this meditation.  Note sights, sounds, smells, and feelings very clearly in your mind.  Let your mind stop when it needs to if you want to focus on a moment, but don’t skim through anything.   This is a basic framework to get you started, hopefully after some time you can advance on your own and meditate through situations as you see fit.

Here we go!

First, you must find uninterrupted time to do this.  Shut off the phone, turn off the computer, put the mental Do Not Disturb sign on.  Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take five deep breaths.  Take your time.  When you are ready visualize and feel the following:

1. You are preparing for your gig.  You are diligently putting your playlist together.  What music are you selecting?  Listen to that music in your mind.

2. You are packing up your bag.  Visualize all the things you bring with you to the gig.  See yourself crossing everything off your DJ checklist.

3. You get a phonecall, your DJ partner or headliner is bailing or the venue owner has double booked the night.  Breathe through this moment.  What are you feeling? Visualize your adjustment to the situation.  Keep breathing, visualize getting back on track and being ok.

4. You are going to the gig.  See yourself getting there.  Take your time with this visualization – how do you get there? See yourself being early and ready.

5. You are setting up or just arriving to the party.  This is for you to choose how you enter into your gig.  What is your ideal situation?  What does the venue look like?  What’s going on in the dancefloor?  What do the people look like, what does their energy feel like?

6. The gear doesn’t work.  Breathe through this moment.  What doesn’t work?  What are you doing to fix it or adjust to the situation? See yourself getting through this and making things work.

7. You’re on.  See yourself playing your first track.  What is it? Listen to it in your mind. What is going on around you when you play this first track?  Stretch your mind and your desire on this one – let it be the moment you want it to be.

8. You are in the middle of your set.  How are you feeling?  What is happening on the dancefloor?  Challenge your mind when you feel more advanced with this exercise ( don’t always go for the easy fantasy of a raging dancefloor that worships you ).  See yourself building the dancefloor.  See yourself connecting with people.  Reach out to them with your emotion and energy.  Try to mix a few tracks in your mind – see them working seamlessly, what does that sound like?

9. You are winding down, the next DJ is up or it’s the end of the night.  See yourself making a final impact.  What tracks are you playing? Listen to them in your mind.  See yourself packing up your bag.  What do you do next? What are your feelings at the moment that it’s over.

10. Visualize the afterwards.  How are you feeling?  See yourself reflecting on what you did.  Did you learn anything? What are you walking away with that will make you a better DJ?

11. Exit out of the meditation, five more deep breaths.  Sit and reflect on what just happened, write a few thoughts down about the experience (you may have come up with some new musical connections in this exercise, don’t let them slip away from you!)

Now that you have experienced a gig in your mind, it’s time for you to see it come to fruition.  You are a wonderful creative being – now go show the world!

Recap: Visualization is an exercise that has been touted by many experts as a way of drawing out higher creative functions.  This DJ meditation exercise will also help you ascertain your feelings about gigs and any challenges you may face.  Do this exercise a couple of days before a gig or as part of your preparation right before a gig ( ideally do this exercise as part of your inner creative practice ).

TRAINWRECK: DJs – Don’t Be Angry!

I’ve seen a T-Shirt company called “Angry DJ” that sells T-Shirts with slogans saying “Serato Don’t Make You A DJ” and “I Am Not Your iPod”.  It is no surprise to us that there are so many things that make us just damn plain angry.   Now while these expressions hit a nerve, offer a sense of universal understanding, and are quite funny, I contend that they are a quick fix in our troubled culture.

Acting out anger doesn’t serve you period.  Is it frustrating to see someone who in your opinion is taking the easy way out of DJing?   Is it frustrating to be misunderstood by the audience and venue owners? Absolutely on both counts according to a survey of DJs I conducted.  The anger you are feeling is expressive of what you are passionate about and that’s great!  It means you care about what you are doing and what it means to you in your life.  But if you are spending your valuable time being frustrated and angry you are not focusing on what you should be really working on – finding your true audience, working on your skills, and developing your creativity.  Anger, much like jealousy ( see Jealousy As a Creative Killer ), is a distraction, a wasted emotion.

I’m sharing this quote from Werner Herzog, famous director, that might lend some perspective on your anger ( read: snap out of it ).

“Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.”

“Angry DJ” T-Shirts brings up two really hot topics.  The digital vs. analog debate and requests.

Requests are a fact of life for any DJ.   It’s how you deal with them that makes all the difference.  How do you think an audience member would feel if they saw a DJ wearing a T-Shirt ( because you know some DJ is actually going to do this ) saying “I Am Not Your iPod”?  That’s not educating the audience, that’s further distancing them.  On top of that, if you’re spinning at a venue where you secretly feel it’s necessary to say that to the patrons – you’re spinning at the wrong venue.  Remember, you don’t have to just play out anywhere and if you are constantly dealing with an audience that is making requests, you didn’t do your homework to recognize you are the wrong DJ for that venue.  Instead, get good enough to be considered to spin at the venues where there is the right audience for your music.  Only the top 10% of all DJs in the world do not get requests.  It’s a reality in our culture, so there’s no reason to get angry and frustrated about it, or take it out on your audience – just deal with it. ( Scottie B, the founder of Angry DJ T-Shirts, claims he’s the UK’s #1 DJ and he made a T-Shirt about it so you have to assume maybe he’s getting requests too and he’s #1! ).

I want to take a moment as well to make a statement about the digital vs. analog debate because this is in my opinion what is tearing us apart ( and also because Angry DJ T-Shirts exploits this debate for the T-Shirt slogan “Serato Don’t Make You a DJ” ).

I’m going to say once and for all – I DON’T CARE AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU.

I’ve thought a lot about this and I’ve honed my opinion based on what the creative experts and literature state.  It’s about being comfortable, it’s about being engaged, it’s about being free to achieve your highest level.   So who cares what you do it with?  Things evolve, they regress, they go forward, they go backward but one thing is for sure, we will always be dealing with innovation and technology – our whole legacy is based on it.  It doesn’t matter if a painter uses a paintbrush or their feet to make art – it’s about the ART.  Now I know a lot of you are angry about the ease of which people can get into DJing and also execute their “skills” but I am fanatic when I tell you that it doesn’t matter – greatness comes because of process, creativity, hard work, and empathy – see my post on what it takes to be an amazing DJ and you will see that not once did I talk about gear.  Gear is just tools – music and your mind is your weapon but most importantly so is your heart and your connection to music ( see Why Do You DJ? ).  And if you think those DJs are “lazy” think about it this way – do you think they are engaged with what they are doing?  When you see a DJ use the sync button just between tracks ( and this is one of the hugest gripes I’ve seen ) do you think they are actually happy about the fact that they have not advanced enough to actually experiment with their music?  Understand that everyone knows they have creative constraints.  Everyone knows what they are NOT doing – so there is no need to get all in a huff about what they are doing.  Instead focus on yourself and bettering the situation and opportunities for those you feel do matter and are creative.   If you must know, I spin vinyl.  I had some upstart tell me “that’s old”.  I took it in stride, just because I’m “old-school” doesn’t mean my point of view and musicality is “less then”. You see I’ve spun it all, CDs, DVS, and I always go back to vinyl.  Why?  Because it’s comfortable for me, I can engage with my audience more comfortably spinning vinyl, but most importantly – because I know even after spinning for 10 years I haven’t even hit the tip of the iceberg of what I’m capable of and that’s exciting to me.  Since I started the Behind The Decks project I realized that it makes no sense for me to get all worked up over someone who uses DVS just because I use vinyl.  If that’s what works for them – so be it, and if they are destined for greatness, why aren’t you?

Let your anger go!

Recap: Stop your whining and focus on your work! Deal with the requests, think about what you can do to change perceptions.  Gear does not make the DJ, the DJ makes the DJ.

DJ Exercise: What Happened in DJ History/Music in Your Birth Year?

Here’s a very interesting exercise.  Yes I’m giving away my age – so what, I’m young at heart!

Turns out in the year I was born Technics released the first SL-1200.  Thanks Mom and Dad!  Here are some other things that happened in my birth year – Kraftwerk, helloooooooo.

“In 1974, Technics released the first SL-1200 turntable, which evolved into the SL-1200 MK2 in 1979—which, as of the early-2010s, remains the industry standard for deejaying. In 1974, German electronic music band Kraftwerk released the 22-minute song “Autobahn,” which takes up the entire first side of that LP. Years later, Kraftwerk would become a significant influence on hip-hop artists such as Afrika Bambaataa and house music pioneer Frankie Knuckles.”

( Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disc_jockey )

If you’re interested in listening to the full version of Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x-G28iyPtz0

I encourage all DJs to learn your history, believe it or not this has been going on since the 19th century!  What a legacy we have.  And who knows you might find artists or new inspiration for the work you are doing.

So now begs the question:  What are you doing to contribute to our new history?

If you have an interesting project or know someone who is doing innovating things – let me know!

Building a Dancefloor

Photo by: Lightwerk (Ray Weitzenberg)

DJs are the architects of a dance floor. Before I got behind the decks, I was one of those crazy dancers you find in the middle of the floor with a circle around me. I would get so lost in the music that I could feel my body echoing every note, every beat. When I got behind the decks something happened. I stopped dancing. I listened to music in a different way. I began to THINK in music as opposed to MOVE in music.

I recently decided to experiment with how I listened to music and wanted to get back to a dancer’s perspective. I highly recommend for DJs to dance either in the privacy of your home or out on a dancefloor – forget that you’re a DJ for a second and just be a person who needs to move. If you do not boogie to music how can you truly understand how someone is going to hear it with their bodies.

Aside from feeling woefully out of shape, I’m learning a few things about what makes for a proper dancefloor. I recently went to a very unconventional dance class called 5Rhythms. The model of the class is that it’s not really a class. There’s a facilitator who plays music ( electronically based ) that starts off ambient and gradually builds to a crescendo of tempo and energy over the period of an hour. There are no steps being taught, it’s just do what your body is telling you to do. In the second hour, the facilitator walks you through certain movements and encourages the participants to experiment with how their bodies would express concepts like Chaos, Staccato, Lyrical, etc. When I tell you it’s the best dance floor I have experienced, I’m not kidding. Imagine 40 people just letting go, letting it all out, meditating and totally focused on the music and expanding their bodies to it. The silhouettes, the energy, the movements I saw were just mindblowing. The crazy thing is – this dancefloor was not made up of professional dancers – just regular people who have an appreciation for how therapeutic and spiritual dancing can be.

What I’ve learned from this experience is that the best dance floors have to have the following:

1) Focused participants – everyone is there for the same goal. It is understood why everyone is there and there is also a commitment on the part of the dancers to help everyone achieve the goal of dancing and having a good time. I believe successful dancefloors are a unit, an organism made of mini-systems of like minded individuals.

2) Permission – When people are given permission to be creative, to be themselves, without fear of judgement or reprisal – some amazing things happen. Feeling like you have permission to look however you want and dance however you want gives you the freedom to express your genius.

3) Safety – Getting anyone to dance is HARD. Why? Because very few people can get past their social anxiety and get up there and allow themselves to be watched. The best dancefloors offer safe space, unencumbered, to allow the person freedom of movement.

4) Progression – In order for a person to open themselves they need to go through a process of transitioning out of their day, their current situation, and into the moment and the beginning of their dance journey. People are not light switches that can just turn on at one track’s notice.

5) Zero Distractions – The construct of any venue is set up for people to spend money and therefor are set up for people to interact with each other on a number of planes. Sometimes the last consideration for interaction is the dancefloor. There’s the bar, there’s the lounge, there’s the owner’s crappy aesthetic/decor, there’s the people who are just there to be seen, there’s the people who are there just to take advantage of the drink specials. So the chances of finding a nucleus of dancers is tough and you are challenged in breaking past those distractions.

So what can DJs do to try and insure they create a proper dancefloor? It is your responsibility to be an architect so you need to lay a foundation. Remember, a real dance floor has a symbiotic relationship with the DJ. One cannot exist without the other. Here’s a few tips to get things started.

1) Moodmatch – for all that is good and holy please play music that is appropriate for the mood that is currently going on at the moment. Step out on the dancefloor and walk among your crowd and psychically reach out to get a sense of what is going on. Don’t play a raging tune if people are just getting warmed up – you will kill any chance you have of nurturing a dance floor. On the flip side if you are lucky enough to step up and you have a rager on your hands either give the dancers a break in the beat to set yourself up or keep the energy going. Do not drop the mood down, you will effectively clear your floor. (There are some advanced concepts about cleansing the floor but for the purposes of laying the foundation for your floor I won’t discuss them here). Bottomline, if you do not moodmatch you will ruin all trust the dancefloor has in you – and believe me it’s about trust- once you lose it, it is really hard to get it back.

2) Introduce yourself – I know that it’s hard to talk to people especially for us DJ nerds but you must try. Let people know who you are (besides you want to build a following right, well you need to TALK to people in order to do that). Stay away from asking what people want to hear unless you want to deal with requests all night. Just say “Hey, my name is . . . I’m the DJ, how are you feeling tonight?” Make small chit-chat and then move on. Remember you are the facilitator, if people don’t put a face to the name they won’t care about you. If you really don’t want to do that here’s an alternative – be the first person on the dancefloor. I know, I know, that’s just as tough but I swear all it takes is one brave soul to get up there and other’s will follow, trust me, I used to do this in my dancing days and it worked like a charm every time (I even had DJs thank me for doing that).

3) Take your time – let’s say you only have an hour, which is typical these days ( unfortunate in my opinion ). Try at least to introduce your set in two tracks that set the tone for what you are about to do. You need to lay the foundation of sound and tempo in people’s ears so they get acclimated – remember people are not light switches. DO NOT EXPECT TO COOK UP A DANCEFLOOR IN AN HOUR. Be happy you’re up there and do your best job with affecting people properly – you will be better served if you play good music for the moment ( see Moodmatching ).

4) Don’t posture – everything about you indicates to the dancefloor how accessible and open you are. Don’t big up your chest, don’t be glum (if you’re not happy with the situation don’t let on, be a pro about it), don’t hide yourself or ESPECIALLY your eyes behind a hat. A proper dancefloor needs permission and safety and people are looking to you to give them that. Also, don’t forget to thank people, especially if they were dancing for you – so simple and often forgotten etiquette by DJs.

If you can do things that reduce the social anxiety people feel, minimize the distractions to focus on the music, and create a connection to you the higher the chances you have of starting a dance floor. See you there!

Recap: Get in touch with your inner dancer. Study the room and the vibe. Moodmatch. Be open.

For more information on the 5Rhythms dance class go here: 5Rhythms

What Does It Take To Be An Amazing DJ?

Take a look at this photograph.

Thousands of adoring fans worshiping every move you make and you don’t have to share that moment with anyone other than the crowd.  It’s pretty powerful.  These images get served to DJs and non DJs alike all the time.  If you are a DJ, and you play out enough for long enough, this is what you get to experience.   What no one really tells you is that in order to be like this guy, you have to be amazing.  I know I’m stating the obvious but it’s really important to remind ourselves that to get to this level of achievement requires exceptional qualities. There are DJs whom I don’t particularly care for their genre of choice, however I would never discredit what they did in order to get to where they are.  I respect any DJ that achieves the moment the DJ in this picture does because I bet that it’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and soul searching.  That’s not all though . . .

What does it take to be amazing?  Believe it or not it takes three things to be truly amazing.  I’m going to use the word amazing a lot because it’s not good, or great, it’s nothing short of amazing or beyond that – mindblowing.  So now that we have our spectrum of greatness down let’s talk about being amazing and how to do that.  We actually can take a note from the master painters on this one.  Picasso, Braque and the art of Cubism.  “Creativity happens when someone does something new that is also useful or generative or influential.  Useful means that the new thing solves a problem.  Generative means that the new thing leads to other ideas or things.  Influential means that the new thing changes the way people look at, or listen to, or think about, or do, things like it.” (Stokes, 2006, 1) Picasso and Braque changed the entire landscape of painting by introducing a new way of looking at the world and interpreting it through Cubism.   “Their new thing, called Cubism, changed how some people (critics, dealers, collectors) looked at and thought about representational painting, and it changed how some other people (artists) painted.” (Stokes, 2006, 1)

In other words if you are useful and serve a purpose, lead DJs to other ideas, and change how people look at their life or listen to music – you are on your way to being amazing.  Now there are plenty of other things that make a DJ amazing but in my opinion these are the three essential things that contribute to a DJ’s amazingness. Let’s break it down a little further.

Being Useful

Most people, if not all, have issues in their lives.   The need to let go is central to the whole point of going out and having an experience.   The DJ is the maestro, the architect – of escape and meditation.   Based on your purpose, being useful, you are there to help people work through their problems.  You are the therapist and music is your mode of therapy.   Your purpose is to help someone deal with the fact they got fired, a lover left them, and to celebrate the beauty in their lives.  That is your job.   Once you understand this purpose you are on your way to being amazing.

Being Generative

Amazing DJs bring something new to the table.   A different way of interpreting music, engaging with it, and participating in the expression of it.  Amazing DJs generate new ways of looking at the craft.  It’s not necessarily just technique or exploiting the latest technology though.  It’s also about voice.  Picasso and Braque presented a new voice in painting.  They abandoned all notions of literal representation of the real world and truly experimented with a different way of looking at things.  Amazing DJs push the boundaries of the craft, and of themselves, and take the art to the next level.

Being Influential

There’s such a thing as a bridge DJ.  A bridge DJ is someone who is able to reach out and induct the uninitiated into their world.  The interesting thing about bridge DJs is that they don’t necessarily cater to mainstream or certainly that is not their aim.  Whatever it is they are doing enables others to truly see their point of view and create a bridge between themselves and their audience.  To the extent that it is futile to resist that DJs effect on you.   An influential DJ refuses to give up on the fact that they are trying to teach and educate as well as facilitate an experience.  Influential means breaking boundaries AND being able communicate them in a way that hits people right in the gut.  I’ll admit, for a long time I did not get techno.  I had heard enough techno ( probably bad techno ) from my early raving days and if I never heard it again I was fine with it.  Then through the insistence of a friend, I listened to a Carl Cox live set and then I got it.  I got techno.  From there I branched out to other related artists and realized there was a whole world of techno that I had never been exposed to.  Carl Cox was my bridge DJ for really good techno.  Now I don’t spin techno predominantly but Carl Cox did affect my discography in some way as I settled on mininal techno as an important supplement to my deep house, electro and breaks genre choices.  That’s influence.

I can’t tell you how to be useful, or generative, or influential – I can only tell you that I truly believe these are the qualities you must possess to be amazing.  It’s up to you to define those things for yourself and work hard to get to the level you set for yourself.   I encourage you to ask yourself these questions as your go through your creative process: is what I’m doing purposeful, is what I’m doing unique, is what I’m doing changing mindsets?  Once you can confidently say yes to all of those questions – you have tapped into amazingness.

Now go with your amazing self – you can do it!

Recap: Amazingness is not just about hard work.  Be useful – help people work through their stuff.  Be generative – bring new thoughts and ideas to the craft.  Be influential – create a bridge to your world, inspire to look at music in a whole new way.

Source: Stokes, Patricia D, Creativity From Constraints: The Psychology of Breakthrough, Springer Publishing Company, Inc. 2006.