Posts Tagged ‘ DJ ego ’

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 ).

TRAINWRECK: DJ Jealousy as a Creative Killer

I want to share some thoughts about a bad habit you may have that can be a trainwreck to your creative process.  It’s jealousy. When you are on the path of creativity it’s difficult not to look and compare yourself to other DJs.   Stop doing that!   Other DJs are on their own path, their own journey, and have their own creative issues that you are probably not aware of.   When you look in the next urinal  ( for the men ) or compare bra sizes ( for the women ) you are doing damage to your process.

Here’s what happens when you compare:

1) You start to adopt a style and process that is not your own

2) You allow anxiety to creep into what you are doing

3) You focus on feelings and emotions that are not relevant to your creative process

4) You justify every action against what another DJ is doing

Here are the consequences:

1) You kill what is essentially YOU

2) You put out divisive energy into the culture

3) You don’t think about what you can do to become a better DJ, you just get more bitter about the fact that you’re “not there yet”

4) You are not advancing musical innovation – you are regurgitating what has already been done

Jealousy is different than modeling.  Modeling is essentially having aspirations and DJ guides that allow you to filter certain choices in your process.  All DJs have other DJs as inspiration but you need to be careful – you do not want to model so closely that you become that other DJ.  When you do that – you are not injecting your voice and point of view into your work and trust me people can tell when you are not being authentic.  If you spend a lot of time studying mixes to try and figure out how a DJ did this or how they did that and copy completely – you are modeling too closely.  However, if a DJ does something eye opening, fitting two disparate genres together in a way that makes sense and you want to try that out – you’re experimenting and learning.

The point is you can’t let jealousy get in the way of what you need to do – and you can’t let it rule your creative process.   If your motivation is that you went and you heard a DJ that inspired you and that made you want to get right to the decks, play music and work on you, that’s one thing.  If you are motivated because you want to become better than that DJ and knock them out – that’s dangerous, because the focus is not on you, the focus is on that DJ.

There’s also the perception of haves and have nots.  But let’s look more closely at that.  What would you consider those DJs that “have”? Do they have more gigs?  Do they have more mixes?  Do they have a bigger fan base? Do they have better gear or access to a studio?  They also have bigger headaches, more pressure, more emails to send out and people to cater to.  The only thing they have more of is options – but that doesn’t mean they are more creative than you.  DJs are not good because of what they have, DJs are good because of who they are as artists.  If you break it down like that you can look at yourself more reasonably and compassionately.  You must be compassionate and patient with yourself in your artistry.  You must also figure out what your values are as a DJ in order to combat the feelings of jealousy.   Your DJ values are what make you unique – they are what frame your process and what you project as an artist.

Here’s a values exercise:  List your top 5 or 10 values as a DJ (they should closely mirror your values as a person – if they are different than start with your values as a person and see how you can incorporate those values into your DJing).  Put them on a post-it note next to your gear set up so that you are reminded of who you are as a DJ and what you value most.

I have included a link to a page that lists all kinds of values.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/articles/list-of-values.htm

If you want to know my values here they are in no particular order:

1) Empathy

2) Engagement

3) Openness

4) Musicality

5) Growth

What the values exercise does is anchor you closely to why you, and only you, are a DJ.  This anchoring will help you deal with those moments where you are comparing yourself to another DJ, for you and you alone hold those values, and they are your own beat.

Recap:  Jealousy keeps the focus off of you.   Modeling is good for learning and experimenting.  Your DJ values anchor you in times when you begin to have feelings of jealousy.  Be yourself!

If you found this interesting and have thoughts to share – drop me a line!