Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The state of the DJ.

The state of the DJ.

I realized last night that I've more or less given up actively DJing. I don't mean I've QUIT, only that I no longer actively seek out gigs. I have a regular two or three a month and that keeps me happy. I might have something else in the works to add to that at a new bar, but again, they approached me.

DJing has changed a lot in the last few years, and I don't just mean because of so many folks moving toward laptops and iPods. I have zero problem with that. But for a while, EVERYONE was a DJ, and EVERYONE was a grossly overpaid DJ. And that sort of killed things.

Back in the days when I'd DJ for kicks behind the bar at Danny's -- pre-remodel / global funk days -- and they'd pay me in drinks and good company. As the years went on I got higher paying gigs, but the pay was almost always commensurate with the venue.

A few years ago, though, the field became over saturated and for some insane reason bars kept paying people more and more money to DJ. And I'm not talking about the dance night DJs, I'm talking about the kid that'd come in and play his favorite rock records, or a playlist straight off 1999 Q101, or their fave New Wave hits, that sort of thing. I've got nothing against that, hell, I often DJ nights like that, it's just that EVERYONE was doing it and EVERYONE was being overpaid for it.

So what's wroong with that, right? Here's what's wrong ... too many DJs in the mix spread the crowd pool too thin and everyone's nights suffered because of it. Crowds were sparse, bar rings fell, and everyone blamed the DJ. It got noticeably worse over the last two winters as the economy began to slip out from under everyone's feet, and rightfully much of the blame for low attendance (especially last winter) should have gone to the financial crisis, but instead it was directed at DJs.

And who could blame them? When everyone is DJing who the hell is actually going to show up and buy drinks?

It was right around then that I realized much of the fun in DJing has disappeared for me. I do it because I like to both turn people on to good music and I like seeing people have a good time with the tunes I play. I like playing cheesy dance music at Liar's Club just as much as I like digging out deep Bowie b-sides at The Burlington or block rockin' beats in-between band sets at Double Door.

I DJ because it's something I love doing. And lately I feel like I've been DJing for folks who actually have fun listening to me. And I haven't felt that way in quite a while ... so I'm happy to return to old days of just a few regular gigs that allow me to build up a friendly crowd alongside the odd non-resident gig or guest spot.

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