A Generation of DJs is Skilled in Marketing and Social Media, but not Music Production
A few days ago, 7UP officially released a campaign with Tiësto named, “Your Shot.” The prize: playing on the big stages of some of the world’s biggest EDM festivals. This is just one of many indicators of how the search for talent is greater than ever. Everybody wants to stand out, by any means necessary. The dream of any bedroom DJ when he or she buys DJ gear for the first time and plugs it into a computer is visualizing thousands of people in front of you when you raise your arms dancing at full speed. When you open your eyes, you realize that there’s only a wall with a poster of your favorite artist, and then you turn around to see your messy room. So what do you need to make that dream come true? Many decide to follow these easy steps, which might seem like they’re helping them get closer to stardom, but they’re actually taking them further away than ever.
Step 1: Create your stage name and become a model
The creativity among new DJs seems amazing to me with the majority of them becoming design experts. Let’s say you decide that your DJ name will be “A5tro,” you’ll do everything in your power for others to know that that is not only your alias but also your brand. Many youngsters learn to make graphics, logos, banners, and find visual techniques to make them look like they have bigger audiences than they really do (I don’t even know how, because I didn’t learn how to use Photoshop like that in college). They convince their parents to pay for a photoshoot and brand all social media with their glossy, photoshopped image.
Note: this is not A5tro.
Step 2: Become a social media expert
New DJs set up a profiles on Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and whatever else is there. There are many DJs that currently pay for Facebook campaigns so they can be exposed to millions, even if they have only ever played in front of tens. Any of us can pay Facebook to promote our posts to many parts of the world but suddenly, DJs nobody knows turn out to have 60,000 likes. When a person who works in the industry discovers this, they are suddenly surprised: “What did I miss? Why don’t I know them?”
Step 3: Become anything except someone who represents where you’re from
One of the biggest weaknesses in the DJ market on a global scale is that many aspirants want to be something they’re not. Let’s talk about our good friend, “A5tro.” If he’s Mexican, he’ll probably never mention the fact that he’s from Mexico. In view of the fact that the majority of Top DJs are of Dutch, Swedish, French or Canadian origin, many DJs who aren’t from those countries think that playing down where they’re from is to their advantage. Why?
A5tro will post an avalanche of tweets and Facebook updates with information in English. It’s perhaps a good idea to have two versions of your work—including the biography on your Facebook or SoundCloud. But when your daily feed is full of tweets in English that you don’t even know how to write correctly it’s a shame.
As a journalist, I think it’s vital to show those around me what my world means. If I write in a language not understood by many in my country, who am I supporting? We make a big effort to understand what DJs from other countries are doing, because their music seems incredible, but at the same time, they are usually interested on what’s happening here (or anywhere). Obviously, Tiësto is not going to learn Spanish in order to understand his Mexican audience, but he’ll notice an artist who is loved and understood by his or her own audience more than someone pretending to be Dutch.
Only 70 people were there, because it’s the regular weekday crowd.
Step 4: Make no time for music production
Many DJs dream of playing at big festivals and clubs all over the world so when it gets close, they want to show off. Cue uploading pictures from first class plane seats with the caption, “Next gig: Miami!” Obviously, most of them are not en route to a headlining gig, but an opening slot during which, 99% of the attendants are not interested in listening to their tunes if they even have any of their own.
Many wannabe DJs are too lazy to sit down at a studio for the many hours necessary to try to make some music.
They may want to post some pictures from a borrowed recording studio captioned “cooking some surprises,” even if those surprises never get cooked. It’s a social media trend that is consuming EDM teenagers. The thirst for traveling to the world’s biggest cities on private jets, drinking alcohol with the superstar DJs, and uploading more selfies with famous people is greater than the thirst for having their emotions expressed through a song.
Here’s the bad news: fame and glory will never come if you never make music.
Any halfway decent record label or promoter is looking for artists who people can relate to, artists who make people move through the power of music, whether it’s EDM, techno, house, jungle or trop-house. If an artist does not have a creative output, he or she will remain a DJ who only opens for other DJs, playing other people’s music.
You’ll probably say, “hey, but all the DJs who play at Ultra play other people’s music.” I totally agree; everyone loves playing other people’s music, but there are always moments when those DJs present their own new remix or track. David Guetta may be many things, but he’s able to have people singing his songs and clapping for a whole hour. On the other hand, Richie Hawtin plays for hours in clubs in Ibiza because people want to listen to his sets. Nobody in that crowd cares about his Instagram feed; they appreciate that he is always searching for the best music to play for his audience.
Aspiring DJs have to stop being guided by marketing. Remember that the cliché slogan “quality over quantity” applies to DJing. Don’t search for big social fanbases. If your neighbor has 100,000 Facebook likes, but you see him at home Monday through Sunday and every now and then he plays at his friends’ parties, I think you might know how many fans he really has.
I always say, if people spent as much time digging into Logic, FL Studio or the like as they do on Photoshop, tweeting, or Facebooking, so many more bedroom DJs would become true stars. You want your DJing to be taken seriously not your marketing and design skills. Leave that to marketing and design professionals; we should attend to the music.