The Creative DJ In 2013 – Is This You?

Creative DJ

Playing to small crowds, in bars, pubs, lounges and warm-up venues, this type of DJ is in it not for money or career, but because they couldn’t imagine not doing it… is that you?

I went to Lisbon a little while ago, drove up there for the weekend. On arriving in the trendy Bairro Alto district, we sat in a bar and watched a rare groove jock spin old 7 and 12 inch tunes in a chic retro bar. That’s a “creative DJ”. There’s a guy who plays before all the bands in a tiny bar that’s no bigger than many living rooms, on the main street in our city. He clearly plays what he wants – trust me! The small crowds seem to appreciate him, too. He can’t get paid more that €20 a night, if anything at all. That’s a “creative DJ”. (By the way, I’m not sure I’m happy with this term. I want you to help me with that.)

Where I’m originally from, in Manchester, England, you couldn’t and can’t move for “creative DJs” – unsung, non-famous DJs who have a sound, and a passion, and who play everywhere from resident slots before big-name guests, to local radio, to more of the hip bars, lounges and pre-club venues of the type I’m talking about here. I am sure you can think of just this type of DJ where you are.

So what defines a “creative DJ”?

So what actually defines this “creative” type of DJ? Well, just like some people start bands because they have “the music in them” that they need to get out, so some people start DJing because they have a burning desire to push their music, their sound, and to get that feeling that only doing that can bring. They hold this with them forever – whatever they end up doing with their lives.

Personally, having had a long club career that thankfully took me to some of the best clubs in the world, I now DJ the summer months in the beach bars along the coast where I live. Trust me, around now (having not played for 3-4 months), I start to get itchy. Very itchy. My cure for a bad mood, for a restlessness I can’t put my finger on, for feeling connected again with everything that matters to my artistic side? Yup, it’s DJing. It’s something I’ve always done, it’s “in” me, and I’ll do it for 5 or 5000 people. The buzz is broadly the same. I, too, would like to claim I’m a “creative DJ”.

These types of DJ are people who often have another job, often don’t want to be “superstars” (or not any more!), but who are very knowledgeable and passionate about their music nonetheless, and aspire to the top DJ skills too. They use the freedom this gives them to approach DJing slightly differently. Sure, they may promote small parties, dabble in production, charge for playing – but it isn’t their whole life. It can’t be.

Of course they like to get people dancing, but aren’t usually paid to do so (think bars, lounges, and so on). They love music, but aren’t directly employed in it (a lot of these people either work in completely unconnected fields, or they may be students, or have artistic professions like design, writing and so on).

Their DJing drive doesn’t come from a pursuit of stardom or a pursuit of money. It comes from a need inside, a desire to “get the music out”. As mentioned earlier, it’s the same desire that drives many people to pick up guitars, or form bands.

I need you to help me define what we’re talking about here

So if we’re talking about “creative” DJs (again, have I got the right word here?), why does all of this matter?

Simply because I believe this is a large proportion of the audience here on Digital DJ Tips, and I want to know from you the answers to a few simple questions so I can focus more on your needs in planning the content for the next few months. So help me out here:

  • Do you classify yourself as this type of DJ – and have I even got the name right? What would you call yourself instead (a bar DJ, a resident DJ, a warm up guy, a part-time DJ…)?
  • Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?
  • If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed?
  • How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?
  • Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over? Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”? How old are you? How long have you been doing this?

This stuff has been on my mind for a while, and who better to ask than you guys for some thoughts on this subject? I’d love to hear your answers. So please, just write what all of this has brought into your head – whether you’re nodding vigorously and saying “that’s me!”, or whether you really aren’t sure what I’m talking about! I’d love to get your feedback.

So, please let me know your answers to these questions, and your thoughts on the subject, in the comments.

Comments

  1. i never thought about it that way, but by your classification i’d definitely fall into that category. i’ve playing “weird” music (funky german cover versions & christian german disco, anyone? but even classic 60s funk and rhythm’n’blues is seen as strange stuff by a lot of today’s punters) in bars and pubs for well over a decade and have been collecting strange music for a lot longer.
    coming from a bit of a hiphop background the concept of digging for unknown and rare tracks has always appealed to me and even today nothing beats the feeling of unearthing an absolute stomper on a pile of cheapo 45s from the fleamarket…
    it certainly helps to have friends that share this passion of looking for leftfield stuff, but i feel in general germany is relatively open to music off the beaten path. in pretty much every city there are small bars that cater to an open minded audience and have djs playing non mainstream music.
    i feel that my regular club gigs (playing anything funky from oldschool hiphop to breaks, ghettofunk and a bit of reggae & global bass) absolutely benefit from having a broad collection of genres and “weird” music, as it’s always fun to drop something completely unexpected or something like the original tune sampled in a hiphop classic…
    it still feels weird to play this music digitally though. maybe it’s the collector/hoarder in me speaking, but a lot of vintage music just sounds and feels better coming from a crackling record…

    • Do you think “non-commercial” is a necessary aspect of what we’re talking about, or is it more about context? Ie playing pop when it counts, but knowingly?

      • i think so. most the commercial DJs i know are full-time DJs. in most towns and cities there just isnt enough interest from the general public, the “Sharons & Tracys” if you will, in anything other than top-40 music, hence bar/club managers not willing to pay much for a house DJ.

        I know for a fact if i was willing to play top 40, i could get 4/5/6 nights of work a week, but I already have a career so DJing is purely a hobby to me. I play 1 or 2 gigs a week only, but on my own terms, and for maybe half what a commercial night would pay. but it’s fun!!

      • not a neccesary, but almost inevitable aspect. if you play commercial/mainstream/mor music (and i would count most electronic music to this), you surely have a bigger chance (but also more contenders) to play for bigger audiences, higher fees and in clubs, as there’s more money to be made… when you’re into niche music and want to spread it for the love of it you’re almost forced to do it in small bars & offbeat places.

  2. DJ Possess says:

    Open-Source DJ – noun. A disc jockey who is open to playing music from any variety of sources and genres.

  3. StrictlyT says:

    Do you classify yourself as this type of DJ?

    I guess this would include me and my friends (who sadly have mainly left recently), we had put on a few small nights and parties in Manchester just so we could play some tunes out and about, not to make any money and we didnt care if anyone turned up really. I wouldnt call myself a creative DJ, just a passionate music lover who likes to share my collection of tunes with others through DJing. I think ultimately I would like to dabble in production and just DJ to myself at home and do the odd party knowing I can play whatever I want.

    Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?
    Yes and no – there always should be room for this type of DJ but I am really struggling to find a good ‘legal’ venue in Manchester to put on the said nights above because they are all too big and we can’t guarantee people will turn up sadly :(

    If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed?

    I think getting in to DJing is easier than ever, the only bad thing now is I find a lot of people do so because it is ‘cool’ rather than because they particularly enjoy music which is a shame.

    How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?

    As someone who could never afford to DJ pre-digital it has given me access to one of my favourite hobbies. Strangely after two and a half years I am also keen to get into mixing vinyl again :)

    Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over? Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”? How old are you? How long have you been doing this?

    I think there must people people similar to me all over the place. I am 29 and live in Manchester and enjoy techno the most, but don’t enjoy the scene here, I can’t put my finger on what is wrong with it, maybe it is because I am getting old but the nights lack the atmosphere I have felt in other cities and around Europe. I dont think there is a big appetite for techno here. I have been DJing for 2 1/2 years, mainly at home for my own enjoyment!

  4. That’s me!
    I am in Cape Town and DJ’ing is a serious hobby. I don’t like the local scene so I thought I would do something more positive but I don’t think the locals are interested, but I just keep going. I hope to eventually throw private parties for free. I am only DJ’ing because it can be done digitally; I am so into this paradigm that when I tire of explaining my diverse history and how I ended up here I just tell peeps when they ask where I’m from… “the future”. I’ve developed my own music style, I think it is dancey and upbeat, but if people wanted more variety I would have no problem with guest DJ’s as long as they are on the same wavelength
    I would describe myself as a creative DJ, not in it for money or adulation, just trying to help people feel special and have a good night out

    • Why has digital made it easier, then? Just because it’s cheaper?

      • Where I live (NZ) I could never afford the tunes I love on vinyl, decent CDJs are really expensive too and almost everything is on my laptop anyway. When an opportunity came up for me start playing a monthly night with my friend a digital controller was really the only option for me (I went with the VCI300 mkII). I had also never DJed using any kind of gear (I always played my tunes at home through the ipad or CD & vinyl on my stereo) so the resources online (this site and youtube) were the only way I could get the basic skill nailed down quickly enough not to mess it up! (I had 24hrs from when my controller arrived til gig time!)

      • Digital offloads all the menial tasks off the artist onto the machine. I don’t want to be manually beatmatching, levelling volumes, sifting through tracks one by one, carrying around my music collection etc. I just want to focus on the decisions that only a person can make. There’s jobs for machines and tasks for humans
        Also, access to software and music is non-local, I wouldn’t have the selection I have without the internet

  5. The word you are looking for to describe this kind of DJ is ‘amateur’ in the true sense of the word. i.e. someone who does something for the love of it.

    Though I’m sure Creative DJ would be preferred despite that it seems quite inaccurate, as that to my mind implies a style of DJing that could also apply to many pro DJs.

    • haha, as much as I hate to think my DJ skills are spot-on I think you’re right there. look at football. I know a lot of amateur players who, compared to 95% of the public are top-quality players. but they are not good enough to break into the premier league! this may not be from lack of skill, but time also. after all, any profession needs thousands of hours before getting any good (except reality TV stars i guess!)

  6. Martin Little says:

    Hi there. I think that all DJs are creative to varying degrees. What I think you are calling out here is the folks that do it for themselves – now that can also mean they are doing it to educate the crowd as well but you get that buzz of being the person playing that rare gem that you love and the satisfaction of seeing that choice at that time affect people.

    The jocks role to stretch people to listen to tunes side by side that you may not think of and explore just playing good music and not limiting yourself to one narrow genre. .. finding tracks that go together or complement each other regardless. .. That is what is exiting! Seeing your joy on other people’s faces.

    I think so, anyway. …..

    • So we’re starting to think “eclectic”, “multi genre” is a uniting factor here?

      • Martin Little says:

        It doesn’t need to be, but you wouldn’t want to be in the situation where you are bursting to play a tune but feel you can’t because it’s not jungle or house or gabba or dubstep. .. Maybe it has more to do with age and the meowing and expansion of tastes so you’re not just thinking about a club based audience who are there to dance. …..

  7. Hey Phill,

    Owh yes thats me :p

    I think this type if DJ has given much more stage with the coming of sites like Mixcloud and Soundcloud. As a ‘Mixcloud Resident’ I can tell you that there are many very creative people making mixes for their passion of music, not seeking stardom, but more in search for seeking similar souls that enjoy the same.

    As for your questions..

    “Do you classify yourself as this type of DJ – and have I even got the name right? What would you call yourself instead”

    Yes, I stopped playing popular stuff for crowds long ago and after a break now only focusing on what I feel like exploring. Since I am still serving music, i’d call it DJ-ing even if it confuses people when I make a mix with just seventies italian horror tracks ( http://i.mixcloud.com/CCDcKx )

    “Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?”

    Yes there is. I have various series that I make, one of them, my ‘Sunday Night Mix series’ has a different theme and a different style each mix, as in, totally totally different ( http://www.mixcloud.com/jboerlage/playlists/sunday-night-mixes/ ). And each set finds its own listeners. Do they get thousands of listeners? Nopes, a couple of hundred. But on mixcloud, without actually spending cash on promotion and social media management, thats numbers to be very satisfied with. The listerens range from other DJ’s to genre specific fans.

    “If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed”

    I’ve started my quest online roughly two years ago, and without social media, Mixcloud e.a. it would have been possible to expand and get so many contacts in a short time. So also to your next question, “How has digital affected both DJs and audience?”.. Even though many collegues are still using vinyl, the digital distribution has opened a whole new world.

    “Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over? Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”? How old are you? How long have you been doing this?”

    Yeah tons of them. I’ve been doing this for two years and I’ve done many collaboration projects with DJ’s all over the world ranging in all styles from a world wide underground house Collaboration series: http://i.mixcloud.com/CCLupH to complex seventies nostalgia with a Romanian composer http://i.mixcloud.com/CB8vVr. Basically we all share the passion for music. Some of them very genre specific, others like myself are more eclektic in our choices. We learn from each other, share ideas and form comminities.

    Cheers,

    JB

    • Awesome, I love the fact that social media and the web are helping find a wider audience for “micro tastes”. Thanks for sharing.

      • Perhaps “micro dj” is the term to use. It suggests a small scene for non-mainstream tastes – although it does also sound like a very small dj!

        • Yes, I’ve had that word “micro DJ” in my head, too. DJ Forced Hand, a writer on here, speaks of “micro events”, as well. Maybe we need a “micro” revolution! :)

    • Just listened to you 70’s Horror film mix JB, like it a lot.
      My own mixes made up of film music are my favourite mixes. probably as I love to mix different musical genres and you certainly can do that with film music.

  8. I’ve been DJing for some time now and got into digital DJing about a year and a half ago. I do play in between badn sets at a lot of the venues here in L.A. (The Echo, Echoplex, Satellite, Bootleg) and even some local festivals (Bloomfest, KXSC Fest, Brokechella, Echo Park Rising) as that “warm-up” guy.
    There’s a good and bad side to playing these sort of gigs. Venues don’t see the warm-up DJ as that important and pay is little even though you actually play for 2-3 hours and the bands are only on for 30-45 minutes. This happens because most “DJ’s” that they hire are just on iTunes song selecting and letting it run. That is no difference from their usual house music that they already have set to play and it’s free for them to use it. To change this outlook I only accept gigs that fit my style. I open for more synthpop, electro-pop and indie-dance bands. I actually mix my music and get people dancing between bands with tunes that I really dig for and sprinkle in some of the more popular ones to keep the crowds attention and excitement.
    Managers will take note if crowds are enjoying themselves and more importantly if they stick around after the bands finish. Sadly it’s an L.A. custom to immediately leave after the headliner performs. But if you’re good they WILL stick around.
    There are plenty of DJ’s that do this and have to play the warm-up slots. It’s not bad and can get you noticed. Just from playing these gigs I have been recommended for others and get booked. Opening for Flying Lotus, Nosaj Thing, Joakim, Dan Deacon, Grouplove and others have been a blast. I think it should be seen as a natural progression into getting something bigger.

  9. •Do you classify yourself as this type of DJ – and have I even got the name right? What would you call yourself instead (a bar DJ, a resident DJ, a warm up guy, a part-time DJ…)?

    I certainly fall into this category. I play, now, for the love of it, not the money, fame, notoriety, etc.

    •Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?

    Always. Passion for music will never die.

    •If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed?

    Whilst I have, in the past, “whored” myself out, pandering to the whim of the current fad (think commercial pop stuff), I came to the conclusion that this is not what DJ’ing is for me. For me it’s about playing the music I love, to those that also have a passion for it – regardless of whether I receive any financial reward or not (mostly not).

    •How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?

    I believe so. In the past we, as DJ’s, took great pride in bringing music to audiences that they (9 times out of 10) had never heard, normally on promo, well before the release date. With the rise of the internet and sites such as YouTube, soon to be released stuff is often promo’d by the labels, so the audience is normally clued up on what is soon to be available. Also, with digital downloads becoming the norm, a lot of aduiences have often got the tracks we, as DJ’s, are playing, thus reducing the wow factor of dropping a new tune.

    •Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over? Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”? How old are you? How long have you been doing this?

    I do believe that this type of DJ exists in every nook and cranny across the globe. It’s almost like it was with vinyl, except instead of DJ’s seeking out the latest white label, the clued in audiences are now seeking out these artisans – in fact that may well describe these DJ’s better “Artisan DJ’s”.

    I’m now based in North Wales, and have played in all manner of situations and locations, but one thing that has become more obvious (certainly in the more provincial areas) is the rise of the “lets go out and get w@nkered” mentality of the club goers. I’m not wanting to tar all with this brush, but this mentality has seen the decline of many DJ’s playing what they want, leading the audiences into new and uncharted waters, and seen the increase in DJ’s swapping to playing whatever the audience wants to hear, regardless of how they, as DJ’s, feel about the type of music they are playing – In essence, becoming no more than human juke boxes.

    I’m currently 42 and have been playing for 15+ years.

    As a response to the first part of this (Are you a creative DJ), I would again, say yes, yes I am. I currently have, in conjunction with a good friend and fellow DJ, a weekly radio show on a community station, where we play what ever we want – e.g last week I even played a bluegrass version of Billie Jean, that I chopped about using TraktorDJ on the iPad.

    Which leads me onto a further thought…is a creative DJ also someone that not only follows their own path, musically, but also has no gear-ego? I am happy using CDJ’s, Software/Controllers, iPads, etc…in fact since TraktorDJ for the iPad was launched, I’ve used it exclusively!

    • Louis Delacroix says:

      I love your term ‘Whoring yourself out’ that’s exactly what it is like, I found myself falling into this trap, just because I have such a passion for wanting to dj and play tunes I thought I could handle playing anything but in the end you just feel cheap and used as people don’t really care about what you are playing or doing and just care about what they want and what the latest commercial dance tune is….. It’s so stupid…… Also it is true people just want to get stupidly drunk and listen to music they are familier with, and deffinately do not want to be challenged by what the hearing……..

      I do think dj’s who fall into the category are older as we have been around the block and come back around and thought ‘F IT’ if I’m going to do this I am going to do it my way or not at all, in the nicest possible way as we all still want people to have a good time and enjoy themselves……

      Digital djing as made it easier to get into djing, and it has become very popular as everybody is a dj these day’s, but give it a couple of years and there will be a new fade and they will have moved on to that……

      But for us boy’s it’s in our blood…..

      Louis Delacroix

  10. Yep! You nailed my style of DJ like a bullseye. I play music based on my judgement of a track, and the vibe of the room. All other considerations (pop vs underground, etc) are pretty much out the window.

    Formula top40 remix/mashup/prog house dj’s are a dime a dozen, especially in the DC area where I’m at. If they are happy doing that, then good for them! But, that’s not me. To love this hobby is to do it the way you NEED to do it.

    (Creative) DJ Daryl Northrop
    http://www.facebook.com/DJDarylNorthrop

  11. I’m exactly this type of DJ. and you know why? it’s purely because I cant afford to quid my decent engineering career to pursue DJing/production/promoting full-time. That’s the only reason.

    Sure i have a desire to push my sound, make people have fun, and even earn a few quid for something i’d happily do for free. but if I had no financial ties, no mortgage to pay, no boss to keep happy then I would happily put 100% of my time and effort into music.

    I feel a lot of DJs in this category are older, certainly >25 (I’m 31) and if they could go back to their 16 year old selves would tell them not to give up on the dream! I started DJing when i was 16, gave up at 18, only got back into it 2 years ago and currently playing house nights on my own terms. What I wouldn’t give for a time machine…

  12. First I’ll give you a background of myself. I’ve DJing for here and there for a few years and I am starting to get more serious. I’ve been producing hip hop and electronic music also on and off for 13 years. I have been consitantly playing the guitar for 16 years and toured with a band for 5. Also studied music in college. A creative DJ is anyone who combines skill and creativity to form art. It really should be whats the difference between being an artist and a DJ. I find the same problem with guitar players some of them are just musicians not true artists. I consider myself an artist and I feel that the guitar has run its course and have focused more on my production and the next logical step djing. I do however have a problem with technology and what it is doing to the art of production and djing. When I first started I had an MPC and keyboard and some guitar pedals. When my friend decided to start djing in middle school he beat matched, mixed in key, etc all by ear no software helped him. I guess it is good in a way because more people can express themselves but at the same time it waters down music as culture.

    • You’re not alone. I used to put on parties in the early ’90’s, and learnt to mix to keep the party going after all the proper DJ’s left. I went to work abroad for a while, and tinkered with making tunes with analogue gear for years. Had to put all that in the loft when the kids came, but a digital controller is something you can have set up for whenever you can get an hour to yourself.

      So, 20 years later, here I am again, putting on parties, with my friends, and loving it!

  13. The term creative DJ is a tad misleading because it suggests hi-end technology and loads of controllerism/turntabilism only…quite frankly i like the term the ‘The everyday DJ’ the DJ from the street still playing to the street.

    Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?

    Absolutely essential, lays the foundation and provides an open free/experimental platform for all people who love music and dancing. İ got into DJing by hearing an amazing unknown DJ running his own weekly night in a local pub…which is what i do now.

    If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed?
    How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?

    Been doing it for 15 years, its got easier in the sense of access to great music, harder as audiences have short attention span dis-order possibly due to the same reason.Technology has also made many people think they can just choose a few tunes and be a DJ overnight or a producer. İts given too many a false sense of grandeur. But that’s the price we pay for leveling the playing field.

    Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over?

    Yes all over the world.

    Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”? How old are you? How long have you been doing this?

    İm from the UK but now based in Cyprus,the scene is very very small and under-developed but nevertheless 20-40 people dancing in front of me week in week out is good enough for me. İm 36 years old.

    • I didn’t think of it like that – I was thinking “creative” in the sense of the music, not the gear – but I see what you’re saying. I quite like “Everyday DJ”. “Nevertheless 20-40 people dancing in front of me week in week out is good enough for me” – that nails it for me! :)

  14. Jon Glover says:

    This article strikes a chord with me too. I would describe myself as a creative DJ.
    I’ve played for 15 years, almost always as a side job. Sometimes not well paid enough to describe it as a job perhaps. So not technically a ‘professional’ DJ. so technically amateur (as described above) but that doesn’t seem to fit either.

    Maybe pigeon holing is difficult for many ‘creative’ DJs, as their thing seems to vary, but to sum them/us up, I’d use the word ‘passionate’ DJs, in it for the love (mainly) of what we do. Perhaps the money or the venue doesn’t matter? But yes your creative local hero jock is often the guy doing his creative thing in a small venue getting paid beer money.

    Food for thought. I always explain to new DJs that success can be measured in many ways. I gave up any desire to be a superstar DJ long ago (I’m not sure I ever did want quite that lifestyle) plus I’m busy married with kids now but I feel I am successful as I’ve found a residency in a club I love playing to a crowd a love who come to hear the music they love and I love, and we get loads of positive feedback, I can do it once or twice a month or more if I want. It pays £20 an hour and invariably I split that with my co-DJ (who is also there for the music. There are 5 of us kindred spirits on rotation usually playing in pairs which is fun) so it def ain’t about the money, but getting some £££ and the free beers is the icing.

    I’ve done bigger, louder, younger and better paid gigs in more exotic locations but this current one is the best for me. I’m confident with my abilities and my digital DJing / DVS setup and I use it creatively to enhance what I do (funk, soul, hip hop and quality disco with some modern gems thrown in, actually quite eclectic) although song selection is what we are good at.

    So I guess I’m an experienced, eclectic, ‘non-professional’, passionate, sociable, creative happy party DJ! The music and the desire to share it will always be in me.

  15. B.B. Koning says:

    Where I DJ there is a very minute market for so called ‘creative DJs’. I suppose that is the truth the World over, judging from experience and feedback on the internet.

    I refuse to pander to crap that makes my ears bleed and cringe in horror, so I don’t have a huge audience.

    The audience that I do have, however, are very loyal and are kindred spirits willing to take a chance on challenging dance music.

    I don’t get paid to do it at the moment, simply because there is no market for what I prefer to spin. I had hoped to book my own room, but again, because the audience for this type of sound is limited and I know only a few people, this is not a financially sound idea for myself or a club.

    I have DJ’ed live for literally nobody for hours on end before But it didn’t matter, because I would want to hear these songs anyway, and the fact that the room was empty gave me the freedom to screw around with new ideas and transitions between genres without fear of reprisal.

    Excellent article, Phil.

  16. Hi, you just touched something which is in line with the sentiments I have. DJ for smaller gigs, radio show, … but all out of personal intrest. Not looking for fame nor glory (nor cash). But sharing my musical influences and willingness to entertain, with a broader audience. And not the only one apparently :-)

  17. I would describe myself as a “creative DJ” just because I love the music and is a way to escape my daily job which I love very much as well and has absolutely nothing to do with music or djing. I just have always loved all kinds of music and being able to play and mix all kinds of music makes me happy. It is a way of stress relief. Me being the person I am I have invested money in my djing hobby because I am the type of person that wants to do things right even if its just a side thing. So I have learned from the best and bought some of the best equipment out there to have the whole djing experience. Now, I actually do play in bars and small events, and I occasionally plan and promote parties that are extremely popular amongst friends and colleagues, but I dont plan on taking this any further than my local venues. My ultimate goal as a hobby dj would be to learn music production and to be able to make my own sounds. I feel that as a creative dj these days nothing makes it more “creative” than having your own sounds to share, even if it is just out to 5 or 6 people.

  18. > Do you classify yourself as this type of DJ – and have I even
    > got the name right? What would you call yourself instead
    > (a bar DJ, a resident DJ, a warm up guy, a part-time DJ…)?

    I’d like to think I’m a creative DJ. I classify myself as a hobbyist. I like to make mixes, listen to music, write blogs, keep into the scene to an extent…but I’ve lost all desire to deal with demos, promoting, politics, etc.

    I’ll go play, even for free, if I’m guaranteed a night where I get to do what I want musically and a decent amount of time. So some guy is throwing a rave and invites me to spin for an hour or more (but can’t pay me), I’ll do it. When I used to play weekly at the European-style cafe, I didn’t get anything more than drinks, but I loved it. I got to DJ the way I felt it should be done…rather than having trixies annoy me all night asking me to be a jukebox of Top 40.

    My thing is about making smooth solid sets that entice the normal person to the floor, but also gives them something they haven’t heard.

    > Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?

    I’d like to think there is. Unfortunately, opening for a big name (at least in Chicago) has become only about if you can play an opening set and especially if you can get 20-50 people out early in the night.

    The smaller lounges, stores, online shows, and even amateur promoters who have no money to pay bigger DJs…those are the opportunities. Again though…often times you’ll find it’s not environments where you can “crank it” or mismanaged events that become drama.

    I remember when I was playing the cafe, many colleagues felt it was crap because I wasn’t being paid, and I couldn’t bang big room music. I told them it’s about atmosphere…but they’re too in love with the 1000+ crowd and Jesus poses to get it.

    > If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a
    > while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed?

    The “easier” part is in how you have smaller gear with midi controls and a laptop…as opposed to crates of vinyl and the hope the venue’s gear is in working order. It’s also much easier to shop for music now. I used to honestly hate racing to Gramaphone Records on a Thursday or Friday night to quickly buy up vinyl that was in limited quantities.

    I also like how there’s so much music, you don’t have to worry about your stuff being old. No one generally knows when your stuff came out now. Back in the vinyl days many would be ridiculed for playing a tune that’s 6 or more months old.

    The “harder” though is in getting into the booth. Everyone wants DJs who “bring heads”. Period. It doesn’t matter if you do flawless blends manually, if you have loads of promos, make your own mashups, etc…if you can’t bring a handful of people out, then no one will book you.

    There’s just an oversaturation of DJs even more now than ever, and the crowds really don’t recognize who is “talented” and who isn’t simply because they either want a celebrity name or to hear the same 20 songs they hear to death. Even now they get bored with long blends. If you’re not slamming in the instant gratification, they get bored and leave.

    The big change (compared to when I started in 1992), is this is 100% now the music industry. You have to be producing something, promoting, pushing, etc…like a live band would. It’s not just the case of a demo and a promoter willing to push you to his crowd. They want ROI.

    > How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?

    I think it’s made things more open and easier. In terms of the crowds, the internet and instant gratification ideology has made them less patient. Like I mentioned, they want short blends and to be hit instantly with the “meat” of a tune they love.

    > Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over?

    Definitely. I think most DJs…especially those who complain about the mainstream thing, the club politics, etc…are often those same creative DJs. They want to do their DJing as an art form, and yet the world wants them to just be a service.

    > Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”?

    I’m in Chicago. There’s places for creative DJs to play, but not a lot. Like I said, most promoters won’t touch you unless you can “bring heads” or play the tunes the girls want to hear. I usually tell most guys who feel creatively limited to go to the smaller venues and weeknight events, play online, play in stores, or even try promoting if they feel ambitious. Play in places where “bring heads” isn’t a requirement, but you’re also not handed a playlist. Just bear in mind they also won’t be the spots you’ll get instantly recognized and cheered at.

    > How old are you?

    39. Turning 40 in August.

    >How long have you been doing this?

    I’ve been DJing since 1992. Wow…21 years!

    • “I classify myself as a hobbyist.”

      Same, once I realized I didn’t care about how much money I made for the night (and that I’d rather be playing in a way that I enjoyed) I started using that phrase.

      Hobby is somewhat of a weak word however, just by looking at your post most people can tell you have more than a slight passion for your craft.

      • I don’t think “hobby” or “amateur” is such a bad thing. I tend to look at it all as those who simply enjoy the activity and aren’t trying to make a living out of it.

        For me, I almost ended up hating DJing from all the politics in the scene and industry, but found when I stepped back, I could enjoy DJing so much more.

        You can be passionate about your stuff and still call it a “hobby”. I do the same with photography. I use “hobbyist” with pride…mainly because I look at it as I play by my own rules.

    • Foldable disco says:

      Nice piece, I do recognize myself in this piece. I play in a bar where I can play what I want, when I want. It’s nice to do and sometimes I make a little bit of money by playing or hiring out my soundsystem.

      The problem doing this (for a few drinks and a snack) is that it’s difficult to set your price for other gigs.
      I once was asked for a birthday and asked 250€ because I had to drive over there, set up my sound and light etc. Play for 5 hours, break the whole thing down, drive back again and unload etc.
      Well the ‘birthday girl’ decided that 25€ was enough, that’s a slap in the face! I told her that for that amount she should ask her little cousin. I could’n even pay the gas for my car with that money.

      • Well…this is rampant in the mobile industry and even photography now.

        I know mobile and wedding DJs who are astounded that brides will want the 5-star show, but they want to pay $200 for it. Photographers as well who charge $2000 for a night with prints and such, but the brides only want to pay $100-$200 and just want a CD of photos they can toss on Facebook.

        You go even more macro…look at music. You can’t charge a lot for your tunes because everyone wants tunes at $1-$2 each. You can’t develop video games and sell them for $50 because everyone wants $1 games from their smartphone app store.

        Etc. Etc.

  19. Bairro Alto… good memories… Did you visit “Pensão Amor” in Cais do Sodré?Bottom line: when you’re doing something that you love, it will always pay back in happiness:) Next time Twitt-it and I shall provide you a proper guided tour:)

  20. cre·a·tive /krēˈātiv/

    Adjective
    Relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work: “creative writing”.

    Noun
    A person who is creative, esp. in a professional context.

    Synonyms
    originative – original – constructive – PRODUCTIVE

    Thanks Phil! This is the kind of article I’ve grown to expect and love from you and DDJTs.

    I’ve been DDJing as a serious hobby for 2 months now. I’m finally to the point in my life where I once again have some time for me. Work all day, come home, dinner with my family, put em to bed, and then its me, in my budding basement studio listening to music, mixing, learning Traktor inside and out, reading books, and skimming websites like this for new ideas and inspiration.

    I must say, I have creative juices flowing through me like I haven’t felt since I was a hopeful art student in high school. Those days are long over. Some thirty-somethings take guitar lessons, work on their golf game, or play pick-up basketball at the gym. I decided to take up DJing, and I couldn’t be happier.

    Will anyone hear me? Will anything I do leave a mark? Does it matter? Does it matter to my dad that he will never play a single hole of professional or semi-professional golf? Yet he plays constantly.

    I don’t know where I am going with DJing. As D-Jam puts it, if given the opportunity to play out, be it for 5 or 5,000, I’d do it for free. I don’t need the money. This is about getting goosebumps when I gear the next track’s lead synth appear at the perfect moment, at just the right volume, announcing, this track was great, the next even better. Whether I’m punching the dash in my car, or sharing on iTunes and Mixcloud, who cares? I’m loving it.

    I look forward to getting my first MIDI Keyboard Controller that is in the mail right now. I downloaded Logic Pro last night. I’ve already read the Traktor Bible, The Traktor Manual (nerd), as well as books on music theory and production. I’ve learned more in the last few month about this craft than I’ve ever learned about anything in my life in such a short period of time. I CAPITALIZED the last synonym for creative above. It was the word PRODUCTIVE.

    See my creativity will be judged based upon the opinions of others, as to how productive my DJ/Producer hobby becomes.

    I’ve been to the biggest clubs and best clubs in Chicago and seen many of the biggest acts in the world. I grew tired of thinking, “…why don’t they play more like this, why doesn’t this sound like that, it would sound better like this….” I feel too many DJ’s I see suffer from terminal uniqueness. This, I can’t play anything, anyone in this venue has ever heard before because I am so NON-mainstream. Too cool for school. I think it’s fine to play Levels, or Spaceman, or Deadmau5, or Skrillex, etc…. to get them on the floor, then introduce your unique flavor of house sub-genre gone mad! If it works, fine, if not, play another hit and try again. Just my $.02

    This makes me happy. What else matters?

  21. why waste time being a creative underpaid dj, when people can play premixed sets at ultra festival and receive good cash?? *ironic mode*
    some small venues have room for alternative djing and music. they don’t follow any club rules.

  22. Like a few of the others I classify myself as a hobbyist, it’s more about the experience I can create and less about the funds/trendiness.

    Mixcloud is a huge help in this regard, as I can upload as many mixes in whatever genre’s as I so desire (and I do, a new mix goes up every week). Getting gigs is an interesting thing however, as people know that I have passion but they always want a head count/fan base and I simply can’t guarantee them anything there.

    This has lead me to throw my own parties, paying out of pocket to create events that are “correct” in that they’re the way I think things should be done.

  23. I would call this a “passion DJ”, Phil. :)

  24. Foldable disco says:

    That’s me and my partner in crime ;-)

  25. dj filespnr says:

    we already have a word for someone who does something for the love of it. “amateur” literally means “love do’er”

  26. 1: Yep, that’s me!
    Like some of the others, ‘creative’ would be nice, but a little over the top, whereas ‘amateur’ is probably more accurate but a little harsh.
    hobby DJ
    passion DJ
    compulsive DJ would describe me better I guess.

    2: Is there still a place for this type of DJ?
    Definately. Depends on your ambitions though. Like many others I’ve been playing for a long time, starting out on vinyl (with a specific niche) via CD (combining other genres) to digital. Off course I like playing in the big venues, and I have been able to do so here in Amsterdam. However, I’ve found out that I prefer the more house party style of events (preferrable in small venues, with a dedicated audience). I always find myself wanting to play more, more experimental and more professional, but my life right now does n’t allow me a lot of spare time. Still, I find time for enough recurring events to play at and keep in touch with the audience. The audience seems to like it, because I think this type of DJ is exactly in the middle of two types of DJ’s that not everybody appreciates: 1 is the typical purist DJ centred event (techno parties, for example), which are good for the music lovers but don’t match the tastes of many people who want a nice night out with friends. The other side of the spectrum is the bar/dancing style of DJ’ing, where music is nothing more then an excuse for having a night out. hobby/passion DJ’s fill in the spot in the middle: music that please music lovers, but still allows for unexpected, joyfull nights out. (although this is, off course also very much possible with the other two types, if they’re your style)

    3: Does Digital allow for this type of DJ’ing?
    YES.
    Like mentioned before, eclecticism is a big part of my style. I find so much good music in so many rare and weird places in the musical history (right now I’m heavily digging into Alan Lomax’s recordings of american folk music and simultaniously sucking up everything related to trap, footwork and juke for example).
    There are three ways in which digital is the final step in a long path of making this possible:
    1 – Key to my sets is finding the linking elements between various genres (can be thematical, rhythmical, melody, etc.) and digital playlists are perfect for this.
    2 – Sync (aided by abletons warping) and harmonic mixing allow this type of DJ’ing.
    3 – things such as loops and especially loops in an ableton / remix decks way make it easier to add elements to the mix that help maintain energy levels. See for example the afore mentioned genre’s of trap and american folk music: adding a beat to a folk song, or add some ancient vocals to trap music allow for enormous creative potential.

  27. If you are ever in the L.A. area, the valley, check out a place called Scotland Yard. On most nights they have the “creative dj/open-source dj” playing all kinds of stuff. An not one dj the whole night but maybe a few sometimes. Anything from old school punk on 45’s and 12″, to hip hop, a little “futuristic” (sarcastic comment about Shadow’s set being too future), to straight out everything. The owner’s son/employee is a dj and started it. Greatest thing ever and the place is packed almost every night of the week. Tiny little pub and it works great.

    I did it for a while. A bowling alley on their black light dark bowling, a last minute fill in for a comedy show with steve harvey in a bfe part of the valley, even a jazz club and only my friends would show on a sunday night. All small tiny places, but I was able to play what I liked, and introduce people to new music and they had fun (at least from the response I saw). I did keep it in line with what the place was about, then sneak in a jazzy trance song, chemical brothers (at the time), trip-hop here an there, and sneak in led zepplin with some dnb.

    The most fun I have had, and looking for a place to do it again every other week or once a month, wine bar, total lounge place, etc. No money at all. I did it for free 10 years ago, and the owners would love it (i got free drinks after hours too – the good stuff from the back). Granted, be prepared for the occasional epic crash where their equipment or yours will not work at all that night.

    have fun and treat it as a hobby if you want to do it. It’s not your day job if you go this route.

    ps thanks for doing this site.

  28. I’m treating this post as a bit of an “ideas scratchboard”. One thing, too, is that you can play a much wider choice of music if you don’t have to keep a dancefloor full. As long as it’s got a groove, it creates an atmosphere, and it fits in with what you’ve got going on in your head, it’s fair game for “creative DJs”. I’m remembering stood in a busy bar in Reykjavík and watched a DJ play completely no-danceable but VERY cool music, and he could only do that because it was a drinking, not a dancing, venue.

    • Vive La'bam says:

      There you go Phil, you’ve just touched on it there… “Atmospheric DJ”… I’ve never seen myself as a ‘Club DJ’ … Always preferred to spin in bars,lounges,terraces (the more intimate the better)… I try to set an atmosphere, a vibe … A laid back sort of groove… Music for the mind aswell as the feet.

    • Never thought about that. I’ve always thought of the high u get when leading the dance floor. Never occurred to me it could be leading me (indirectly)

  29. “Do you classify yourself as this type of DJ – and have I even got the name right? What would you call yourself instead (a bar DJ, a resident DJ, a warm up guy, a part-time DJ…)?”

    The description is a 100% match. The name not so… It implies that those playing the Top 10s are not creative. Hell, I would not even describe myself as a DJ, although I do get paid gigs on a regular basis. I would describe myself as a music enthusiast, one that loves sharing his passion with others. Kind of like a waiter that likes the food he is serving. I did not cook it, but I am the only one that can serve it in such a way, that can deliver an experience out of a bite!

    “Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?”

    There is always room for what one believes in. If you do not see a venue/audience for your thing, then just create one!

    “If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed?”

    It’s pretty much the same, if one does not rely on it financially. Back in the days only the rich or committed enough could do it. We had 100 DJs and only 10 were exceptional, the rest was rich and talentless. Nowadays, we have 100.000 but only 10.000 are exceptional. Despite the fact that only 100 will make it to stardom, the percentage stays the same. One just has to dig deeper/ try harder! All in all, I think the digital era is an upgrade to what we had.

    “How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?”

    It has affected both. The main point is that DJing has been demystified for both audience and aspiring DJs.

    “Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over?”

    I know that for a fact, because it is part of human nature!

    “Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”?”

    I am in Germany and the scene is normally all about harder, faster, stronger…Nevertheless, I play music that only a few can appreciate and -get paid for it- for 12 years in a row. You have to love what you do. Only when you do that, are you able to convince people (club owners, as well as audience)to give it a try…

    How old are you? How long have you been doing this?

    33 years old and doing it for 12 years.

  30. Hi Phil, really enjoyed this piece. I’m a hobbyist, bedroom dj with no (real) aspirations of becoming anything more – I’m 35 with a young family so opportunities and inclination to play out are limited. However, if I were to play out, a bar such as the one you described is exactly the kind of place I’d want to play. I have a wide selection of music and musical tastes, although my first loves are hip hop and funk. I find that when the emphasis is on listening to music rather than dancing to it there tends to be a more flexible attitude to what’s being played and tend to enjoy this kind of venue the most (perhaps it’s because I’m in my mid-thirties!) Throwing on an ambient tune along with some rare groove or soulful instrumental that no-one has ever heard of tends to go down well in this kind of atmosphere and for me, the is an essential part of what a dj does – there should always be room for the dj as tastemaker, evangelically pushing his or her tastes onto an audience … as long as there is an audience that’s open to hearing it.

  31. hans kulisch says:

    hi guys that read is great. and a whole set of new names open source djs, artisan djs thats all good. for creative djs, whatever that means for someone, its always possible to find at least 20 persons in a bar, which like your music then. but the mainstream thing is for 90 % of the people and doing something else is quite hard. if you have a different job and only the hobby of djing than its ok. but if you want to make improvisational music and sell it a little more than its hard. well i am doing that for 27 years in vienna and its still small … cheers folks

  32. This is me, has always been me, will always be me.

    I call myself a DJ. My style is creative, eclectic, and open.

    My analogy for it is when farming first began, there where no niches for it. Everyone did it in order to have food. Then crops became more diverse, so you’d have fruit farmers, wheat farmers, vegetable farmers, grain farmers, and so on.
    Then it became even more sophisticated, with chemicals and pesticides. Eventually, business conglomerates got involved, and it became agribusiness.
    Then in the late part of the 20th century, there was a movement to return to the agrarian way of farming, so they called it…organic.

    They came up with a name for the way farming always had been. Now, it had a marketable term, like everything else.
    To me, that describes what has happened to DJing. There are so many genres and styles now, that the way it used to be done has almost been forgotten.

    To me, a DJ should be able to mix ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. They should be a student of music, regardless of genre. For me, focusing on one style is limited and limiting. If that means promoters and clubs don’t want me, that’s fine. I don’t need them.

    I’ve switched over to production recently, and I enjoy it a lot. DJing has taken a backseat, for now. I intend to promote and create my own night centred around my style (or lack of it, LOL)when the time is right. I’m not fond of commercial style DJing, and I probably never will be. It leaves me cold, and I feel stifled. I want to play whatever I want, whenever I want, however I want. If that means obscurity, then so be it.

    Nothing but love to all my DJ fam on the grind, but the one thing I have learned for myself is this; If you do not answer your true calling, you will be unhappy doing anything else. Be yourself.

  33. I would like to think that most DJ’s get into it for the love of the music…but as we get older something called “bills” enters our lives, so as a DJ you have a choice between taking a desk job or adapt your skill-set to the market you’re in – sell your soul as it were, the soul wasn’t selling so I started playing hip hop.

    Instead of playing what you believe in, you have to play what the audience believes in, it’s very hard to educate people in this “on demand” youtube era.

    I think that your average working DJ is probably desperate to show their creative, resourceful side, but mainstream audiences can be very crude and unforgiving, sometimes it’s easier to play it safe to avoid any drama.

    But then you know there’s always 5 or 6 people in the room thinking “this DJ has no creativity, no style, he’s just doing what everybody else does” – sadly we are branded by what we do not by what we’re capable of.

  34. Wow this article totally hits where I’m at! I think of it as the passionate DJ? LOL I work full time and been on & off DJ’ing over 15 years and just got back in and more serious in the last 2 years. I came from Dj’ing house parties to weddings and the wedding request was growing but I didn’t enjoy it even though it made good money. Top 40 is not my idea of a fun time!

    I started my own podcast which kept me motivated to make my own mixes with the music I absolutely love! Recently I have been doing house parties and small venues which I totally love!

    Not looking to be big and famous but as my motto goes: “Spreading the music I love all over the world!”
    For me it’s like you hear a track that gives you goose bumps and you want to share that feeling with others. There’s also something about the equipment that I love using. I love searching for music both new and old and reading up on the latest and greatest DJ gear.

  35. I never imagined someone would write about this and boy am I glad someone did. I thought I was weird or something yet there are others out there like me. This article describes me in every aspect.

    I am in Zimbabwe, Harare and have been djing this way from the very start and that’s about 4 years now. I am 31 years old. I am a lawyer full time and squeeze in a few hours a week to feed my passion for pleasuring people with music and practicing my sets. I always tell people that I am a lawyer by profession and a DJ by passion! I play for free on radio and sometimes for a very minimal fee at my friend’s small “open air” bar. I have played a lot of parties and clubs for free. I also always play for free at all Law Society of Zimbabwe gatherings. I even provide my own equipment for all these free or ‘minimal fee’ functions.

    Yes I think there will always be room for this kind of DJ. This DJ usually puts passion in front of anything else and does get the crowd appreciation.

    I would not say I have witnessed any change which is peculiar to this style djing which any other DJ has not witnessed.

    As regards how digital has affected both DJs and audiences, I think it comes down to the type of event. I use the same basic set-up for all my events, including radio, which is 2xcdj400s+djm400+MacBook pro+vdj (now learning traktor-got the traktordj for iPad & it’s awesome!). I also own a numark mixtrack pro but hardly use it for gigs. This kind of set up is still relatively novel here and leaves most audiences standing and starring at the set up instead of dancing (at least the first 30mins to hour). I cannot really say how digital has affected DJs as I started djing with digital (a laptop with vdj routed to an external mixer) then moved to CDs as the club I was playing at did not approve me connecting my laptop. The club had some of the oldest entry level rackmount Stanton CD players I have ever seen. I would still practice with my laptop at home though as i did not ave any gear. I then switched back to full digital after a year and bought my current gear.

    As regards the last question, from the responses above, I guess it is clear that his kind of DJ exists world over.

  36. James Hauska says:

    I love this article and all the comments, and it’s the reason why I keep returning to this website. :)

    Anyway, I like the term ‘passion’ or ‘eclectic’ DJ, and it fits me well :) I don’t care how big the audience is that I’m playing for, as long as the atmosphere is good.

    Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays?

    Yes definitely, there will always be niches, and people to cater to that niche, and if there’s no scene, try and create one, or adapt, and you might discover that you also like a genre of music that you wouldn’t have thought of before. I didn’t like tech-house for a long time, now I’m producing it my self ;)

    If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed?

    Not so much harder or easier, I just got more involved, I think about DJing and Dj related thing constantly.

    How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?

    I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the second hand Mixtrack Pro I bought, the entry price into this wonderfull world was so high without digital, though I do prefer the ‘older’ mediums now. Though being ‘special’ through your choice of music is harder now, cause all the music is readily available now, ad there is a lot more, making it harder to find those great tracks. Hypes also make this a lot harder.

    Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over? Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”? How old are you? How long have you been doing this?

    There are music lovers everywhere, and so will these kind of DJs. I think the scene is pretty good in the Netherlands, though I think there is still a bit of hype as well, house is becoming all the rage nowadays, and I do think there are a number of people in it for the ‘fame’ or money, not for the music, though I think the ‘real’ DJs will persist and come out on top eventually.

  37. Your comments ring true with me and unusually I have deliberately not read any responses above yet so my answer stays true!

    I don’t think the term matters too much. I like it as I consider myself to be creative but arguably, all DJs might consider themselves to be.

    I’ve been playing for 18 years since a student at Uni. Those were great times! Radio station shows. Private house parties. Student’s Union to a hundred people. Uni bar residency to hundreds every Friday. Causing a radio 1 DJ (now on BBC 6 Music) to be moved as I had most of the folk in my bar! Residencies in several top bars in different cities. Runner up in mix comp for IDJ magazine. It was looking promising at this point!

    In recent years things changed. Life! Marriage. Kids. Teaching career. Still love to DJ though and get the ‘itch’. Now gigs are hard to come by so I play for myself. For my wife. For friends. Have house parties or gigs for friends or family.

    Things have changed for sure. Bars and clubs seem to change hands and managers like a relay race. If you don’t know the right people or are out the ‘loop’ you are nothing. The digital age has restricted opportunities. Why pay me for playing vinyl when a bar person can stick on spotify or an iPod? The recession has played a part no doubt.

    I would play for free. I would play for one person or 500. I think I’m unique. I have never heard anyone sound like me around my city and always seem to get positive comments from people that hear me. It’s frustrating at times but I’m still happy. Life is busy and I have a smile on my face at the decks, looking out my window over the whole city. Creativity is in a DJs soul. It’s Art.

  38. Ever since a child i have this huge urge to listen to dance music. or music that makes my feel good in general.
    And i willingly choose to keep this as a hobby,like don’t kill your darlings but whenever i’ve got a gig coming up it becomes a big big part of my life, i think about all the cool stuff i like and want to share on the floor and i start to think about mixing those tracks and start to practice those mixes.

    Do you classify yourself as this type of DJ – and have I even got the name right? What would you call yourself instead (a bar DJ, a resident DJ, a warm up guy, a part-time DJ…)?

    I would defenitly call myself a allround dj, i just want to make the crowd happy.

    Is there room for this type of DJ nowadays? OH yeah, there will always be cause this is the most essential and purest form of dj ing.

    If you’ve been DJing as a “serious” hobby like this for a while, has it got easier or harder? What’s changed? ITs gotten easier,cause i improved so much in the technical area.

    How has digital affected both DJs and audiences?
    its got the dj more creative,it makes the audience hungry,hungry for the next big thing,cause its all so easy to get acces to the music. i mean just google a track name you like and you get 10.000 hits. in the early days you would have to wait till a cd was released by that artist before you could listen to the song you liked.

    Do you think this type of DJ exists the world over? Yeah it does. cause passion for music is something very closely placed next to someones soul.

    Where are you, and what’s the scene like where you are for “creative DJs”? How old are you? How long have you been doing this?
    Im in the netherlands and im 22 years old, ive been doing this for over 5 years. and i guess the scene is not so well for the creative dj because its gotten so big and star struck.

  39. THe need to “get the music out” def sounds like me.
    Usually, but not always, the tunes I choose to mix and the way I mix them directly relates in some way, shape, or form to how I’m feeling, my thoughts that particular day, etc etc. It could be anything…..but it’s all OF “me” at the same time. It happens a lot without even realizing it. I relisten to my old mixes all the time and each time I do I notice something I didn’t before (relating it back to when I mixed it). I don’t see just making mixes for myself ever getting old. If ppl like what I do in the process….it just a bonus.
    Good discussion Phil!

  40. Wish I could find a builder like this,a guy who just loves to build for other people, he supllys all the materials and all the equipment to do the job.He just loves building and will do it for free or for beer money,it makes no difference to him about making money or a living,he only builds for fun his real job is a professional DJ and he uses the money he makes from this to subsidise his love of building. :) just an alternative view for you

  41. I like the term “open source”. I wouldn’t want to be labeled as a certain Genre type of DJ. It is a hobby for me and being able to switch it up when needed is essential to me since I do a wide variety of gigs from small family gatherings to bars, clubs and weddings. I like the fact that anyone can come up to me to request a song and I can fulfill their request(within reason on the gig). I like to be a connoisseur of music! Well where I live we have a wide variety of ethnicities so I like to accommodate everyone if possible.

    • I like open-source, or open-format- didn’t realize it was from my being from NYC that I’m accustomed to that term. Just as microbreweries are now referred as ‘craft’ beer, maybe craft djs would work the same way as micro djs.

      One fellow in our community here prepares his sets based on three groups: social, healine, after hrs. Sure, dancfloors are social in their own way, but maybe we’re talking lounge or chamber djs? Some of us in this category would make great closers.

      I do think that commercial and headline djs exhibit lots of craft, so there’s an issue there-maybe the distinction is if you do it for the love of the craft? but there’s plenty who do it for the love if eclectic music…

      I’ve issue with ameatur, not because it sounds harsh-I do get paid for some gigs and I consider the rates I command completely scalable with no upward boundary. The issue with amateur is that it negates that some gigs, and yes mixes, can have marketing potential before a business model even reveals itself. By definition, Facebook should be considered an ameatur entity because they launched before they made a profit or even knew how to make a profit. the bottom line is are you adding value?

      I’d consider ?estLove among this species of player, but yes, I do think of local gigs like Chances with Wolves, Mickey Perez, AndrewAndrew, Johnny Rockz

  42. Hi Phil,

    Your article really spoke to me. I definitely see myself in this category. I used to DJ parties and bars while I was in university and then my career took me away from that. Now that I am working on getting back into the scene, what you describe is exactly the type of thing that I see myself doing. I see this as offering a more personal connection to the people that I play for. It’s an opportunity to set a good vibe or atmosphere to a place without the pressure of trying to fill a dance hall to max.

    I think digital DJing is perfect for this type of thing. We can be so mobile yet have all kinds of capability and music resources at our fingertips at all times. So much flexibility!

    A name jumped out at me when I read your article, “boutique” DJ. Because we really offer unique “boutique” style entertainment.

    Thanks for the great articles!

  43. Maybe all DJs are simply ‘music sharers’. If what you play doesn’t engage those listening to it its meaningless, however creative you think you may be. How many times do you hear DJs bang on about trying to ‘educate’ their audience rather than actually playing what people might want to hear. I work in the creative advertising industry and the best creatives are those people who can come up with something creative that people actually want and can connect with. Djing is the same and the popular DJs have this skill. However much people like to slag them off, is there really any DJ out there who wouldn’t want to be Luciano, Solumon or Aviici??? Maybe the real creativity is around the nights themselves with the likes of Defected in the House, Kehakuma under which a range of creative talented and skilled DJs can complement each other to make the real creative party.

  44. I used to be a radio presenter and DJ whilst at University late 80’s. DJ’d occasionally on the UK Northern Soul scene though mid-90’s then my day job overtook things.

    4 years ago I went to see ‘The Boat That Rocked’ and wanted back in. I located a local community radio station and secured a 1 hour weekly slot to play Northern Soul, Ska & Reggae.

    I didn’t just rely on the station to podcast my shows, I hosted my own site and promoted via Twitter. I was approached by someone (who has since become a good friend) to do a set at their wedding. Continued promotion and going to events has meant that I’m DJing at an Alldayer Easter Sunday and a food festival the week after. With another food festival possible in August. I’ve now bought a DAW and have started entering remix comps.

    Shout about what you do! Oh and I’d call myself an Amateur DJ as I don’t get paid.

  45. http://www.cpcave.com/apps/blog/cp-controllerist-producer
    Above is A link to an article I wrote last year, which is right up this alley. The term “creative DJ” is just outdated. Yes it is the most acceptable term for now because it leads you to believe that you are doing something different in DJ-ing.
    Controllers, CDJ’s, software/laptops and turntables are the bread and butter of our industry. Being creative can come in any form, and style. The term DJ leads me to an image of someone playing other peoples music, knows beat matching and can time affects to make cool transitions. Now all that is some what creative. It just doesn’t go above and beyond to create new sound all together, now thats creative. Walt Disney copied so many different themes to create his disney world and was phenomenally successful. You can make obvious ties to what he was copying but you couldn’t deny the characters portraying the stories. Being creative with sound is just like that, yet the heavy hitters aren’t worried about defining themselves outside of a DJ. All of our gear is designed to control one thing or another. CDJ’s control the audio from the disc and have many functions that can inspire one to make sounds in their own interpretation. I truly feel the performer using the CDJ is a controllerist, with out a doubt. Now turntablism is an art in its own and that term is the best term for what it is. Music while all of it is entertaining, not all of it makes you want to dance to it. Most audiences of music want to dance to a musical performance. It’s hard to dance to a turntablist act, I think that’s why they end up getting stuck in a mediocre genre. The major people who support the turntablist are the DJ enthusiast, hip-hop fans and the controllist (because we respect our fore fathers of DJing) So getting rid of the whole DJ/turntablist term for the controllerist is critical to it’s definition. So would you then call yourself a creative controllerist?? Why?? The word creative isn’t put next to producer because you understand a producer is going to bring you something fresh, with their signature on it. The top ten “DJ”s aren’t in the realm of turntablist but in the realm of the controllist producer. Let me know what you think of that, I know it sounds kind of radical but i think it’s properly fitting. Your feed back would greatly help me understand myself and maybe there’s a better term out there that would be better suiting. Let me know, I’m always open to new ideas.

  46. Shaun green says:

    as i was reading this article i felt u described me down to a tee. i am a full time automotive electrician (that pays the bills) and i have very little spare time to dj or produce. ive been doing this for since 2007 and i feel playing with music helps keep me sane.

    i would call my self a “music manipulating enthusiast” rather than a “creative dj.”

    this keeps me sane so there is definately time for this sort of dj, regardless if it pays. if u dont keep your mind active and learning, u will one day loose ur mind.

    djing as a hobby has only gotten harder because the full time work is requiring more time but i always seem to be able to find some time..

    digital in my opinion has effected djs in that they are using less basic skills like cueing, bpm matching, scratching, and are basically using theyre eyes more with music, rather than there ears. although digital for the audiance has improved – they have more seamless mixes, loops, effects are awesome and most ppl dont really know wat exactly a dj is doing or how hard it is..

    i live in perth, australia. i do believe that ppl around the world are just like me and just enjoy playing with music. the scene here isnt very creative, its basically the same as the pop music u hear on the radio.. im 24 years old and have been djing for around 5 years.

  47. Firstly I’d just like to say, your website has been a godsend to me as I am a new DJ and I am struggling to connect with the right equipment/formats/decks/serato etc as it is a whole new world of technology to me and it is all very overwhelming!!

    I am a 33 year old female DJ and I have been working as a musician/sound engineer since I was 17. It has only been the last year or so that I’ve been getting paid work as a DJ. I was the resident sound engineer at an indie club in Brisbane for over two years and put my hand up to DJ when our resident DJ was sick. To my surprise, the positive feedback I received made me think ‘man this is so fun, I pretty much do this in my bedroom for hours on end, could I actually get paid for this??’ Well the answer is a big fat yes!!!

    Music is the only thing I have ever loved and been good at. I have a ridiculously huge cd collection and my taste in music is becoming more and more diverse as my skill grows. I feel more connected to picking the right tracks than I ever did writing guitar riffs (and I’ve written stacks) and I’m kinda bummed I didn’t discover this when I was 18.

    Anyway, I run a monthly club night in Brisbane and the last two have sold out, my name, along with the club nights popularity is getting me paid work without having to submit mixes etc and I think I am at a creative crossroads. I would definitely consider myself a ‘microdj’ or whatever you want to call it. I have a policy with the dj’s at my club night that we are to play no top 40 music. We pride ourselves on being alternative. I spend hours and hours listening to remixes of indie or rock tracks that I love, picking out tracks that will work in a club environment. I’ve even started making my own, which brings me to my next issue-

    I truly believe being a little bit left of centre can be really really good and it makes you stand out from every other DJ who’s sets are uninspiring and predictable as they sit in the DJ booth on Facebook and get paid a shitload to do it. It makes me mad, they have all the latest gear, cool laptops, nice cans etc but where is their creativity, what makes them different? Nothing!

    I currently don’t even really have a laptop, nor do I have decks at home, the venue I worked in had cdj900’s which I loved and I have been using nexus’s at a venue I consider my ‘day job’ ( a bar that plays retro classic hits and nothing else) but I’m at a point now where I a: have to decide what gear to invest in (all my remixes have been done on my phone or virtual DJ with no headphones or pre cue system etc) I was just so desperate to make my own indie remixes that I went for the first available option!!

    Now I’m getting offered gigs in commercial venues and I would consider myself an indie/alternative DJ. With the right equipment and songs and preparation I don’t think I would have to sell out and start playing ‘levels’ 4 times a night but i would definitely consider doing a remix of it with perhaps a band like the yeah yeah yeahs or lady sovereign or something that people are just not going to expect. I like to push boundaries with my track choices and I do it all the time but my million dollar question is do I have to sellout and play commercial music at these venues or can the right preparation/gear/track choices help me keep my artistic integrity? I need to get serious about gear and I just can’t decide! Help!

    • Sounds to me like you already know the answer to that question. Keep building your following and doing what you’re doing and when you’re ready, you can move to the next stage. From your comment, I think it’s only a matter of time… stay in touch please!

  48. My goodness, I have to think of the arrogance that would come across if I were to claim myself as a creative DJ, but this article really resonates with my personal relationship I have with not only DJing, but with music itself. I started teaching myself how to produce music at around age 13, after a few years, I decided it was time I turn my efforts towards learning the art of DJing without even knowing the role. Amazingly, I picked up on it too quick for me to gloat haha. Since I came from a background of production and the limitless innovations you can bring into existence, I remember one day DJing in my bedroom and thinking of how boring it was. That’s when I discoverd 4-deck Mixing. I took it upon myself to disable the sync function on my controller and mapped it to control my deck selector; why the hell not, right? From then on I decided that as a laptop DJ, who’s well capable of spinning on CDJ’s, I would attempt to use my passion for creation as well as even deeper philosophical understandings and universal truths into both my mixing and production. It’s difficult to articulate my thoughts as far as how deep that really goes, but it’s a very gratifying feeling to have that awareness because it gave me the realization that in a sense, no music/genre/dj/producer can be in bad taste; it’s a lesson that enabled me to discover discord and imperfection as a much more necessary role than I originally thought. Not only that, but that any given artist has the same amount of potential as the famous ones we know today. It opened my eyes to seeing an equal surplus of potential and capability in everyone, not just “the special ones”. I’m now 18 years of age, 19 in june, the month of my first event featuring an international headliner with 7 stages of our cities oldschool and newschool crowd; not gloating in anyway, any of y’all could do the same or even better. But the point I’m making is this; 2 years ago, I was homeless sleeping on a couch behind a church that luckily had a power outlet. Through out those 6 months, my laptop and novation launchpad was my only reprieve from the thought of my hopeless situation… It was as much a part of me than my own ears. After pawning every last item worth anything, I could never rid myself of the gift of music for a tween of tweek. Music/Artists were my childhood heroes and left me grateful for the gift of music to take me places in my head; I know there are people who have had much more terrible afflictions in life, my story is nothing extraordinary, but I find my purpose is to give back that gift to whoever may need it. That’s how the world works, everything is a part of a cycle that is constantly being renovated, revisited, or for the articles sake REmixed haha. I find nostalgic tunes that come from modern underground artists to really hit home for me; one of the techniques I use today is one of nostalgia by creating loop segments of oldskool 80’s-90’s funky, urban synths and basslines. I think things have started to look up for me recently because I was and never have been after fame or glory, I just want to be able to have something original for people like me who make it their endeavor to find authenticity. Great topic, man, you worded the article pretty close to perfect.

    Thanks for those of you who took time to read my response, hopefully it will be a catalyst of change for those who are often stuck in a comfort zone, I’d love to see everyone make it to where they are headed.

    • That’s a well worded and very inspirational story. Thanks – and please let us know how the gig goes!

      • Will do, for sure! Keep up the great work as a publisher phil, your method at approaching issues is always aimed towards solution; I can’t stand reading blogs of people who would choose to focus on the problem or issue w/ bias instead of swallowing the pride involved in acheiving solution. That, to me, is inspiring.

      • That really means alot, I’m glad you enjoy my creations, most of my soundcloud uploads are my original productions, the rest are excerpts of my live mashups and remixes.

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