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.