When I was a full-time club DJ back in the 1990s and early 2000s, DJing and promoting took practically all of my time up. Just as well it was earning me a decent living. Devouring all the music mags for the latest trends, touring the record stores (there were dozens in my town of Manchester, England), then planning, practising and organising DJ sets – my friends who said “I don’t know what you do all week” really didn’t understand what it took to be good enough to DJ professionally. Now for me things are very different. We have baby on the way, I hold down a demanding full-time position in a web agency, and I also run this blog. And on top of all that, I’m as passionate as ever about DJing, but I’m soon to be one of those “dads behind he decks”.
And while I only play once a week nowadays, it is still important to do a good job of it. I can’t just turn up and play any old stuff. Luckily, digital DJing has the answers – as usual.
Step forward, dads who digital DJ…
From running Digital DJ Tips, I’ve realised too that I am not alone – the number of people who get in touch to say they used to DJ with records etc “back in the day”, but gave up due to family and job commitments, only to get back into it all thanks to digital, means I think there is a bit of a movement of “dads behind the decks” out there.
So if you gave up DJing when the culture became too time-consuming for you and your priorities changed, and now at a very different stage of your life finding yourself wanting to dip your toes in again, you’re not alone! And to help you make the most of your limited DJing time now you’re all grown up, here are five examples of how with digital, it is possible to successfully juggle kids, career and a passion for DJing:
1. You can listen to your music anywhere
Remember heading off to your deck room for a full evening of tune sifting, smoking and dreaming? Those mixes that came to you two hours into listening through obscure B-sides? Mates turning up with boxes of records for impromptu “DJ battles”?
Fat chance of that in today’s “DJ dad” household. No, you need to snatch every second you can for learning your tunes. Luckily, if you get organised on iTunes, you can have your iPod loaded up with your current hot tunes and grab 10 minutes’ listening anywhere – at the gym, on the way to work, while cooking, bathing baby, at the shops…
2. You don’t need a deck room any more
My deck room used to have two walls of home-made shelves with tunes piled from floor to ceiling. I had record decks, CD players and a big Pioneer mixer smack bang in the middle, all on a custom-built stand. There were record boxes and piles of posters and flyers for my events. I even had one of those wire record stands (that I bought cheap from a record shop that was closing down), just for my “current” tunes. Now, my DJing and office space combined fit on a corner of the family table. Luckily, my MacBook Pro can hold more tunes than I could have fitted in my whole house previously!
That means that nowadays our bedrooms can be used for babies and visitors, and everyone’s happy.
3. You can discover new music while you’re doing something else
A big part of DJing for me used to be waiting for the dance music radio shows to come on and sitting there for 2, 3, 4, 5 hours with pen and paper, maybe cassette tapes at the ready, writing down tune titles, recording songs to play back in record shops in the hope of them having them, and generally being a “trainspotter extraordinaire”.
Nowadays, there’s no time for this. Just as well that with all the online music discovery tools, like blog aggregators, streaming genre-led radio stations and so on, it is possible to have background music on somewhere in the house that could potentially contain tunes for my DJ sets at all possible times. Using Apple’s AirPort, I can have a satellite sound system in the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or even the garden
When you do this, you just kind of forget it’s there, until you hear something you like, and then you can head quickly to your PC, rewind, tag, cut and paste into a wish list or just go off and find the tune that’s interested you at your favourite download store there and then – all in a minute or two before getting back to whatever the more important task you were doing beforehand was. Easy!
4. You don’t have to take time out to go record shopping
I used to love setting off at 9am for town, record bags over my shoulders filled with flyers and posters for my club nights. I’d distribute them all, and when I was finished, I’d wander around all the record stores, spending the rest of the day listening to and buying tunes for my set that night. Sometimes I’d do this twice a week!
If I get 2 hours to “record shop” once a month uninterrupted nowadays, I feel blessed. It’s more a case of discovering tunes while doing number 3 above, then when I get a few minutes spare, logging on quickly to Beatport, iTunes, Juno or wherever and grabbing them digitally.
I can even “record shop” from work in my lunch hour. The ability to buy great upfront music without actually heading to the best shops in the big cities is undeniably sad for the record shops, but great for the busy DJ.
5. There’s no such thing as down time
In the old days, a weekend with the parents meant locking up the house and forgetting DJing. Off on holiday? Even my mobile phone wouldn’t work abroad back then! While some may miss how you used to be able to cut yourself off from the world when travelling, there’s no point in reminiscing. It’s gone and it ain’t coming back.
Innovations like Dropbox mean you can buy, sift, listen to and prepare tunes on mobile devices, syncing them with your home PC or laptop at the click of a button. Now, you can do all of 1-4 above from practically anywhere in the world, stealing back time you’d otherwise have lost.
One last thing…
All of the above needs the right resources. Digital living requires organisation. I’d recommend you sign up for the Digital DJ Tips emails to find just the type of music discovery and learning tips and tricks that can really help you make the most of your DJing prep time.
Over and above that, I’d encourage you to think about when you can fit these tasks in to your busy life. Because the thrill of riding the faders on a Saturday night is still there. And when the rest of your life is full of different but equally fulfilling responsibilities, somehow that true “down time” behind the decks feels even sweeter.
Are you a “dad who DJs”? Have you recently taken up DJing again after a break? How do you save time in your busy life to get your fix of tunes and spinning? Let us know!