The battle between DJs attempting to assert themselves as artists, and being expected basically to be jukeboxes (especially for high-spending, low-taste bottle service clientele), seems to be waging full-force stateside, leading to some high-profile DJs being removed from the decks recently.
Last week Mark Farina tweeted from the Marquee Dayclub, Vegas, “supposed to be going on now… but got the boot, apparently too much house for this Vegas crowd”, and Dennis Ferrer was allegedly removed from the decks at Mansion in Miami for “not playing enough commercial music”. Now it appears that Calvin Harris was booted off / jeered off at Tryst in Vegas over the weekend (although there are conflicting reports about this).
Personally, I thankfully seem to have avoided this kind of thing in a 20-year DJing career. Sure, I’ve had to deal with people asking for inappropriate stuff, and hand-on-heart there have been times when I’ve got a set wrong and could have made a better job of keeping both the crowd and myself happy (see The 4 Types Of DJ: Which Are You?), but booted off? It’s a rarity.
There’s only one time when I’ve made the decision not to DJ at a venue again through pressure on what I play. It was a nice venue with a lovely owner, but with a crowd of the town’s moneyed councillors mixed with an out-of-town elite as my audience, dropping the latest dubstep (albeit chilled out, laid-back dubstep) was deemed inappropriate. I was hurt and I stewed for a few days, but sometimes other forces other than music are in play, and so I chose not to play there again.
As far as I am concerned, as a DJ it is absolutely up to me what to play. That’s what I’m being paid for, and take that away, and away goes all the fun. If you don’t trust me to get it right, don’t book me. (In the instance I just recounted, I ended up debunking to another venue nearby, where they allowed me to do what I wanted. I am still DJing there to this day.)
But how about you – have you ever been booted off the decks? Has a crowd every whistled, jeered or otherwise forced you to stop playing? Has management insisted you play something (or stop paying something) that you disagree with? Why does this happen? Is it getting worse? How do you deal with it?
I would love to hear your stories, experiences and thoughts on this. Please share in the comments!