Socialite Paris Hilton’s debut as a DJ unleashed a firestorm all over the internet. Most of it was negative, a tiny bit was positive, but overall her debut was as we pretty much expected: Mainly flash, little substance. It’s been a few weeks, and recently the thought hit me to explore what I would actually tell someone like Paris Hilton if she were to ask me how she could be taken seriously as a DJ.
Before we begin…
You might be wondering why I would even explore this, and I understand. I know Paris Hilton notoriously appears to get involved in music, DJing and so on not because she feels it’s her calling in life, but for attention from the media. I fear she has no real intention of actually trying to grow into being a good DJ. I guess what really drives me to talk about this is to help all those out there who might be starting out as a DJ, or thinking of trying to be a DJ.
Paris Hilton approaches DJing with what I see as the viewpoint of an audience member: It appears she doesn’t see the push to learn skills, explore music, or build a scene, but rather brightly-lit stages, massive crowds, and some figurehead doing poses while pressing the play button. I think anyone out there who might think that’s all that DJing is about should perhaps get a glimpse of the real picture, which is really the purpose of today’s article. At the same time, this might help those who idolise Paris Hilton begin to understand why her shoddy performance warranted such angst from the DJ community.
Here’s how to do it, Paris…
So here are my six imaginary pieces of advise to my new student, Paris Hilton. Are you sitting comfortably, Paris?
- Have skills, and show it – I don’t care if you’re a famous celebrity or a total no name. When you climb into that DJ booth, you had better know how to use that gear. I honestly think if Paris had applied herself, she could have gotten down the basics and then made her debut. I’ll even be nice and simply just say she should have learned how to control her sound and levels, cueing, and launching. I’ll give her the benefit of sync even, but manual beatmatching helps as well. That or learn how to scratch and surprise everyone!
- Start smaller – A massive festival gig is a temptation for any DJ, especially amateurs who fall in love with the visions of large crowds and Jesus poses. However, as the saying goes, “you only get one chance to make a first impression” – and Paris’s first impression wasn’t good. Since this “exercise” is in trying to make her legitimate as a DJ, I think she should have started smaller. Rather than the fest, perhaps play a small club and invite all her friends. So if her debut in front of let’s say 200 people flopped, then she could have regrouped and tried again in another spot. In the end, starting smaller would have allowed her to learn and grow as a DJ
- Diversify your music – From what I’ve seen on the videos and read online, Hilton’s set was nothing more than anthems. Pop tunes everyone has heard to death. We see a bevy of angst against Avicii’s Levels, but she played it. She played a Rihanna tune that’s been played to death. She pretty much played any music you could get off a Billboard chart. When you attend a festival or any big DJ-oriented night, you go to hear something new. Even when you go see a mainstream music even, you want to hear some promo or roughly finished new tune that no one has heard. With Hilton’s connections, you know she has to have access to new stuff. DJs become famous when they debut new tunes that become anthems. No one becomes big playing tired-out music
- Gig in unexpected places – This can kind of go hand-in-hand with “start smaller”. Rather than show up to the typical fancy see-and-be-seen spots to play, perhaps Paris should do something more unexpected. Show up to a store and play… unannounced. Let the media suddenly go nuts and people rave how they saw Paris play at a boutique. That or surprise a high school somewhere outside of the typical major cities and play their dance. Even people who hate her would still have to admire how she simply stepped out of her ivory tower to play for the “lowly peasants”
- Support the scene – In almost any music culture out there, there has always been an angst aimed towards those known as “robber barons”. At the height of the first Summer of Love, the hippies and bands of San Francisco saw the major record labels as this. They felt they were outsiders trying to milk money out of their scene. The same thing happened in punk rock and even in disco music. How do you think Paris Hilton is being be viewed? One solution would have been for Paris to use her wealth. Throw a music festival and make sure there were respected names on the line-up. So perhaps Paris would still have played a set on the big stage, but how much less hate would have been generated if she also booked credible scene DJs too? This goes for anyone wanting to be a DJ, on any scale. Support your scene, and you’ll win hearts and minds
- Consider an alias – When one thinks of “promotional power”, it would seem ridiculous to tell Paris Hilton to not be Paris Hilton. However, if someone is looking to break into a scene where they are normally disliked, the idea of branding needs to come into play. What is Hilton’s brand image? What do we know her for? Sex tapes, wild club nights, celebrity hobnobbing, reality shows and so on. Does that image make one think “yeah, she would rock as a respectable DJ”? If Paris Hilton really wanted to break into the scene and be respected as a DJ, then perhaps putting her reputation on the shelf and becoming someone else might have worked. One could then question what she would do when she shows up in person, but she could dress “casual”, tie her hair back, or even wear a wig. You can even put on costumes nowadays, like Daft Punk and Deadmau5. The end goal is to build a likeable brand, and if your current brand will not be liked, you have to try to redefine it or make a new one
Of course, this is all hypothetical, and Paris Hilton is highly unlikely to do any of it. But there are lessons here for all DJs starting out, and for anyone wanting to break into their local DJ scene.
If that’s you, it may help you to think about some of these factors when you go to DJ or if you’re thinking of getting into this. It’s things like this that separate the Pauly Ds from the Richie Hawtins. Unlikely though it no doubt is, if Paris Hilton is truly serious about being a DJ, then she will want to think about some of these things.
If you were Paris Hilton, what would you do to rescue your DJ career after a less than auspicious opening set? (You have seen the YouTube clips, haven’t you?) Does it annoy you when you see celebrities jumping on the DJ bandwagon, or do you think it’s fair game? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments…