Have you seen the documentary film Exit Through The Gift Shop by reclusive street-art legend Banksy? Doesn’t matter if you haven’t, but I watched it again last night, and it struck me strongly that it contains some great pointers for artistic success, that can be applied really easily to DJing.
The film ostensibly documents the rise of “Mr Brainwash” (“MBW”), an LA-based French videographer-cum-artist who obsessively exploits his connection with the UK artist to achieve massive success for himself – much to the bemusement of many, not least Banksy himself.
How much you choose to believe of the film is up to you (I take it with a big pinch of salt), but there are universal lessons you can take directly from its hilarious story to help you to catapult your DJing career.
How to catapult your DJing career, the MBW way
1. Be genuinely fascinated by something – Dubstep? Mashups? Club dancefloor politics? Live EDM? Whatever your bag is, you need to ask yourself whether you are truly obsessed with your flavour of DJing, club culture or musical performance to last the course. Because if you’re not, someone else is – someone who’ll get higher, faster than you can manage. In the film, Mr Brainwash is clearly obsessed – he makes his quest into his whole life’s work, and if you want real, stratospheric, superstar DJing success, you need to do the same
2. Give it your all – Easy to do if you can tick the box for 1 above. If you aren’t prepared to relocate, beg, borrow, and generally turn in superhuman effort day after day, for years not months, then seemingly “instant” success will never be your. Behind every overnight sensation is masses of work
3. Become indispensable to those you wish to emulate – Mr Brainwash became Banksy’s right-hand man, going over and above the call of duty time and time again for him. If you want to succeed, befriend the people who’ve got what you want and make their lives easier over and over again. Be creative to get noticed and then be insanely helpful and over time doors will open for you
4. Obsessively win the confidence of everyone – Clubbers, venue owners, local journalists, club tastemakers, other DJs, record labels, music bloggers – you need all of these people on your side. As soon as your ship starts to move, all this work will click into place and make it unstoppable. Log every communication with these people, always follow up, constantly surprise them with your brilliance…
5. Watch and learn – “Fake it till you make it” has merit, and confidence will get you everywhere, but it can slip in to arrogance if you think you’re the finished article from the off. There is loads to learn and if you’re not constantly telling yourself off for how stupid you were just a couple of weeks ago, frankly you’re not learning fast enough. Be humble, open-minded, and just watch. Stuff takes time to sink in, and if you’re not succeeding, it’s OK – you just haven’t earned it yet. Patience, young Jedi
6. Think big – In the film, Mr Brainwash thinks stupidly, insanely big – and if you haven’t seen it, trust me that the guy is in absolutely no position to do so! If you don’t think big and plan big, nobody else is going to do it for you. Success on a decent scale doesn’t drift into people’s lives. They visualise it and obsess over it. So should you
7. Call in your favours – If you’ve done all of the above, you’ll have a gang of people who believe in you, who you’ve helped, and who frankly owe you a favour or two. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and as part of your master plan, you need to call in your favours every now and then. Some doors simply won’t open unless you know the person with their hand on the handle, and unless you ask them to turn it for youGet help – A wise person once said that no empire was every built by one man. You simply cannot be good at everything, so surround yourself with mentors, and don’t be scared to ask for help and advice every step of the way
8. Be mad – it impresses people – There’s nothing wrong with outward craziness. As long as you don’t believe your own hype and you continue to maintain a rock-solid focus under the facade, be as mad as you want upfront. People are attracted to zany characters in the colourful worlds of music and nightlife, and “larger than life” works better than “wallflower” in this game, so bold it up a bit and don’t be scared to shock and surprise
If you haven’t seen Exit Through The Gift Shop, I thoroughly recommend it. Quite apart from “documenting” in minute detail how to rise to the top in the art world (and by extension in the music world), it’s easily the most entertaining such film you’ll likely have seen for a long time.
Are you applying any of the above to your DJing career? Have you seen people achieve seemingly “instant” success while actually applying years of persistence? And what do you think of the film? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.