I want to share with you two extraordinary pieces of feedback we got here at Digital DJ Tips this morning, extraordinary in very different ways, as you’ll see! The reason I’m sharing them is that I think they contain a lesson, for anyone in the “public eye”, but especially for DJs.
Anyway, here’s how it all happened. One of the team messaged me this morning while I was checking my work emails in bed (well, it is Monday!) and said: “Wanna start the day with something funny?” He copy and pasted me an email someone had sent us, about How To Digital DJ Fast, one of our DJ courses (the guy didn’t actually own the DJ course, by the way). This was the email:
“Hi, f___ you and your bullshit DJ course. Thanks for being part of the problem. You truly do not understand the art of DJing. Honestly if I could meet you I would f___ you up , you f______ a_____. Thanks for all the effort to use this sacred art you don’t understand to fill your bank account. I will run into you one day – you f______ low life. Stop sending me emails. F___ ___ , I wish you and your company nothing but bad things. How could you exploit such a sacred art. Peace.”
You gotta admit the “peace” there on the end is quite funny, but nonetheless those were the first words that I read at the start of my day. Not quite a disastrous start, but not what I’d have picked.
So anyway, a couple of hours later I arrive at the studio, and one of my first jobs as always is to make sure anybody on our DJ courses with questions or feedback from over the weekend is dealt with. I opened the inbox on Digital DJ Masterclass, and underneath a video called “More Principles Of Good Mixing”, a course owner had written this:
“Wow. That was really good. Basically watched that three times in a row, and still kept learning something new. Took down a lot of notes, and a lot of quotes. Are you sure you didn’t practise this segment to perfection, Phil? Because that was a genuine heartfelt speech about the principles of good DJ mixing that everyone should hear. Had so much passion behind it, I couldn’t help but listen, watch, and record my thoughts on it, over, and over again. Thanks! Really good stuff! Really genuine!”
Hey, a little triumph right there to redress the balance! (A funny thing about this kind of thing is that you always seem to get a hater and someone loving what you do close by each other. Don’t know why that is.)
But here’s the thing, and here’s how it relates to us DJs, who by our very nature are highly insecure about our “art”, about whether we’re “doing it right”, about whether we’re living up to our potential musically, about whether we’ve got enough to “say” when we get behind the decks, about whether we’re making the world a better place, or are just (as Mr Angry said) being “part of the problem”. Yup, here’s the thing:
Neither of those opinions is the truth.
In our post bag this morning, the first guy had every right to feel how he feels, even if he chose to express it impolitely – but he’s one person, not the whole world (and who knows, the poor soul may mellow one day; sounds like he needs to for his own good). Likewise, our course owner who we just helped to understand a bit more about mixing may one day decide that what I taught him was useful, but that because me explaining it to him was the first time he’d heard it, he’d maybe attached a little too much praise to it. I don’t know in either case, just guessing. Point is, extremes usually aren’t the full picture.
Dealing with haters (and praise) as a DJ
When you’re DJing, and someone comes up to you to tell you to “play something decent” or that you’re not “a real DJ” for using “that thing” (insert out-of-favour DJ gear here), or delivers any of the other insults us DJs face on a regular basis, it’s just like when some flyin’ high space ranger, sweaty and wide-eyed, tries to hug you and tell you “you’re the best DJ I’ve ever heard!” at the end of a great night. Both instances are things you need to see for what they are; nice or nasty, neither is a fair representation of what you are or what you do.
In his famous poem “If”, Rudyard Kipling writes: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same … Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.”
Triumph and disaster, praise and hating, they’re two sides of the same coin, and they’re inevitable once you start “putting yourself out there”. Learning to treat them both as “imposters” (letting praise go to your head and make you complacent is as real a risk as getting upset over haters) is a hard lesson, but it’s so important – especially, as it turns out, for DJs.
Why? Because there’s no qualification in DJing, no certificate that says “you’re a DJ now, and nobody can make you doubt yourself!”; it’s up to us to believe in ourselves, to understand that while none of us is perfect, we can all get better day by day.
Even if trusting your heart and putting the work in doesn’t get you where you want to go exactly as you hope, at least if you can find this belief, you’ll know you’re treading the path you’ve chosen for yourself, and you can take praise with a smile and move on from the haters (once you’ve genuinely considered their opinion, of course).
We’re busy here at DDJT. We’ve got a lot to get on with. But I wanted to share this before getting on with the important stuff of the day, because if you ever feel knocked off your DJing course by hate (or even by praise), I’m hoping remembering this story will help you get back on track. If it does this for just one person, it was worth the time.
Have you had to deal with haters in your DJing? Do you love it when people praise you, or do you in a way find that as hard to accept as criticism? Have you felt pushed off your track by other people’s opinions, felt your confidence knocked by doubters? I’d love you to share your stories in the comments.