This week’s question comes from Digital DJ Tips Platinum Facebook Group member Gregor, who asks: “How do you guys stay positive when the music you love is not wanted and continually gets knocked back? I’ve reached out to every venue in my area and I get the same response: ‘If you have no following, why should you play?’
“It’s a catch 22 situation: ‘You can only play if you guarantee people through the door, so if you can’t guarantee anyone will show, then why should we risk an empty venue,’ I am told repeatedly.
“My question is this: How do you build a following? I am confident I am a damn good DJ. I played Ministry of Sound on four occasions when I was in London, and they don’t just let any old DJ play!”
Digital DJ Tips says…
Don’t be too downhearted by the situation. You have to try to work out how you are going to get others to understand why you shouldn’t be in this situation. Are you promoting yourself enough? I’m not talking about clubs, bars and promoters, but to your local club-goers. If there is no scene for your music at the moment, why not make one? It’s called flipping the stick – and it works.
I can speak form first-hand experience. I had exactly the same issue – where I live, everyone was all about minimal techno. I love minimal techno, but I wanted to give the public something different. I was knocked back time and time again for the same reasons that you put forward. Then, I realised that it was pointless for me to keep pushing my style of DJing to those that saw no need for it. I took a step back, weighed my options and decided that I was going to have to create a “scene” from scratch.
I went on a mission to make and share mixtapes, go to frequented places that had no DJ, offer my services and do some serious research and networking to find other DJs with the same musical style as myself. Six months of strife later, I had a residency playing in a dive bar that usually had rock and rap music on. I was able to play whatever I wanted for five hours, twice a month.
After the first two gigs, I had a small following, and it just snowballed from there. At this particular bar, it turned out that more than half of the clientele were also sick of minimal techno and had kind of given up on the rest of the bars and DJs churning out the same old sound.
Since then, I have gone on to play a host of different gigs, and now have a second similar residency. I found my niche and made a lot of great friends along the way. There are four of us now, all with the same artistic direction and we are turning down gigs, choosing where we want to play. It took a lot of effort and disappointment to get this far but as the old adage goes, “where there is a will, there is a way”.
If you don’t want to start up your own event, then maybe you can get a slot playing in a club, toe the line and play their style and educate them bit-by-bit by chucking in a few of your preferred tracks every now and then? There’s also the production route that these days seems guaranteed to get you booked (as long as you make good tracks, naturally).
In the end, it all boils down to this question: Do you want it bad enough? There is always a market for good DJs, so put your best foot forward and keep your chin up.
Do you face the same issues in your area? How did you go about building your own following? Let us know in the comments below…