If you’ve grown weary of playing the same gigs week in and week out, don’t feel a strong enough connection any more with the sound that you’ve been pushing for the past few years, or feel you’re coming irrelevant… maybe it’s time to look to breath more life into what you do by making a radical change in your DJing.
Think of it as a “pivot” – instead of throwing in the towel and hanging up your phones for good, it’s about making a shift in your DJing. Reinvention could keep you from burning out, and reignite your passion for DJing at the same time.
Reinventing yourself keeps you “in the game”. There are many DJs who’ve relied on reinvention to keep them relevant: Carl Cox has gone from starting out as a funk and house DJ through the early UK hardcore rave scene to the techno don that he is known today. Laidback Luke started out making hard techno before building his globally-recognised EDM brand.
Even Steve Lawler purposely shifted from his percussive / tribal roots to the sound that he is known for today (I can vouch for this: I caught his show in 2004 and asked him to play Rise In, his biggest record then. He glanced at me and, as politely as a world-famous DJ could, shouted: “F*ck off, it’s old. I’m not playing that.” I was thrilled, and became an even bigger fan as a result. Such conviction!).
DJing is unique in that way. Unlike other styles of music performance, you can literally reinvent yourself at every gig. Of course, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. So how do you go about reinventing yourself in an intelligent manner so you don’t look like you’re going through a schizophrenic episode? Let’s dig deeper…
3 Ways To Do It
1. Technically alter how you DJ
Switching the way that you perform can reinvigorate your DJing. If you’re sick of spinning on media players like CDJs, why not try using DJ controllers and approaching your mix from a fresh perspective? Adding in something like the Pioneer DJ DDJ-SP1 or the RMX-500 effects unit can be inexpensive ways to add more performance elements to your DJing. Spinning with the Stems format or Traktor’s Remix Decks can also add a layer of creativity to your performance.
You can also go big and radically change your entire set-up. If you’ve always relied on your DJ controller for performing, why not try DJing with a USB stick and see where that takes you? It’ll take more preparation up front, but you may find that DJing without a laptop in front of you to be a different, almost meditative experience. that’s how it was for me, anyway…
Or how about giving turntablism a try? DVS solutions are plentiful these days, and the physical shift to using timecode vinyl may just be the perspective you need to give your DJing a boost.
2. Change the style of music that you play
Shifting music styles and entering new genres will get you excited about spinning again – music is the reason you got into this anyway, right? Maybe you’re known for dark techno music and you’d like to play bouncier house tunes, or you’re an EDM bro who’s done riding the wave and would like to explore more contemplative styles of electronic music.
The beauty of DJing is that since you don’t play your own music, changing your style simply begins by packing a different playlist crate or digging in a different part of Beatport or a new record store. This gives you a chance to experiment continuously until you find what works for you right now – of course, you need to give it a lot of thought first before you press on, and once you do, keep at it while measuring your progress.
It’s like going on a journey: first you chart the course, make preparations, and then take the first step.
3. Change who you DJ for
Here’s a big one: if you’re a club DJ and you’ve grown tired of the nightlife, why not switch to mobile DJing or doing more weddings? The variety in your music selection will be exponentially larger compared to what you normally drop at your shows (ask any wedding DJ), and the energy at a lively reception is quite different compared to a turned up club.
Or maybe you’ve done the mobile scene for quite some time now and you’d like to do more chilled out pool parties and lounges. Again, your music will change (don’t think YMCA gets played at a pool, except maybe at the pool at the YMCA), but the more laid back nature could be what you’re looking for.
You can even take it a step further: if you’re adventurous (and unmarried), why not try DJing on a cruise ship? It’ll take half a year, but perhaps that rigorous environment is what you need to get excited again about DJing.
Reinventing yourself is uncomfortable, but if you feel like you’ve hit a roadblock in your DJing, it could be the breakthrough that you’ve been looking for. You need to have a long think, plan it out, and then execute while sticking to the plan: Be consistent.
It demands a certain amount of risk taking and soul searching, but if you come out of it on the other side a bolder, happier person eager to get behind the decks, then it will all be worth it.
Do you felt like you’ve plateaued in your DJing? What obstacles did you face that kept you from getting to the next level? How did you push through when you got close to burning out? Share your experience with us below.