Complete lockdown in many countries globally. Ultra Music Festival, Tomorrowland Winter, and SXSW off. Live Nation and AEG Presents – two mammoths of the concert industry – suspending all their tours. Bands and artists postponing gigs indefinitely. Local events? I don’t know about where you are, but here they’re all cancelled too.
This is all in the name of “flattening the curve” of the spread of COVID-19, which is of course exactly the right thing for us to do to help our health services to cope and protect the vulnerable.
The truth is though that quite apart from the personal cost to families, ultimately few people will escape being affected by COVID-19 professionally, and no industry is safe – especially industries like ours, which encourage large gatherings.
Among gigging DJs who rely on playing public events for their income, there is a palpable collective dread out there, with gigs being cancelled wholesale.
Or, if you’re a DJ for whom this is a hobby (and often one of the things you cherish the most in your life), you may be having all sorts of thoughts around whether you will still be able to do this in the short term, or even longer term.
Is a recession imminent? Will we still have jobs, or the time to dedictate to our DJing, once this is all over? What’s going to happen?
Seeing the bigger picture
The first thing to remember is that quite apart from COVID-19, economies are cyclical, and recessions are inevitable. And when they happen, small businesses usually get hit the hardest. As a DJ/small business owner, the first thing to do is to face this thing down and get a plan B, to get you through the times when people cannot, for the sake of public health, pack together on a dancefloor.
While we ride this global “time out” together, it is important to have context. We can start by looking to history for people who once experienced similar hardship and who came out the other side better and stronger.
While many industries struggle in recessions, escapism often flourishes. Movies, food, and live music are often a necessary step away from reality. It’s often said that you can’t feel sad and dance at the same time. When the worst is over, DJs will be needed arguably more than ever!
For instance, the Great Depression of the 1930s gifted us with jazz. For musicians who created and audiences who listened, music provided everyone with a therapeutic distraction, one that was crucial to public wellbeing. Jazz, swing, and big band performances helped society fill the time and forget their worries.
Some may argue “Yeah, but in the 1930s, they weren’t dealing with a pandemic!”
Correct, but The Spanish Flu ending in 1920 was in their rearview mirror. The 2008 recession was preceded by SARS in 2002, followed by H1N1 in 2009.
It is crucial to remember that everything is shutting down right now as a precaution, to keep everyone safe and save lives. It will not be like this forever. Your DJ career will bounce back. Events will happen.
Think about this: when coronavirus blows over, people are going to dance and party more than ever. They will need to. Who is going to provide the music for them? Again, it will be you…
I think the best thing to do when the immediate needs of yourself, your family and community are taken care of is to consider any mass quarantine you’re living through as an opportunity to hone your skills and bolster your DJ hobby or business.
How exactly can DJs use this “downtime” to their benefit? Here are four ideas to get you started…
4 ways to thrive under lockdown
- Immerse – Everyone is indoors anyways, so now is the perfect time to dig for online music. Consider listening to radio stations on Spotify, scope out Shazam charts, or subscribe to a DJ download pool. If social distancing has you craving community, head to our Global DJ Network Facebook Group and lean in. You’re not in this alone! Consider passing the time by watching music-related documentaries, or studying DJ performances on YouTube and inside our “Mix Deconstruction” area of Digital DJ Lab. You could also just sit back and listen. For fun. We become DJs first and foremost because we love music, right?
- Prepare – Use this time to cull and organise your DJ library. Set up cue points, and find songs that mix well together. Research ways you can diversify your services and offer more value to clients when gigs resurface. If you’re selling your services for parties, events and so on, and need guidance on providing extra value, something like The New Mobile DJ Blueprint can help you out
- Practise – Did you know we have a free tutorial area on YouTube? We update it weekly with lessons straight from our courses, so make sure to allocate some of your vast quantities of online time toward this free resource. Try out music production, because history tells us that creativity flourishes through hardship. If you have kids, pass on the knowledge! Teaching helps cement your own learning. The idea is to level up your DJing game with practise and new techniques. What you learn now will give you a competitive edge when the time comes
- Create – Channel any pandemic-related anxiety into content creation. Livestream, host a virtual party, make playlists for your community, or start a podcast. Put your creations on Mixcloud. Collaborate and network with other DJs via social media and see what you come up with. Focus on your brand, and build up your social following. Innovate, because great ideas persevere. Once the bulk of social distancing is over, try throwing your own parties!
Why does it all feel so scary?
Here’s a note on why this maybe feels even scarier than it has to. The largest culprit stoking out fear – my guess – is the prevalence of social media, where fear has plenty of places to feed.
So instead of consuming and reacting to the deafening noise on social, why not limit yourself on those platforms, and instead do some of the things mentioned above? It’ll be healhier for you, and you’ll be one less person feeding the monster…
Humanity is skilled at overcoming difficulties, but for the first time in modern history, we are being tested with a unique struggle on a global scale, all happening in real time.
Remember to be adaptable and always provide value. Don’t take anything for granted, and use your leisure time for good, because what else can you do? DJs wield music for escapism, true, but also to help people make the most of, and even make sense of, their lives. Here is an unprecedented chance for you to channel that immense power in a time when people need it most.