Pioneer DJ has just released a video documentary called Distant Dancefloors: COVID-19 and the Electronic Music Industry. It’s a half-hour look at how the electronic music industry has been affected by 2020’s pandemic.
It’s excellent, and it’s well worth a watch.
In it, DJs, such as BLOND:ISH, Luciano, Eats Everything, Honey Dijon, Fatboy Slim and Rēbuke, discuss how their lives have changed since their gig diaries were decimated by the virus.
They speak of how, even when gigs return, it is unlikely to be anything like it was before, with smaller scale, more local events becoming the norm – at least for a while.
There is discussion that realistically, we may be writing 2021 off, gigs-wise, as well as 2020.
The livestreaming shift
But one of the most interesting things for me to come from the documentary is that nearly all of the DJs interviewed spoke positively about how much of a lifeline livestreaming has been for them.
Luciano speaks of how he loves the sound, the feeling, the connection with the music that you get when you’re DJing, and how he wasn’t going to let being “grounded” stop him from doing it.
BLOND:ISH goes further and says that for her, she’s actually found a bigger connection with her audience than it’s possible to get even at clubs – and that because of that, she is “100% going to continue with streaming, whatever happens in the future”.
Not all were enthusiastic. Honey Dijon spoke of how for her, DJing is about culture, and she sees livestreaming as just entertainment.
But on the whole, it does seem that big-name DJs have realised this is a legitimate way to be a DJ. In the words of a psychiatrist interviewed in the documentary, it’s a way of satisfying that “internal pressure to be validated”.
Not all DJs want to (or can) play clubs
But I want to highlight another group of DJs who the livestreaming boom of 2020 has had a positive effect on: Those who have no desire or ability to play regularly in clubs.
For every professional DJ there are multiple amateur DJs, hobby DJs for whom DJing is something they love doing just for the sake of it.
I should know – hobby DJs make up the huge bulk of our audience and students here at Digital DJ Tips. For this group of DJs, livestreaming is an incredible new creative outlet.
For some, they are trying to work their way into a scene, and they need to play regularly both to polish their skills and to attract attention from those who may be able to offer them gigs: Livestreaming is a great way for them to do both things.
But there are others, too.
DJs who maybe had a period in their lives when they did play clubs, but they’re now a little bit older and can’t or won’t do it any more.
DJs who gave up on the dream of doing this for a living and who are now happy hobbyists at home, juggling their DJing passion with a full-time job, a family, and so on.
And DJs who like lesser-known genres, and for whom there’s little chance of finding a club near where they live where they can play.
For DJs like these, livestreaming is a low-commitment way of replacing the idea of club gigs with something that fits them better, getting them the chance to build an audience, and share the music they love.
How this changed my DJing
And this is personal, too.
As a pro DJ from the early 1990s to the mid 2000s, I played thousands of gigs, and did everything I set out to do – meeting and DJing with my heroes, playing some of the best clubs in the world, all that stuff.
But I decided I wanted something different from life in my mid-30s, and left the scene behind, not really knowing what to do next – but that it was going to be something different.
Within five years, though, I was missing DJing so much, that I founded Digital DJ Tips – and I discovered that teaching was an equal passion to DJing for me.
Learn to DJ with Digital DJ Tips: The Complete DJ Course
And while Digital DJ Tips had taught 25,000 students by the start of 2020, my gig count had dropped to practically nothing – just a handful of private parties a year. In short, I’d replaced DJing with teaching.
But – and anyone who has ever had a passion for DJing will I’m sure agree with me about this – it never goes away.
I liken it to a professional footballer, who “retires” at 35 and ends up coaching or managing a team as soon as they can’t actually play at the highest level any more.
For me, lockdown, and the new interest in DJ livestreaming, had a strange effect – it rekindled my interest in and love for actually DJing.
My first, tentative DJ livestream, in April 2020.
My first shaky streams back in April (this is the very first one) honestly, I just cracked open my favourite tunes and played whatever I felt like.
But now, several month later, I find I am actively discovering new music, learning about artists, playing sets that are bang up to date, musically speaking – and once again I am doing this as a regular part of what I do.
For me, livestreaming has become a bit of a renaissance moment – and like BLOND:ISH, I can see myself doing this for a long time to come. It’s been a revelation! And from what our students are telling us of their lives, I am not alone in this.
I’ve always believed good comes out of change, whether it is forced change or not – and livestreaming coming of age, as a way for DJs, bedroom or professional, to share the music they love with the world, is definitely one of the good things that’s come out of COVID-19.
The Pioneer DJ video
So if you didn’t click the link at the top and watch it already, here’s the video. Please take the time to watch it, and let us know your thoughts on where we go from here, and particularly how livestreaming has affected you in 2020, either as a DJ or a clubber.