Do you feel like it’s your turn? Like you’ve paid your dues, like you’ve built your skills, and it’s time for someone to pluck you out of obscurity for stardom? For a powerful record label to sign your tune? For a top promoter to listen to your mixtape and give you that star DJ booking? Do you feel like the only way for you to now get ahead is for someone to finally recognise your talent, open that door for you, invite you in to the inner circle where your skills will finally be recognised? Yes? Well I have some sobering news for you: Unless you’re very fortunate, that just isn’t going to happen. It’s not how it works nowadays, and apart from for a lucky few, it was never how it worked.
If you want to spend all your time practising in private, sending mixtapes to big clubs or productions to big labels, hoping for a reply from someone influential who can catapult your career to where you’ve always dreamed about – well, honestly it’s not my place to to tell you not to. Only, I’d like to point out that you’re playing a potentially futile game. From my own experience, and that of 20 successful digital DJs I interviewed at length last week (as part of our forthcoming pro DJ course), there’s a much better way for you to go.
DIY culture rules in 2013
Not got the booking you’re dreaming of at the super club you keep applying to? Start your own club night and book yourself! Can’t get any labels to sign your music? Then damned well release it yourself! Nobody want to know you when it comes to getting a DJ booking at your local festival? Organise your own festival! Can’t play in a “real” venue due to there not being a suitable one nearby? Play on the internet and get a following there! Can’t find anyone into your music in your town? Set about converting people! Still no joy? Move cities!
Do you see what I mean? DIY is really the only way nowadays. There’s no defined path, no career to follow in music. Nobody is going to “pick” you out. Now, if all of this networking, effort, inspiring people, and being a leader sounds a bit too much like hard work, then maybe this is actually exactly where you should be putting your efforts, just as much as getting better at mixing tunes. Because all of those DJs and producers you look up to and feel you should be rubbing shoulders with “if only someone would give me a break”? Trust me, they’re definitely good networkers and leaders, and they’ve definitely learned how to inspire other people. Oh, and they’re probably not still living where they did when they started out, either. Are you prepared to move cities to follow your dream?
“Ask not what DJing can do for you, but what you can do for DJing…”
There’s an underlying psychological element here. The truth is that it’s far easier to put your future into someone else’s hands (then vaguely blame “them” when nothing happens for you) than it is to “pick yourself”, and as Seth Godin puts it, “slog your way forward, owning the results as you go”. Sure, this is harder than being anointed (if only you could get someone to anoint you). But do you really have a choice? In DJing, practically “nothing is official, nothing is automatic, nothing is guaranteed” (Seth Godin again). Accept this, plan around it, and enjoy every second of your journey, and the stars will move in your favour. Get bitter, or start to feel that you’re more deserving than the next guy, and there’s a big chance it’ll all pass you by – fast.
The “proven, secret, time-saving trick guaranteed to get you DJing success” of the title is simply this: Have faith. Have vision. Be humble. Do whatever it takes to make it happen for yourself. And most importantly of all, again: learn to enjoy the journey. Because that, in itself, is success.
• This post was inspired by But I don’t want to do that, I want to do this by Seth Godin, from which it borrows its title.
One thing after another. A single step at a time. What have you done this week to get you out of your comfort zone, to push your DJing forward just a little bit further, to get you a tiny inch closer to your dreams? Please share in the comments!