Calling it quits (at least for now)
December 9, 2016 at 11:39 pm #2479891
After four years of running a successful mobile DJ business in my small town, I’m taking an indefinite hiatus.
Why? There’s a few reasons:
1) Business is on the decline. I used to have 2-3 booking per month plus my weekly pub gig. This year I’ve averaged less than one mobile gig per month, plus the pub business has been slow so some weeks I go home early and don’t get paid as much. Now I’m much closer to not breaking even with my expenses for the year – it kind of takes the reward out of it. The problem isn’t just with me. There are fewer parties in town now. The economy is down a bit, but my small town has also developed a gambling addiction that is sucking the life out of all businesses.
2) The divergence of my musical taste from that of my audience. When I first started out, a large part of what I played was music that I liked, of course I played a lot that I didn’t like, but there was a lot of crossover. What’s better than playing music you love and getting paid for it? Nowadays, I’m finding the new music I’m listening to isn’t resonating with the crowds. It’s disheartening when I’ve been preparing a new set and half of it falls flat.
3) Hostile crowds. Now I know we all go through this. And to be honest, I’ve dealt with plenty of jerks from the get-go. Maybe it has to do with what I stated in #2, but the abuse has gotten worse. I’ve always been very receptive when it comes to song requests. But when requests become demands, I get annoyed. When demands are made in abusive manner I get upset. I used to be very good at ignoring these people, but I must have hit my breaking point. I don’t think enough is said about the real abuse that is laid on DJs on a regular basis.
4) It’s not fun anymore. I guess this comes from a combination of the above three points (or maybe I’m just getting old), but when I look back at all the gigs I’ve done over the last year and a bit, I’ve probably had more unpleasant ones than ones I’ve enjoyed. I’ve always been nervous before any gig (it’s probably natural for any DJ), but my anxiety before gigs is now worse than ever.
Anyways, I don’t want to spin too much of a sad tale here, just wanted to share what I’m going through to see if any other DJs have hit their breaking point and needed to walk away from the business for a bit.December 10, 2016 at 3:39 pm #2479921
Very well argued. Sometimes a break is what is needed to recharge, realign and see what the next step is – a step that it’s impossible to “see” when you’re still doing what’s not working for you. Good luck, and keep us informed. By the way, would you mind if I published this over on the main site?December 11, 2016 at 9:45 am #2480011
I’m in a different part of the world, but the concepts and the experiences of DJ’s really encompasses the global DJ family. I don’t play at all in the town I live, I travel, pretty much to all my events, distance ranges from 15-50 miles, if you want to keep going, expand your footprint.
The music you like, vs the music you play is going to be an issue for every mobile DJ the world over. There’s no way that you will love all the music you play, really, the buzz comes from the audience enjoying themselves. I’m an all rounder, but after a gig, nothing like a bit of techno to get me home. I enjoy music, I enjoy a lot of what I play, not all. That’s the payoff for having a happy audience that want to be entertained.
Keep your toe in, I don’t take as much as I used to, but I still keep up to date with things, I love MIDI and currently helping friends and other DJ’s with their setups when it comes to the computer/technology side of things. Currently setting up an ADJ DMX lighting system creating scenes and stuff. Just because you are quitting (albeit temporarily) stay in the loop, if the interest is genuine, you will find a way to stay in it one way or the other.
Audience Idiots by the way are an occupational hazard.. they’ll always be there.December 12, 2016 at 10:31 am #2480211
Marvin The MartianParticipant
I’m facing the same problems in my country. My country have the worst economy in the EU, unpredictable tax system and big demographic crisis – more and more people are leaving the country and this affects to the all kind of business. Its hard to stay afloat for mobile DJ now, cause everyone who have a laptop and a top-40 playlisyt can call himself a DJ and sell himself. I’ve heard from a lot of people, that they don’t need a DJ on their event – the Spotify will do the job or “My friend have a laptop and he will play some music”. More and more people think, that DJs, as an act, as a special person, as an entertainer, is not something special anymore. They just can’t understand the difference between a DJ and a Spotify. I’m talking mostly about weddings, birthdays, corporate events, cause I’m (still) working as a wedding DJ. I can say, that I dont like most of the music that i play. But I understand, that there is no demand for music that i like and want to play =) I will get zero events with that, cause 1) its specific 2)there are few other DJs who play that kind of music for years 3) the market is too small. I can try to educate the crowd, but this will be my next challenge, I think. So, I’m trying to adope my musical taste. After all, its not about me, its about the people who came to dance. If they want to dance to a Justin Bieber – no problem for me, I will play “Sorry” for a 5 times during the night, if they want. As for requests, I still don’t know how to deal with them. The good side of the requests – they sometimes can help to understand the audience. But I’ve had a wedding when a bride sent me a preferred playlist for a wedding and it was full of a “Lean On”-like pop songs (except “Lean On”) and some indie pop-rock. It was a tricky situation, cause the bride was unhappy if I was playing something that is not included in the provided playlist, but the guests were unhappy with the brides playlist. And for both sides it was me who to blame for. =) Still don’t know and learning how to handle that kind of situations. On my last event I’ve faced a real aggression from one guest and I wasn’t polite in the response, which is wrong, I think, cause agression will produce more agression and so on… But I really don’t know how to deal with drunk dude who promisse to kill you if you will not play “that youtube clip with penguin dance song” (wtf???!)December 12, 2016 at 4:22 pm #2480241
I can relate to this story, but can give a fairly positive spin on it: I have been DJ’ing since the mid-80’s. Mobiles mostly until early 90’s, then mostly fun pubs and clubs, all with dance floors playing a mix of dance music, charts and party tunes. At that time it was my main income or a big supplement to a day job. I gave up due to becoming disillusioned with it all, and to be quiet frank I was sick of Glasgow’s obsession with what we now call Old School techno – it was making me a poorer, lazier DJ who got grumpier with customers primarily as I was losing my interest. Its a crap job if you lose the buzz. I did a month of Christmas parties to end on a high.
I took the break from DJ’ing at the end of 90’s and then took it back up after 10 years via my daughters’ school friends and birthdays and then back into a Pub with good sized dance floor doing a 11pm-2am shift on a Saturday (via covering for an old DJ friend initially, but now the main DJ).
I have the buzz back; I started afresh with a laptop and DJ controller and Traktor 5 years ago. As a hobby it pays for itself and then some. I was getting a little bored recently, thinking about chucking it again, but instead I updated to a Z2 with two D2’s and I’m getting that buzz again. Its a short Saturday shift I’m doing with a mostly commercial crowd that is tolerant of a little experimentation if mixed well. I’m just starting to do mixing now beyond what I’ve ever done before – there is something in there for me too, not just the crowd.
My advice is to take the break, but try and cover for other DJ’s (either via them or the Pub/Club) – it will challenge you. Provided you are being challenged you will want to try harder, you will be more tolerant of the abuse, because they are more likely to be right 🙂 but most tend to be more helpful than abusive when you are new to a venue.
Note 1: I think the age of the mobile DJ is effectively dead now. There’s no respect for the mobile DJ craft, and more venues are closing. Also – rather annoyingly – “Auntie Jane” with her iPad can typically get a more supportive response from the crowd than a good DJ; at least until she gets so drunk that she starts cutting good tracks off. DUMP THE MOBILES FIRST – they’re not your night so they make it harder to stay motivated.
Note 2: There is actually a shortage of experienced gigging DJ’s out there. There might be less venues and nights, but there’s also gap in the skill set out there due to a missing generation of real gigging DJ’s. Throughout the Digital DJ era we’ve got a swath of good DJ Producer like performers who can play a set well, but struggle to build up the skills to repeatedly cover nights just because they have an even tougher time building credibility.
Note: Pair up with another friendly DJ from time to time – do it for free or a couple of beers. It does generate a spark again, and it can help later to get nights covering for them.
Good luck – but I can assure you that you can get the buzz back, but don’t just return to exactly the same approach as before; I think you need to mix it up a bit (no pun intended!).
Regards, Yo.December 12, 2016 at 6:35 pm #2480281
I guess all dj’s experience this “It’s no fun anymore” feeling somewhere in their carreer. I for one experienced it several times. I used to do weddings all by myself, so arriving early, doing the setup by myself, then, after the last of the drunk uncles had left, load up, drive home. Then I was a aprés ski dj for 4 months in an Italian skiresort. Every day YMCA & Anton Aus Tirol did get a bit (read a lot) on my nerves. Add some agrresive drunks and impolite requestdemanders and, no matter how well you’re paid, the fun is gone. One year ago, I gave up my recidensy at a local bar/club because of the style of music I had to play.
Now, for the moment, I’m back to bedroom dj’ing, playing the stuff I like, recording my mixes, getting better at mixing. Next year, I’m gonna start organising my own parties, focusing on a somewhat older public (40+) who still like to party to the more underground 80ies sounds, new wave, new beat, EBM, some rock and ska mixed in. Starting very small, so even when only my friends show up, the funfactor compensates the financial loss. And who knows, maybe the event can grow into something combining fun AND making some extra spending cash.
I doubt that the bad economy will stop people from partying. Disco and hiphop were born in the Bronx during the 70ies recess. Punk and new wave were part of the “no future” 80ies. That didn’t stop people from going to parties. Only nowadays, partygoers expect a beautiful location, the best sound system, several (well known) dj’s, etc and to organise something like that is expensive, so entrance and drinks have to be expensive too. Get back to basics, keep it simple. Do you really have more fun in that classy location?
So my advice to Squarecell, take your break but keep playing at home,just for the fun of it. Maybe someone will come along who wants to organise a party where you can play your genre, or maybe you can organise a party yourself? Relax, take a step back,enjoy the nightlife at the other side of the dj booth, and just for the heck of it, take your turn in demanding some totally over the top requests and then, if they get played, do not dance to them. Get yourrevenge (at the cost of that poor dj, who will be writing his “Calling It Quits” topic sooner or later =)December 12, 2016 at 10:07 pm #2480301
Thanks all for sharing your stories.
Mark and Snowbro, I’m glad to hear you’ve both had similar experiences in your DJ careers.
I’ve been thinking about the future of my DJing career over the past few days and I think the way forward is to become a ‘bedroom DJ’ as Snowbro suggests (something I haven’t really done for a few years now) and take select gigs on my terms.
I actually played my last gig of 2016 on Saturday, it was a seniors dance playing hits from the 50s to 70s. It was my second time playing for this particular crowd and it went very well. Maybe that’s my new niche. At least I had one good gig to send me off into my hiatus.December 14, 2016 at 12:36 pm #2480771
thanks for your honesty – I’ll try and give this a push on the main site to see if we can get more views.December 14, 2016 at 5:16 pm #2480971
I’m experiencing the exact opposite. I DJ’d every party I could from 7th grade through college in the early ’90s then gave it up until 2012 when I bought a controller as a gift to myself for finishing grad school. Since then, I’ve gigged and established a presence online but over the summer I moved to Oakland, California and can’t get anyone to let me DJ. It’s maddening. Unfortunately, my only buzz comes from seeing people dancing when it’s a club gig or heads bobbing when it’s a bar gig but I seriously can’t get anyone who books for bars to give me a gig. Hell, I even hit up a place that had Yelp reviews mentioning good DJs “who obviously liked music” and the owner stressed that there is no way I would ever actually be paid by them. Like, it made me want to puke. I’m a teacher by day so I hit up bars about mixing for their happy hours instead of letting a jukebox run on auto pilot. It’s so frustrating that I want to quit. I won’t though I wish I could.December 23, 2016 at 7:43 pm #2484201
I know where you’re coming from bro…
In my area it’s not so much the crowds that are hostile, but some of the DJ’s…
While I would like to land a Club gig in my area, there’s too much arrogance within the club circuit…
Don’t get me wrong around 50 % of the DJ’s are sound, but the other 50% can be very arrogant.
There’s also one club manager who I’m not to keen on due to the unfriendly nature…
Talking of Mobile DJ’s which is where i want to me, I am finding myself listening to a lot more older music these days…
Friends joke that I’m all Pipe and Slippers…
But i agree with Phil on this one, I took a break in 2005, and came back in 2009…August 4, 2017 at 12:15 am #2599501
Hi there, just finding this post now. I’m new and looking for my first gig. @alt.rock, I’m also in the SF East Bay – have you had any luck since last December finding places to play? Thanks in advance…August 6, 2017 at 8:49 am #2601051
Leon, no luck here fam, but I keep grinding out sets for my mixcloud and hearthis.at (https://hearthis.at/alt./?l=en). I just peeped out your mixcloud and dig what you do. I’m gonna follow your progression. I like mixing on just an ios device occasionally myself just to keep it simple.
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