So you’re passionate about music. But most of the people you are going to meet as a DJ aren’t really in tune. First there are the runners, who will take you from the airport to the hotel, and from the hotel to the club – about as much fun as taxi drivers, and you don’t have to travel to get to know a taxi driver. Then you’ll have dinner with the owner of the club, and a club owner is not a Drexciya specialist but an entrepreneur, a specialist in bar takings. You have no reason whatsoever to eat with these kind of people, but soon enough you’ll find you’re only ever eating with them. It’s in the club that you’ll find more interesting people, except by that point you’re mixing, so any conversation will be after the gig. But by that point the boldest are also the most fucked up, so their intelligence is highly dependent on the number of functioning neurones. When you mix with too many stupid people, there’s a chance it might rub off.
We’ll start again: you’re passionate about music, so DJing is the perfect career. Except that before long you won’t be listening to music in the same way. You won’t have time for detours or real discoveries, you’ll be stuck within the confines of dance floor functionality (only house, only techno etc.). I’ve seen so many DJs, even among the most brilliant, lose their edge for being shut in one style. Rock and rap are over anyway, you don’t play it. By the end you’re revolving around the same labels, the same recipes. In short, being a DJ narrows your musical spectrum. You might learn the Resident Advisor playlists by heart, but you don’t understand the rest of the press: ‘What’s Young Thug?’ ‘Who’s Tame Impala?’ So the earth revolves without you.
‘DJing is great, you get to travel all the time!’ Then you get tired of it. All together, you spend much more time in planes than in the city you’re supposed to be playing in, and which you essentially only discover through the four walls of the club that booked you. I remember a DJ I did a night with in Kuala Lumpur: he only stayed ten hours, for a nap, a dinner and the show. The next day, he left for Toronto, before coming back to Paris on the Sunday. A heavy carbon footprint is the only trace he leaves. His health takes a blow though. And that’s not to mention the alcohol, the drugs and the jet lag. The dream job starts to resemble the trek from The Walking Dead. The worst bit: when you get home, no one will give you any sympathy. After all, you’ve just done a tour of the world. Some people would sacrifice their mothers to do a tour of the world. But you’d much rather just stay with her next weekend.
‘DJing is great, you get paid to play records’. Yes but how much? Obviously if you earn 5000 dollars (or more), you’ll put up with the insipid dinners and constant jet lag. But let’s say you earn 500 dollars per show. That’s still great, there are thousands of DJs who play each week for free. With four gigs a month, you make yourself 2000 dollars. How long can you keep that up? Between 20 and 30, it’s all good, you’ve got energy, you have fun every weekend, and you have a bit of recognition in the pages of Trax. But at 35, you haven’t got any further, you realise that 2000 dollars go quick and that the little profile in the magazine – well no one gives a shit. At 50, you’re still flying economy class, still dining with the same club owner, only your left ear works and you can’t bear to listen to another week’s worth of new techno, which all sounds the same and has done for twenty years. As for your pension, well deserved by this point, well it doesn’t exist. You’re going to have to DJ until you’re 80.
Conclusion: drop the DJing while there’s still time. There are enough DJs anyway, the world doesn’t need you. My advice for enriching one’s culture and maintaining good health: take up Scrabble. That way, even in the retirement home, you’ll never lose your touch.
David Blot hosts Nova Club every weeknight from 19.30 – 21.00 on Radio Nova.