From Knowledge To Promo, There’s More To DJing Than Just Playing The Songs
Even more than the music, the key to a successful DJ night are the people in the room. For as much as it is up to the venue to promote an event, a venue wins when they host a DJ that blends an encyclopedic knowledge of music with a unique charisma, plus a likable and engaging persona. These are usually the events that have crowds lined up down the street and supporters coming back for more. DJs in the modern age using social media as a tool for hyper-increased fan engagement has led to many wondering if this new era of sonic selectors is more into “doing it for the ‘gram or Snap” more than “doing it for the culture. However, in breaking down how and why DJs both drawing crowds and having skills is important, we learn that for as much as things seem different, not much at all has changed.
According to a 2012 study, there are now roughly 1.2 million DJs behind the decks worldwide. At the top end of the scale is someone like Diplo, the Mad Decent label owner, Major Lazer, Skrillex, and Justin Bieber collaborator whose yearly earnings have skyrocketed 125% in the past half decade to nearly $30 million earned in 2016. Diplo’s a great starting place because he started, like many DJs do, putting on a series of underground parties wherever he could throw them, whether that be a bar to a Ukranian Hall, to yes, even an abandoned mausoleum. Key to his rise was mixing his ability in knowing how to merge rap, electro, and an entire world of underground global bass into a series of sounds that could unify a diverse and party-loving population.
How one gets from a diverse and hip population of Generation Xers at street-corner bars to being an icon to millennials in swanky nightclubs and festivals worldwide involves a desire to reflect the music he spins and makes in his social media presence. Diplo’s expanded not just his fanbase, but also raised his tax bracket by becoming not just a cool Twitter follow or music producer, but a person who draws eyes and bodies to him by delivering content when, where, and how his followers want it. When you can tell , GQ “People don’t know exactly what I do, they just know I’m ’cool,’” that’s an ultimate symbol of next-level success.
Furthermore, when you study how hip-hop loving DJ/producers like Carnage have grown as draws from clubs to big rooms to festivals, it has as much to do with the fact that Papi Gordo drops the freshest of turn ups as it does his love of eating Chipotle burritos. How much has Carnage’s success grown in the past few years? In 2012, he was best known as a bedroom producer who occasionally got behind the decks to, in 2017, being a main stage participant at the Ultra Music Festival. Regarding the work side of his rise, Carnage noted to DJ Times, “I hung out with my friends who DJ. [I improved] by watching people, just sitting there watching tutorial online and practicing. I then practiced a lot, even through the nights where I felt like my skills were rough, but at the end of the day it works.” As far as Chipotle? “They’re the homies,” he continued to DJ Times. “I just like Chipotle. Do you like Chipotle? I called my fans ‘The Chipotle Gang on social media, which I use to holler at girls, get food, hit up my homies, and set up track collaborations.’ Chipotle saw me on social media and were like, ‘Whoa! We need to show love back to Carnage,’ and they gave me a lifetime supply of Chipotle. Chipotle Gang is the best. It’s like a cult. My fans go really hard on the homemade gear.”
While Carnage and Diplo provide iconic examples, we’ve just scratched the surface on truly understanding the connection between DJs, unique talents, social connectivity, and having a packed nightclub every night. In the modern age, emerging from a pack of millions to being a dependable and top-drawing industry leader can take numerous forms. For as much as the definition of excellence can include snapchatting your electro-loving life away like Dillon Francis or living like Oliver Heldens and having dancefloors worldwide shuffling the night away. But, at the end of the day, like Diplo, Carnage, and others prove, it’s discovering a unique balance between skill and charisma that keeps the clubs packed, and expectation for success high.