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Why do I need to become a producer to become a successful DJ? Part 1

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New Dj Songs list 2012Last weekend I was in Kristiansand performing at two of their local venues.  One night I was having dinner at a new restaurant with a DJ colleague that I got to know that week.  We were discussing music, clubs, the DJ scene, etc.  At one point we got into the discussion of music production.  He asked me if I was producing music.  I truthfully answered “no”.  And I got to thinking why is there such a value on whether a DJ is producing his/her own music?

Over the dinner I began to talk how it seems that today a Producer/DJ that becomes very popular with his music, can leap forward over highly skilled veteran club DJs that may not ever produce, but can pack a dancefloor.  Today, a producer/DJ can become the next superstar.  They can play at large festivals, arenas, and super clubs.  They can command up to six figures for a gig where they would play mostly their music for about an hour or two.

I find the trend amazing.  I can see the temptation for young bedroom DJ/Producers to invest their time in creating electronic music.  They see the glitter and the dollar signs.  They follow their superstar heroes on Facebook and Instagram and dream of living that lifestyle.  I admit, I also have dreams of being a successful DJ.  But I don’t dream of being a music producer.  

I’ve tried to produce music.  There is a big learning curve in understanding the programs, concepts, and theory that goes into making music.  Generally, it’s body of knowledge that requires years of education at a school and more years of on the job training as a studio engineer.  

To me it seems ridiculous to go that route just to be able to come into a club, mix songs, and rock a party.  The skill involved in DJing such as reading a dancefloor, understanding flow in programming your music, and mixing, is what is most important when DJing inside a club.  This is my opinion but I believe it has great merit.  

For example, if a club were to hire a DJ/Producer like Avicii, they would pay him an exorbitant amount of money, cover all of his expenses related to his travel, hotel, and other items on his artist’s rider.  This will set the club and promoter back tens of thousands of euros/dollars.

The artist will come to the club and play a set that may be at the most two hours.  The music will consist of only or mostly his music.  Now, the next day, a regular local DJ could come into that same club, and play every song that Avicii played during his set the night before, and in the same order and exactly the same way.  That local DJ would only get paid a tiny fraction of what Avicii made that night.  

The same local DJ, because he is a seasoned club DJ, can walk into any club and deliver a mix show for the guests, using songs from different artists and producers.  Maybe that DJ will use some bootlegs to give the guests a refreshing change from the music they are used to hearing all the time at a club.  That local DJ will be reading his dance-floor and make adjustments to his music programming.  Maybe he’ll play a Progressive House set, followed by a short latin style dance set, and then sweat his dancers with a short Dirty Dutch set before cooling them down with a Hip-Hop set. 

That local club DJ may do this for 4-5 hours during the night and succeed in keeping the dance-floor busy and engaged.  For this work, that local DJ may only get a few hundred euros.

Now my questions is, could a superstar artist like Avicii mix that type of set?

Continued in Part 2