Why do I need to become a producer to become a successful DJ? Part 2

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dj boothContinuing from my previous blog post on “Why do I need to become a producer to become a successful DJ?

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

My opinion is no he could not do it.  I believe that Avicii could not work in the same club every weekend and play a 4-5 hour set, keep the dance-floor busy by reading the crowd, making changes to his set, and deliver a great mix-show.  The reason I don’t believe he can do this is because there is no evidence that Avicii has ever worked this way before.  His career started from a bedroom studio to guest spots at venues, to festivals and large arenas.  He’s never had the responsibility to develop and maintain a club residency.  Mix it up for the same crowd every weekend.  Reinvent his sets so that he would not sound exactly the same as before.  

Fortunately, Avicii and other superstar producers have been able to avoid this aspect of the profession which is a reality to the majority of club DJs.  

I am not singling out Avicii in order to criticize him for this.  I have great admiration and respect for what he does.  He has talent making music for a dance-floor.  The reality is that we’re two different types of DJs and yet the industry seems to value and reward him far greater than a local club DJ that is the life blood of many nightclubs around the world.

Nightclubs generally rely of making money from patrons at the door (cover charge), and selling alcohol during the night.  Clubs have expenses (rent, payroll, utilities, alcohol, equipment, and the entertainment).  If a club were to hire a superstar producer/DJ like Avicii every weekend and pay his fee, they would go bankrupt quickly.  It’s simple economics.  Therefore, a club relies heavily on a solid club DJ that can mix it up for their crowd at a fraction of what a superstar producer/DJ commands.  

I’m often amazed that even in my town, a promoter or night club will book a local “producer/DJ” that has very few years experience mixing for a crowd.  That local producer may have made a few songs in their studio, but how does that actually translate to whether he/she is any good at rocking a dance-floor?  It’s comparing apples and oranges.  If a producer releases a song, they instantly get a status of “Producer”.  The song may be obscure, or never resonate with the local crowd or even get on radio.  Regardless of this, they have the status of “Producer”.  But their ability to actually “DJ” for a crowd has nothing to do with that accomplishment.  That local producer may not have much experience when it comes to knowing the different music genres, eras, and applying that knowledge in a set.  And yet, those club managers and promoters put a higher value on the fact that he/she has published a song, regardless of whether that song becomes a hit or not.

Before the EDM scene became mainstream, many of us DJs were mixing urban music (Hip-Hop, R&B) which was the mainstream music at the time (2000-2008).  It wasn’t very common to see DJs as producers.  Club DJs would play and mix songs that were released by artists.  (Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, Eminem, Mary J Blige, Ice Cube, etc.).  You never saw these artists coming into a club to DJ a set.  It just didn’t happen.  They did their thing and we club DJs did our thing.  

But as EDM has grown and become essentially a mainstream form of music, alot of young talent that are producing music have decided to become DJs.  Or DJs, seeing the potential to elevate their careers, have taken on to producing music as a vehicle for becoming more popular and getting more gigs at higher salaries.

But this formula for success seems to ignore one important key element.  And that is the art or skill of knowing what songs to play and how to deliver a solid mix-show on demand.  This art or skill is something that takes years to understand and master.  Even if a DJ/producer makes a song(s) in a studio, they may still lack a fundamental understanding of what it takes to be a great club DJ.  Being a producer and being a great club DJ are two different things entirely.  Yet, still, the industry seems to perceive the “Producer” as having a higher value than a club DJ that may not produce music but knows how to deliver that music in a club setting.

I observe this trend with great curiosity.  I could spend the next couple of years learning how to produce music.  Or, I could spend the next couple of years perfecting the skill of rocking a dance-floor.  Because learning one will not translate to the other.  It’s apples and oranges.

Please feel free to share your opinions and experiences.