Influencers, Fees and the Future: how will dance music change as a result of the pandemic?
My name is Geoff Kirkwood. I DJ as Man Power, and I run the record label Me Me Me, as well as managing a few record labels for other people. I also make and release my own music as Man Power, and a bunch of other aliases.
I started writing this article around the first day of my own isolation in the UK (after leaving my wife and daughter in Mexico while I came back to Newcastle to look after my grandparents). I started this partly in an effort to rationalise the current situation to myself, but it was also because I’d seen plenty of responses from management agencies, press outlets, big names DJs and well known clubs, but not so much from the point of view of working DJs who aren’t in the top flight, or grass roots promoters who aren’t managing big branded events.
This started off as a piece about my own personal response, but then I realised that if I wanted to talk about a whole perceived strata of DJ performers / music makers, then i should probably speak to a few more people. With that in mind I spoke to a few friends and peers and asked for their feedback too. This is far from comprehensive, and the contributions tend to just be from people I happened to have contact with while writing it, but I do think it provides a type of snapshot of some of the ways people are dealing with this, and where we see things going.
The DJs I asked were Jonnie Wilkes (half of Optimo), Juan Maclean (of DFA Records fame and my partner in the Juan Power Project), Alinka (Twirl Recordings), Posthuman (I Love Acid) and Alison Swing (one of the people behind Dig Deeper in LA, and relatively newly transplanted to Berlin).
The first thing that I asked everyone was:
How Has the Lockdown Effected you Negatively?
"All things considered, I don’t think it has just yet. I'm not gonna talk about money because it's obvious. Of course I've wondered how I could make a few quid while I'm not playing gigs but I didn't come up with anything that good. I built a playhouse for my daughter and briefly thought with some changes here and there and a good set up for building them I could sell some but I don't want to be a joiner even though it's a noble profession. I've had a few downward spirals emotionally but I have them regularly anyhow and I don't think they've been that much plentiful during the lockdown. I'd even say, speaking from an anxious person's perspective that life is easier as a lot of the responsibilities I regularly feel have just been taken away." – Jonnie Wilkes
"Although it is tempting to not speak to it because it is so obvious, the financial devastation needs to be made known because it is my biggest source of anxiety. I had just embarked on a big European / UK tour days before countries started locking everything down. I lost thousands of dollars in fees from cancelled gigs, and from expenses I fronted for the tours I had planned during these months. Before this pandemic, financial concerns were the source of pretty much all my anxiety anyway. I have lived on what felt like the edge of financial disaster, as an artist in the USA, for decades now. In the beginning I also had very dark thoughts about my place in the world, and feeling like something of an idiot for having dedicated my life to making weird music, and now having pretty nothing to put on a resumé if I did need to look for some other kind of income generating work. I went through some terrible bouts of debilitating depression, something I have suffered from my entire life, but had not in a few years." – Juan Maclean
"The first weeks were filled with a lot of anxiety about my financial status and my career, if I can stay in Berlin, and the well being of family in the US since I knew if anything happened it’s likely I couldn’t return without being in a mandatory quarantine and would be unable to see them anyway. I was meant to leave for a US tour on the day the travel ban was to take effect and the road to lockdown started and all of my gigs were cancelled within 24 hours, the last one as I was checking into my flight at Tegel at 4am that morning. This was also my only chance to see my family so it was a disappointing and scary time. I think the worst part was not knowing if I’ll survive this financially and the timing of it since I had left my day job to do music full time for the first time in 20 years just this past October and everything was starting to pick up finally when this happened so I think I questioned all my life choices and cried daily.." – Alinka
"I have a 3 year old son, and my wife does IT support from home, so my days are essentially filled with childcare duties, because her working hours have gone through the roof. We're lucky, because her income means that my loss of wages is offset (90% of my earnings are from gigs) but it means I have very little time for writing music. I've done a couple of mixes and a livestream, but usually I'm so drained by my son's bedtime that it's just Netflix and Sleep. Also, most of my equipment was moved into a shared studio in the weeks before lockdown so I don't have much at home anyway!" – Posthuman
"I was in the middle of a U.S. tour and 2 days away from throwing my own event (Dig Deeper) in L.A. when everything shut down. So financially I lost more than half my tour's fees and some deposits we made for our own event. I paid for all my own travel so that's out of my own pocket unfortunately but that's also part of all this. Lost something like 20 gigs so far. I am privileged in that I also work as a graphic designer so I am OK but a lot of my peers are not." – Alison Swing
Has the lockdown affected you in any positive ways?
"I sold a coat I hated on Ebay. Bit of a Peaky Blinders number – horrible thing but it was very good quality. I need that stuff out of my life. Yes. You think you know yourself… but after years of come downs, followed by years of psychotherapy – in comparison I've learnt a fair bit about myself in this last few weeks or at least I proved some stuff that I strongly suspected. Just finally slowing a bit was helpful. I learnt that I'm quite unbearable to live with. Sorry Esther. I've realised too that I'm still very unfulfilled creatively. I'm always trying to produce things that I can properly love and I've realised my perfectionist tendency is very unhealthy for me. Working on that. With life slowing down I've realised there are some things I really enjoy doing that aren't very difficult and also make me happy. So yes, these have been positive aspects for me. With music – I was guilty of skimming a lot – I hear so much more if I give it time to work on me, the good stuff that is. Deep thought is really worth it if you can achieve it. The shite stuff, I hear as shite more easily. Like the coat maybe, get it gone. I'm going to be at home for my little girl's 2nd birthday and not Facetiming from a hotel room as the promoter is texting me from the lobby so that's good." – Jonnie Wilkes
"Yes, there have been many. This is a tricky thing to convey, because I do not want to diminish the suffering of others affected by this pandemic, but so far this has been a very positive transformational experience for me. I also believe it is effecting positive change on a global level as well, though that process may take decades, in terms of Gaia (Mother Earth) showing us that we cannot continue on as a species rooted in consumption or we will be killed off. But for me, it has been a process where at first I was stripped of everything I thought I needed. My income disappeared, as did my ability to do the thing I have dedicated most of my life to: playing music for groups of people. I was also sick early on with Coronavirus. Once I was sort of stripped bare of everything I believed I needed, it revealed what was important. I was able to see that I had made decisions about where I put my energy in terms of gigs I played and people I associated with in a way that I was quite happy with. It has become clear that I need far little than I ever believed. I have become a fan of the $1 deli coffee (a staple of NYC) again, in a city where $5 coffees were a daily norm. And, being locked with another person day after day and dealing with issues that cannot be ignored, it really solidified my love of my partner." – Juan Maclean
"When Germany came in and helped out all the freelancers and small businesses I felt a new sense of pride in my home and my community and felt like I couldn’t be in a better place right now. Also all of the emotions and the ups and downs reminded me what’s important in life, which is the people we care about and appreciating every moment and being present. I also ended up reconnecting with one of my closest friends and mentors that I haven’t spoken to in nearly a decade, and have really tried to keep up communication with people in my life and that’s kept me same through all this." – Alinka
"Just taking stock of life and reminding myself what is really important: family. But aside from that, no it's not really been a positive experience. I try to keep perspective that we are privileged still still have one income and we have a little garden, I have friends who are frontline NHS and in tiny apartments in London so just being thankful for what we have here." – Posthuman
"This time being removed from the hustle and being reminded about what drew me to all of this has been so comforting. I think living in Berlin and being on the road a lot you can get a bit stuck in the clouds being influenced by play counts, press, music trends, filling tour flyers, particular booker's opinions etc. But I've been so deeply reminded about what excited me the most DJing or listening to music alone in my bedroom for years. It's also astounding witnessing this burst of creativity from our community looking to stay connected with each other." – Alison Swing
All of these experiences chime with my own, but I also think they fit with the vibe of most of the people i know doing different jobs in different sectors. It seems we’re all finding financial and situational hardships, but for the most part it also appears that for a lot of people there are good things coming from this on a personal level too. Personally I’m the fittest i’ve been in a decade, but I’m going through weekly bouts of intense situational depression too. A really simple illustration is the fact that tomorrow is my daughters birthday and I’m going to have to attend via a Zoom call, which is horrible, but its the Birthday of my grandfather (who raised me) on Monday, and normally I wouldn’t be able to attend.
At this stage, for clarity’s sake, it also possibly makes sense to explain where i think I stand in the DJ / Clubbing / Festival scene (I’ll refrain from saying industry because I hope its more than that).
I think I’m possibly representative of the majority of those working DJs who have gigs across the world.I was playing 2 days a week on most weekends, and more in summer when I’d also get to play a whole bunch of festivals, and while i was getting paid less than the top-flight of big headliners I still got paid a lot more than I ever thought I would be able to get for doing a job that I love that started out as nothing but a personal passion.
When I play a club or a festival, some people will have heard of me, some people will even be fans of me and a lot of people will have no clue who I am but will come because of other names on the lineup, or simply because they trust the promoter (this last one being my personal favourite type of crowd). I think people like me make up the majority of booked “talent” (that's not my term, its the “industry” term) that you find playing in most clubs week in and week out. Up until about 10 years ago, with the exception of a few crossover stars, that was essentially all you would hope to achieve as a DJ, which in fairness is fucking loads already.
The majority of my gigs take place with me headlining, in a network of small to medium sized clubs. A lot of the time I’ll know the promoters too.
The club scene in that sense has been healthy for most of the time I’ve been doing it, and feels very much like it always has done since i started going out 25 years ago (fuck, that looks terrible written down).
The rest of my gigs happen as part of much bigger lineups in super-clubs, giant festivals, and huge warehouse style spaces. These usually feature a whole host of other DJ names, often playing for much shorter lengths of time to way more people than I would usually play for. These type of things used to be quite few and far between, but they’ve been slowly taking over, while myself and my DJ and promoter friends have been watching the more “traditional” club world starting to shrink.
This all started out about 10 years ago.
The birth of social media and the crossover success of EDM meant that DJing was granted a much bigger public profile and generated much more money than it had ever done before. These both lead to the current newest iteration of the “Superstar DJ”, a term which had existed before but was never really fulfilled to its fullest extent. The ultimate expression of this Superstar DJ is what I guess is best now called an “Influencer DJ”. The “Influencer DJ” took a while to develop, and has quite a few subtle differences to the “Superstar DJ” but that’s the term I’m going to use moving forward here as its the most accurate for what we have today. The potential earnings from DJing became so vast that management companies sprung up around the `clubbing scene. DJs got to be big news and the growth of image based social media meant that “Influencer DJs” started existing as the figurehead of their own lifestyle brand, including lucrative partnerships plugged directly in to their touring careers, and all driven by “content” online via social media.
At this stage I’m beholden to point out that I’m in no way looking to have some kind of go about managers, who for the most part I find to be great people with a genuine love for music who have found a way that they can contribute and work in the scene in which they love. I have a manager, he’s fantastic, and I couldn’t run my DJ / Producer business without him.
If you rely on music to pay the bills and pay for your family, then a lot of us lack the skills to keep that train running, which is where a manager becomes invaluable. Agents get loads of stick too. Sorry, but my experience has been that they’re all great as well.
Obviously there’s exceptions, but they prove the rule.
So, accepting that myself and the people I’ve spoken to are not the “Influencer DJs” and we all have somewhat similar approaches and experiences within this scene, I then asked the question:
When the clubs return, will the lockdown have changed your approach to your work in music and DJing?
"No, not my "approach" – that would involve me having to delete massive swathes of my entire being. I'm still me. Still have the same fragile confidence and hugely critical stance with regard to what I do, how good I am and what I produce. So I'm not capable of completely repositioning from the moment the clubs open again, or at this stage, I don't think I am. For a dj – I hope it will be a time to lose ego. When we re-emerge, does anyone really want it to be about them, surely not. I can imagine it would feel immensely emotional in front of a huge gathering of people, or any gathering for that matter – with or without music. Bringing music there will require humility I know that much." – Jonnie Wilkes
"The landscape will have changed dramatically, obviously, but it actually will not change much for me in terms of approach. In fact, it will probably serve to solidify my existing values. I have had a very deliberate career trajectory. I never wanted to be 'big,' and shied away from anything that felt like 'hype,' even though those opportunities were in front of me, and people I was closely associated were jumping on them. I decided early on that I love playing in smaller venues with a good vibe filled with people who are down for it. At one point I got away from that, and I was miserable. I was taking higher paying gigs out fear and financial distress, even though I was doing fine and living a comfortable life. But I noticed my good:bad gig ratio being skewed in a way that I found quite depressing. I then made a conscious decision to play gigs that felt right, for people I liked and knew were on the same page as me. This revitalized my entire approach to DJ'ing, and since then I love it more and more with each passing year. So for years now I have lived, as best I could, with a guiding principle of putting my head down and just doing what I love, despite the imagined consequences or the expectations of others. This lockdown has only enforced that principle. In fact, it has made it abundantly clear to me that doing it any other way would be a tragic waste of time, and of a life." – Juan Maclean
"I’ve always cared more about the club and the atmosphere more than anything else when deciding where to play. I’ve been really fortunate to get to play amazing clubs and parties that really are about the music more than anything, so I don’t think that will change. I do think that I will end up playing more often locally since it’s likely travel will be restricted even when things start to open up again, but I’m always happy to play in Berlin and in Germany. As far as making music that won’t really ever change for me as I’ve never got a plan when sitting down to write it’s more therapy for me than anything. I did spend the last months at home alone making tracks before all this happened, not expecting I would be forced to be here in lockdown. I plan on being out a lot more after this instead of being a hermit." – Alinka
"I think that "if" rather than "when" as I suspect there will who wholesale changes to the scene. This lockdown will be longer than we expect, and many venues and promoters might not last it out. When it does come back, I suspect it will be much smaller and more locally focused events rather than the medium or large venues we are used to. There will also be travel restrictions, and quite simply punters who are not comfortable with going out anymore. But those smaller events that do start again, and the punters who do go out: I think there will be such a hunger and appreciation that the atmosphere will be absolutely electric. It'll be a big reset button. We'll be so done and bored with online streams, it could be the end of the Boiler Room era, and back to zero-phones clubbing as a norm. The lack of capacity will limit the money involved, so the larger fee international touring acts will be out of the game, and the focus will be back onto those doing it for the love of it. I am not a high profile, big fee act, but I do travel a lot (on average 40 weekends a year) and I think that will change, internationally at least. Also the parties I run, I collaborate with local crews and I think I'll have to be much more flexible with who can be booked and the fees involved: My expectation is that sliding fees related directly to door takes & numbers will become the norm." – Posthuman
"I sure hope so! I think for a while I thought I had to do every single thing to exist in this and now that it's all been reset I've realized it's OK to just do what you care about and really focus on those things. I'm still really just starting out so this is all so new getting to play around the world – I'm never ever going to take that for granted again. But I think it's going to be really amazing watching local scenes support just local artists for a bit." – Alison Swing
Personally I do feel like I agree with the general consensus that things will change, and by necessity they’re going to get smaller and more passion based.
To explain how this is a big shift I need to get back to my history lesson. At the same time as the rise of the Superstar DJ you had the rise of Streaming Services. Formerly linear tastes began to broaden through the combination of a public with access to more music than ever before, and the guidance created in some degree by intelligent algorithms that turned any listener in to a kind of passive crate digger by suggesting music based on their tastes. Concurrently, this democratisation of music lead to a greater spread of the overall income generated between more artists, via a payout system that paid substantially less than the systems it replaced. Where previously electronic producers would DJ to market their music, the change became that DJs would make music to market their gigs.
This created a situation where the pot of money to be shared by all DJs has decreased, and that represented a real difficulty for big “Underground” Dance Music DJ brands, as their whole existence is based around income generation. The reaction to all this was to create a situation where even larger amounts of money would pass through even fewer hands. The maths pushed it towards less DJs playing to more people at once. This wasn’t an evil masterplan or anything, its just how it naturally went down. Its a capitalist model, and throughout capitalism you see the 1% naturally form.
DJing has its 1%. We all made them.
We’ve all played our part in moving things from people seeing new artists in a scene with lots of clubs, to people going to see famous artists in mega venues and festivals instead. Rather than a range of choices in most (not all) big cities on any given weekend, you’ll now instead find that there’ll usually only be one gigantic show with one or more names from the same list of Influencer DJs. For my part, I’ve previously endorsed this by agreeing to also be on these lineups in the hope that I would begin my own trajectory to the big leagues through some kind of popularity osmosis… but that’s natural, its my job and I want to progress and earn more money for my family.
The magazines (print and online) you read endorse it by featuring them on their pages more than anybody else, but can you blame them? These magazines have employees who need to be paid and to feature these names drives sales and traffic. The big streaming sites do the same, for the same reasons, and even during this crisis when everybody is suffering you can see that they’re giving air time preference to the biggest names they can find, but can you blame them?
You can see budding new bedroom DJs buying in to it wholesale, when they’re already talking about their nascent DJing in terms of their “Career” and posting slick photoshop images on their slick fan pages without ever having played a gig. The public create this every time they pay for a giant festival or super-venue ticket, or when they choose to like / share / follow online content about DJs lifestyles which have nothing to do with music and are purely furthering their personal brand.
This is the way it is, and lots of people are out there having fun, so who am I to complain about it?
Actually, this is the way it was. Right now, for the most part, we’re all locked up in our rooms.
The nightclub, events and festival industry has shut down completely, and not just for the DJs in the ways we’ve already mentioned. My friends who work freelance in the music press, or PR, or in the industry in general, have nearly all learned overnight that they’re currently surplus to requirements and the permanent staff at all of the major publications, agencies and platforms, are now working overtime trying to keep the wheels turning for as long as they can manage before they’re told to stop too.
Taking a step away from all the doom and gloom for a minute though, there’s definitely been some positives that we can try to extract from the current situation. Regardless of where its found itself in recent years, dance music has always had a deep sense of community at its core, and its been wonderful watching people rally round to buy their music, support events by not collecting refunds, or watching performers and platforms mutually support each other by creating free streaming festivals.
There are manifold ways in which the scene has put a bandage on where it’s bleeding right now, and it’s brilliant and heartwarming, but the big question is really “when this is all over, how does the scene recover?
With that in mind I asked my friends…
What negative changes can you see the Lockdown bringing to the Nightclub / DJ Scene?
"Possibly none – I dunno. Thinking pessimistically, I guess it could be that initially we get clubs full of lads and gear who are bang up for it from the word go whilst more vulnerable individuals may be more tentative about coming back to crowded spaces. Can you imagine?!? That'd be depressing, right? You may see that the more sensitive people who enjoyed coming to parties previously won't have come through this completely unscathed so we need to pay attention to making this a supportive transition for sure. You see, not everyone can be a "fighter" like fuckin Boris." – Jonnie Wilkes
"I think the 'negative' changes will be hardest for those at the top, the world of DJ's who don't leave home for less than $5,000+ fees. Personally, I see that as a positive, but my fear is that you will see a lot of 'Return To My Roots' tours, where these top tier DJ's will be playing in the smaller rooms we have played for years, because they won't have those big fee opportunities anymore, and they'll try spin it as some sort of intentional 'coming home to the people' kind of thing. My biggest fear is that smaller venues and promoters that I love might close. But I think in a couple of years everything will have reached a new equilibrium. I don't think it will be a dramatic devastation like many are predicting." – Juan Maclean
"I worry that a lot of the middle tier artists and smaller promoters will be pushed out. It’s already pretty difficult to survive at this level and I’m not sure what the future holds or how clubs will choose who they’re booking when everyone is all the sudden fighting for the same slots at lower fees." – Alinka
"Quite simply, a lot of venues closing, and a lot of crews unable to carry on. Anyone without corporate backing or 'Bank of Mum & Dad' will struggle." – Posthuman
"I'm pretty terrified about what's going to happen to all the nightclubs. How are they going to survive being closed for however long this lasts? What will there be to come back to?" – Alison Swing
What positive changes can you see the Lockdown bringing to the Nightclub / DJ Scene?
"Surely nobody wants it to go back to being EXACTLY the same??? I hope not. Maybe there'll be a chance for individual city "scenes" to thrive because of travel restrictions. That's part of youth culture that's always intrigued me – how details in clubs, music, art, fashion, can be very specific to a certain city. It's hard to predict any of this, I'm winging it but whatever happens I hope we see a much less prescriptive club culture. Maybe we'll realise that when we're all gathered together to dance, what we have is precious. " – Jonnie Wilkes
"There is so much talk right now about other DJ's, lots of finger pointing about who is in it for the 'right reasons' or not, but I think this is just people spinning their wheels anxiously sitting at home on social media all day. I actually have never met a DJ who I thought was in it for the 'wrong reasons,' like strictly for money. Even top tier DJ's who I am friends with, and I know more than a few, still love music and playing music for people, as far as I can tell. For sure many of them have lost touch with what it's like to struggle financially and embarked, bit by bit, on lifestyle changes that make them appear like assholes. Like flying in private jets or having absurd hospitality riders, or just generally presenting a way of living on social media that is far out of reach for the rest of us. I think that world will always exist, and I have never really cared much about it because it has not much of anything to do with me. I believe that world will reemerge in a different way, but the real positive changes, I hope and believe, will occur in the scenes I occupy. It will simply be a renewed appreciation for being in a club with other people and having transformational experiences. I look forward to being a local resident DJ again. Because we can't bring in out of town DJ's for who knows how long, the idea of playing regularly in the same space to essentially the same crowd with regularity is exciting. For me, there will be a huge emphasis on set preparation, making sure there is something new and fresh to present to people, and a massive consideration for the experience of others. These were always considerations for me before, but they seem vital now. Consequently, I think there will be an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and community from all of us meeting together on the dance floor. It is almost overwhelming to imagine what the vibe will be like for the first parties!" – Juan Maclean
"I think there will be a lot more focus on local DJ’s and local scenes, and this will bring more support and opportunities in many places that normally rely on out of town guests to bring people in. I think there’s a stronger sense of community now and solidarity that’s really nice to see. You can really tell who gives a fuck about the scene and this music, and not just when they have something to gain from it personally. I hope that this carries over into what happens next. I hope it’s also a wake up call to the industry since only a tiny percentage of people working in it actually earn a living wage, and enough to have a few months of savings to survive something like this without financial ruin. It’s not really a sustainable industry when the distribution of wealth is so far off that most people are living month to month even when they’re considered “successful”. Also before the lockdown we had already been living in strange times where hype outweighed musical ability and musical content. I hope that the focus goes back to actual music and something more real and sustainable. I am very curious to see who will stick around when you take the money out of it. I think when you strip it down what’s left is what we fell in love with in the first place. Many of us have struggled the whole way anyway, and I guess it’s built us the armor to survive and stick around. I think there will be a lot of people bonding over this and I hope it will build a stronger scene and stronger community of like-minded people who are in it for the right reasons." – Alinka
"I predict The Winter Of Love. The scene that will replace this will be less dictated by influential booking agencies and ticketing websites. The bubble will have burst. Techno Twitter will no doubt keep shouting but the DJs won't be playing, it'll open the doors for an entirely new generation. A lot more collaboration and co-operation, especially in the physical world of record shops and venues. I hope to be part of it but I do not have any expectations of entitlement." – Posthuman
"I do feel like things were quite saturated before and maybe a bit out of focus. I think people are going to very in-touch with what matters the most to them and hopefully will be more present when they do go out. I think we're also seeing the true value and beauty in our little community and maybe we'll all work a bit more to strengthen that." – Alison Swing
For my own take on this, I have to say I agree with every single thing everybody I asked said, and I’m incredibly happy and relieved that it really feels from these conversations, and chats I’ve been having with both the people featured here and many other friends who DJ, own clubs, or work in music in another capacity, that there’s a growing agreement about what will happen, and why certain actions are either necessary or inevitable It seems sadly undeniable that a lot of businesses involved in the scene will have disappeared, including some festivals, clubs, magazines, promoters, PR agencies, Managers and even performers, writers and DJs. Beyond that, its also undeniable that the ones that survive will be in desperate need of help.
Travel will likely still be undergoing restrictions for a very, very long time, and freedom of movement between countries will take as long to return to what we knew before this all started happening Further to that, there is also likely to still be an ongoing cap on the size of gatherings permitted, as well as a public stigma afforded to any particular large crowds. Finally, we can also assume that people will be really, really, REALLY fucking desperate for dance. This seems to suggest that the day of the “Influencer DJ” is over.
In a landscape with fewer promoters and fewer parties, plus smaller capacity events with less money available, the scene is going have to be rebuilt by those who put passion before profit. We already saw a misguided attempt this week by some people to fake concern as a commodity. That blew up rather spectacularly and showed that a lot of the top flight are wildly out of touch with mood and tone of the general public.
Insincere fundraising initiative aside, where before now DJs and their agents could demand fees based on their personal perception of their own value, they need now to consider the income any party is capable of generating and work with the promoter to make things viable. Consideration needs to be paid to the plight of those wanting to provide and promote parties, and in many cases things like advance fees will necessarily become a thing of the past. Also, in a lot of situations the artists would do well to consider and discuss doing things like splitting the ticket / door income in lieu of a fixed fee. The inconvenient truth that I can also see is that I’ve rarely played for a party which doesn’t already have fantastic residents, and some of the best parties i’ve ever played myself were the ones we used to throw in my hometown before the rest of the world knew who I was, so I’m far from indispensable, and i think that applies to most, if not all of the DJs I can think of. DJs are all in risk of making themselves redundant by their own expectations.
However, if this all suggests this is purely a promoters market then I must urge caution there too. It would be very unwise of promoters to create a situation where they make adversaries of established DJs, or they will quickly find they’re competing with artists who have much greater social media reach and no other recourse to play but putting on their own self promoted events.
Community has often been a cute concept for DJs and Promoters to pay lip service to on Twitter, but now it looks set to become the single over-riding tenet that dictates the survival of all of the multi faceted disciplines involved what we loosely refer to as underground dance music. There’s space for everyone at the table, but some of the “Influencer DJs” will need to consider if DJing is still interesting to them as part of their “content” output if it turns out to be something that no longer makes them rich. Their teams will also need to assess whether or not the comparatively meagre returns will support the existence of the machine that they’ve built around everything.
Prior to this situation I think the usual question people would ask regarding gigs was “what will you give me?”. Now I think the only question we all now need to be asking is “what can I do for you?”.
Yes, isolation is shit. A lot of tears will need to be shed for people being hit in horrible ways, both economically and physically. The global pandemic is a tragedy that will touch all of us in some way, and It is undeniably a horrible, horrible situation right now. I do think though, as people who love music and dancing, that the glimmer of a more community lead future for dance music is still a sliver of light we can look to and get excited about.
If you love celebrity and watching their day-to-day lives and TikToks on instagram, or standing with tens of thousands of people watching influencers play an hour of music you already know, then fear not! Every great civilisation that has grown to the point of collapse has always eventually been replaced by an even grander successor. The superstars will return, bigger and more influential than ever, with new shoes and hats and skin care products and bumbags to sell you.
Just please be patient while some of those who have been plugging away for years, just because music and dancing is a compulsion to them, join with a new generation of exciting talent to collectively get the show back on the road using nothing more than their passion, and being rewarded with nothing much more than taking part in the thing that they love.
In that respect I’m probably more excited about the future of parties than I have been in a very long time.