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The Secret DJ: "‘Paying to play’ is a genuine threat to dance music culture"

"It’s pernicious, and it’s widespread," says our mystery spinner

  • Words: The Secret DJ | Illustration: Tiago Majuelos
  • 13 April 2018

Much like in acting, broadcasting, dance or any performing art, increasingly it is the privileged who are finding the path to the DJ booth a cake-walk. Scratch the surface of many new performers and you’ll find a showbiz parent, a millionaire backer or in one or two cases, a straight-up silver-spoon socialite slumming it for kicks.

That’s because the cost of becoming a professional DJ or live electronic act is fast becoming unsustainable. It’s less and less about having a shining passion for the thing, and more and more about the equipment, the vinyl, the VIP area, the social media following, Vegas, the analogue, the modular, Ibiza, the vinyl, the vinyl, the vinyl. And all that status display costs.

A new class of fetishists is arising to display their financial superiority with their large collections of vintage vinyl and kit. But ancient rack modules have never made a vocal delivery more evocative, nor does the format raise the hairs on the back of your neck at the breakdown. Yet there is a schism forming between the have-and-have-nots that is deeply unhealthy. And when you add in the pernicious rise of pay-to-play DJ bookings, money is at risk of becoming the only way to make dance music happen for you as a career.

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