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How not to be a DJ dickhead

Just behave yourself, alright?

  • Words: Dave Turner | Illustrations: Lawrence Abbott
  • 18 July 2018

There's always a danger that a fast-moving DJ career can turn even the nicest of people into a bit of dickhead. Being thrown into a new world of constant travel, endless free meals, people sucking up to you and the adulation of ravers worldwide can easily make you forget where you came from. Especially so if you're away from close friends and family who can remind you of your roots or give you a little word in your ear if you're getting a bit too carried away.

Getting too big for your boots won't just make you look like a fool. It'll piss off promoters, upset ravers and annoy your fellow DJs. We don't want that happening, do we?

As there is always someone at risk of becoming Public Enemy No.1, we knocked up a list of pointers to stop yourself being that DJ.

1
Turn up to your shows

You'd think doing this was a given, right? You'd think DJs would always want to play, yeah? You'd be surprised. It's likely you know that touring can get a little out of hand, with all sorts of goodies readily available combined with a lack of sleep. That can obviously lead to completely losing track of time and potentially turning up late for a show or not getting there altogether. Not only does that make you look like a complete twat, it gives the promoter a logistical nightmare, pisses off other DJs on the bill and, most importantly, lets down the ravers who have paid money to watch you play.

2
Be realistic with your rider

DJ riders are important. The contents are there to keep you going, whether it be booze to get you into party mode or sweets to give you that much-needed sugar kick. But don't don't take the piss. Firstly, it's your rider, not your mates', so hold back on the requests for your old pal Dan from school. Secondly, you're already getting paid by the promoter to play, so don't get ahead of yourself and expect them to do your weekly shop for you. A few drinks and snacks are totally cool. A bottle of Dom Perignon? Jog on.

3
Be humble and polite

Don't get ahead of yourself. You might be able to seamlessly mix or have a record collection deeper than Mr Fingers' 'Can You Feel It?', but that doesn't mean you have to be rude. It's unlikely your name has always been a form of party arousal for ravers, so remember that next time you talk down to someone or aren't thankful or appreciative for an opportunity. We're not telling you to bow down, curtsy or kiss hands, we're just giving you a reminder of the simple things: a 'how are you?', a 'thanks so much' or a 'really nice to meet you'. It's not hard, is it? You're welcome.

4
Always take your own headphone jack

Preparation is key. We appreciate that flying from country to country or driving from city to city might mean losing some belongings along the way, but borrowing from others might just lead to a vicious cycle of lost goods. Headphone jacks are easily lost, mainly due to the size of them, so always pack a spare. Otherwise you'll be pinching someone else's when you step into the DJ booth and most likely forgetting to give it back in and among the madness.

5
Ask your agent to book you on diverse, intersectional line-ups

A lack of diversity in nightclub and festival bookings is no secret. One recent case is that of Wireless Festival in London. A lot of people kicked off at the fact only three women were booked across the three days, leading to the introduction of a woman-only stage. Obviously you can't help being booked for events that might not be diverse, but you can ask your booking agent to find parties and festivals that are diverse in race, gender and sexuality. Without marginalised communities, dance music wouldn't be here. Let's not forget that.

6
Don't play too hard in a warm-up set

If you're booked to play at the start of the night, you're there to raise the temperature slightly, not set the place on fire. Being a warm-up DJ means just that: your tunes should get people in the mood, loosen them up a bit, get them on the dancefloor. It doesn't mean knock out thunderous techno or that rowdy tech house edit you've rustled up. That's the job of the headliner. You don't want them thinking 'who the fuck is this trying to show me up?' Play your cards (or your set) right and you could be in that headline slot some day soon.

7
Don't demand to switch set times

Remember that saying 'you'll get what you're given'? Don't ever forget it. If you're booked for a certain time, you should respect the promoter's decision and play that slot. It's not cool to get on your high horse and demand a different time. All you'll be doing then is mugging off another DJ on the line-up. If, for logistical reasons, you need to play earlier or later, ask politely and try and find a compromise. Don't just ask to switch because you want to be playing peak-time. We're afraid it doesn't work like that.

8
Turn down the headphone volume after your mix in a b2b set

Being a DJ takes its toll on your ears. You're constantly in nightclubs kitted out with monster soundsystems and that's not exactly a loving embrace for your eardrums. Even if you feel like your ears are fine and Tinnitus-free, take into account a fellow DJ's ears might be ringing as hard as Jeff Mills' 'The Bells'. When playing back-to-back, try to remember to turn down the volume on the headphones when passing them over. You wouldn't want to fuck up their ears anymore. Top tip: putting salt in your ears could prevent hearing loss.

Dave Turner is Mixmag's Digital News Editor, follow him on Twitter

Lawrence Abbott is Mixmag's Digital Intern, follow him on Instagram

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