Why are there so many amateurs in the DJ Booth?
This all started when in-house promotions were replaced by external promoters. This has been going on in earnest for probably 10 or 15 years in the club scene.
Before that, club managers and owners hired DJs directly and paid them to provide music to their crowds. Even if they were also working with promotional teams and promoters who were paid a percentage of the door, the club hired and employed the DJs. This not only meant that DJs got paid no matter what the night was like, but also insured that there was someone in the DJ booth with the best interest of the venue in mind, who would play what needed to be played to keep people happy.
The next step in the process saw club owners and mangers hiring promoters, who would bring in their own promotional teams and their own DJs. This usually meant that the promoter would pay the DJ – and again, usually meant that you were getting paid to play no matter what happened. Sure it was necessary to chase a few promoters to get your money – but in the end, most DJs got paid for services rendered, whether it was dead that night or not.
The latest version of this is owners and managers cutting promoters out of the equation all together and just hiring DJs to play AND promote. This breeds the kind of experience gap in the DJ booth that is found in most clubs circa 2009, as it is more important to have a big group of friends – than to know what you are doing in the DJ booth. Under this new direction, shy DJs, DJs that are new to town, or more established DJs that refuse to play for short money (which usually equals FREE these days – so basically anyone that thinks they should be paid at all fall into this category) are frozen out of most gigs.
Think about it. Bartenders get paid. Cleaning staff get paid. Managers, owners, waitresses, all get paid. No one would expect a doorman to take less when the night is quiet, or expect the Red Bull Distributor to take a dollar less a can when the club is dead. DJs on the other hand are expected to come in and perform the same service week in and week out – yet their pay fluctuates based on factors that are usually out of their control.
Leaving this aside for a minute, lets take a look at the economics of the situation so you can how short sighted many of these club owners are.
Depending on the location, size, amenities etc you have in your venue, you are investing anywhere from 50,000 dollars to several millions dollars into your nightclub. You have a very expensive liquor license, food, liquor, flat screen TV’s, sound and lights, extremely expensive liability insurance, and the list goes on and on.
Yet after putting all that time and money into a club, what do most owners do? Skimp on one of the most important aspects, the entertainment – often putting their multi-million dollar investment in the hands of an inexperienced, underpaid performer.
I read an analogy once that said, in what alternate universe would you take a million dollar cruise ship full of your most valuable resource, your customers – and then hand the keys over to an 18 year old kid who has no experience, and you are only paying $100 dollars to drive the ship? Yet this is what club owners do every weekend. It is mind boggling.
In a world that made sense, owners would spend the money necessary to hire competent professional entertainers – meaning they would be paying them $500 to $1500 a night. This would in turn shift the entire industry, and make DJing a legitimate career even on the local level.
In the end, DJs did this to themselves, by allowing owners and managers to treat them as second class citizens. They are so taken by the desire to become “famous” and be the “coolest guy in the room”, that they allow themselves to be treated as disposable commodities, and now nearly every club has trained DJs to expect to work hard all week promoting, work long hours in the booth programming and mixing and dealing with drunk customers etc. And to top it off, if the night is dead – they have trained them to expect to not get paid.
Such a sad state of affairs, and exactly why many of the most talented DJs in the business no longer gig on a regular basis….and conversely why most clubs have clueless people in the DJ booth.