I don’t know any official figures, but I can’t imagine that there are many people who, upon getting their first DJ setup say “I want to be a commercial DJ”.
(I know from personal experience that when I first unboxed my Numark belt drive turntables I wanted to be the next big trance DJ)
So what happens to the dreams of the thousands of fledgling DJ’s?
They lose interest – So many people (try to) become DJ’s for all the wrong reasons. DJ’s are seen as the modern day rock star’s and lots of fame hungry people think that they can jump on the (increasingly overcrowded) bandwagon and become famous overnight. When that doesn’t happen, you soon see an advert in the local classified listings with some almost-new equipment for sale.
They struggle to find gig’s playing their chosen genre – At the time of writing this post (March 2016) the 2 most popular genres (in the UAE at least) seem to be EDM and Deep House. A lot of the new DJ’s will get their equipment, download the top 100 tracks from a variety of charts within their chosen genre and expect the phone to start ringing immediately!
What they tend to forget is that particular genres become popular because well known and established DJ’s are pushing that sound. So when the phone fails to ring (at all in some cases), you will see a number of other DJ’s joining the casualty list.
They don’t earn enough money – If you only play a certain style of music, then there are only certain venues that will be able to book you.
In the late 1990’s/early 2000’s I would sometimes leave my home at 1am in the middle of winter and travel 30-45 minutes to a venue to play the “graveyard set” at a little known trance event for free, just to get some playing time somewhere other than my bedroom.
Fast forward to today and it is still true that you need to be playing warm up sets and graveyard sets for the love of music and to get some exposure. The DJ’s that are willing to do that for 1-2yrs are the ones that tend to establish themselves within their local city, whereas the DJ’s that aren’t willing to do that tend to join the ever growing casualty list.
So what made me become a commercial DJ?
I had been playing trance for a few years when I got offered the opportunity to DJ in the party resort of Laganas on the Greek island of Zakynthos. Although I was able to play some trance, it had to be kept very commercial and vocal. Funky House, RnB, HipHop, 2 Step Garage etc were all very popular too, so each night had to be a mixture of many different genres. It was that first season abroad that opened my eyes to commercial DJing and, imagine my surprise when I returned to England at the end of the season to find that I could now earn £150.00+ per night, rather than playing for free!
Who wants to be a commercial DJ?
Commercial DJing isn’t for everyone, some feel that it goes against what they stand for musically, others will claim that you “sold out”,the list of criticism is endless. What I will say is that if you enjoy the music, are of a decent standard and keep up-to-date with the music of the moment, then you shouldn’t struggle to find work. If you are interested in working abroad as a commercial DJ, why not read my blog entry about DJing in Dubai?