Just kidding. But for me sometimes, DJing is a lonely business. It takes a village to raise a great event, but as a solo DJ, my “village” can feel pretty pitiful with a population of 1.
Most weekends I sing in The Avenue, one of the very busy special event dance bands at Jerry Bruno Productions, the multi-op I work for here in Cleveland. I’ve been in a band since I was a kid and bands are like little gangs. Us against the world. There’s a feeling of camaraderie, of common purpose in a band that I find myself missing when I’m DJing an event. The Avenue is a group of 10 musicians and 1 Sound Tech working together in harmony (literally) for a common goal. We ultimately sink or swim together and there is a creative comfort in that. We can discuss musical ideas and support each other.
Of course, coordinating anything with more than one person can be a huge hassle too. As the Band Leader, I have to make sure everyone knows where they’re supposed to be, manage payroll information, deal with problems, etc. It’s like being a musical baby sitter, therapist and cat wrangler all at once. It can be kind of a relief to just worry about myself when I’m DJing. Not to mention the fact that tips are better and far more frequent for one person than for 11!
But the bottom line for me is that I really love to work with other people. Some people prefer the independence of working alone but I love the collaboration that comes from the creative energy of a team working together toward the goal of creating great entertainment. So I’ve been thinking about the juxtaposition of my love for entertaining, music, MCing and DJing (and gear, of course) with the feeling of isolation that comes from doing it all alone. And it occurs to me that I think I’ve been looking at things the wrong way.
I’m not DJing alone.
In fact, I think if I’m doing my job right, I should never feel alone. I have 200 new friends to party with all night long! A big part of being a party MC/DJ is interacting and working with my clients and their guests throughout the event. The unspoken musical communication that happens between the members of my band can happen when I’m DJing too. It just happens in a different way. The musical dialogue happens between me and the guests on the dance floor. All of us become a team. The guests have a direct influence over the energy and pace of the party. I have to work together with them. Their body language (and traffic on the dance floor, of course) tells me what they like and what they don’t like. I also get nonverbal cues from people who aren’t dancing as well and that may prompt me to take the music in another direction. We all work together to create a great party. It’s fun to get to know guests a bit, even if it is only a 5 hour friendship. If I’m “listening” to these partners like I should be, it’s like I’m never DJing alone.
But I really want this way of thinking to be more than just some corny metaphor for saying something we all already know – that a DJ needs to pay attention to and interact with guests. Instead, I really want to change my perspective on DJing alone and I’m hoping that thinking of my relationship with guests this way will help make those feelings of isolation go away. It already has.
In addition to working with the guests, the team we create with the other vendors on site can be very real reminders that we’re not working alone. I’ve gotten to know many of the vendors in my market and work with them many times over the course of a season. When we end up working together on a reception, it becomes working with friends. We’re colleagues helping each other make amazing events. We commiserate over the foibles of this crazy business too. Just like a band does.
I know many DJs work with partners or use assistants and some even have whole crews working together if the event is big enough. For those DJs they’re always working directly with someone else all night long. But many mobile guys don’t. Like me. Not because I wouldn’t like to work with a partner or assistant. I just haven’t felt an overwhelming need for it so far (despite how nice the company would be). For those who prefer to work alone this all may seem like a moot point and at face value DJing may seem like the perfect profession for solitary entertainers. For a “people person” like me though, the idea of working for 5 or more hours with no one to bounce things off of isn’t so fun, so it becomes even more important to view guests and fellow vendors as my “co-workers”.
And when I do, my “village” can grow from population: 1, to a thriving metropolis.