An Open Letter To DJs Cluttering My Feed With Mundane Mixes

An Open Letter To DJs Cluttering My Feed With Mundane Mixes

Dear DJs,

I have a confession to make.  I have no interest in listening to your mix.

I mean, don’t take that the wrong way.  I’m sure it’s plenty fine and I’m sure I’d enjoy it.  It’s just… I have so much music to listen to already, and I haven’t been shown any good reasons why listening to your mix would make me happier than listening to my Spotify playlist.  I’m so busy through the day and my time is limited… I just feel that it’s too risky to give this particular mix a whack.

Perhaps some other time…

Your Own Voice

Listen closely to Pink Floyd.

You can hear the various influences: blues, jazz, psychedelic rock…. maybe even an occasional touch of the Beatles.  But nobody sounds like them.  There is only one Pink Floyd.  Their work is instantly recognizable when you hear it.  It’s authentic.

Now, I realize that DJing is something totally different than the timeless Pink Floyd.  And while there is no recipe for creating timeless art, authenticity is definitely a key ingredient across the board… whether we’re talking Pink Floyd, Mozart, or Van Gogh.

“Wait a minute, are you comparing a DJ mix to fine art?  Like a Mozart Symphony or a classic piece of literature?  C’mon dude, that’s not even fair.  I just want to mix some techno, get these beats off of my chest, express myself, and share it with people online.  Who said anything about art?”

Alright, alright, calm down.  I get it.  I’m not trying to be pretentious and I’m not sitting on my high horse.

But here’s the thing.  Know why no one cares about your mixes?  Because you don’t care about your mixes.

I mean, maybe you enjoy mixing… but what about the end product?  The mix.  The actual recording.

You see, people are inundated with music these days.  Music is everywhere; just try and think of when the last day was that you didn’t hear any music at all (I bet you can’t).  It’s part of our lives as humans, and has been for centuries.  And now, it’s thrown directly in our faces any time we look at a computer screen, tap our phones, browse on our tablets or walk through the mall.  Why should people pay attention to yours?  After all, you’re likely just mixing together songs that other people made.  They can turn the radio on for that.

In order to get people to pay attention, you need to do something worth paying attention to.  Just because you are able to put together a competent mix doesn’t mean that people have any reason to pay attention to it.

What you need is to develop your own voice.

“How do I do that,” you ask?  Well, that’s not up for me to decide.  That part is up to you.  That authenticity is what will separate it, and make it an art instead of a past-time.

The key isn’t to do things that are different simply because they are different.  It’s about doing things so that they reflect you… your personality, your demeanor, your message.   This helps build a personality around your artist persona… which helps people connect with you on a visceral level.

Pink Floyd - The Dark Side Of The Moon iPad Wallpaper HD

The Curse of Complacency

When you first started thinking about becoming a DJ, I’m willing to bet that your goal wasn’t to record the occasional halfway thought-out mix and to post it online for your mom and three closest friends to listen to and comment “nice mix!”.

But somewhere along the line, you stopped advancing.  You said, “Well, I know how to DJ now,” and figured that you were set.  Now it’s all about networking and connections!

Look, networking and making yourself seen is definitely important these days.  So is marketing yourself.  But, are you actually putting in the work which makes you worthy of being paid attention to?

Or did you just grab ten tracks that you like and mix them together?

“Good enough” is just that: good enough.  But in this social media era, “good enough” is not good enough.  It means you’re creating things that are forgettable.

Wanna be remembered?  Create awesome art.

The Extra Effort

If you want your mixes to be heard, you need to realize that the trip isn’t over when you click “Upload”.  It’s just beginning.

Our lives move a million miles a minute these days, so people notice when you take the time to give a lot of attention to detail.  At least, the kind of people you want to notice will.

So many DJs bang out a generic mix, upload it to SoundCloud with a title like “mix3″, and post it to their Facebook timeline with a generic thumbnail and a rather terse “Check out my mix!”

Why not put together a whole package?  Create high quality album art (or hire it out… you could easily pay 5 bones for someone on fiverr.com to create some nice artwork for you), write an enticing description, give us a detailed track list…. maybe tell us a story.  Why did you create this mix?  What problem are you trying to solve for me, that I can’t get from the radio?

Why not find cool ways to “promote” your mix, instead of just plopping the link around all willy-nilly?  How can you think outside of the box on this one?  What about a specialized mix series or podcast?  Something to give you focus, and to build a theme around?

The fact of the matter is that, generally, people only pay attention to you when you’ve gone the extra mile for a long time.  And even then, only sometimes.  In this digital era, we are not just DJs.  We are media and marketing companies.

And we need to go the extra mile to make something that is immediately attention-grabbing, as most of our users will be scrolling or swiping past your mix faster than you can even comprehend it.  You think people are going to look at your mix?  Hell, they aren’t even looking at the road anymore.

Make it look like you care before you expect others to.

Timeless vs. Anonymous

Want to know what really separates you from the likes of big name DJs and producers?

If you said “God given talent”, you’re wrong.  It’s having the courage, perseverance, and tenacity to stare into the face of rejection and insecurity year after year until you’ve built something… a personal “brand”… that you can be proud of.  And then, not stopping there, but standing back up to do the hard work of honing your craft to mastery.

Look, I’m not saying that every mix you post online from here on out had better change the world or you might as well quit.  We all need the basic nightclub demo or “decompression mix”, right?

But, overall, choose the hard work/high reward road.  The world needs you.  If you shoot for awesomeness every time, you may not achieve it… but the overall quality of your body of work will increase.  And you owe that much to someone if you’re going to convince them to give you an hour of their time.

Your Friend,

David

P.S. – If you’d like an example of what I think a “timeless mix” sounds like, here’s the best example that comes to me off the top of my head.  I’d love to know your best example in the comments below.

16 Comments

  1. Thiago
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 12:19:25

    Excelent! I don’t know others but this article came in the exact time I was reflecting about this. Thanks to share your thoughts.

    Reply

    • David Michael
      Feb 13, 2014 @ 12:44:03

      I love it when a plan comes together. ;) Thanks for the feedback Thiago!

      Reply

  2. Greg
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 12:30:48

    Sander Kleinenberg Essential Mix
    Sander Kleinenberg S4OS Series
    Josh Wink Profound Sounds Vol. 1
    Carl Cox Ultimate Bass
    Deep Dish Yoshiesque
    John Digweed (pick one)

    and i’ll stop there, too many to name

    Reply

    • David Michael
      Feb 13, 2014 @ 12:42:56

      Niiiice.

      I’m gonna have to add:
      James Holden – Balance 005

      Reply

  3. Rob Mick
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 14:44:21

    Exactly! This goes for music in general, so many bands throwing mediocre crap at us like we owe them our attention. Do you read the Lefsetz Letter? It’s a news letter similar to yours but about the music industry in general. He brings up this topic often. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

    • David Michael
      Feb 17, 2014 @ 12:57:29

      I do not, but sounds like I’ll need to check it out! Thanks for your comment Rob.

      Reply

  4. Jeremy MacDonald aka Dj jMaac
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 15:19:12

    Really great article as always David, it really hit home with me and makes me think of myself and how I can apply this. Thanks as always for the advice and insight! Well done!

    Reply

  5. Nick James
    Feb 13, 2014 @ 16:40:03

    Hey David,

    Not sure how I wound up here but I just discovered your site and read or scanned most of the articles.Great content all around and very level headed.

    Keep up the good work!

    Nick James (omers)

    Reply

    • David Michael
      Feb 17, 2014 @ 12:55:50

      Hi Nick… so glad to have you around and I hope you decide to stay. Lots more great articles and podcasts coming your way!

      Reply

  6. Kevin Kennedy
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 00:58:02

    Now I have to talk about this! One of the biggest changes that has happened from the previous generation of DJs to our current is what you hit upon in this article-INDIVIDUALITY. In the thriving scene that I grew up in, I was typically performing with World-Class, World-travelling DJs who were sometimes also legendary in their own right. As a young DJ, the best advice I was ever given was not to simply be on stage-but make them remember your name after your done. It wasn’t enough to match two nice records together. AND IT STILL ISN’T. Competency is the easy part-and now it’s a lot easier to be a competent tune-slinger. It seems now that most guys and gals are comfortable being ‘in the conversation.’ This world is competitive (and anyone who has tried to get a gig knows this first hand)-It’s not always the guy with the best marketing that gets the bookings-sometimes it’s the guy who can make people want to see them, over and over…because they don’t know what to expect. And it’s not always the guy who spends the most $$$ on records either. It’s the person who figures out the HOW to put it down for the crowd’s enjoyment. If you follow charts and then buy the popular charted records-STOP. Figure out what YOU like first, rather than what your favorite DJ does. START GETTING PEOPLE TO FOLLOW WHAT YOU DO by finding gems. We used to call it crate-digging! The older ones of us know that-If you are listening to what David is telling you in his post, you’ll get it. Great post sir. Keep rockin.

    Reply

  7. Irvin Cee
    Feb 14, 2014 @ 02:17:03

    I have to agree with you and my love for music says yes with whole my heart and soul, but in an ideal world!
    The truth is that “the real world” out there plays by a set of rules. Those rules are constantly evolving for the good and for the bad and are made up by the whole world of music business.
    And some of these rules are practicaly obliged to follow and or respect.
    One of those rules since modern internet times is “Quantity”.
    Because so many use that “marketrule” everyone elses gets pushed away in solitude.
    So there is no other choice than to obey to that rule and do it yourself too.
    It’s a plain simple working principle of a market since.
    You are absolutely right, but you are spoofing only your self

    Reply

    • David Michael
      Feb 17, 2014 @ 12:52:37

      Hi Irvin, thanks for your comment.

      You do bring up a good point, which is that quality is not the only thing that is important. Quantity *is* important as well. As I like to put it, “it’s not good enough to do something great in order to be noticed… it’s about doing great things so often that it’s hard to be missed.”

      What do you mean by me “spoofing only my self”, though? Not sure I understand.

      Reply

  8. jason
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 20:27:48

    This hits home. I’ve always wished the general crowd thinks this way. That’s why my personal mixes can be so different to the ones I play in the club I am a resident in. As much as I would want to create a story or flow in my sets when you’re a resident club dj you just can’t achieve that everytime. There would just be those people who would not tire requesting the same EDM or top 40 anthems. This is a great article! Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply

  9. Sandeep
    Jul 08, 2014 @ 01:49:53

    Good read.
    Well my first objective was always to sort out the best and rare tracks.
    Then pick up a few and create a workflow based on key and energy.

    Mix and ready to share the vibes. (Cover art and track list) usually go in sync for me.

    I want to know is there something which could be done to improve the current scenario.

    Reply

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