Drama Sells – And You’re Buying! Controversy as a Marketing Tool?

Today’s post is another guest entry by our friend Kevin Kennedy (also known as FBK).  And just like his earlier posts about ditching excuses, and his exploration of what passion is, it’s a no-nonsense piece of honest truth that any DJ should read.

It’s no secret that controversy sells, and it seems that many well-known DJs are using this as a marketing tool to use to their advantage.  Does it work?  Sometimes, it does.  Controversy sells.

But, is it worth it?  And, more importantly, is it worth it to you?  Many tactics and approaches used at the top tier are scalable to smaller, local markets.  Let’s see what Kevin has to say.

The “Scene” of the Accident

In the recent months, many high-profile (and some not-so-high profile) DJs and performers have found social media quite hard to deal with, it seems.  While many of them have made news for ‘buying likes’ on Facebook, having public temper tantrums at gigs or just been chided for ranting in social media about their ‘fans’ or people asking them for things that they aren’t willing to provide – it seems now, more than ever, these type of posts generate the most traffic for an established artist:  The ‘Car Crash’ post.

Think about this: how many people stop or slow down to look at the scene of a car accident?  Thoughts of “how bad is it,” “is someone hurt?” tend to come to mind when we visually inspect the scene of an accident.  And think: if that same car was doing the speed limit in front of you, would you even notice?

The same premise is, I believe, at work in many of the ‘controversial’ posts made by DJs like Sneak, Dubfire, David Guetta and what have you.  I am not here to weigh in on whether they are right or wrong for doing it – just looking at the situation in a different light.

Controversy Sells

When you are a performer on the level of the aforementioned (who I hate to mention in this simply because it IS press for the artist), your career is set (for the most part).  People know who you are, pay their money to see you, spend money on your merchandise, and support you like they would their favorite sports team.  There isn’t much room for ‘improvement’ if you are already one of the top 5% of the working DJ class… but….

Many high-profile artists feel as trapped by fame – and the downsides of being a famous person can sometimes be that people want to interact with you.

So, why make a post trashing those who are your biggest fans/supporters?  The people who essentially put money in your pocket?


An example from the sports world is Floyd “Money” Mayweather, a famous prizefighter/boxer from the US.  He is undefeated, very rich, has shown the ability to beat everyone he’s faced… yet, many people hate to watch him fight (his style in the ring is the very essence of boxing: hit, don’t get hit… and it can be a bit ‘safe’ to some).   Most people who simply don’t like the way he acts in the ring (or out) don’t really put much stock into him.  However, when he is in a match, people line up to see him and watch on TV.  Why?  Many of the people who watch want to see him get beat.

As a DJ, being on top can isolate an individual for the struggles that they may have once endured… and possibly, it can be annoying to see one use a strategy of banging down a virtual door (in social media) that the DJ/Artist may have used in their younger years.  Here comes the car crash….

As the high-level pro with the next 6 months of bookings scheduled, your flight plans and visas all taken care of, etc… you may really wonder “is anyone paying attention to what I’m doing???”

Tell your fans “I love you”… that gets your fans (and only your fans) to respond in kind.

Say “I hate all of you!!!!”  Make some remark at someone else’s expense?  Hope someone re-blogs it, shares it… comments on you.  Now you have people talking!

Is It Worth It?

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “Haters make us famous.”  Here is the master-stroke.

Because the artist has made a point of being negative, creating drama, belittling someone else, etc.– Now more people are attracted to the ‘scene of the accident.’  How many page views do you think talking bad about another DJ is going to get someone at the top?  Probably quite a few.. .HOW MANY WILL IT GET YOU PERSONALLY?

Maybe a few, but you have to ask: is it worth it to me???

Say (for instance) there is a DJ in your area that everyone likes and thinks is super cool, yet you find them boring.  Is it a good idea (if you’re playing shows in the same vicinity) to talk negative about them?  Will it get more people to listen to you, watch you play or come to see you since you’ve stated publicly: “DJ (so-and-so) is a wanker?”

Simply put?  NO.  What may happen is that you may be giving your competition extra advertisement, and putting yourself into the category as another jealous also-ran.

So, what is it that I’m saying to you, Passionate DJ reader?  If I may quote Larry Flynt:  “…all press is good press.”    If someone should slag you publicly, maybe you can use it to your advantage.  Hey… post a mix now that someone new is looking at your pages!  If you decide to have public beef with another individual on social media, expect that you putting someone else’s name in your mouth is nothing short of a ringing endorsement of your enemy/nemesis.  Saying nothing about your foe is typically an easy way to win-especially if your foe is talking about you!

Car Crashes are fun to watch… Drama is too.  But it only helps make you more visible (and vulnerable) at a certain level.  If ‘everyone’ knows who you are, fire away.  If you’re just getting a name, don’t tarnish it by trashing someone else… it will backfire on you.

Kevin Kennedy produces techno under the alias FBK.  You can visit him on SoundCloud here.