“Paying to play is a genuine threat to dance music culture” – Mix Mag
“I’d recently completed a DJ course when a promoter contacted me through instagram asking if I’d like to play at Egg, London. The catch was he wanted the ticket money upfront, everything looked legit, he had the big clubs following him, artwork designed and recent event posts. I’d done my research, found him on FB and had his contact number. I took the plunge and brought ten tickets for £100 …… I never heard from him again.“ Jak Jax DJ
Pay-to-play lineups are put together with no real regard to skill, selection or genre. “Step right up folks! Todays grand prize is an hour set at one of London’s iconic clubs, all you need to do is sell 20 tickets….oh & also, we’ll need the cash upfront ;)”
Would you pay to play?
Think about it, is this an event you’d pay money to go to? Personally, before I pay for a ticket or attend a gig, I want to hear about the DJ and listen to any Mix’s they’ve made. I chose to stay and listen to a DJ if the mixing’s on point, the tracks are well selected and the line up has been curated with some thought, unfortunately, with a pay to play event, hardly any of this is possible.
All budding DJs with a genuine passion for tunes want a platform to express themselves – we get it – but do you want to buy into that platform over and over again without progression, room to express yourself, or scope to move forward? Essentially you’re paying to have your name on a flyer, but if everyone’s doing it then does it really hold any value?
Sustainability & Consistency are key.
Two seemingly quite boring words to use when describing attributes to succeed in such a vibrant industry, however, Pay to play DJ’s rely solely on selling tickets to friends. Honestly, how many times can you count on your mates, your family, the guys from work and bobs uncle to support you? The first one might be great, everyone’s buzzing for your first gig! However, once the hype is over, I can guarantee numbers will drop, when they do you’ll realise how fickle promoters can be and how quickly they’ll drop you!
“How can I get booked if I don’t have experience playing at big venues?” I hear you scream…unfortunately 2 or 3 sets by themselves won’t hold enough weight to get you booked, granted it’s experience, but in the long run, how much is it going to help boost your profile?
It’s Damaging to the scene.
Being involved in this sort of setup is helping towards creating a model that backs money over skill. Promoters put less thought into the line ups and curating the night: deep house DJ’s join the same lineup as techno DJs, and the people who sell the most tickets grab the best slots. More often than not these lineups are overbooked, so even if you meet the criteria you could still risk losing your spot to a bigger seller.
“I turned up to play at a small venue, I’d sold tickets and been in touch with the promoter, he called me when I was on my way to the venue and told me my sets been moved from the main room to the bar area, when I complained he asked me who I thought I was and told me to relax, it’s not like your Jamie Jones”. DJ MEI
Fear not Evermixer’s! It’s not all doom and gloom…
‘How to play without paying’
Smaller underground events have broken away from the mainstream, finding smaller spaces and charging a fiver for a ticket, inviting their friends down and creating their own vibe. This is a great example of putting a middle finger up to the dodgy promoters. The money being made can be reinvested, creating unique parties that have an identity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough slog, but incredibly fulfilling when it all comes together.
2. Build a brand and find your identity
With DJ’ing becoming more accessible, it’s important to be different, be relentless, don’t give up if you fall at the first hurdle and choose who you play for wisely. Building a presence online can be just as important, learning to market yourself and promote your brand on social media holds value; the more people you reach the more pull you’ll have on a lineup. Producing and DJ’ing go hand in hand these days, work towards creating a sound that people can identify you with.
3. Network like an expert!
The single most important thing you can do in this industry, as the saying goes, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Networking’s about finding a point of interest with someone, giving without expectation, providing value, supporting others and staying in regular contact with them.
4. Ride the airwaves
Jump on a radio show, yes you may have to pay subs, but for those 2 hours you can express yourself freely, make some contacts and leave with a mix you can cross promote.
5. Free is better than paying
Play for free, I know, slightly contradicting to what we’ve been preaching, but as long as the promoter or event are happy to book you for YOU and not how many people you can bring, then we say go for it! It’s a great way to gain experience and work within a lineup that suits, if you can bring a couple of friends along then great, but only to compliment the vibe.
Don’t get us wrong, selling a few tickets and having the opportunity to play at one London’s iconic venues is appealing, but we urge you to look past the glitz & glamour and not to get caught up as a ticket selling DJ. Pick the right events and a night that’s going to be worth its weight, otherwise you’ll be fed to wolves left wondering why your phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook…