I was in bed nearly dozing off and a thought came to me after I had seen two DJ pals write pretty much the same thing on the same day on Stalkbook (albeit on Blue Monday, the day in which the most amount of people look for new jobs – and also chuck their partners) and yes, they both typed “I need a new job”. Both were serious about looking for something else, probably to subsidise the DJ income, but it made me think: What does a DJ do when they hang up their headphones? How many DJs can really do it till you are in your 60s and do you really want to be doing it then?
Firstly, we’ll look at a few high profile DJs who have looked to shift away from life in sweaty clubs. Danny Rampling ‘retired’ and then went on to try and open a restaurant that was unfortunately plagued with issues, which eventually never opened. He then wrote an book entitled ‘Everything you need to know about DJ’ing’ (I’ve not read it yet, but I’d like to) and eventually he began DJing again. Then you’ve got Judge Jules, who has gone to pursue a career in law (whilst still DJing on the side). He got his ‘Judge’ name as he had studied law before his DJ career took off and he has refreshed his law qualifications and gone to work for an entertainment law firm. Danny Tenaglia wrote an emotional ‘resignation’ letter (which you can read here Tenaglia’s Resignation) and that lasted about two minutes, before he came back to do his thing. I’m pretty sure the two Dannys wanted to ‘escape’ but something pulled them back. Money? Ego?
Some of you may know I work in the City by day. I have done since college. It seemed to make sense to have a sensible job and then have the DJ hobby on the side. Things grew steadily for me, to the point I was offered to work full time for Kinky Malinki. Same dough as I was on in the City, doing something I loved, I had to take this opportunity with both hands. I would’ve regretted it in the future if I had not. I’m glad I took the gamble, but it wasn’t all plain sailing and eventually with the closure of Turnmills (being our main source of income at the time) it meant I couldn’t be kept on full time any more. So I dug my suits out from the loft and went creeping back to the rat race.
There are plenty of us leading the double life in the square mile but that’s more a case of juggling a decent day job and a healthy (or should be unhealthy) hobby. What does someone like Jazzy M do next? An original Ministry of Sound resident. He’s recently decided to knock it all on the head. What does he think about doing now? There’s obviously a myriad of musical avenues you could pursue, but would being a DJ simply be enough to manoeuvre yourself, say into working for a DJ agency? You’d have contacts and your name could open doors. But do you have the full skillset to hold down that job? I even saw the legendary Todd Edwards recently stating on Twitter, that he had taken a job in customer services for a phone company to supplement his music career as he “never received royalties or profited from sales of my music”
Since I never received royalties or profited from sales of my music, I needed a job, so I worked customer service for a mobile phone company
— Todd Edwards (@toddedwards3000) December 9, 2013
My job was horrible – like all jobs are 😉 – & I hoped that one day I would be able to make a living again from music. That’s happened now.
— Todd Edwards (@toddedwards3000) December 9, 2013
If there’s one thing most DJs like doing, its chatting nonsense (I should know) and what better job to apply that skillset than as a salesperson. Salespeople won’t admit it normally, as they’re too busy lying to your face whilst giving you the ‘sincere look’, but they know it’s nothing more than an act. Ooh things are sounding familiar again aren’t they? Do you think it’s safe to say DJs could turn to sales of some sort when the work dries up? Definitely an option.
OK, let’s try and conjure up a scenario. Let’s say you’re a 50+ year old DJ that has been successful for 20+ years. You’ve not earned Tiesto money, but you’ve done well and you’ve been sensible. Your grown up kids have moved away and you’re not far off paying off your mortgage. I think it’s safe to say that if you were comfortable with retraining for a different career, you could take a course and focus on a new chapter in your life, because at 50ish you’ve still got plenty of gas in the tank, even if you’re glory days are behind you.
Now let’s flip the above example a bit and suggest that you’ve not been sensible and you’ve had a raging coke habit that’s left you having to sell your once valuable record collection and you’re living in a bedsit in Wood Green. What options do you have to try a new career then? It limits things and means you’ll probably keep DJing, maybe even lowering your price significantly to keep bookings steady?
To round this piece off I’ll use a football simile. Kids at school have always wanted to be footballers and now some will be telling their teacher they want to be a DJ. How many footballers make it? And out of all the footballers that were able to have a successful professional career, how many of them have gone on to continue to work in football? It’s a small amount. Out of the zillion DJs out there, which ones will be able to have a decent full time job from it? When the bookings dry up, how many will be able to continue working in the music industry? There aren’t any real definitive answers, but it’s food for thought as some of the pioneers like Knuckles and Tong are getting on a bit. There are plenty of DJs that are in their late 30s or early 40s that may need to evaluate these questions hard within the next decade. For all you young guns out there, keep doing your thing, but maybe be a little bit sensible and secure yourself a decent day job? Or you could just knob off that bit of advice and deal with it when you’re getting on a bit, like me.