What Would You Do?

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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”

 

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.

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10 Comments

  1. I’ve done various part time jobs over the years to continue with my true love … What will I do if it all ends ? Fuck knows , I’ll worry about it if and when the time comes !

  2. Well you (Grant) are more than aware of my next move. Anyone who isn’t.. take a look at the bottom of this website.

    I, for all intent and purpose, have taken myself out of the DJing game because, well because I just have. It’s a lot more complicated than a few paragraphs and right now I simply can’t be arsed to go into it.

    My experience of promoting myself and my events for the last 20 yrs has given me the tools I require to help others do the same, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

    A short but sweet answer that took me about 45 minutes and 20 different drafts.

  3. What a great blog Grant…. and certainly touched a nerve with me!
    I started playing percussion in the London underground club scene in the mid 90’s when my career as a junior commodity trader was just taking off. I was divorced, had two kids a great career ahead of me and a hobby that got me out at the weekends meeting new people, making new friends, escaping from the pressures of life and doing something I loved. But as my city career progressed and my salary & lifestyle hit a healthy 6 figure sum…… my desire to follow my heart became to great… I had been the Ministry of Sound resident percussionist, Kinky Malinki’s resident percussionist and was working alongside record labels and an ever growing list of top world class DJ’s. in 2001 I decided to walk away from my city job and pursue a career in Clubland…. it took me a year to get my business ‘Jayondrums’ up and running and for the next 11 years I have been able to provide for myself and my family and be able to travel the world doing something I love. But as the years roll on and the bite of this recent recession is at its worst and with the added growth of up and coming younger ‘cheaper’ percussionists all trying to get into the business…… I have seriously thought about returning back to the world of normality and doing what ‘i love’ at the weekends as and when demand calls for me services!!!! BUT there is something inside of me that is resisting that career path, something telling me to battle on and to not give up doing what I love! At the end of the day each and everyone of us have out own journey and for as long as we do whatever we do with good hearts and positive attitudes and do so without causing anyone else any misery or pain…. then I guess their really are no rules! I am gonna keep creating positive vibrations for as long as I can and if the right job comes along…. I will definitely consider it for sure! and anyone who employs me, will enjoy the perk of free percussion throughout the year! haha xx PEace & Love xx <3

    1. Cheers Jay. Good to read some of these personal stories, as it doesn’t tend to get ‘out there’ as such and it shows, especially in your instance, that you followed that passion and stuck with it even it tough times. Respect due.

  4. Grant as you know I have been involved in the game for some twenty plus years and the firm I work for I have been with for twenty seven years. There were times when the DJing side of things were going so well I had thought of jacking in my full time job but something deep inside stopped me. I have friends that are still in the game traveling the word and getting paid and some reaching that time were hanging up the headphones is just around the corner.
    It’s a tough one but one thing that will never change no matter what happens to us real house heads….our passion for music will always be with us.

  5. Grant, always enjoy your blogs… they are written with such pragmatism and pertinence, Your light hearted often humourous style of writing must surely open up a post City/Music career as a Music journo!

    Me, i’ll just stick to the day job and blow smoke!

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