DJing at swing exchanges

Tips and techniques of the trade

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yedancer
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#16 Post by yedancer » Fri Apr 18, 2003 3:54 pm

Ron wrote:I wish she'd reconsider. A dj has to bring all their CDs, doesn't get to dance as much, has to show up at particular times, take abuse on forums, etc. Waiving the event fee seems like a reasonable exchange. Sure, I enjoy djing, but there are definite downsides, too, and $$ helps make up for the downsides.
I definitely agree that getting paid is nice. However, the way I seem to remember Melissa doing it is having tons of DJs, each with a 1-hour set. I don't think that merits free entrance to the whole event. Then she'd have to let 20-25 people in for free. That's a significant ammount of money out of her pocket. I mean, all you have to do is burn a few CD's if you're only going to DJ one set. You don't need to bring your whole collection. Now, if a DJ is going to be working every night, or for multiple sets, that's another story.
-Jeremy

It's easy to sit there and say you'd like to have more money. And I guess that's what I like about it. It's easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money.

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Lawrence
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#17 Post by Lawrence » Fri Apr 18, 2003 4:46 pm

As for hour-long slots, I don't think anyone prefers them, but deals with them. However, the benefit is that I get to dance more if I'm not DJing all weekend. I also get to hear what other people are playing and get new ideas.

As an Exchange organizer, I reduce the number of DJs so as to increase the time each DJ gets, even if that means leaving out some good DJs who come to the Exchange. (But you'll get your slot, this year, Ron. :) ) Also, I have evolved from insisting on using all "National" DJs to using more local DJs: the idea being that you go to a town to get a flavor of what that town has to offer--including DJs--not what every OTHER town has to offer. Otherwise, Exchanges get to be too "pop 40ish" and redundant. (We also have good enough DJs to pull it off, here.)

The "everyone gets and hour" runs the risk of redundant sets without much "biorhythm" (moving from one genre to another within a set, adjusting tempo and energy, etc.) DJs are also too oriented toward not screwing up, so they overplay popular stuff instead of bring out a good, diverse set. It also decreases the chance that the DJ will pay attention to the crowd or even be able to get a good sense of the crowd.

As a result of the limitations of hour-long sets, I've run into people who have a really narrow view of what I like to play. But if I played a truly diverse set, it would be quite a challenge to get all genres into one hour with any sense of flow or with any regard to what people want.
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Greg Avakian
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#18 Post by Greg Avakian » Fri Apr 18, 2003 4:48 pm

Ron wrote:I was remembering our conversation on getting paid in Austin, Greg, when I started this thread. I remember you talking about an exchange that you wouldn't go to because they didn't offer to pay... But I understand what you mean when you say if you really wanted to go, you'd go anyway.

Do you find a lot of events pay you to come and DJ?
Yes; I don't know whether I am getting offered a lot or a little, so here's what I can tell everyone:

Almost all offer at least partial airfare, most offer full airfare, some offer cash too and all offered free admission as a bare minimum except for two. I remember that SLBX was one of them. No one was rude to me about it, so I hope I wasn't rude either (copping an attitude).

Some are workshop weekends, some are exchanges, some are competition weekends, so it varies. I think it mostly depends on the promotor(s). Some exchanges have been more generous than competition weekends.
Bill Cameron (who I highly respect and who treats me just fine) has joked that there are so many DJs that want to spin at his events that they should be paying him...
===============================================

I want to add that to me it's very much a question of how busy I am too.

Ron, I think we were talking about Denver, so I have to consider that my schedule would have been 6 weekends of:
Denver exchange
GSWLF in Houston
Boston Tea party (10+ hours driving RT)
PLLX (plus two other local events that were 2.5 hours away)
Gene Harris Jazz fest (which was a week-long trip)
Teaching for 3 different groups and DJing a dance in Philly.
-While teaching 3 nights a week inbetween.

This weekend is Easter and Next weekend is NADC.

As much as I loved Denver last year -and as much as I would recomend their exchange as one of my favs- I didn't mind staying home this year. As it was, I taught at a fund-raiser for a friend of mine and taught at a local dance that weekend anyway.

ZZZ...

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#19 Post by Greg Avakian » Fri Apr 18, 2003 4:54 pm

Yeah, I hate one hour sets. I'm not carrying my CDs around the country to play for an hour...I'd much rather go, drink and dance.

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#20 Post by JesseMiner » Fri Apr 18, 2003 5:52 pm

Ron wrote:Do you like it when the exchange organizer takes all comers, and each dj gets a single 1hr slot, or do you like a more exclusive exchange, with only 3 or 4 well-known djs, and maybe 3-4 local djs?
As a DJ: I enjoy DJing longer sets. I can get into a better groove, having more time to feel the energy in the room, build off of it and take it in different directions. I prefer sets that are over an hour and preferably several at different times throughout the weekend. I enjoy being a diverse DJ, playing both main evening and late-night sets, showcasing the different music I have to share with the dancers. The only times I get frustrated (which is probably an overstatement) is when an organizer hasn't really thought through the DJ schedule, and it ends up being incredibly unorganized.

As a dancer/organizer: I've seen both ways work extremely well and fail miserably. The most important thing is how the organizer selects and schedules the DJs, not the number of DJs. Success creates a wonderful flow to the music throughout the weekend, while missing the mark can result in the music sounding disjointed and even inappropriate at times. Dancers first and foremost just want the music to be great inspiring them to dance all night long, and this can be accomplished using either 5 or 25 DJs. When organizing an event, you want to make it the best it possibly can be. Some exchanges want to heavily feature local talent, some want to bring in their favorite visiting DJs to play for them locally, and some want to give equal opportunity to each and every DJ that wants to be a part of the event. All of these are valid ways to go about organizing the music for an event, and each involves handling things differently.

One thing to keep in mind - if you hype up specific DJs that people really like, make sure they get ample time to DJ. The dancers might be really looking forward to specific DJs' sets, and they might be frustrated or disappointed if the DJs they really like only get very few or very short sets.
Ron wrote:How about payment? I know some djs won't go unless they get paid transportation costs and get free entrance to all events. I think you should get free entrance to all events, but I know the organizer of our upcoming San Diego exchange isn't even offering that. Does that affect whether you go to an exchange or not?
An important distinction needs to be made between getting paid and getting expenses covered. Getting my expenses covered means I am not paying to come work at an event. That can mean free admission to the event when I am doing something locally and getting all travel expenses covered when going out of town. Getting paid means that on top of my expenses being covered, I am making money.

It's quite reasonable for anyone to ask for their expenses to be covered if they are being asked to be the entertainment for an event. Of course what exactly you are asking for can depend on how much you are being asked to do. If you're going to be one of 25 DJs and only doing a single hour of DJing total, then maybe admission to that single dance is ample. If you're going to be DJing a bit more and being one of only a few DJs invited, then maybe free admission to all the dances would be nice (throwing in a t-shirt for the event is always a much-appreciated touch). If you're hired as a well-known DJ who is going to be doing a lot of work during the weekend and probably used for promotion to get people to come out for the event, then asking for all of your travel expenses makes total sense. If the amount seems unreasonable to the organizer, then either the organizer doesn't think the amout of work warrants those demands or hasn't thought through a realistic budget or the DJ is simply asking for too much and will thus not get the gig. Of course at that point, the DJ needs to decide how badly they want to attend the event, and the organizer needs to decide how bably they want the DJ, and hopefully some happy medium can be found.

Jesse

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#21 Post by JesseMiner » Fri Apr 18, 2003 5:53 pm

smunky wrote:we had a number of dj's cop attitudes when we invited them to stlbx last year...wanting their flights paid for, lodging, etc. [snip] the attitude of the "pay me, fly me, or i won't come" made me lose a lot of respect for a couple of people
If your problem is with the DJs copping unnecessary attitudes, then that's another issue. Everyone should be able to lay out their requirements in a courteous and respectful manner. You can then decide if those demands fit into your budget and if it's worth it to have that DJ there for your event. If not, then deal with it, and find solutions that do fit into your budget.

Jesse

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yedancer
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#22 Post by yedancer » Fri Apr 18, 2003 6:05 pm

Lawrence wrote:DJs are also too oriented toward not screwing up, so they overplay popular stuff instead of bring out a good, diverse set. It also decreases the chance that the DJ will pay attention to the crowd or even be able to get a good sense of the crowd.
That sucks. I try to take the opposite view when I DJ. If I'm DJing out of town (the few times I have), I try to play my best and most diverse stuff.
-Jeremy

It's easy to sit there and say you'd like to have more money. And I guess that's what I like about it. It's easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money.

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main_stem
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#23 Post by main_stem » Sun Apr 20, 2003 8:07 pm

Ron wrote:
main_stem wrote:I would say if you specifically invite a DJ and then use their name for promotion then the DJ should be compensated.
Kevin, do you mean get paid, or just get the exchange fee/fees waived?
You should finish reading the rest of the post. :wink:
"We called it music."
— Eddie Condon

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#24 Post by Ron » Mon Apr 21, 2003 9:55 am

Obviously your point wasn't clear, or I wouldn't be asking. If you don't feel like replying with clarity, that's fine.

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#25 Post by Roy » Tue Apr 22, 2003 10:47 am

For me DJing at a national event is a honor. I don't expect any compensation if it is within a 6 hour drive of Chicago or I plan on going to the event anyway. If it is an event that I am not planning on going to and I have to fly then there would have to be some compensation involved to incite me to come.

I have DJ'ed events with no compensation at all, I have DJ'ed events where that night's door was comped, I have DJ'ed events for entire weekend comping, I have dj'd events for free drinks, I have only been actually paid for local events. It's all good I DJ because I love it. The amount of money I dish out on CD's could never be recovered from compensation at events.

For the big name DJ's I think you should be paid. You coming to an event persuades others to come to an event.

On a side note I would never come to an event as a dancer unless I was familiar with some of the DJ's. I like diversity and i hate it when most DJ's at an event have carbon copies play lists. The DJ list is one of the most important factors for me in deciding what events to go to. A good example is the Detriot exchange it is within driving distance for me but I'm not going because they will not advertise or say who there dj's are.

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#26 Post by Lawrence » Tue Apr 22, 2003 2:51 pm

Roy wrote:On a side note I would never come to an event as a dancer unless I was familiar with some of the DJ's. I like diversity and i hate it when most DJ's at an event have carbon copies play lists. The DJ list is one of the most important factors for me in deciding what events to go to. A good example is the Detriot exchange it is within driving distance for me but I'm not going because they will not advertise or say who there dj's are.
I understand your point, and I certainly agree to an extent, but you seem to take it WAY too far. Not only does your focus on the DJ list (as you perceive them) ignore the fact that DJs can develop from bad to good or can have off nights the last and only time you heard them, but it also narrows your scope and influence to the same, "pop-40" DJs.

I can't count the number of times a "superstar" DJ has let me down or that a bad-rep or no-rep DJ suddenly evolved into something REALLY special to single-handedly save an event or weekend. Or that I've enjoyed someone who is a hidden gem but who doesn't make his livelihood out of promoting himself: Jeff Miller in Dallas, for example, who has become one of the most reliable, best DJs I have ever heard, but who doesn't obessessively travel anymore or promote himself extensively.

The DJ list is relevant, but the only reason to refuse to go because they don't publish the DJ list is if that decision reflects their opposite-extreme attitude that DJs are fungible and that it doesn't matter AT ALL who DJs. That is a problem, too, and why I do agree with you to an extent.
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#27 Post by mark0tz » Tue Apr 22, 2003 3:15 pm

Lawrence wrote:The DJ list is relevant, but the only reason to refuse to go because they don't publish the DJ list is if that decision reflects their opposite-extreme attitude that DJs are fungible and that it doesn't matter AT ALL who DJs.
Or it could just mean that it's a volunteer situation and the person in charge of such things (be it the DJ side or the web site) are strapped for time. This was the case for DCLX, and I think the event went off very positively. Thanks again to the DJs on this board who spun for us -- Rayned Wiles, The Kalman, Mike Faltesek, Andy Reid, Nick Williams, Paul Roth, Matt Smiley, Ariston DeLeon, yours truly.
Mike Marcotte

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#28 Post by Roy » Wed Apr 23, 2003 7:26 am

That is the very reason why the DJ list is important to me, to make sure that there are not too many pop-40's swing dj's. I have been to a few events in which there were far too many of these. Everyone has different reasons why they choose to go to places, the DJ's list is what is important to me. I'm sure not for others, but for me it is. It's not the only consideration but it is a major factor.

Recently the DJ's have made the difference if I like the exchange or not. Most exchanges have good if not great bands, there are always cool people either I know or I meet. But within the last year I have been to one exchange where I was disapointed specificly with the DJ's and I did not have a good time in fact I couldn't wait to get home. On the opposite extreme I thought all the DJ's at CLX rocked the house and I had much more fun at that exchange then at others.

And like most people I have a preference in music so some DJ's I think are very talented by play a lot of stuff in a realm of music that I don't like to dance to so much. It's nothing about them as a dJ it's my personal preference.

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#29 Post by main_stem » Wed Apr 23, 2003 8:20 am

yedancer wrote: ...Melissa doing it is having tons of DJs, each with a 1-hour set. I don't think that merits free entrance to the whole event. Then she'd have to let 20-25 people in for free.
Obviously she should then account for the DJs in the budget as a cost. That way it doesn't look like a loss or shelling out extra.
"We called it music."
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#30 Post by yedancer » Wed Apr 23, 2003 4:13 pm

main_stem wrote:
yedancer wrote: ...Melissa doing it is having tons of DJs, each with a 1-hour set. I don't think that merits free entrance to the whole event. Then she'd have to let 20-25 people in for free.
Obviously she should then account for the DJs in the budget as a cost. That way it doesn't look like a loss or shelling out extra.
Or, do what she currently does, and extend an open invitation for any DJs attending the event to have a slot in the schedule.
-Jeremy

It's easy to sit there and say you'd like to have more money. And I guess that's what I like about it. It's easy. Just sitting there, rocking back and forth, wanting that money.

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