The Evolution of Working as a Swing DJ

Tips and techniques of the trade

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#16 Post by dogpossum » Tue May 22, 2012 2:58 am

Toon Town Dave wrote:Something I've noticed is the effect of more live music in the scene in recent years. Most of my out of town gigs at special events have been band breaks/end of the night or contest prelims. It's quite different than the old days when I could settle in for a 1-2 hour or longer shift.

Even at PLEX back in March I was coordinating the DJ schedule and had to re-jig things because of a literally last minute addition of live music. Without changes I tried to have a good mix of DJs representing the 4 major prairie scenes but there was so little time for DJ'd music I had to limit the number of DJs and the time I gave them. I kind of felt bad that I couldn't really give anyone a solid shift.

I don't mind going from being core and critical to an evening to filling time between live music. Live music is by far more fun and enjoyable.
Yeah, I've noticed this too, through pretty much only at the two biggest exchanges here in Australia (MLX and MSF). Last year at MLX I needed a team of DJs perhaps a quarter the size of the biggest previous year because there were so many live bands (at late nights and evening events). It was a pretty good thing, actually (and not just because the bands were fucking GREAT), because it meant I was only using really skilled DJs.
Another thing that happened at MLX was a change in pay rates for DJs (ie more money for the same amount of work). That change + the smaller number of sets meant that the DJs (with the mad skills) did some pretty impressive band break sets, complimenting the bands perfectly and yet _still_ managing to do interesting, fun sets.

But it's hard to talk about national trends in Australian DJing because each scene (and each event) is so different. It's really not possible to compare DJing at Devil City Swing and at MLX, for example, as the events are just so different and attract such different crowds and different DJs.

Overall, we have heaps fewer events than the States, so changes tend to be slower and at the same time can be more dramatic (eg the changes between MLX in 2010 and 2012 were quite full on).

Another issue is the relative costs of bands - bands in Sydney are quite a bit more expensive than Melbourne, so we tend to pay more for band gigs. We also have heaps of live music (with great bands at fun venues), so there's a creeping tendency for dancers to spend their $$ on live music rather than DJed dancer-run gigs. Can I say:


But one of the absolute best things about Sydney atm is the increasing number of events run by bands specifically for dancing crowds (which are becoming very popular here - yay!). For example, the new Speakeasy Sundays are run by some local musicians who have good relationships with dancers (they include the Cope Street Parade boys). And the best part is that they're into hot jazz rather than neo (which has dominated 'swing gigs' for a while here). Their connections with the music scene outside the lindy hop world means they can also pull in drinking crowds, which means the dancers don't suck the $$ out of the gig.
We have restrictive liquour licensing laws here in Sydney, so we also have a few 'underground' jazz venues run out of arts spaces and people's apartments (I can think of three off-hand). This means you can go see and dance to interesting music for a reasonable price in a fun (if tiny) space. Just don't go to the toilets without some hand sanitiser.

With all this going on, a DJ nerd with a laptop and a shitty sound system in an echoey church hall has very little appeal. Understandably.

I for one welcome our new musician overlords!

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#17 Post by Platypus » Thu May 24, 2012 3:43 am

Don't forget the semi-retirement years after you burn out from a gazillion hours of volunteer organizing. You still love the dance and the music, still DJ semi-regularly, but it is more of a laid back hang out sort of thing.