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Editorial: Episode I: DJ: Real Job Or Hobby?


A lot of debate on a growing topic and what lots consider a career for their love of making music enjoyable for their listeners. There’s the question that begs to be answered: Is being a DJ an actual job or just a hobby?

Many people on both sides of the argument have one thing in common and that’s the rapid growth in DJs in the past few years. But more specifically the significant growth is seen in California and Las Vegas areas. The scene has it fair share of showing the listeners and DJ themselves that they can create any kind of music that can capture the emotions of anyone willing to give the created track a listen.

Now lets go back just a bit to learn about the

n 1935, American commentator Walter Winchell coined the term “disc jockey” (the combination of “disc”, referring to the disc records, and “jockey”, which is an operator of a machine) as a description of radio announcer Martin Block, the first announcer to become a star. While his audience was awaiting developments in the Lindbergh kidnapping, Block played records and created the illusion that he was broadcasting from a ballroom, with the nation’s top dance bands performing live. The show, which he called Make Believe Ballroom, was an instant hit. The term “disc jockey” appeared in print in Variety in 1941.

In 1943, Jimmy Savile launched the world’s first DJ dance party by playing jazz records in the upstairs function room of the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherd’s in Otley, England. In 1947, he became the first DJ to use twin turntables for continuous play. In 1947, the Whiskey à Go-Go nightclub opened in Paris, France, considered to be the world’s first discothèque, or disco (deriving its name from the French word, meaning a nightclub where the featured entertainment is recorded music rather than an on-stage band). Discos began appearing across Europe and the United States. From the late 1940s to early 1950s, the introduction of television eroded the popularity of radio’s early format, causing it to take on the general form it has today, with a strong focus on music, news and sports.

We can go on and on about the evolution of the DJ scene, but that would be pointless giving this article is about the path of music is either a career or just a hobby. So lets get on with party and break it down for those who don’t follow.

People love to use the term “Real Job” a lot in a sense, stating what those do as a DJ isn’t an actual job. In their defense, it’s mostly ignorance considering the fact that they only see a small piece of the puzzle. They see the party side of it which half the time even if its a bad night there’s still the aura of the DJ having an awesome time. It’s ignorance in the fact of just not knowing.

DJ Skillz | Image credit to original owner(s)

Some of these DJs actually don’t work a normal work day. It’s a process that becomes more so like a lifestyle than any much like actors who have to sit in a chair for hours to apply their makeup for a partical scene in an upcoming movie. A DJ can have a session to play at 10ish and that not including the preparations that still come prior to the event that their playing at.

Speaking of preparation, DJ Skillz broke down a very detailed idea on how the set up could be for a DJ and other factors that come in his line of work:

“…Lets talk about prep work, finding music to play, making edits…that’s at least 20+hrs a week for the club (that’s not including the 6hrs of doing my weekly radio shows). You have annoying clients & customers…I have drunken idiots constantly having me worried that they’ll spill drinks on my equipment or cause a fight where my equipment can potentially get damaged. Equipment that’s $5,000+ not including my music library which I consider priceless…”

You would think that being a DJ has its perk of being your own boss, setting aside a time to have all the leisure time you want when if you’re trying to become a DJ to be paid more and recognized for your musical prowess then, you thought wrong. Here’s another statement from DJ Skillz about that:

“You have a boss you can’t stand who tells you exactly what to do. We sometimes have bosses who give us a hard time about exactly what to play, then sometimes attempt to cheat us out of money. Not every owner/promoter I’ve dealt with I liked. It’s called, doing your JOB. You deal with them, make nice, get paid & be on your way. You have sick days…guess what. If I’m sick, I have someone cover for me & don’t get paid. Not to mention, if you start to feel sick at work, normally it’s not a big deal. Imagine constantly having 2-400+ people count on you to do your job every night regardless of how you feel. Then being sick & still doing the best you can. Going to the bathroom if you’re sick & djing?? Maybe if you’re lucky, but you have a better chance of hell freezing over that you’ll have no line or even a bathroom stall depending.”

(From left to right) Avicii, Steve Aoki, & Hardwell all have successful careers as DJs. | Image credit to original owner(s)

You may be asking yourself right now, “Oh no this is all a matter of opinion.”, “Stop complaining you wanted to be a DJ!”, or “See DJs only want to have things perfect when a real job isn’t as perfect as it seems”. Well you’re right when it comes to a matter of opinion and each one of those statements are opinions. Ask yourself these three questions:

“Does the DJ actually get money for his/her services?”, “Does a DJ have a boss to answer to like other jobs?”, and finally “Is being a DJ like every other job in the sense that hard work and doing your job is required?”. Simply to answer those questions for you, ‘Yes’. Next you must think next time when you say, “real job” when it comes to being a DJ, don’t be ignorant. It relatively simple that understanding the art of DJ’ing has a long legacy that help shaped generations from being on radio, the start of using two turntables, and now the massive amount of people that rave of the DJ scratching and mixing magic for the ears of their fans.

DJs like Skrillex, Avicii, DJ Fame, JackEL, DJ YUP, Hardwell, DJ Jesse Jess, Steve Aoki and many others have been able to make a living off of being a DJ and in the process has made this form of music a genre to never be taken lightly. We dare you to go to Skrillex concert to listen and feel the atmosphere when his music plays, especially if your ears are virgins to the style he plays. Like Skrillex the “challenge” is proposed for you to go and experience the other DJs listed above as well, but use the words conventional or normal if you want or just don’t say anything at all. A lot of DJs are blessed to be able to do something they love & get paid for it. At the end of the day, it’s still a JOB and for you to tell them it’s not “Real”, is ignorant.

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