DJ Sterling

Changing the game

2011

The Best In-Ear Monitors for DJs

Over-ear DJ-style headphones have been an industry icon for decades but their time as thede facto DJ standard might be over.  With the rise in popularity of digital DJ software and new automated mixing methods such as clip warping and sync, over-ear headphones may no longer have a good technical reason for remaining in your DJ arsenal other than their professional appearance. Aesthetics aside, in-ear monitors, or IEMs, offer better performance, several technical advantages and may potentially save your DJ career – three excellent reasons to consider using them.  In this article we will look at some of top models available to help you choose which IEMs might be a good fit for your rig.

For an important background on IEMs and why they are important please read this article on hearing loss and then check out this article on how IEMs can help.

IMPORTANT FACTORS TO CONSIDER

FIT

Since no two ears are created equally, some IEMs may be a better fit for the unique shape and size of your ears. All models come with various-sized pieces of foam that can expand to fit almost all ear canals and really serious DJs can get custom-molded inserts for around $100. Even so, the actual shape and size of each IEM’s body may fit some ears better than others. You may want to try to get your hands on as many pairs as possible to see which models are a better physical fit for you.

PERFORMANCE

Without the proper frequency range, loudness, and overall presence, an in ear monitor will not overpower an excessively-loud club environment and leave you without a good handle on the music. It’s critical that your IEMs are able to produce a solid wide range of frequencies (including bass) in order to sound natural and overcome any latencies caused by the club’s speaker placement.

STRENGTH

While touring musicians have used IEMs for years, many of the current models are basically souped-up iPod earbuds. The result is that they break easily. With the constant bending, wrapping, and transport of headphones, the fragile connections at the ends of poorly manufactured headphones will break at critical points. Some models are notorious for this and several in our roundup broke after just a few weeks of use. You need to know how sturdy the model is before you plunk down $300 or more on a new pair.

PRICE

A really nice pair of DJ headphones will set you back $100 to $200, while properly performing IEMs run in the range of $200 to $400 and up. While this may seem like a steep price for fancy ear buds, remember what you may be saving in the long run. A proper pair of IEMs will save your hearing and that will result in anywhere from three to ten years of extra DJing – and you will more than make up that price difference with just a few gigs.

TOP MODELS

Westone UM2/UM3 (top pick)

  • Driver type: armature
  • Price: $279 (dual driver UM2) or $379 (triple driver UM3)

The Westone company specializes in manufacturing IEMs for musicians. They take their work seriously and don’t have any low-end models. The higher end models made for top-touring musicians can run upwards of $2000! While you don’t need anything that substantial, their non-custom UM2 and UM3 products bring a lot of the same quality with a much lower price.

Performance: I could not tell any real difference between the two- or three-driver versions using MP3s in the club, and both were loud and clear, with a broad frequency response that revealed every detail in the mix. These are very comparable to the Shure 535 in regards to performance on the audio side.

Fit: These are my favorite pair by far because they blend right in and look very inconspicuous. As a DJ, the last thing in the world you want to do is look like you’re wearing iPod earbuds. Therefore I like the models that have very simple minimal designs that almost disappear into the ear, so it looks like you’re not wearing anything at all. The foam included with both models was the highest quality out of any of the models we tested, providing an excellent fit and significant amount of noise dampening.

Durability: After a few months of gigs and casual use, nothing has broken. The soft braided cabling is unique and appears that it will withstand breakage and cracking more than a stiffer plastic found on other models.

Conclusion: The UM2 is a great value and will be staying in my personal gig bag for a while.

Shure 535 (close runner-up)

  • Driver type: triple armature
  • Price: $299 (dual driver 425) $499 (triple driver 535)

Shure have produced a large number of earbuds over the past years and whittled down their offering to the “SE” line, which offers single, dual, and triple MicroDriver models. We highly recommend you use two drivers or more, as just one will not produce the level of bass that DJs need in a club. The dual and triple driver models perform very well and have been used regularly by many DJs I know, including regular contributor DJ Solomon, who talked about IEMs in this article. Solomon reports “After three solid years my triple driver Shures are still going strong and have never broken. I am not sure about the new detachable cable feature and if that will make them less robust, but very few models out these have lasted that long.”

Performance: No one that tested these headphones could hear any difference between the Westone UM3 and Shure 535. They both sound great and provide ample bass, mids, and highs. Switching to either of these headphones from standard club monitors will be like washing your windshield after three years. Every detail and mistake in the mix will become much more clear and easy to track through the night.

Fit: These fit well and sit into the ear better for larger ears. I have smaller ears and found the Westone’s to be a much better fit for me personally. All Shure models are equipped with a nice bendable section just above the bud that wraps above the ear and supports the cable for a nice clean look.

Durability: This model has a unique detachable cable at the earbud, which is the most common point of breakage in IEMs. Usually, when the cable goes bad at that point, your entire investment is shot, but with these headphones you just need to replace the cable. At a price of $499, though, we would hope you never have to do that.

Conclusion: The Clear 425 model is a great value, reliable and excellent for DJ use; the 535 is probably not worth the extra $200. While it’s very comparable to the UM2, I would give a slight edge to Westone because their casing fits a little better and the armature technology has more experience in serious pro audio, but it may just come down to which one is a better fit for your ears.

MODELS TO AVOID

In our quest to find the ultimate IEMs we looked at a lot of different models and unfortunately only the two above really stood out as being well-built and suitable for DJing. Here is a brief summary of the other models we looked at:

Ultimate Ears: TripleFi 10 $380

The Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10 had the strangest shape we experienced and fit into the ears in an unnatural way. The long, tapered design bulges out, attracting unwanted attention and making them hard to keep in the ear. Ultimate Ears is well known for their pro line of headphones which are reportedly quite good but very expensive at $800 and over. These never made it into the gig bag once due to their weird shape so we can’t really report on the audio quality.

Sennheiser IE 8: $350

Not only does the triangular shape look strange and fall out easily, but these disappointing monitors broke after only one week of use. Our contact at Sennheiser, Joseph Phelps, didn’t respond to repeated requests for a replacement and after four weeks finally told us, “those are going to be discontinued now anyway, you should just send them back.” They didn’t work that well in the first place, broke immediately and if the company treats us that poorly, how will they deal with customers? We recommend that you stay away from Sennheiser’s IEMs.

Future Sonics Atrio: $199

Future Sonics makes some great custom-fit IEMs, but the dynamic driver lower-end version can’t really cut the mustard. The fit was awkward and they didn’t pack enough of a punch to cut through the club environment.

Shure 115 $99

You’re going to want to stay away from Dynamic IEMs like the Shure 115. These are designed to hang down like an iPod bud and are aimed at the MP3 market, not professional musicians. The fit, appearance, and performance are not up to pro DJ standards.

THE WRAP

Good in-ear monitors are not cheap, so plan on spending $200 to $300 for a good pair that will actually work in a club. After trying various lower-end models without much success for years, I finally found two pairs, the Westone UM2 and Shure 415 that are going to keep me DJing for years without further damaging my already-shaky hearing.

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10 Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page Following

10 Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page Following

social media how toHow can you quickly encourage people to become followers of your Facebook page?

This is the most common question I get from clients.  The truth is it takes time to build a new fan base from scratch.

From the day you set up a Facebook page, it does require an ongoing commitment to brand, monitor, and network with people who find interest in your product. Besides quality service, it’s important to build close-knit relationships with visitors.

How do you get people to like your Facebook page?  Here are 10 tips…

#1: Be Prepared With Quality Wall Posts and Consistent Engagement

If you want to be liked, be likeable first.  A disorganized Facebook page can turn off customers instantly. When reviewing a Facebook page, quality content and active engagements are great first impressions.

Several other factors people look for before joining a page include the brand itself, consistent posting of fresh information, and active engagement from both fans and admin.

#2: Reward Your Loyal Supporters

You may have just started your Facebook page, but your business is well-established.Encourage your loyal customers to join your Facebook page as supporters, reward them with customizable badges/tabs (to be placed on their profiles for visibility) and special deals for consistent support.

A shout-out from a happy customer is a lot more attractive than a marketing slogan, creating irresistible appeal for that ‘Like’ button.

#3: Leverage Your Existing Social Networks

If you’ve built a strong Twitter network for your business, utilize it to promote your Facebook page. Some people prefer not to overlap similar social contacts on both accounts, but why diminish your chance to be noticed? Your followers can broadcast your message on both of their social platforms by reaching out to a greater audience about your business.

A brilliant example of this is how Mari Smith rewarded her Twitter followers while attracting people to visit her fan page:


Did I mention that a few indirect promotions on your Facebook personal profile could work wonders too?

#4: Integrate Facebook Social Plugins to Your Website

It’s essential to have a main hub correlating all your social media activities. Your company’s website is the only place that gives you full control over content and brand management.

Integrate Facebook social plugins to encourage connections such as Facebook’s Likebox, Like button, and Comment stream.

As Facebook visitors increase, your page is more likely to show up on supporters’ news feeds and those of their friends, prompting people to find out more about your business page.

#5: Remind Your Fans to Like and Share

Facebook has some easy ready-made sharing buttons with which people can promote your tabs and pages to their friends.  Place a shout-out or reminder to ‘Like’ your status updates and instruct fans to click that little ‘Share’ button right next to your message so their friends will be alerted about the update.

#6: Utilize Forum Signatures and Membership Sites

If you’re an active participant in a forum or membership site, placing a signature with your fan page link is a plus. No-one will care about your information unless you stand out from the crowd.

Be an active helper in a LinkedIn Group or a frequent poster of special tips and tricks. As long as your participation in the niche community is appreciated, there’s a higher chance for other members to check you out.

Here’s an example of my signature at Chris Garrett’s Authority Blogger Forum.

#7: Take the Initiative: Request Help From Friends

It’s difficult to start a fan page with no engagement whatsoever. Why not initiate messages to your friends and buddies who are supportive of your business? Ask them to help out in some discussions, reward them with publicity or return the favor. It’s easier to ask a friend than a stranger if you’re worried about spamming people.

Make sure the question is interesting enough to get them talking. If you use your personal account and fan page strategically, you’ll discover a huge advantage of getting new friends to be your fans while they’re getting to know you better.

#8: Use Tagging and Acknowledgments

A great networking tool, status-tagging, can even drive in new connections.  Tag an author or a popular Facebook page to draw attention, but only if you have good reason to do so.

For example, selflessly promote a niche-post and how it benefits people who like your page. Be authentic, and the page admin (hopefully the fans as well) will appreciate you for it.

#9: Participate Outside Your Page

Use the Facebook Directory and Facebook Search to locate other Facebook pages in your niche and look for public discussions based on search terms related to your business.

Provide value to the popular pages; build credibility and relationships with the admin and members.  Get to know them better before asking them to look at your page. They just may reward you publicly.

#10: Collaborate With Other Page Admins for a Social Event

You can collaborate with other page admins to create a special event that may benefit both your fans and bring in new connections. I find this to be very successful.  There should be a mutual understanding and proper planning to make it work for everyone’s professional goals.

For example, Social Media Success Summit 2010 was a successful live online conference with 24 social media experts who shared how to use social media to attract quality customers and grow your business.

There are many ways you can increase your Facebook fan base.  Remember,showcase the quality of your service and why it matters to be a part of your page community.

Cut through the noise and let your message be heard. Intelligently apply Facebook Applications to enhance your Facebook page while learning from these superstars to empower your social media presence. Quality networking starts with effort and time, but the return will be worthwhile!

What have you done to be “liked”? What rewards have you used?  What have you done to increase visitors to your Facebook fan page?  Let us know in the box below.

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Guitar Hero: What went wrong?

"Glee's" Harry Shum Jr. and Mark Salling play "Guitar Hero" at an event.
“Glee’s” Harry Shum Jr. and Mark Salling play “Guitar Hero” at an event.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It’s an ignominious exit for a title that was touted as the first great franchise of the 21st century
  • The series felt like it was running out of great rock anthems for users to emulate
  • “Guitar Hero” was created in 2005 by indie studio RedOctane

(Mashable) — The premiere plastic guitar game just flamed out. Activision, beset by falling sales, has decided to shutter the division that created “Guitar Hero” and its sequels.

It’s an ignominious exit for a title that was once touted as the first great game franchise of the 21st century. “Guitar Hero” was created in 2005 by indie studio RedOctane, in collaboration with Harmonix, which had previously found success with the “Karaoke Revolution” franchise.

“Karaoke Revolution,” where players plugged microphones into their consoles and were scored on the accuracy of their singing, was the first game to show a significant number of videogamers were interested in making “music.” RedOctane’s “Guitar Hero” proved they were equally interested in shredding a plastic guitar.

Activision purchased the franchise in 2006 for $100 million; to date it has shipped more than 25 million units for a roughly $2 billion ROI. “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” made $1 billion on its own. Harmonix went on to publish the highly successful “Rock Band” franchise, which added drums, microphones and keyboards to the plastic guitar mix.

How the mighty have fallen. The holiday season was a disastrous one for the music game genre. First Harmonix was sold by Viacom to a consortium of shareholders; the terms were undisclosed, but it was reported to be a fire sale. MTV Games, which collaborated with Harmonix on “Rock Band,” was shut down. “Guitar Heroes: Warriors of Rock,” the sixth title in the series, received lackluster reviews and even more lackluster sales.

Activision posted a $233 million net loss for the fourth quarter. Its decision to lay off the 500-person “Guitar Hero” division was, Activision said in a press release today, “due to continued declines in the music genre.”

So what stopped the music? The first culprit: oversaturation. There are just too many games competing in the genre (“Band Hero” and “DJ Hero,” anyone?), with too many pricey controllers. A “Warriors of Rock” guitar bundle will set you back $80. Considering many of the controllers do not play nice with similar games, that’s a lot of dough to drop on pretend jamming.

Secondly, there’s the novelty factor. The dynamics of the game changed little from one title to the next, despite the introduction of innovations such as a touch-sensitive slide bar on later guitar controllers. At a certain stage, users are going to be more interested in picking up a real guitar. The series also felt like it was running out of great rock anthems for users to emulate. Reviews of “Warriors of Rock” complained that the set list seemed dull and full of synth-heavy tunes.

Finally, of course, Activision isn’t going to stop actually selling “Guitar Hero” titles any time soon. If you’re interested in becoming a maestro of the pretend Gibson, you can still pick up the “Guitar Hero” back catalog and buy extra songs online. “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” may one day be seen as a classic party game, pulled out of the closet at holidays and special gatherings, the way we play Monopoly or Scrabble today. Maybe it’s time you introduced Grandma to the plastic guitar.

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Where To Build Your Fan Base Online

Recently it came time to update DJ TechTools founder Ean Golden’s artist website. Since the last update was more than three years ago and a lot has changed since then, he was wondering: Does anyone even need a website anymore? Why not just focus on Facebook/Twitter and ditch the .com altogether? Since you’re probably wondering the same thing, we scoured the net and asked industry professionals for answers.

To Ditch or Not to Ditch the URL

With Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and SoundCloud seemingly in control of music fans’ attention, and a slew of other social media services for musicians available, you don’t necessarily need to have your own web domain these days to build your fan base online. Personal websites require money and time to create and maintain — two resources DJs and musicians must always use wisely.

However, there are still very compelling arguments for maintaining a personal website these days. Constantine Roussos, a music industry entrepreneur, is trying to create a .music domain extension. His recent “16 Biggest Reasons to Have Your Own Website” list created a tremendous amount of buzz amongst industry insiders as he has relentlessly toured music conferences around the globe while advocating his cause. Here is his excerpted list — it’s thick on marketing speak, but it makes a lot of sense:

1.  You own your website.
2.  You are branding your artist/band name, not a third-party website.
3.  You never know if that third-party website will exist in the future or be as relevant (for example, MP3.com shut down). All your “friends” left MySpace, and unless you captured their email through your official site, you are in trouble.
4.  You control your search engine results. It is easier to get ranked #1 for your artist/band name if you have your own dedicated domain name. You can also add search “juice” or “pagerank” to your official page by linking to your official site from social sites, as well as others linking to you.
5.  It is a long-term strategy.
6.  Visitors to your website have a much higher sales conversion ratio than third-party sites.
7.  You control all the content and brand image.
8.  You portray professionalism. Would anyone in the press take you more seriously if you had a website versus not having one? First impressions count.
9.  You can funnel and aggregate all your social media and widgets in one location, where it is convenient for your fans to find information about you.
10.  Flexibility. You can create polls, add any programming, widgets or modules of your choice without third-party restrictions.
11.  You have no fear of being deleted because you are being too “commercial.”
12.  You can own your shopping cart and keep more profit from your sales.
13.  You can add your own advertising and sponsors on your page.
14.  You can offer product bundles and competitions for your fans.
15.  You can build credibility with your fans, create a fan club area for your superfans, as well as dedicated message boards to interact with your fans.
16.  You are investing in yourself and not others. Websites are like cheap virtual real estate.

Perhaps you’re convinced by those arguments but still don’t have a lot of time or cash to put into your own website. Consider using Nimbit’s Instant Band Site as a solution. Instant Band Site is a WordPress plug-in that uses a template based format to create a music website with a minimal amount of labor. The template formats may not be visually stunning, but this service does offer many shortcuts to getting your site running.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-XB-qLZf0I[/youtube]

Just like WordPress, Nimbit has a free account or premium featured paid accounts. Instant Band Site with NimbitFree gives you a store to sell music directly from your site, an email list sign-up, a streaming music player, connections to your Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace, integration with photo libraries and other WordPress add-ons, and an artist bio, blog, and event calendar. Paid Nimbit accounts start at $12.95 a month and add a complete store for selling physical merchandise with credit card processing and order fulfillment, as well as many other features.

While owning your own website will cost you for the domain name and web hosting, there is a lot you can do with minimal expenditure.

The Online Juggling Act

While DJs short on time may wish to concentrate only on social networking tools, the consensus we found among music industry professionals, pundits and DJs themselves was to strike a balance between your own site and your social media sites.

“You should have have ‘www.yourname.com’ as your homebase online, which feeds out to and back to all of your social media sites,” says Ariel Hyatt, a music publicist and author who successfully transitioned from pitching traditional media to all digital and social media in 2006. “Anyone who lands on your website should get samples of your music and links to your MySpace, Facebook, Twitter feed, and any other key pages that you update often,” Ariel said.

The following graphic has become a classic in social media strategy and shows how your different online tools can work together.

It’s all well and good to suggest spending your waking life on social networks instead of doing what you know and love — DJing, so to save time on social media management, Ariel highly recommends utilizing Artistdata.comSocialOomph.com, and/or Ping.fm. “These will vastly cut down on your updating time,” she says.

To some, being a Facebook and Twitter chatterbox comes naturally, but others don’t know where to begin. Ariel offers a social media “Food Pyramid” strategy that ranks the types of suggested posts in inverted order. Notably, she suggests that only one out of ten Facebook and Twitter posts be hardcore self-promotion, so that you don’t annoy your peeps by over-hyping yourself. The other nine out of ten posts should be split up between simple photo links, links to articles or videos you like, and direct messages to people within your network. Read more on this strategy or get Ariel’s book.

Artistic Merit

We looked at Bassnectar as a case study for a DJ/producer who has galvanized a rabid and loyal fan base through a robust website, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Lorin, the man behind Bassnectar, is now in a place most of us are not, in that he has a crew of a few people working with him, including work on his website and social networks. However, the way he separates the duties of his website, Facebook and Twitter can inform us all.

Lia Holland works for Bassnectar Labs doing PR and assisting with the online sites. She said Lorin only interacts with fans in the comments sections of his own website so he can save time for production and touring, while his crew maintains the Facebook page entirely. “Bassnectar.net caters to a growing squadron of hardcore fans,” she says. “And Facebook is perhaps the primary means of reaching out to the entire fan base.” They run frequent contests on Facebook and post the “family” photos (a picture Lorin takes with the crowd at the end of each night).

“Our approach to Twitter is more lighthearted,” Holland continues, “with Lorin maintaining the Bassnectar account and everyone on the touring crew having their personal Twitter feeds syndicate to the iPhone app for fans to read.”

“People love Bassnectar because of the music and the live show,” Holland says. “We like to use every aspect of the Internet to digitize that tactile experience so fans want to pass it on.”

Even More To Do?

As if there weren’t enough to keep you occupied already, are you now expected to have a mobile app like Bassnectar does? Not necessarily. It can be phenomenal way to connect and stand out, but don’t rush into it unless you already have a large fan base and know there is a demand for an app. Ariel says, “start a mobile phone text messaging list first, using Mozes.com or Myxer.com to gauge how interactive your mobile community is before you launch an entire app for yourself.” If you decide it is app time, check out the Mobile Roadie service for app building. -Markkus Rovito

Additional reading:

Self-Promotion Tools for DJs

Publicity for the Working DJ

Self-Promotion for the Working DJ

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Wanted: DJ – Mixing Optional

The ad from the local paper says it all: looking for a multi-skilled DJ to bring in a crowd, and we’re not too worried about your mixing skills.  What has gone wrong in the club scene that having mix skills is no longer a priority?  In case you have been living under a rock, draw power is high on the list of promoters criteria now. Being able to bring in the crowd is considered by some to be greater than being able to keep the crowd.  How do you keep up with the Jones’ and get gigs in this type of club climate?  Read on…

To succeed as a professional DJ in the 21st century, you have to treat it as both an art form AND a business.

OFFER MORE

On the business side of DJing, the way to get paid more is really very simple. Offer More! Here are 5 simple value-added things you can do for a club/bar that will raise your pay-out.

  1. Do sound tech work – make sure the system is running smoothly and sounds great all the time
  2. Create a flyer if there is none – time to brush off Photoshop!
  3. Offer to pass out flyers – ideally with some trackable item on the flyer like a coupon code for half-off entry before 12 that shows what your efforts yielded.
  4. Build a facebook event page and promote the hell out of it
  5. Find opening DJs or off-night filler djs for low cost or free. The best way to keep your job is to manage the clubs bookings- duh!

Create Your Brand

These days, there’s always going to be another DJ who’d like to do your job for free, regardless of their capacity/skill.

Set yourself apart by creating your own unique DJ brand. It pays to stand out!

  1. Define your Brand – The music you play, the way you conduct yourself and even the way you look determine people’s impressions about you. Each time you play out is a chance to promote your own brand of music and style of DJing. Dress for the gig and play like the professional you are!
  2. Give out a Mix – All those people having a great time on the floor probably won’t remember everything you played. Giving out a mix CD is one way to keep you in the minds of your loyal audience. If you don’t want to spend $ on CDs, you could upload your mix on sites like http://soundcloud.com and just hand out flyers to people advertising it.
  3. Collect e-mails – Every gig is packed with potential fans, but its your job to convert them. Go out and pro-actively give them another chance to hear you play.
  4. Create a website/social networking page – The online world has become as much a part of the working DJ as the real world. Skip Myspace, and go straight towards building a facebook fan page if your just getting started. This will be the least expensive way to leverage social networking tools. Have a bit of a budget? Create a custom home page- but be carefull of having too many destination spots (myspace, facebook, web-page, blog, etc.). Its better to focus everyone to one place and optimize the hell out of it.

Stay Competitive By Staying Ahead

It’s easy to dream about being the next big name in DJing. What’s difficult is figuring out how to get there!

  1. Innovate – Bring something different to your gigs that the crowd will remember you for! Having a successful night every week might tempt you into resting on your laurels, but let’s not forget that with today’s fickle crowd, you need to keep stepping up each and every time.
  2. Integrate – There’s a lot of new DJ technology and techniques out there for you to incorporate into your current set. Slip a MIDI controller like the Midi Fighter in with your DVS system for some new routines, or go perfect that FX transition you saw the other night on YouTube. Never be content with the skills that you have today! There’s always room to improve and build on your strengths and work on your weaknesses.
  3. Promote – Unless you have a professional promoter working for you, you’re going to have to do this on your own. Work those social networking sites, get your web presence up and take some time out to talk to people at your gigs. Meeting people is interesting in itself, and once you do, you’ll end up with a deeper understanding of your audience. What they think of you just makes it that much more important for you and your career. Good promotion is self-promotion (Check out John Thomas’ article).
  4. Get a Manager (booking agent?) – To free up some time and create a bit more mystique, you could ask for some real from a professional manager. I’m not talking about that buddy of yours who likes the ladies (“I can ‘manage’ you AND your girl fan base!”). Your manager should be a good negotiator, play bad cop well, and be effective at creating a sense of demand for your services.

Sell Yourself as the Human DJ

We, as living, breathing DJ’s, must push to position ourselves by constantly developing relevent skill sets and taking it beyond what machines and software can do on their own. Here are a few areas where the human DJ still excels.

Phrasing and Beatmatching
It can’t be done properly by software alone, and it really goes without saying that the true Human DJ must excel in them. Train wrecks in 2010 are a no-no!
Harmonic Mixing
Do you play an entire set based on the relationship of your songs’ keys with each other, or do you break cadence and throw a wrench in the works to foster an element of surprise in your mix? The perception and interpretation of key is a uniquely human experience so make it something that you do very well.
Read The Crowd
What kind of group has gathered on the floor. How are they moving? What is the atmosphere in the air? These are all questions that a good DJ will take into account and work into his mixing decisions though the night.

This is Joey’s first article for DJTT, lets show him a little DJTT love. He works as a DJ, producer and sound engineer for a recording studio.

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Build Your Club Night and DJ Career w Guest DJs – Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at why you might want to book guest DJs to help you establish a solid underground club night in your town or city. In this part, we’ll look at how to go about it.

As we said last time, unless you have considerable resources (lucky you…), paying for a good guest DJ every week will break your bank. The way around this is to only book guest DJs every 3 or 4 events, making the other nights appealing using other promoting techniques.

This means your DJing skills and ability to hold a crowd remain paramount for your night’s success, which is important as the whole reason for all of this is in order to let you improve as a DJ, not to hand the responsibility over to your guests to make your night a success.

For the same reason, you need to be sure you still start and close your club night yourself (or yourselves). You add consistency by warming up the crowd and by playing afterwards, the latter set allowing you to spin the tunes the crowd were maybe expecting that the guest didn’t play. Giving your guest a peak-time slot in the middle of the night is the right way to do it.

WHO TO BOOK

So now we know when and where you’re going to use your guests, we need to work out who to book. Using the guidelines below, come up with at least 30 DJs: This will be your shortlist for the next few months’-worth of events.

  1. Make a list of all the DJs who would complement your night’s musical style
  2. Look through your music collection and list the DJs/producers who have made the tunes you and your crowd are loving at the moment
  3. List guest DJs who’ve played other clubs locally in the past couple of years who you liked. (Don’t assume they’ll always play at those clubs – things change)

Concentrate especially on up-and-coming DJs – often they’ll be much bigger by the time they play your venue than when you booked them.

WHO NOT TO BOOK

Avoid residents of other local clubs – it makes no sense to have people in the same position as you taking your deck time. Also, avoid producers who don’t really DJ (producers will often take your money and cobble out a DJ set – who wouldn’t? – but check they can do it well first!

Be wary of booking DJs who nobody has ever heard of but whose mix CDs you like. You can do as well as that, and again they’re taking your valuable deck time off of you, even if they say they’ll do it for next to nothing. Be business-like – book the DJs who will clearly benefit your night. Being tactical is not selling out.

THE BUSINESS OF HIRING DJS

DJs will play from a few hundred dollars up to many thousands. Let’s look at how to get them at the lower end of this scale.

Before we get going, a word about your business arrangements. Firstly, you ideally need to be keeping a percentage of the door take, if not all of it. (The venue will always keep the bar take.) You may be asked to pay a hire fee too (to cover doormen, for instance) but even so, this basic set-up allows you to profit from your carefully chosen guest DJs.

Secondly, treat guest DJs as “loss leaders”. As you’re not booking them every week, they are the ones exposing your great little club night to a wider audience – an audience who you are counting on to come back on other weeks when the guests aren’t there.

Finally, have partners. They can share the risk and the expense. Promoting is hard, sometimes thankless work. Have people to share the good and bad times with. You’ll be stronger that way.

ALL ABOUT AGENTS

Established DJs have agents. The agents are there to take bookings for the DJs; hold their diaries; liaise with promoters to collate itineraries; issue and chase invoices; and assist the DJ in his or her career development. Agents are, in short, your contact with the artists you want to book.

To find someone’s agent, check their web page online, ask other promoters, do some Googling… agents are pretty visible online. Be aware that DJs often have different agents in different territories. Agents in countries where DJs don’t often play may be little more than “diary holders”. Many DJs are represented by a handful of different agents, even in the same territories.

So, how to get the DJs you want at the right price – the big question! The following techniques worked time and again for me, and applied with diligence they’ll help you to book names you want at prices you can afford.

girldancing

Photo: U-g-g-B-o-y

1. Try approaching the DJ directly
You can be bold (email them, even call if you can find their number). More than likely, you can begin to get on their radar through Facebook or Twitter (the vanity of checking your mentions means this is likely even with pretty big names). Try emailing them through their website.Many DJs are happy to take bookings away from their agents. You don’t know until you ask, so ask.

2. If you can’t do that, find their “principal” agent
The “principal” agent (ie the one with the DJ’s ear rather than just someone listing them on a long list of acts) will be more able to negotiate on price. If the DJ is from somewhere else, don’t be scared to pick the phone up and ring their agent in their home state or country – it’s what secondary agents would do on your behalf anyway, so what’s to lose? Once you make contact and confirm you can negotiate, you’re ready to…

3. Negotiate hard
You’re probably dreading this but really, it’s the fun bit! First, know what you can afford. Start your bidding at half of that figure. Don’t ever feel stupid doing this. Get used to people telling you “no”. Always be polite, always be professional, and always remember the agents and the DJs need you as much as you need them.

Your opening line is always the same: We’re a small venue, but a well-respected and loved one, and we’ve chosen your guy because of his music. At this stage it’s very much your job to hit them with all the arguments as to why you only want to pay the amount you have suggested. Those arguments can include:

  • “We’re a great “music”-led club night, not like the commercial gigs DJ Z hates.”
  • “DJ X or Y has played our venue and loved it (make sure DJ X or DJ Y are a contemporaries of DJ Z) – surely he/she doesn’t want to miss out?”
  • “He/she is not a big DJ here yet, we’re offering them the chance to play to an influential crowd in a new place and conquer it!”
  • “We can get him radio/TV/press/web exposure.” (make sure you can)

Remember that the agent needs to get a booking for their act. If the DJ isn’t booked at all for that night, your offer is by default the best that’s on the table, and the agent knows that.

NIGHTS WHERE YOU CAN NEGOTIATE A DISCOUNT…

  • Keep an eye on DJs’ websites for cancellations – you can snap up gigs at cut-down prices this way, and one rule of live music promotion that has carried across to DJing is that you “only need three weeks to promote a gig”.
  • Offer the DJ an early or a late DJ set (by throwing an all-nighter at your venue) – this can work if they already have another set in the next town or city on the same night; in effect, you “share” the fee with the other promoter. (I’ve actually done this formally, and it also works well if you’re flying a DJ in from abroad.)
  • If you have big-name DJs who happen to live locally to you, offer them gigs on holiday nights that aren’t Friday or Saturday, which are likely to be nights when the DJ may not want to travel far but wouldn’t mind a gig (eg Christmas Eve, Easter).

You’ll always pay the agency upfront – they typically charge 10-15% on top of the agreed fee (another reason to nail that fee down!). You may pay half or even all of the DJ’s fee upfront. Sometimes you can pay the DJ on the night; this is more likely when you know the DJ or have a relationship with the agent.

Dublin airport

HANDLING THE DJ ON THE NIGHT

Make sure you check arrangements with the agent a week or so before the booking. Ensure you have any equipment the DJ needs sorted out.

You’ll be expected to pay for their drinks in the club and often a meal beforehand. If they’re not local, you’ll probably pay for a hotel room. If they flew in or had a driver, you’ll be paying for the transport too. You’ll certainly have to collect them from the airport and get them there safely again the next day.

If you’re expecting your guest DJ to want to party with you beforehand, bear in mind that they’ll probably have had a gig last night too, and may well just want to go to their room for a shower and a couple of hours’ rest before the gig. Don’t be offended if they do; but likewise, if they’ve never seen your town, they may well want a tour. Play it by ear.

When they’re DJing, keep the crowd (and yourselves) away from them and let them do their job, and if they want to party with you afterwards, great! However, normally they’ll have a busy schedule and will want to get a quick drink then back to the hotel. Sort this out for them. And if you’re paying them on the night, do it promptly.

Never forget that the DJs are the good guys
Finally, in all your one-on-one relationships with your guest DJs, always remember that they are the ones with the musical talent, and so out of everyone involved in your night, they are the people who are most likely to recognise the worth in what you are doing.

They’re the ones you really want to impress – so treat them as you’d like to be treated. You’ll reap the rewards in time.

I wish you the very best of luck in fast-tracking your DJ career through booking guest DJs.

Co-founder and resident at Manchester (England) club night ‘Tangled’ through most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Phil Morse is also a music journalist and currently edits the Digital DJ Tips blog. He has DJed across Europe, and nowadays lives in southern Spain where he plays Balearic beach sundowners on the weekends.

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How to launch a Club Night: Part 1.


In my last article, Building Your Club Night and DJ Career with Guest DJs, I showed you how to fast-track your DJing through booking guest DJs for your club night. Your feedback showed that many of you would love to start your own nights, but need a bit more help getting going. So for the next series of articles, we are going to try and give you that help by starting at the basics. These articles will use lots of examples and lessons from my own experiences, and those of other promoter/DJs who have thrown very successful parties.  In this first part, I’ll help you to answer five important questions that DJs planning their own club nights regularly ask (or should ask, at least), before they begin.

1. IS PROMOTING GOING TO BANKRUPT ME?

Money is the number one concern, but club nights are affordable ventures if you plan them – and that means doing the numbers. I don’t mean that you need technical accountancy skills – no way. I’m talking the down and dirty, simple numbers of promoting.

You may say: “How do I do that? I don’t know how many people will come, or how much the DJs will cost to book. Plus, I don’t even have a venue yet, so how can I know those costs and opportunities?”

You do it by doing online research, talking to other promoters, making a best guess, then revising as you find out more (or as it actually happens). The point is to have some kind of plan to keep working on as you go forward. It’s for you, nobody else, so it doesn’t matter what it looks like.

You just need to think out your main figures for the first year – nothing heavy – and you need to do it in two ways. So here’s what to do:

  1. Get two sheets of paper, a pencil and an eraser.
  2. On the first sheet, make predictions for what will be coming in and going out every single week, with a running total – DJ deposits and payments, door takings, sponsorships, what you need to live on, promotion costs etc.
  3. On the second sheet, make your overall yearly prediction using the same numbers – just your income, costs and expenses, all added up in the same categories

The first sheet (your “cashflow”) helps you to work out when you’ll need cash (eg for paying DJ deposits before the DJ has actually played). The second (your “profit and loss”) helps you plan your business overall and get a better idea of what work you need to put in to make sure your promotions are a success. Congratulations! That’s the accounts done, for now…

2. HOW AM I GOING TO FIND THE TIME?

Even more important than money is time – your time.

The truth is, you need to be living and breathing this. Got a non-related job? Go part time. Better still, leave. I believe that to have a good chance of success, you need to be putting nearly all your effort into your DJing and promoting.

Here’s how it happened for me: I was a journalist by day, a clubber/part-time DJ at night. My boss said: “Phil, choose your night job or your day job!” (I was late once too often). I chose night.

From then on, I DJed five nights a week in tiny bars, often to nobody, for barely enough money to live on. I helped write and edit a local listings magazine for free (but I got an ad for my club night in there). I DJed for a live music promoter, who paid me in beer and free transport to and from the gigs (but I met lots of bands and agents). All the time, I spread the word about what I was doing.

bar dj

Photo: Berto Garcia

I was so poor, I regularly just “turned up” at people’s houses at dinner time. I had no car. I ate the cheapest food I could buy from the supermarket; literally, I went in and bought the cheapest items.

This lasted three years before my business, and my DJing, started to take off. Do you know what? I loved every second of it. This is what I mean by freeing up time. I wouldn’t have been able to make a success of my DJing career without this dedication. It focuses you.

3. HOW MUCH CASH WILL I NEED TO BORROW?

Here’s a great rule of thumb from the book The Knack by Norm Brodsky. Norm is a business bootstrapping expert, and he advises that to work out how much money to beg, borrow or steal to start your company, you should do this:

Take the month with the biggest predicted shortfall from your cashflow (see Question 1), and double that shortfall. That figure is your “startup cash” – it’s a rough estimate of what you need to borrow to get going. In my experience about $2000 is typical, but you have to do the numbers for yourself.

Your job now is to find that amount from somewhere (friends and family, savings, selling your car…), open a bank account, and put it in there. From that second on, you don’t want to touch that money (your “capital”) at all if you can help it, even if it means borrowing more! Only use it if you’re pretty sure you can replace it, quickly, and with interest.

It is your safety net. It lets you sleep at night.

4. SHOULD I PROMOTE WITH OTHER PEOPLE OR GO ALONE?

My advice is to not go it alone, and I’d say have just one partner. It’s faster to agree on things that way. Promoting is really exciting – after all, it could be the making of you as a DJ. But unlike in a boring but safe job, it can be harsh. At times you’re going to need a siege mentality, or to call on strengths you don’t yet know you have, and being alone in these circumstances isn’t fun.

Photo: cquarles

However, some people choose to have a group of DJs involved. DJ Max One (who contributes here and on the DJTT forum) used to run Stepback, a popular old skool night in Manchester where I am from, and there were loads of DJs in that venture! He swears by that method, and it could work for you.

Anything’s better than alone. Having other people to share the triumphs and troubles with will keep you in it for long enough to start seeing the benefits.

5. HOW SHOULD I DEAL WITH THE TAX MAN?

The tax man knows promoting is a slippery, cash-led sector of the economy, and he’s watching. So right from the start, make sure your numbers add up. Every event advert with your name on it needs an answer to the question: “Where is the money they paid you?” Every bank transaction needs an invoice. Every taxi fare needs a receipt.

In short, your numbers need to be squeaky clean. Just get into the habit from the off. Don’t bend the truth or try and hide earnings. If you have an accountant to help, tell them everything. Get your returns in on time, and pay on time. It will save you heartache later on – trust me on this one.

I know a DJ who was stopped at the airport on his way to DJ overseas because he’d not declared his income for five years – don’t let that be you.

NEXT TIME…

Now we’ve seriously thought through the business side of promoting, it’s time to have some fun, and look at music policy. That’s the subject of the next post in this series. See you then!

Co-founder and resident at Manchester (England) club night ‘Tangled’ through most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Phil Morse is also a music journalist and currently edits the Digital DJ Tips blog. He has DJed across Europe, and nowadays lives in southern Spain where he plays Balearic beach sundowners on the weekends.

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Building Your Club Night and DJ Career with Guest DJs

In the first half of this two-part article, Phil Morse explains how booking guest DJs can cement your club night’s reputation and fast-track your DJ career

Let’s begin this crash course with a truth: Starting a club night is the best way of getting established as a DJ. You play week-in, week-out to a crowd who know you and your music. This loyalty builds your first fan base, and the skills you pick up at this stage of your career power your rise up the ranks.

Where else can you learn how to warm up, play at peak time, break new music and program a full night’s tunes? Where else can you learn how to keep a half-full dancefloor happy, as well as a rammed one? Where else can you learn about dealing with money, doormen, bar staff, managers, police, licensing, fights – hell, even the taxman? And be honest, where else are you going to get the pure hours of practice you need to become a great DJ, and fast?

We’re not talking a superclub here. Your night will be in a small venue (say 200 people). You may get 30 or 40 people some weeks, or even less. You will have to promote yourself like mad. You’ll have to find a sympathetic club owner. You’ll have to fight for a weekend slot. You’ll definitely need a partner to do it with. You may have to move to a bigger town to do it at all. You will definitely make loads of mistakes. And you’ll often wonder why the hell you’re doing it.

GUEST DJS ARE YOUR SPRINGBOARD TO SUCCESS

But here’s the thing: If you start a club night and then book good guest DJs, you will advance into the big time in a way and at a pace that’s simply not possible otherwise. Here’s why:

  • It helps to build your own and your club’s reputations: Let’s say you want to put on a dubstep night. You think of a good name. But alone this isn’t enough: people need to start associating that name (and yours) with the music you play. And the quickest way to do this is to book known names on your scene. It gives you credibility and it ‘short-cuts’ the link in clubbers’ brains between your brand and your music.
  • It improves your DJing: Meeting, watching and listening to good DJs means not only will you pick up music from them, but you’ll get to hear their experiences, watch their mixing techniques and see how they build a crowd they don’t know.
  • You get a network of A-list players: Give guest DJs a good night in your venue, and they will tell other people. Lots of them. That means more people come to your club, and it also gets you guest DJ slots. I’m not an A-list DJ, but I’ve DJed in some stupendous places (from U2′s cool little Kitchen club in Dublin, Ireland, to Privilege in Ibiza, the biggest club in the world), simply by building good relationships with guest DJs.
  • It gives people a reason to write about you: You can talk the media into covering your night every now and then, and maybe get the odd blog review, but once it’s done, it’s done. But if you’re booking guest DJs? Now there’s something your local newspaper, listings magazine, what’s on website and music blogs can write about; something people can talk about on Facebook, Twitter, in your city’s music forums and to each other…
  • It’s fun!: To put the required effort into your DJ career to succeed, you need to enjoy what you’re doing. Grinding away week after week behind the decks with that ‘will my night ever take off?’ feeling can dent the firmest of wills. You need a lift every now and then, and the special nights that guest DJs can deliver for you are just that. You’re mixing with your scene’s stars, and it feels good!

YOU ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR GUESTS

Before we move on to how to choose and book your guest DJs, however, there’s a rule you must understand: the only guest DJs you can afford to book every week are the ones you don’t want.

When I started the club night that kicked off my DJing career back in the 90s, we booked everyone we could think of – as long as they would do it for next-to-nothing. We wanted a name on the flyers and posters for every single event. We booked friends, DJs from other clubs in our town and DJs from the next town. But our club was going nowhere, fast. A more experienced promoter said to me:

“Why are you booking these guys? You can do it better yourselves. Your bookings are all over the place! Cut back and take control. You’re good enough…”

It was a ‘eureka’ moment for us. At the end of the day, you’re more important than any of your guest DJs! Your ideas for your night are vital. After all, you’ve got the most invested in its success. That means that it has to be just you playing most weeks; your guest DJs should be the icing on the cake. You should book them occasionally and carefully to reinforce your night, not because you can’t think of any better ideas.

Once you realize this, guest DJs can be your springboard to success. So in part 2, we’ll learn who to book, how to afford them, how to book them, how to promote the event and how to handle the night itself.

Co-founder and resident at Manchester (England) club night ‘Tangled’ through most of the 1990s and early 2000s, Phil Morse is also a music journalist and currently edits the Digital DJ Tips blog. He has DJed across Europe, and currently lives in southern Spain where he plays Balearic beach sundowners on the weekends.


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4 Ways to Set Up Controllers in a Club


Setting up your controller rig at home is usually smooth as butter and seems to work perfectly every time. Confident in your set-up, you decide to bring it to the next gig and boom- 10 different complications pile up, your nerves go though the roof and the show does not go as planned. Sound familiar? Then continue reading as we have some solutions!


After over 7 years of setting up controllers in club environments, here are my 4  favorite methods for setting up controllers that result in the minimum stress and maximum respect to the other djs.  (listed in order of preference)

1) Sound check on your own table 5 hours in advance (before club opens)


This is the ideal scenario for every controller dj with more than just one extra device. Show up to the club early and set up your gear well in advance in a CONTROLLED environment that will not change. Then when you show up to the club 30 minutes before your set you can just glide on with zero stress and maximum impact. In this scenario, everything you need is left on stage except for the laptop (which should never be left behind)

Advantages:

  • Set up is locked into place
  • Minimal pre-show stress
  • Hours to set up, tweak and solve bugs

Disadvantages:

  • Requires dialogue and coordination with sound techs (costs the venue money)
  • You’re officially “on the spot” and expected to put on a show!

2) Sound check in the booth 1-5 hours in advance


If you can’t get your own table/mixer/audio link to the mains then you may need to set up in the booth. This is the same as above except that your equipment may need to be moved into place just before playing. In the shot above, I started playing off to the side and then at the start of my set, equipment was moved and I got into the ideal ergonomic placement without disturbing the other dj. Here are the steps to follow:

Set-up all equipment in the most ideal positions possible- test as if you are djing then break down:

  • Tuck away sound card and leave it or RCA extension plugged into the mixer (mark the input if possible)
  • Leave the USB cable running to where your laptop will live
  • Tuck away controllers but keep USB cables running to eventual laptop position
  • Leave power cable plugged in

Just before your show

  • Connect controllers and sound card to computer off to the side (out of the way of the other dj)
  • Bring a long USB cable for the sound card in case your setup area is far from your eventual dj area
  • Boot up programs and test that audio signals are running into the mixer properly
  • Check to make sure your controllers are functioning properly
  • Close laptop if possible and place controllers on laptop

Once it’s time to switch

  • Move the laptop into position
  • Place the controllers in position
  • Everything should be connected and ready to go
  • Switch over to your input on the mixer
  • Plug in the headphones and rock it!

3) Set up during your timeslot (if you can afford to ease into the mix slowly)


  • Bring a record, mp3 player, CD, or anything available that is at least 20 minutes long
  • Mix into your pre-recorded mix in the least invasive way possible
  • CD’s off the CDJ’s are generally the easiest
  • Wait until the other dj has completely left the booth
  • Set up your gear rapidly but without stressing yourself


4) Super last minute

If an advance setup is not possible then absolutely give yourself a solid 30 minutes to complete the following tasks

  • Communicate to the opening dj “Hey, I am just casually setting up, no rush, you still have 30 minutes to play. I am going to be setting up a few things around you, please let me know if I get in your way”
  • Only make moves to plug things in and set up after the dj is done mixing, don’t come anywhere near the mixer during a blend
  • Take your time, be like Fonsie, and keep the vibe very relaxed

First Steps:

  • Connect controllers and sound card to computer off to the side (out of the way of the other dj)
  • Bring a long USB cable for the sound card in case your setup area is far from your eventual dj area
  • Boot up programs and test that audio signals are running into the mixer properly
  • Check to make sure controllers are functioning properly
  • Close laptop if possible and place controllers on laptop

Once it’s time to switch:

  • Move the laptop into position
  • Place the controllers in position
  • Everything should be connected and ready to go
  • Switch over to your input on the mixer
  • Plug in the headphones and rock it!

THE CASH $ TIPS

  • Remove CDJs when possible
  • Bring foam to set on turntables
  • Don’t use turntable covers unless they have the slide in tabs
  • Removing turntables is not as hard as you would think
  • Yes- you do need help from the sound tech
  • Staying relaxed and calm is top priority!

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3net 24/7 3D channel launches this weekend, but only on DirecTV

 

The number of 24/7 broadcasting 3D channels in the US will go from one to three next week, now that Sony, Imax and Discovery have announced the launch of their channel, 3net, on DirecTV alongside its existing n3D channel and ESPN 3D, which will start looping its sports videos 24/7 on Valentine’s Day. Scheduled to go live at 8 p.m. Sunday night on channel 107 it promises fresh debuts all month with a new show added to the rotation every night at 9 p.m. It’s big promise is to “offer viewers the largest library of native 3D entertainment content in the world by the end of 2011” although any 3D TV owners who don’t have DirecTV would probably just be glad if it got added to their channel lineups anytime soon, check the press release after the break for all the details.

 

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