We all know those superstar DJs that are the headliners of big events, travel around the world and get paid big bucks for a two-hour set. So how did those people become what they are? How did they get to the top? After all, a DJ doesn’t do much more than playing other people’s records, right?
The truth is that DJing is not only about playing good music. I wrote about what DJs actually do a while ago, and there is no magic involved in that. In fact, while it may be necessary to master those skills to become a DJ, you will never be a famous DJ if you concentrate only on beatmatching, mixing and digging for music.
Producing tracks make DJs famous
This is more or less an open secret among DJs: If you release a hit record, your value as a DJ rises.
In a way, this is kinda strange. The skills involved in producing music are very different from the skills you need to be a good DJ.
However, even if a non-producing DJ is really good at what he’s doing, he is never going to get a chance to be the headliner at a big event. So if you have ever heard a local DJ that really rocked the crowd and wondered why he is always playing in the same local area and not on the big events, this is the reason.
Networking makes DJs famous
When someone organizes a party, it is very unlikely that he will be posting a job ad in a local newspaper and wait for applications.
Instead, he probably already has an idea on who he wants to book for that event. Most likely, this will be a mix of friends, people he owes a favor and maybe a few DJs that already are well-known and are likely to attract a crowd.
Selecting DJs for a party is not about picking the most skilled DJs with the best record collections, but about selecting DJs that are likely to attract an audience.
Being a king of a hill (sometimes) makes DJs famous
Sometimes, differentiation can also be a good strategy for a DJ career.
For example, instead of trying to be the most famous House DJ on the planet, it can be much easier to be the most famous DJ in a particular (sub-) genre. If you look at the House category on play.fm, you’ll notice that to get into the top 20 of, you have to have a relatively high number of listeners. If you look at the Dubstep category, much lower listener numbers are needed to get to the top.
Metaphorically, trying to be different than other DJs can make the different between being a king of a hill and being just one of many inhabitants of a mountain.
Staying famous is easier than becoming famous
Once a DJ has reached a certain level of popularity, he will find it much easier to stay on the top than it was to get there. Even if there should be a newcomer DJ to challenge him, the famous DJ has people’s perception on his side.
He doesn’t really need to be better than others. Most people will just believe he is better because he is famous.
In a way, this is natural: People will usually opt for something or someone they know instead of taking a risk. In a way, a famous DJ is like a consumer brand (Nike, McDonald’s, Apple, …). People like to buy brand products because they trust them more than no-name products. For the same reason, people want to see superstar DJs because they know more about them than about the newcomer DJs that are playing smaller venues.
I am not saying that this is a bad thing. It’s just how we humans make decisions. In many areas of life, it’s not about how good you are, but more about how well you know the rules of the game.
I’ll leave you for today with a very interesting and insightful video called “Life lessons from an ad man” that nicely shows how advertising can make a product better without changing the product itself.