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:Retrowerks: Club Distortions – END: the DJ – June 2013

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Promoters/DJs: Are you a music night or a retro party?

Club/dance music nights have an average lifespan of three to four years; some would argue even less. Keep in mind some of the most legendary club nights since the dawn of modern dance music have only existed within said lifespan. Would you believe Studio 54 was only around a few years? Quite surprising discovering that. So keep in mind this article is being written by a DJ who has lived, danced, and mixed in a few “generations” of clubbing.

Are you playing current music to expose people to at your nights? Or just sticking to the favourites and playing what’s familiar to the clubbers? If your answer is the latter, you’re not doing a proper club night, you’re simply a retro party, perhaps a jukebox with feet.

EBM/industrial dance nights are the only ones I’ve seen where old, familiar music is mostly played the ENTIRE night—and some promoters/DJs wonder why their numbers are waning. If they can play the music they’ve heard a bazillion times from their own home, why go out to hear them and pay money at the door for that? Plus as the club audience ages, many stop going out—and I doubt all that the newcomers want to hear is something from 1998 being played out all night long. This is where you’re a retro party, NOT a music night.

Some nights have persistently stayed around long enough to become somewhat of an establishment, almost a fixture in their city’s alternative scene: Death Guild and City Club to name a couple. Whether you like these nights or not, they just stayed at it and kept going and going for well over a decade. Some put quality set-up and promotion into their work, no matter how unlikely the city, town or locale: Assimilation and iNation are examples. These nights draw you in with their sound, lighting, themes and decor, might lure you in with a bit of familiar tunes, but then they hit you with the new, even promoting it before and after each of their events; very solid work.

Many EBM/industrial music nights in the U.S. are failing and promoters/DJs are quick to place blame on a fickle audience, waning interest, etc., yet they fail to look inward to where the problems lie. Some say, “It’s only the live bands that people want.” This makes me laugh a bit; if you’re only bringing out bands who haven’t released something new in 10 years, good luck catering to the 40-something year olds who mostly have very different lives to lead since hearing their favourite band from 20 years ago. Maybe you’ll get those few notable hipster kids who backtrack to music created before they were born. If you’re bringing any band with new material, how does your audience even know about it if you haven’t been playing any of the material out on dance nights or promoting it? You’re left hoping your crowd has picked up on it directly from the artist or their label online (in theory), plus from your promotions a couple months before the show. Think about how self-defeating that sounds.

Don’t just set up a night in a pool bar thinking, “If I just advertise this on Facebook, show up and press play, people will make it out.” That is kind of foolish. If you’re contributing too little to your own night, you’ll get very little out of it. If you want a dance night, set-up in a dance club or an empty venue you can make your own atmosphere in and take a look at any other DJ dance night. It’s more than what you’re playing; it’s the sound, the lighting, and the visuals. You’re creating a different world for others to escape to for a handful of hours. If you can’t put any effort into it, just play some music for a few friends in your living room or coffee shop. You’re not going to do well in events.

How do you think new music is being exposed? Either directly from the artists, their music labels (in theory) and/or from radio and club DJs and promoters. If you’re not playing out the new Suicide Commando, chances are the average casual listener—who I’m sorry to say isn’t as passionate about music as you are—is only going to yet again request “Bind, Torture, Kill” not knowing there’s been more than a few worthy tracks and albums released since eight years ago.

If you feel you MUST draw in your regulars with what’s familiar, do so at the start of the night or keep it very limited. But you’re supposed to be at the cutting edge of music. Keep it fresh, keep it new.

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