Love your DJ

A letter to everyone it may concern

Disclaimer: I do not want to offend anyone I’ve worked or danced with. No names except good examples. But I want to drive your attention to what hurts me, and not only me. I guess.

I love being a DJ in the swing scene. I love the music, love the energy, the feel of being in charge of the party, love when people ask me the name of the previous track they dance their shoes off. But what I do not love about it is treating DJs like they have little to nothing to do with the event’s success.

Sounds too generic? Here are some examples. I have once played at the party where DJ table was behind gigantic plants, so I could barely see the floor. Or when there was no table at all. Or when the cord was too short. Or the DJ place was on a windowsill in a super hot room (hello condensate!) Or when the schedule of a big event was made on the spot. Or when I was told I’d be paid, but I was not. Or when organizers of an international event confirm ALL the DJ a week before it starts. No invitations, volunteers, please. If not, we can always put a playlist from classes, can’t we?

It’s mostly about how organizers treat DJ, and I believe it’s not the same as they treat teachers and musicians. Because we often come to the festival for top dancers and bands, don’t we? But it’s DJ’s who keep us dancing and enjoying the event in band breaks (or when the band is not that good, it does happen) and till the dawn. It might be only my experience. Maybe I’m just unlucky or too spleeny, or this treatment exists only in my imagination.

Of course, I have good examples as well. My best experience so far is Herrang, where even a guest DJ has his or her name on the plate, and the coordinator comes several times during the set to ask if everything is ok and how do I feel. That booth in Dance banan felt like heaven on earth. I also had a great experience at Lindyshock, SSDF, Chase Festival and at home… sometimes.

DJing requires a lot of “homework” but it’s also a performance, emotional activity. You suggest people what you have for them and they respond by dancing. Or not. Is it really that different from work of teachers or bands? After the “homework” and technical part, or even ahead of them, DJing is about empathy. One must feel the crowd and resonate with it. And it’s hard to make others feel good when you feel bad. I’m not saying organizers have to make us feel good (though they could). At least they could try not to make us uncomfortable.

Most known and skilled DJs are teachers. I am not. Not even the top dancer. Moreover, not an extrovert, so asking for a gig is always stressful. When not at the local scene I mostly play as a guest DJ wherever I’m going, and it suggests I should not demand a lot. Really?

Dear organisers, I know you have a lot to keep in mind, but please also keep that DJs can ruin your party as well as make it unforgettable. Not threatening. Just…please.