Am I "paying my dues" or being used?
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  1. #1
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    Default Am I "paying my dues" or being used?

    Current situation: I'm trying to come up in the NYC nightlife scene. Now before I go into anything, if you aren't familiar with the NYC nightlife scene, it is in a very corrupt time. So basically there's a handful of promotion groups that handle promotions for all the nightclubs in NYC. Clubs hire out these promo groups to do nights at their clubs and get their DJ's/Promoters to come in. The promo company only has a budget for their headlining DJ (or that's what they want you to believe). They REFUSE to pay their opening and closing DJ's a DJ fee, but instead a promo fee based on how many people they bring. This is a dilemma all over the city. Most of the headlining club DJ's in NYC are signed to a DJ management group and usually have a booking agent. The booking agents at these management groups works with the promotional companies to get their DJ's (which are the headliners) bookings. DJ's who are veterans and have been in the game for years usually go straight through the clubs for their bookings.

    Now there's me. I'm a young kid (early 20's) who has a decent following and can bring people out on a weekly basis, along with spinning exceptionally well. I never like to say I'm a good DJ because I don't want to come off as cocky. I've spun in the city a handful of times under different promoters, all for the same compensation. Either free, or being paid on how many people I bring. It also takes about 2 weeks to get paid the little bit of money I've made off my friends. Apparently according to the last guy who booked me to close for their headlining DJ, I need to "pay my dues" in order to become a headlining DJ. That means not getting paid to DJ, doing favors for DJ's such as opening or closing for them, and bringing people out every time I DJ. I'll get an extra $50 if I get a table that buys at least 2 bottles. It's almost like I'm an intern. I also have to provide transportation for myself, make sure the people I bring to the club get in and are satisfied, and DJ.

    I recently got into an argument with the guy who last booked me because I turned down his offer to DJ this weekend, since there was no pay. I asked him what he pays opening DJ's. His answer was "they don't pay opening DJ's in NYC". He asked what I'd charge and I gave him a price. He was angry with the price I quoted him, and kept asking me who in NYC pays their opening DJ's. I basically told him if there's money being made I'd like a piece of the action even if it's not a lot of money. Am I right for doing this or should I bend over and "pay my dues"? In a way, I'd be making an investment and would potentially become a headliner. On the other hand, I'm being used and feel like a slave to the industry. Promoters, bartenders, doormen/doorwomen, bouncers and everyone else is getting paid except for myself. I feel this just isn't fair. Which is why I asked for a DJ fee. I talked with a DJ friend of mine who told me that the only way to make it in the city (these days) is through paying my dues the way I just explained. He says he pays his dues, and has gotten a few paid gigs through doing so. Not sure if this is just bullshit, or what. Any input on this would be appreciated.

    EDIT: The excuse for going this route would be "if you really love what you do, then you'll do anything it takes to pursue it". But I'm not sure in this situation this is accurate. I know musicians do this all the time but is this how it will be for DJ's as well?

  2. #2
    Tech Guru Kwal's Avatar
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    People always say one should never DJ for free... Now I look at it this way... If I can open up at a popular club before a bigger act and I'm confident in my skills, then sure I'd give it a go once or twice.. If you're good, you bring people, and they won't give you the benefit of the doubt after those 1-2 gigs then I would not return. It's like that here in Chicago too and I managed to get my way into a paid residency simply because I played a stellar set one night for a promoter and brought out a little crew. If they can't see you're doing it well, then it's time to dip. Go to other parties that same night, promote them a bit to rub it in their face and try to get in there. But never go on a run for weeks without collecting. This is all said assuming you don't bring anything other than your headphones and a USB.. Because if you're bringing your own gear, then it's never acceptable to play for free anywhere.. Especially somewhere that's obviously making money.

  3. #3
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    Coming from personal experience, plenty of places in NYC do pay their opening DJs. If you aren't comfortable with the deal they are trying to cut you, don't take it. Paying dues to me is helping setup/break down gear, or taking a smaller cut for the night for an open/close slot. If you feel like you are getting taken advantage of, walk away.

  4. #4
    Tech Mentor Stephen Nawlins's Avatar
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    There was an Article about you issues on the Blog a few weeks ago:

    http://djtechtools.com/2016/03/11/pa...e-get-dj-slot/

    The Problem seems to be that even after having opened for Main Act several times, Promoters do not give you more credits and when you start asking for Money simply don't give you new opportunities because they have enough other Kids willing and ready to take your place.
    This is the result of the digital Revolution, AutoSync and other Software Solutions opened the door to so many Kids that there is simply not enough room for all behind the Booth.

    Lucky over here there are still enough Bar Owner who recognize the difference between a DJ and a wannabe.

  5. #5
    Tech Wizard
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Nawlins View Post
    This is the result of the digital Revolution, AutoSync and other Software Solutions opened the door to so many Kids that there is simply not enough room for all behind the Booth.
    I wouldn't necessarily say that the digital age is the culprit. I feel like it's more about who you know. Often times, it's who you know rather than what you know that determines the kind of gigs you get. My 2 cents.

  6. #6
    Tech Mentor Stephen Nawlins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by telamon View Post
    I wouldn't necessarily say that the digital age is the culprit. I feel like it's more about who you know. Often times, it's who you know rather than what you know that determines the kind of gigs you get. My 2 cents.
    Sorry to say that when I started 16 years ago you made the race when you were the best, but maybe you had to fight 2-4 guys for 1 spot. Nowadays you have 20 guys to beat in the race.

  7. #7
    Tech Mentor overcast's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stephen Nawlins View Post
    Sorry to say that when I started 16 years ago you made the race when you were the best, but maybe you had to fight 2-4 guys for 1 spot. Nowadays you have 20 guys to beat in the race.
    Quantity=/=Quality

    This might be completely anecdotal, but for the city I'm in, it seems to be the same people in the opening spots consistently. It's partially do to there being a network of like minded people working together and also the fact that people throw their own parties fairly consistently. Sure there probably are thousands of DJs in this city, but the cream rises to the top.

  8. #8
    Tech Mentor Stephen Nawlins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by overcast View Post
    Quantity=/=Quality

    This might be completely anecdotal, but for the city I'm in, it seems to be the same people in the opening spots consistently. It's partially do to there being a network of like minded people working together and also the fact that people throw their own parties fairly consistently. Sure there probably are thousands of DJs in this city, but the cream rises to the top.
    Apparently not in NYC

  9. #9
    Tech Mentor PartyMcFly's Avatar
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    Eliminate the concept of "paying your dues" from the things that are normal and okay in your mind. It's gatekeeping behavior designed to maintain a power imbalance that allows you to accept less while sacrificing/giving more.

  10. #10
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    I certainly fell for the "exposure" dodge early on. I didn't know any better, and was told that "everyone does it." I have learned my lesson. Over the last 20+ years, I can count the number of booked gigs because of "free exposure" on one hand. It's not zero...but it's close enough for planning purposes.
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