What Are You Worth?

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October 21, 2010 by DJ Elroy

I’m constantly hearing DJs (and musicians in general) gripe about how little they get paid for performing (pay for music sales is a whole other issue; I’ll get to that later). But really, what do you expect? How much are you worth?

Probably not much.

And I’m not being mean here. All I’m saying is that DJs are a dime a dozen and unless you have something more to offer than just an hour or two of music you probably won’t get much more than a few free spots and some drink tickets.

What’s the big deal, anyway? It’s just a hobby, right?

Yes, you do make an investment in equiptment. You (probably) buy a bunch of new music every week. You pay out of pocket to make demo mixes to hand out at your shows. Well, I used to anyway. Seems like people don’t bother to do this so much anymore. But still, they are the same arguments now as back when I was gigging.

But isn’t that what every other DJ is doing too? What are you doing to make yourself more valuable to the promoter?

It’s all about supply and demand. If there are more DJs than there are spots to play, you have an excess of supply, and promoters can set the price. DJs can undercut each other for the spots, and many will play for free.

And if you are the promoter and have DJs willing to perform without cost to you, why wouldn’t you take them instead of booking those guys that are demanding pay?

Well, one reason would be ability to pull heads. Can you guarantee 100 people thru the door? 250 people? More? This is where getting booked turns into a popularity contest; it’s not how good you are, but how many paying friends you have.

Another reason a promoter might pay somebody is for the novelty. Do you have a unique style? A special stage show? You’re not just gonna be a human iPod, are you?

And can you blame the promoter? He’s trying to make money, too. So is the club. And the headliners. It’s not a bad thing to want to make money.

But so many people like to bitch about it as they continue to accept bookings to play for free. If enough people stood their ground then things would change.

That said, there are so many people who don’t really care. They are in it for the thrill of playing in front of people. Or for the experience. Or the chance to get a reaction from their original music. Or the exposure. Or a name on the flyer. There are a bunch of reasons why getting paid might not be the most important thing for accepting a show. If that’s the case and the DJ and the promoter come to an agreement on what’s going to happen, that’s fine.

But as long as there are people out there willing to play free, don’t expect to get paid yourself. I could go on about “paying your dues” but I think that will have to wait for another rant… It’s all about the music, right? Well, no. But more on that later, too. And don’t get me started on promoters that are booking 50 DJs to fill a three hour window… Really???

So what are you doing to set yourself apart? To give yourself added value?

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