July 19, 2013 by DJ Elroy
When it comes to music, getting noticed is tough. And getting ahead — and staying there — is even tougher. First and foremost you need good music, and you need to be at least somewhat competent with not only the gear, but reading the crowd, programming a set, and selecting tunes.
But that’s not all.
You’ll also need to a build a brand. You’ll need to manage a successful marketing campaign. You’ll need something to set yourself apart from the rest. Sure, everyone has their gimmick. Maybe it’s robot heads. Or superhero masks. Or maybe you’re a Disney knock-off. Maybe crowd-surfing in a rubber raft while throwing cake and spraying champagne is more your thing. Maybe it’s giant projection screens, or light shows, or stilt-walkers, or pyro-go-gos, or whatever. Do gimmicks work? Yes. I’ll even go so far as to say they not only set you apart from the crowd, they can make you more memorable and even give your brand some personality.
But without substance, your gimmick probably won’t carry your career.
A catchy gimmick is great to get noticed (and even remembered), but you need something to back it up. I’m not here to discuss the strategy of successful and creative gimmicks, however. There’s been a trend lately that has been creeping into the culture over the past few years.
I’m seeing more and more women using their sexuality as a marketing tool. Is physical appearance off-limits? No, Of course not. Sex sells! I acknowledge it’s part of the total package. A SMALL part. But if that’s all you’ve got, don’t waste my time.
A bunch of those “topless DJs” have been called out over the past few years. Does it cheapen the culture in the eyes of an outsider? Maybe. Does it distract from bad music? Sure. For a while anyway.
I’m not here to name names; I want to talk about the underlying issue. Aside from the initial shock value and attracting pre-pubescent kids to your website, is the topless approach really helping your career? I’d say no. Sure, you may get booked, but how serious will people take you? How long will you last? How far will you go? You can hook the fans, but can you keep them? If you’ve got it, use it, but don’t RELY on it.
What about somebody marketing herself as the “Best Female DJ in Town” or “Hottest New Female DJ”? I’m not saying this is akin to the topless DJ jocks mentioned above, but really, what does being a woman have to do with your skills behind the decks? Why should there even be “male” and “female” classifications? Can’t you let your music speak for itself? If you’ve earned some sort of official title through hard work and winning competitions, congratulations! But why should there be separate tourneys in the first place?
I’ve also noticed “All-Girl” lineups have been popping up the last few years. Again, I don’t care what the DJ looks like, I’m only interested in what the music sounds like. But this goes back to the gimmick thing. Is this some innocent party-theme or just another cheap gimmick to get heads in the door? Probably a bit of both, which is fine, but don’t try to act like your show is something it isn’t.
You may be saying “But Elroy, it just sounds like you’re angry because these hot chicks are getting booked and you’re not.” Thing is, I don’t play out anymore and haven’t for a while. I’m not coming at this from a DJ perspective at all, I’m addressing the issue as a long-time party kid and crusty curmudgeon of the scene.
I probably wouldn’t have said anything at all but lately I’ve stumbled across several popular media outlets, music blogs, and scene icons wringing their hands about why there are so many more male DJs than female DJs.
And no, I don’t have an answer. Does that mean that the scene is sexist? No.
But I do have my own question: Does it really matter if most of the DJ Mag Top 100 are male? Instead of asking where all the female DJs are, shouldn’t we be asking where all the FRESH acts are? Or the INNOVATORS? Or TRAILBLAZERS?