A b o u t - N i g h t c l u b s
Nightclubs and Society
"The typical club manager/owner doesn't know the difference between a good DJ and a bad DJ"
-- DJ Greggy D
"Play to the crowd and not yourself, but enjoy what you're playing"
-- DJ Rob Wegner
From helping individuals to escape isolation (by bringing people together) to providing a venue to try the latest dance moves, nightclubs serve society in a variety of ways. On a deeper level, nightclubs offer a place to temporarily escape from life's everyday problems. For a person that has experienced a hard week at work, the weekend escape to the local club is the next best thing to a vacation. This is one reason why nightclubs often have exotic themes. As a DJ, you're directing the journey, bringing people together, and helping them to forget -- at least temporarily -- their problems; and you're doing that with music.
The Nightclub Environment
Even if you're great technically (i.e., mixing and scratching), there are a few general things that you should understand about the nightclub environment. Ask yourself the following:
1. Do I enjoy spending my weekend nights working into the late evening? Do I have to wake up and function in the morning?
2. Am I willing to start at the bottom for low pay?
3. Do I have the time and money to "keep up with" and purchase the latest music?
4. Am I willing to play styles of music that I dislike (including requests)?
5. What will I do when I'm older? Do I have any retirement strategies?
6. Can I work at a company that seldom offers health insurance, 401(k) retirement plans, stock options, etc.?
7. Can my hearing tolerate loud decibels for several nights a week?
8. Can I handle dysfunctional people?
9. Will my girl/boyfriend (wife/husband) tolerate people that flirt for requests?
Know The Owner(s) and Regulars
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is: To understand the nightclub, you must understand its owner(s). For example, the way the owner(s) advertise; the way the club is designed; the equipment that you use; the crowd that patronizes the club; etc., is all a function of the owner's pocketbook and his or her vision of the club's direction (and not yours).
Since the owner(s) usually determines the type of crowd the club attracts, it's essential for the DJ to understand the club's regulars. This includes customers that prefer the club's style of music (the targeted demographic), customers that follow the resident DJ's, and friends and family of the owner(s) and staff. You should also have an understanding of those customers that don't usually patronize your club. Non-regulars are not accustomed to the club's music and may attempt to get the DJ to change the club's "sound" (i.e., tourists, holiday visitors, wrong age, etc.). In general, if a nightclub is known for a certain style or "sound," you shouldn't play contrasting styles of music just because a few non-regulars ask for it. Contrasting styles affects the image of the club with the regulars, your following, the core-demographic, staff, etc.
A common sign of a nightclub in trouble is an inconsistent music format. This is because the club has lost its core following and is now forced to please everyone in order to sustain its business (which rarely works). For example, would you continue to listen to a radio station that rotates jazz, disco, drum-n-bass, 70's rock, hip-hop, country, etc. to please everyone?
If a club has a history of making money on its regulars, then the resident DJ must program his or her music to accommodate those regulars. Even if the resident DJ believes that a different style of music may improve sales and is a better indicator of market trends, the club's regulars -- who are often the bread and butter of its business -- must come first.
This affects the way you format the club. If the regulars are listening to a new song that's consistent with the club's sound, then you better have it (and the DJ's that want your shift will point that out). In a nutshell, your job - as a resident DJ - is to nurture the club's regulars and potential (future) regulars.
There may be instances when a promoter will ask you to spin a special event. In these cases, you should perform the style of music that the promoter hired you to play -- even if it's different than the club's typical format. If the event is held periodically (i.e., once a month), then you may want to scout an earlier party (or talk to other DJ's) to understand the crowd's expectations.
While the level of experience varies by club owner, for some reason, many people purchase nightclubs with little or no experience. An inexperienced club owner can affect the DJ's employment environment in many ways, such as:
* S/he may make decisions that make no sense or changes mind often;
* At first, not accustomed to paying DJ's well (relative to bands or other employees);
* May be swayed by former business associates and friends;
* High employee turnover;
* Lacks understanding of nightclub design, format, advertising, etc.;
* May not pay what was promised and/or paychecks bounce;
* Expects a large turnout on the DJ's first night (i.e., new promotion);
* Bought the club after it peaked.
On the other hand, there are advantages to working for inexperienced club owners, such as:
* Opportunity to advance if you can make him or her a lot of money;
* May let you promote, which may bring-in additional income;
* If you're new, may give you a slow night to start.
In contrast to the inexperienced club owner, there are advantages to working for an owner that knows the business, such as:
* Knows the "club" business and how to bring-in customers, which makes the DJ's job easier;
* Paychecks rarely bounce;
* S/he has the patience to let a DJ build a night over time;
* More job stability;
* Hires only nightclub professionals;
* Often opens additional clubs, which may create more DJ shifts;
* Opportunity to learn more about the nature of the nightclub business.
Nevertheless, there are disadvantages related to working for experienced club owners. These disadvantages may include:
* S/he knows the going rate for a DJ of your talent and will rarely pay above that amount;
* Some owners of high-profile clubs may use their clout to make offers that rarely materialize (i.e., "carrot on a stick");
* May be swayed by employees that have been with the company a long time;
* Has a formula for success that may conflict with a DJ's musical desires;
* Dislike DJ's with big egos.
While the above is a generalization, it should help to guide you through some of the quirks associated with nightclub employment.
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