Ok. So. In the past week alone, 4 separate people have asked me how they can get started DJing in Bangkok.
They've seen me coming up in the scene pretty fast, and they want to know how I did it, so maybe they can do it too.
Being asked about it made me think about it, so for anyone who's thought about starting down this path, a few thoughts:
First of all, as far as I'm aware there are no shortcuts. I don't know how anyone could be fresh off the boat, USB stick in hand, and start headlining around town.
There aren't really any tricks to it, no magic words you could whisper in a promoter's ear to make them book you. I'm a copywriter. If there were, I probably would have thought of them.
But the more I think about it, the more I think it really comes down to 2 things:
1. Being obsessed with the music
2. Becoming part of the community
Let's start with...
#1: Be Obsessed With The Music
This is how everything started for me. When I first started going out maybe about 2.5-3 years ago, I was a hip-hop dude. I grew listening to hip hop. The electronic music scene was foreign to me.
I ended up at some afterparties where people put on Cercle sets on Youtube and stuff like that. That was pretty much how I got exposed to this kind of music in the first place.
And I just got really into it. I started finding and organizing my own music and building my own playlists.
Sometimes I would put on some music at those afterparties, and people liked it. And then people kept asking me to put on some more music. And that's how I started realizing that people seem to like my taste in music. Cool.
After going out more and getting to know some DJs and seeing what they did, I realized I was already doing most of it (finding/organizing my own music). All I needed to learn now was how to press the buttons and twist the knobs. I started thinking, "hey maybe I can do this shit."
I'd gathered quite a lot of music at that point that I liked, but didn't hear anyone else play, and I wanted to share that with people. That's it. That's the beginning and end of WHY I wanted to become a DJ.
Most importantly, it begins and ends with the music.
I've been obsessed with the music ever since then. And that's what drives me. I didn't become a DJ to be cool, to gain some kind of status, or to get laid. If that's what I wanted, but lacked the passion for the music, I might have gotten a gig or two but I would never have made it anywhere.
If you don't have the passion, you're just not gonna get good enough for people to want to book you again. Simple as that.
Just two days ago I downloaded 60 tracks. And those are the 60 tracks I listened to that I liked well enough that I might consider playing them at one of my gigs. Which means... I probably listened to close to 1000 tracks that day. Which is absolutely ridiculous.
If you don't fucking love the music, you'd never do something ludicrous like that. See what I mean?
#2 Become Part Of The Community
The second half of the puzzle is, you need to be part of the community.
I started out as a customer, a consumer in this industry. And I still am one. My first 2 years in this industry, you'd very often find me on the dance floor, right in front of the DJ booth. Again, I love the music, and that's why I went out.
I had a few experiences which really blew my mind (notably Kolour In The Park 2018) after which I just knew I was hooked forever.
I was part of the community long before I even thought about becoming a DJ.
That's the thing. It's not JUST the music. It's also the people. And whether it's in a dark room or on open fields, having that shared experience with a group of friends where you go on a journey together, can be absolutely magical in a way that you don't really find in other styles or genres of music. That is why I got hooked so hard on this shit. The passion for the music AND the community both feed each other.
Anyway, through going out literally fucking all the time, I got to meet a lot of people, some of which became my friends, and some of who were other DJs or important people in the scene.
All the DJs in promoters in the scene were my friends before I ever thought about becoming a DJ.
I've heard a lot of whining and complaints about how "it's unfair to the new DJs because promoters only book their friends and well-established DJs."
Well, fuck. Yeah. A promoter most likely will not take a chance on a new DJ that they don't know and nobody else knows. Their #1 priority is serving their customers and throwing a good party.
So what do you bring to the table? What's in it for them?
When I started, I was already part of the community and a lot of people knew me, so it wasn't as much of a risk for them to give me an opening slot.
They were also my friends, and they'd heard me play music before (for example, when I put on music at an afterparty somewhere), so they trusted my taste in music.
In my experience, getting gigs has been 100% about "who you know" - and sticking your head in the sand and complaining about it doesn't make it not true.
It's part of the game, an essential and important one, so start playing.
You're probably not going out enough. When I first started going out, I would go out all the time just to support my DJ friends. I would show up early when nobody else was there, and that enabled me to talk to them and get to know them and become friends with them.
And no, I didn't strategically do this so I could get gigs in the future lol. This was over a year before I even thought about DJing. I did it, again, because I was obsessed with the music and I loved being part of the community.
I was genuinely excited to be part of this scene and get to know other people who loved the music as much as I did. A lot of times, those people were DJs.
Finally, a huge debt of gratitude to some of my very good friends who gave me a shot and believed in me more than I believed in myself when I first got started. Dan Buri, Will Tonic, Mo Barbour, Rory Spencer Roketto, Olivier Alexandre and many others. Couldn't have done it without you!
Would love to hear some other thoughts on this from my other DJ friends and people in the scene.