When I started my career some 25 years ago, the scene was still fairly new, fresh, it was full of excitement, anything could happen, there was a sense of electricity in the air and we were all part of it.
Electronic music for the most part, the most mind exploding sound, it was limitless, so full of energy and for someone who came from a Hip Hop background, it was like the light had been switched on and I felt part of a family, free from prejudice, colour, sexuality, view points and wealth, we were all embraced no matter what, all you had to do, was rock up and dance, that was it.
Electronic music consumed me, pre internet days, it was basically living in record shops day in day out, speaking to the guys behind the counter, watching and listening, it was almost like watching poetry in motion. That quick flip of the vinyl between fingers to switch it over to the B-Side, that drop of the needle and watching the store stand still and listen in awe of the latest wax, which we all just had to have. It was an unwritten law of the jungle, every DJ just had to have the latest weapon, sadly it was not always the case…
Cue the listening / jamming parties. We were a loose bunch of mates, we fucked around driving our modified cars along the coast on summer evenings, going through the latest import tapes from Dreamscape or Trance Energy parties in Europe. The MC shouting away, it was some of the best days of my life, but we were also a haggle of wanna be DJs, some of us (included) had already played a few gigs (usually pretty messy) but we were hooked, there was no going back, we just had to keep buying wax and we all just wanted to spend our days mixing.
Buying vinyl in Australia in the early days was fucking expensive, even with our Central Station discounts, it was not uncommon to spend anywhere between $17 – $60 for a slab of wax, so our group decided that to keep hearing new music, we would never buy the same tune as each other and we can always borrow each others wax if needed (yes, there were a 10 commandments on how they shall be treated and returned) on top of this, each week, we would pick a house, I would bring over my decks, mixer, speakers and amp, the boys would bring the beers and mix to the wee hours (we never did have a problem with neighbours, not sure how we got away with that?)
It was great fun, not only did we get to hang out as young teens, drinking to excess and having a laugh, but we would challenge each other. It could be who can beat match the fastest (we go it down to under 5 seconds each) who could do the best scratching, learning new tricks (this was before mixers had effects units, although later years we had the Numark mixer with a 3 second sampler and push button pre-loaded effects, was as shit as it seems) but it taught us to hone our skills, to learn from others, to build each other up and support or dreams, it was amazing and something I will take with me forever.
But pre-internet days, we were limited to our networks, our city, our scene, our sound. We had no idea how to connect to other promoters and DJs, none of us had travelled interstate to grab a copy of 3D World, Mixmag was almost unheard of and our street press was great, but it was so focused on our local scene, it was the world we knew (later that changed when I begin writing for Ministry of Sound, Onion Mag and Substance, but that is another story for another day)
“The opportunities available across the scene are abound with careers in PR, media, management, bookings, internships, touring management, radio, marketing, online radio and so forth, but it is what you make it and how far you want to go”
Now that we are coming up to our 3rd birthday with Decoded Magazine, I am sitting in the winter sun, the TV on in the background, not much to it, but I also have facebook open, chatting to a US DJ friend who is sitting in London at 5am, chatting to a promoter in Chicago about a forthcoming tour for a client, who is currently Whatsapping me from Berlin, whilst downloading the latest promo’s from artists in Eastern Europe. With writers across the world, contributing to us each week, we have never met, yet we are all closer together as a team than some of my good mates.
I have never got the whole people moaning about the industry thing. We have never had it so good, never been so connected, the scene has never been so big, techno is the flavour of the month (although one could easily argue it it is mostly progressive house dressed up / labelled as techno) and music is more accessible and cheaper more than ever. The music industry is more organised, we have communities and companies coming together to break down barriers for women, there is hardly a country on earth that isn’t throwing a festival or two and we have so many conferences being held each year, working towards solidifying, educating and increasing the professionalism of the industry we love.
To anyone who has entered the industry in the last 10 years, you are truly lucky. It is a wonderful time to be a part of a scene that has for the last 30 years struggled for recognition as a credible music, for acceptance from not only our parents, but governments, music bodies, councils, radio and so forth. (A quick lesson on the history of electronic music wouldn’t go astray to those wanting a career in it.) The opportunities available across the scene are abound with careers in PR, media, management, bookings, internships, touring management, radio, marketing, online radio and so forth, but it is what you make it and how far you want to go. Don’t feel displaced or let down if you are not the next Carl Cox, you have already made it if you are a part of it and enjoy the music.
The tools and resources to reach an audience is beyond comprehension of even 10 years ago (ok, we had Myspace) but a new DJ can research new labels and artists, buy the music and mix all from the comfort of home (yes, I do miss record stores, but they are still around, so if you have never done some crate digging, go and find / support your local store) upload and distribute to a global audience for free or next to nothing in a matter of hours. Gone are the days of making mixtapes, doing up some artwork, spending a week copying them and handing out to mates at the next rave. It has made DJs new and old, think harder about their audience, to continue their skills and work harder. It is a flow on effect that only makes the scene stronger.
But for any scene to continue and thrive, we need to support and educate those who will be taking the baton from us in years to come. We need to stop the current splitting of hairs over genres (who gives a fuck if it is tech house or techno? if it makes the people dance, then that is all that matters) We need to embrace technology and stop being twats about vinyl versus digital, it isn’t 1980 and vinyl is NOT coming back as a main format of music and DJing, get over it. It is about leaving a legacy for new artists to continue the music, the love and the party.
So where to? Support new promoters, festivals, labels, buy more music, stamp out piracy, travel, dig deep for new artists, don’t just look at charts, experiment, push boundaries in music, play what you want, on what you like, when you want. You are the future and there has never been a better time to be alive in the industry, let’s keep it that way!