Any non-DJ producers wish they weren't competing with DJs?


#1

Hi all, bit new here, just wanted to ask a question and see what people think, see if anyone has similar thoughts they want to share. I’ve been making tracks since 2011 and have had some records out a few times but I’ve never been very good at keeping up with scenes or music journalism beyond googling myself after releases to see what people are saying about them. Not much of a dance music follower either so some of the things I say might come across weird or naive, not sure. Also I’m Canadian

I moved to Toronto from a northern part of the province in 2013 and lived there until about a month ago. Was active in the electronic music scene there from around 2014 until about 2019, unless you count a couple covid streams with like 5 viewers

I played a small handful of shows a year, booked a few, and got popular among other local producers, DJs and randos who had heard my live sets. I went to lots of shows, got along well with mostly everyone and made some nice friends. But when it came to myself getting booked it was like I hardly existed, which made me a bit bitter and anxious. I’m pretty sure my music is not shit either, I mean I dunno, what can I even say. I guess I’m just trying to dodge a “what if your music is shit” comment. It’s never been huge, but among the people that check it out I hear and read good things

I know a good portion of this is due to the simple fact that I am not a DJ and my music is not four on the floor techno or whatever, so I am not trying to pretend that I am totally oblivious as to why. All I’m getting at is that I am frustrated with the way music scenes and music journalism are formed right now to consider more experimentally minded artists who make listening-focused music and do live/live PA stuff in the same realm as DJs and all that. Not an RA fan but if you go on there right now there’s a review for Autechre’s latest album among all the other club/techno stuff. Why? It just doesn’t make much sense to me. My frustration used to be “Why is nobody booking me?”, now it’s “Why is the only place for me shared with DJs and club people?”

I dunno. Does anyone know what I’m trying to say here? It’s not that I don’t make dance-able music or anything but it just makes less and less sense to me as time goes on why I am “up against” the vastly more popular DJ/techno/house crowd. I understand why we got to this point, but I don’t understand why it goes on like this. This is a bit of a dumb comparison, but like how there are jazz venues and rock venues, jazz publications and rock publications, but then just some over-arching journalism/venue/festival world of everything electronic, it doesn’t make a whole lotta sense

If anyone wants to point out why they think I am wrong or offer a different perspective I’m of course totally interested in hearing it. Thanks


#2

I felt much the same back in 2009 when I still was playing a lot out. Except I only dj . . .
The diversity is gone. No space for small groups of people to have fun without defined borders.

Dance music is now only four to the floor?!! What happened to jazz as dance music hehehe

Personally I think its all a slow movement into making it an industry and less and less a place to just be and have fun. No one wants to work a shitty job, but it doesnt really make it any better that everyone wants to make music a living . . . it just doesnt add up.

Think a re-think of how to experience music is needed. One with less commercial bias.


#3

Some thoughts came into my mind but I’m not sure if it’ll be helpful.

At first there are maybe too many artists in nearly every kind of genre I guess. Compared to DJs Live-musicians are kind of too predictable. There are some who have new material every time they play or maybe have a certain kind of quality so people would go to their sets a lot of times. Maybe it could be helpful to have different kind of projects with different kind of styles. Maybe it could be helpful to form projects/bands with other people and see what happens with this.

I also wonder if it this depends in which kind of scenes a producer/musician is part of. I saw/listened to a lot of “experimental” (whatever that means) producer/musicians in small venues, bars, galleries, off-spaces, cafés, beer gardens … not in regular clubs. I think this could be even more rewarding than playing in a club (though not financially-wise, lol).

Also it could be very helpful to not just be an artist but also try to help and do other stuff too. There is a lack of experimental nights? Try to do one, together with other artists, even on a “small” level! Or some sunday afternoon chill-out thing somewhere. There’s a world outside of clubs and festivals.

I think it’s not a good idea to focus too much on media. Of course Autechre will be covered on every website but it’s Autechre and they have a lot of followers. Every magazine can invest a certain amount of space, time and money for more unknown musicians.

Of course my ideas are maybe not compatible to the whole Corona-situation but you get the point I guess. Also I’m kind of curious how your music sounds actually. :wink:


#4

I feel exatcly the same way as you OP. I’m actually kinda shocked about how similar our experiences are lol


#5

Do you know other producers in your immediate area you could begin promoting and throwing shows with? I know it might sound like a lot of work and time, but most of the scenes I’ve seen come up and arise around producers (LA Beat Scene, SF Dubstep producers, Portland Ambient) have all been run by producers to book primarily producers. IMO it sucks, but there’s a silo’d word between Djs and Producers until a bunch of producers carve out a sound for themselves and force djs to spin it.

You’re the trendsetter, the ones booking djs follow your lead, but you have to create a lead worth following…


#6

Hi all, thanks for the responses

My bad, I know this was a bit of a silly comment :joy:

I agree with your assertion that a re-think of how to experience music is needed, although when I think about stuff like this it I get a bit pessimistic knowing how difficult it could be to action

I see what you are saying here, but in my experience with the state of Toronto’s music scene, basically all of the shows I have played (with the exception of maybe two) have been on a little stage at the backs of bars/cafes. It’s a funny contrast between the obviously passionate promoters who want to book you and the reality of every “show” being you making a bunch of sound at the back of a sparsely populated dive where there’s always a couple of tinder dates who walk out at the start of your set. Occasionally a crowd consisting of guy in a hoodie with his hands in his pockets bobbing his head aggressively. Definitely gets a bit demotivating when many of your shows go like this (not complaining about the hoodie guys though, love them), knowing there is a crowd you could do very well with but are totally out of your reach cause they exclusively go to the well funded beer-sponsored warehouse gigs dominated by one or two local social media-popular promoters. Although I know this is just kind of reality now (the social media part) so I’m not trying to whine about that. When there is a large crowd at these bar venues they are usually shouting over your music cause they are just there for a beer and whatever else. Can’t blame them! I feel like an obstacle for their good night in those cases

Funny you mention this, I’ve met some of these west coast American guys through friends, they are very inspiring seeing how much space they have been able to establish for themselves in their cities. The place I live now is very far away, but I am discovering that they also have something of a thriving electronic scene here. It seems there’s much more “room” financially for people to start businesses here than back in Toronto and I think it makes a world of difference for the music scenes

Yes I try not to be too pessimistic but it’s a bit depressing when I bring this up with friends who do similar stuff and it just sounds like we’re copy-pasting our thoughts

I guess I didn’t directly respond to everything but I hope my post covers most of it. Appreciate all the input of course! Also this may be for a different discussion but when it comes to live electronic music I think there’s an issue with the focus on gear/hardware/visuals which creates an unnecessary barrier of entry and is a bit of a red herring for newcomers. I believe anyone can and should use anything they want, both terrifyingly expensive eurorack things or also just a dusty android phone sitting in the middle of a table. As long as it sounds good. But I think marketing efforts/sponsorships by companies like Roland and whoever else contribute to perpetuating an idea of “hardware” being more legitimate, and have ended up in this trend of “hardware only” nights, things like that. Artists who hype themselves up by talking excessively about the gear they use as some sort of expression of virtuosity. I dunno, it’s a bummer. I’d love to have my whole live setup on my phone one day tbh. Imagine rocking up to a venue with your whole setup in your pocket? It’s the dream. Unfortunately not brave enough to do that yet, and I recently finished building a pelican case setup which I’m really happy with so I think it’ll be a while before I attempt that sort of thing

Not sure if this is the best representation but people seem to like this track https://youtu.be/edfczcUSNVk


#7

gotta be honest, a phone w/ an 1/8" out ain’t ever gonna bang like an analog drumbox end of


#8

n as a soundsystem person, don’t relate to the “wonder if I can schlep less gear and pull more crowd” angle

gotta put the work in


#9

personally I thought your tune would be good for a sound bath/yoga session type gathering - constructively speaking

folks in town have also done ambient things on Sundays that start round 10am - same crew that ran the rave night b4 w/ a diff location and more of a pillow w/ juice type thing

the whole competition binary gets you playing by other peoples rules - if its obvious thats not your game, why over think?


#10

I wasn’t saying I was gonna switch to a phone with the express purpose of pulling a bigger crowd, although I can see why you might assume that connection if you’re a soundsystem person and your idea of putting in the work is possessing equipment

Cool though, to each their own of course. But I was thinking if my goal was to draw a crowd based on the equipment I have, I’d probably stop doing music and go for a sales job at Bose instead :wink:. Have you considered it?

Just turn up the volume man :joy: although I can’t disagree it bangs, I often catch myself in fits of ecstasy on the dancefloor whenever an artist rolls up to the gig with an analogue drum machine. Hunched over their setup, I try to shout “YOU REALLY PUT IN THE WORK HERE” in their ear, and pointing at their MPC going “THIS ANALOGUE TOO?”

Your yoga session idea, it’s kind of brilliant - would love to have a crowd doing a downward dog to my tracks. I’m about to book a pilates gig actually, do you want to bring your Bose?


#11

This stuck out for some reason, as did you saying you wanted everything to play out of a phone. Maybe that was a joke, but live music is a performance and I can’t thinking of anything less visually inspiring than someone playing a phone. Maybe you are missing an audience connection in some way? I mean this constructively, not as a criticism. What is/was the visual side of your live show? It’s hard to progress beyond small gigs without considering that.


#12

Yes, I’d agree that plays a role. When I did shows I was always pretty minimal with the visuals, either low lights, sometimes no lights, but occasionally some proper visuals behind me. It was an ideological choice about wanting to focus on the music. Not like “ooh look at me this is more serious than the other stuff”, but done with intent to encourage audience engagement with the sound rather than what’s on the screen or what’s on the desk, you know? But I think you’re right in saying this doesn’t help connect with the audience, particularly people that need convincing. If and when I get back to shows, I want to try a new approach to it, but I am still pretty adamant about keeping it subtle. Over the top light & visual shows can really take me out of a set sometimes, and I’m saying this as someone who has done visuals for other people’s shows so I wouldn’t say I am just some militantly anti-visuals person.

I don’t think there is a fundamental right way or a wrong way to do any of it, but I am a person with likes and dislikes and I want to achieve things in a way that meshes with my ideas. The way I do things makes those achievements harder to get and I accept that and am keen on working around it. I’d like to believe that the other things I complained about play a factor though, and it’s not all down to that my sets in the backs of cafes had lackluster lighting.

The phone thing for the record was a bit of an exaggeration and a joke, and I’m quite happy playing out of more elaborate setups for the foreseeable future. My dream setup involves multiple stacks of rackmounted stuff, the opposite of a phone of course. I was just trying to make a point about my views when it comes to gear “elitism” and how the idea of hardware or certain types of hardware being more legitimizing than others. The phone comment is sort of the natural long-term conclusion to it, we can in theory run our stuff off a phone, so why not? I am not expecting people to think from that “yes, now I want to see someone play a set off their phone”, but more so to encourage a new point of view on what makes a live set good. Aside from that though I can’t deny I would still love to have my whole set in my pocket… I mean it’s extremely convenient and safe. I have experimented a lot with compact live setups, mostly though to minimize gear theft risk. When I was first doing shows I was basically bringing my entire studio to venues. Synth and mixer slung over one shoulder, controllers and laptop in a sagging backpack. Physically taxing and would have been devastating to have any one of them nicked while my attention was elsewhere. Since then devising “ready to go” setups has been almost a side hobby of mine - phones being the theoretical ideal, like warp 10 in star trek, probably won’t ever happen but it’s nice to think about

But for the record I coincidentally have seen someone do a DJ set off literally just a phone sitting in the middle of an otherwise empty desk and the crowd was engaged and unbothered. They were also handing out slices of red velvet cake, so maybe the cake played a role. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if I bring a red velvet cake to gigs?

Regarding the comment about not keeping up with scenes, I tend to prematurely throw myself under the bus sometimes. Covid has me living in a bubble so for my first post on a forum like this about a kind of controversial topic I wanted to make it clear I’m probably not as up to speed as others here might be


#13

Just to be clear - I get what you want to do in terms of focus on the music and there’s a lot of tedious visuals out there. But you may (not certainly) lose a certain chunk of potential listeners to the music if you shut out the personality too much. DJs playing in larger rooms with the express intention of making people dance have a short circuit to audience engagement - the physicality of the music and volume of the sound system makes people dance and connect to the music. If your music is more subtle and the venues more cerebral the cultivation of the right kind of atmosphere, whatever that may be, could be crucial.

I have two current music projects, one solo which is studio based so far (which is King Replica) and prior to covid I was singing in a duo. The duo was very performative, some performance art aspects, very live, semi improvised, punkish techno/electropunk. We had small crowds of mostly friends and colleagues but people went crazy at certain points and we had a really strong connection with people who went to the shows. Recorded, the music was not amazing, I’m not a very good singer but we found ways to grab people and connect, and the shows were great.

(ignoring covid for now) For my solo stuff, the live thing needs a reason to exist, and I’m still working on how to translate an album’s worth of ‘fixed’ electronic music into a show. Right now it would be playback. And I don’t mean the technical aspect of putting it into Ableton so I can push buttons. For me as a performer it has to be a lot more than that.

Sorry for going into my own thing a lot here, but it’s a long way to say I hear what you are saying, and the struggle to understand what a live experience should be is there for me too.