Â DJs - TheyÂ are artists too you know!
As many of you have started to notice, electronic music has been making huge waves in North America over the past few years. Shows, festivals and tours are constantly selling out big venues. Though the genre has been popular in Europe for over a decade, things recently seem to be picking up on this side of the pond.Â However, there is a stigma among the general population that DJs are for weddings or top 40 nightclubs. The reality is many touring DJs are incredible producers and musicians. PK has been largely involved in the west coast electronic and festival scene for the past 12 years. We started throwing little shows in little halls years ago, and weâve had the pleasure of watching our company grow within a truly supportive and unique community.
Itâs a bit of a joke in our shopâhow we used to be looked down upon as the âDJ Companyâ.Â Weâre used to being the underdogs and we donât mind that we started our company because we had a different idea of what we felt was important in sound, and more applicable to the music we loved. Iâm not sure how many times in my youth I heard older sound techs profess âthereâs nothing under 60hz that mattersâ or âthat just muddies up the mixâ. Our clients would whole-heartedly disagree!
Today we proudly manufacture our own brand of speakers, and weâre touring North America with some of the most prominent artists in the electronic scene.Â Just recently one artist touring with PK sound was nominated for 5 Grammy awards! If that doesnât say times have changed and DJs are real performers then Iâm not sure what does.Â Just because we arenât mixing 64 channels doesnât make our job less important or require less skill. We might not have as many faders to push, but we connect with the way artists want to portray their music. We owe electronic artists the same respect we pay other musicians. Our duty is to make sure the show is incredible, regardless of genre!
Having the unique perspective of being a performing DJ, a professional engineer, and an owner-operator of a pro audio business, I often travel and get to covertly rate other sound companies on their performance and treatment of DJs (me and friends). Itâs almost appalling the amount of companies that truly donât feel that a DJ is a real performerâitâs a constant battle. YES DJs need both a FOH and a monitor engineer. YES DJs want a sound check. YES DJs want help setting up their equipment and feeling like they are being looked after. YES DJs want someone on deck to help them when something goes wrong.Â YES these artists put just as much blood, sweat and tears into their careers as band members do.
I remember one festival I played on the east coastâa great event with 14,000 kids attendingâthe promoter for which was a good friend of mine. I showed up for my set knowing it was a festival, so I didnât expect a sound check. I went straight to the monitor engineer and introduced myself and let him know my requirements. Little did I know he was also the FOH engineer located at side stage, no mix monitors standing behind 40 subs and 16 JBL veretec.
Okay, I thought, I guess I can work with this. âIâm going up to setup my gear. Would you mind showing me where to plug my soundcard output into?â
âJust pick any line I donât careâ said the sound tech.
There was another act already performing so not only did I have no idea where to plug in, I would be interrupting his performance too. Reluctantly I went on deck, found the second mixer, set up and plugged in my gear. Down the stairs I go back to the sound tech.
âOkay Iâm plugged in would you mind doing a line check?â
âNo donât worry about it, it worked for the last guy.â
All I wanted to see was that we was receiving signal, he could have just kept the lines muted. After 10 minutes of arguing I gave up. He wouldnât do itâwhat a horrible experience! I had no idea if my setup was going to work when I walked up there to start and I was incredibly nervous already. No line check, no FOH engineer, kids plugging their earsâ¦..awesome. I bit the bullet and started. The main PA worked and the monitors didnâtâ¦here we go. Down the stairs, yell at the sound tech, he growls at me and begrudgingly gets my monitors working. What a way to start a set in front of 5000 screaming kids. Next I run out in front of the speakersâ¦.OUCH!!Â I run back and start EQing the output of my soundcard myselfâ¦. I guess Iâm performing and running FOH today. Needless to say the set was fun, the crowd was great and I got through it in the end. No thanks to the sound company.
Iâm ashamed to say this kind of scenario is something that many of my friends who are acclaimed DJ producers / artists encounter often. In my opinion there is no excuseâas a sound tech, your primary job is to make sure that the artist is 100% taken care of and is comfortable with the service you are providing. Just because youâre dealing with electronic musicians doesnât mean itâs time to half-ass it, slouch down in your chair and read a book.
Maybe itâs just where we come from, but I know thatâs not how our we treat bands when we have the pleasure of mixing for them. Most of the sound techs who work for PK are also DJs, so they understand the importance of making ALL performers feel comfortable. We have the luxury of having a company that feels more like a family, and when we mix for you we want you to feel as comfortable as you would in your own living room.
The bottom line is that artists deserve attention, respect and professionalismâfrom sound check to last callâwhether they are playing a guitar, a trumpet, the spoons or...yes....even CDs.