By Mike Walter
As I write this, NAMM has just wrapped up out in Anaheim. I didn’t attend it this year but I know it just happened because social media tells me so. My timelines have been flooded with pictures and videos of the latest exciting gear being produced for our industry. And along with those posts come the DJs who encourage their peers to stop focusing on gear and spend their money on talent. Take a workshop or attend a class, they write. Invest in yourself.
It all reminds me of a Facebook post I saw recently. Somebody asked which was more important, talent or equipment? And while most people responded that talent was more important, I chimed in by saying: BOTH! Because it’s not like you have to choose between the two. It’s not a zero-sum game. In fact, the best DJs I know focus on both aspects of their career. They do everything they can to improve their talents. But they also would never leave the house (or the warehouse) without the very best gear. And plenty of back-ups as well.
I had the same thought years ago when the “Got Music?” T-shirts started popping up at DJ Shows and then just as quickly there was backlash from some who thought they over-emphasized the importance of music at the cost of talent. I remember thinking, “wait, what?” I care tremendously about my music library (which is why I’ve been a proud Promo Only subscriber for well over twenty years now) and every great DJ I know does as well. We realize that songs are our tools and we need them to pack our dance floors. But that doesn’t mean I don’t work on my MCing skills every chance I get. The two are equally important and focusing on one doesn’t mean you ignore the other.
So now that I’ve gotten that off my chest allow me to offer some advice. In your most honest of moments, think about your overall skills as a DJ and MC. What are you best at and what are you weakest at? This is for you and you alone so be 100% honest with yourself. I did this a few years ago and I had to admit that of all the traits that are most important to success in our industry, music mixing was my weakest. I was good. But I wasn’t great. My programming was better than my mixing. My MCing was better than my mixing. My equipment knowledge was better than my mixing. So I focused on improving that skill to get it closer to the others. And I’d advise you to do the same. It doesn’t mean you have to forego the other skills. I still practice my MCing and listen back to my own introductions and prompts and look for ways to improve them. I still spend a few hours every week listening and cataloging new music. But I spent more time on mixing than I ever had. And I think in the last few years that skill has gotten closer to the others for me.
You can do the same. You can take an MC workshop if that’s your weakest skill. You can practice, practice, practice your mixing till you get better. Or you can study your songs and improve your programming. If you really want to be the best at what you do, stop focusing solely on your strong points. Start improving the part(s) of your show that need it the most.
Mike Walter is the proud owner of Elite Entertainment, a Multi-System DJ Company in New Jersey that was recently selected by TheKnot.com and WeddingWire.com as a top Entertainment company in the country.