When DJs Compete, Publicists Win
The days of young DJs hustling mixed tapes to club operators are over. In the decade of the DJ, management groups, agents and PR representatives are more likely to get the pitch. The modern DJ has a business team behind him; high-paying gigs demand layers of operatives making sure that the money, equipment, venue, marketing and overall image is on point. On some level, image is as just important as skill. These electronic-music warriors need every edge to move up in the pecking order.
The bread and butter of the club culture, mash-up or mixed-format DJs often are underrated, but they increasingly are demanding higher fees. Alexandra Greenberg, vice president of the Mitch Schneider Organization, a publicity firm specializing in music, culture and lifestyle, is one of a new variety of publicists who handle this breed of DJs. I asked about her job and the emergence of this new exciting era:
Nightclub Confidential (NCC): Bands have always had PR firm to get the word out and create and protect an image. With DJs being the new rock stars, how has your job description changed and developed?
Alexandra Greenberg: Longer hours! With Blackberries/email/Facebook, people’s access to you is non-stop. The typical 9-to-5 does not exist anymore. As far as dealing with DJ talent vs. rock bands, things are still even. Electronic artists want to be pitched to newspapers and magazines, the same as any other type of musician. There is something to be said about seeing your client on the cover of a magazine. It’s cachet.
NCC: How do you sell a DJ and separate him from the growing pack — make a good one seem super?
Greenberg: At the end of the day, it comes down to the music. DJs all make their own music nowadays. The definition of someone playing two records one after another is not so common anymore. Programs allow DJs to remix and re-edit on the fly. If you can’t put something listenable together, you are going to have a tough time. It’s my job to make sure the music gets in front of the right people. This is done by phone calls, emails, packages and invitations to your shows, etc. You have to have a good package — a proper bio, press photos, website, Facebook and Twitter accounts. The first thing someone does if they are interested in you is Google you or search you out on iTunes. You need to make sure that presentation is impressive.
NCC: Does image, dress and grooming play an important role? How do you get your talent to adjust to this new world of media attention?
Greenberg: I think the majority of successful talents out there realize that they are the focal point when they play out, so their dress is important. They always have the best sneakers! Many of them have their own fashion lines and/or are extremely interested in fashion and collaborate with designers.
NCC: Who are your clients? Who was your first, and when did you realize that electronic music was shaping the world?
Greenberg: My EDM clients range from icons, like Paul van Dyk and The Crystal Method, and trailblazers, like deadmau5 and Steve Aoki, to on-the-rise artists, like Felix Cartal, Datsik and Audrey Napoleon. I’ve always loved electronic music. When I was in high school, I used to sneak out of my house to go to the Limelight in NYC because I loved to dance. The crowd was so crazy back then with Keoki, Richie Rich and all that gang. The music has always been there. Just now it’s more in the mainstream in the United States. With the digital age, you can be a huge success with millions of views on YouTube and chart on Beatport and iTunes without ever getting a mention in magazines like Rolling Stone and SPIN.
NCC: DJs are international commodities, often with worldwide tours. How do you advance them and how do you interface with foreign press and foreign venue/festival PR representatives?
Greenberg: There is such a press demand worldwide for DJ talent; most of my clients have publicists in each international territory. There are just too many press outlets worldwide — especially now with all of the digital outlets — to be effective if you did everything everywhere. My focus is North America.
NCC: Where is all of this heading? Is the word “DJ” becoming obsolete?
Greenberg: I don’t think the word “DJ” is becoming obsolete, just its definition is changing. People like David Guetta and Calvin Harris are DJs first but are now considered pop stars. More dance music is getting played on the radio
NCC: There are hordes enjoying these DJs in all corners of the world. Why do you think there is such universal appeal for this music?
Greenberg: At the end of the day, people want to go out and have a good time. Nightclubs and music festivals are a place of celebration, a destination for those looking for escape and a place to connect with people. They want to share and say, “I was there.”
With Such Popularity, DJs Command Higher-Paying Gigs
New York-based dGi Management, a talent management and corporate consulting service, has found great success handling the affairs of DJs who offer mixed-format or mash-up music. In years past, electronic DJs appealed mostly to moneyed Euros, but now electronic dance music has broken big in the United States. DJs compete for dance floors, even in places where there is no longer any dance space — just large bottle-service booths where patrons sway and pump their fists in the air.
Yoni Goldberg, a partner at dGi Management, can't complain. The DJ revolution has his performers commanding increasingly larger fees as music is doing more to unite the world than all of the horses and kings’ men who ever tried. His 10 DJs each are a unique brand, more often than not holding center stage at the most fabulous parties and events worldwide.
"PR has long been a critical part of our DJs’ careers,” Goldberg says. “In particular, open-format/celebrity DJs distinguish themselves by their image rather than the music they produce, like dance DJs. The way their image is crafted in the media is essential to public perception and differentiation. Ten years ago, (electronic dance music) festivals existed on the margins and were at least perceived to be part of a drug sub-culture. As they become more mainstream — and the mainstream appeal is undeniable as (the Electric Daisy Carnival) has eclipsed Coachella as America’s most popular festival — so too will the performers. Rev Run and DJ Ruckus, whom I manage, have performed together at festivals around the world and will appear at another dozen this summer. I expect more and more commercial acts to have a presence at them in the future.”