Struggle Central: The Not So Glamorous Side of DJ-ing

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DJ Chetas’s School of Music and DJ Nasha’s Academy has a DJ course of 2 months. Four batches are held in one day, from 12pm to 8pm. These classes run throughout the year. In two months roughly 20 to 24 students come out as aspiring Djs waiting to make it big, i.e., 120 to 144 students step out in the real World after mastering the course every year from one academy and there are several academies just in Mumbai.

Where do they go? Do they really get work? What is the competition like out there? How do they make their careers?

To get some answers, we spoke to Karan Sudarsan Panikar, a.k.a DJ BEATholic, who learnt Djing from Dj Nasha’s academy back in 2008 and is currently a chief instructor in the same academy since 2011. And here’s what he had to say…

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“Most of these students take it up as a hobby. There are very few of them who pursue it as a career. And then many of them aren’t hard working enough, if they don’t get work within few months, they give up! But that’s not how it works. Initially when I stepped into this industry all I did was pick up sound systems, load it into a truck and take it to the venue…Today there are many DJ’s who’ve made a name in the industry after working for years and then there are those who’re not well known but are trying to make ends meet. In my case, I was at home for 6 months. I wasn’t getting any assignment but I didn’t let that come in my way. In fact I used that time to create a good collection of music and make my sets. I could’ve quit and taken up some other corporate job but I didn’t. One needs a lot of patience to survive in this industry.

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Just doing this course and walking around with the certificate does not make you a DJ. There’s a lot more hard work that one has to put in along with consistent practice. Spinning in class and spinning in front of the live crowd are two different things. Also it’s important to understand when, where, what type of music should be played. You can’t play EDM when you’re spinning at a marriage or when the crowd is full of old people!

Also in many cases the parents don’t support their children in taking up a career like this. The Indian mentality comes in the way. In this industry there is a lot of struggle and DJ’s aren’t considered as artists, at least not in India. They’re looked down upon, it’s considered to be a low class thing…India is yet to understand and value this industry.”

We asked him a few more questions about his academy:

1. How do people go about it?

“It’s all about branding…there are so many DJ’s who just put in money to promote themselves and make a name but at the end of the day it’s your talent that matters. Yes, they become popular but at some point it hampers their profile. People will notice the quality of your music and start commenting on it. Talent will always sustain over money and contacts but that doesn’t mean that branding isn’t important. You have to promote yourself, be slow and steady and build your brand. If you have the talent, flaunt it on your social media accounts and market yourself”.

2. How does the academy help these struggling DJ’s?

“Every time I spin for an event I take a few students along with me and if we feel that a student is good enough, we fix him/her up as an in-house DJ in some lounge. Also Dj Chetas scouts few good students from the academy to play the opening set for his show(s). Other than that, we groom our students, help them build a collection and make their own sets and profiles. And then if we come across a good opportunity we surely pass it on to the students.”

3. What about the age groups of people who take up DJing?

“This industry does not have an age bar. So, we have students as young as 8 and students as old as 54 who come to learn DJing. Like the age old saying goes, ‘You’re never too old to learn anything’. Anyone at any age can become a DJ but at the same time not everyone can become a good DJ.”

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17 year old, Rohan Bhadiyadra a.k.a DJ Virux said, “Opportunities are very limited and DJ’s are like the number of songs produced in a decade.”

18 year old, Neil Creado a.k.a Dj Asztrack says, “If you want to make a career in this industry, you have to make contacts and learn to market yourself well because there’s a lot of struggle involved. A DJ without contacts is like a warrior without a shield.”