“The great horn player Miles Davis, a man who had every right to play a lot of notes, is famous for saying something along the lines of “it’s not about the notes themselves but the space between.” With digital tools, we feel the need and have the ability to do so many things, but very few of them add real value.
Exercise restraint, let the music play, and add things when the mix really needs it – not just when you get bored.“
That last line should be drilled into every DJ’s head.
“Now with VirtualDJ’s new feature “Sandbox”, Atomix Productions brings this second half of perfecting a mix, in a very easy and intuitive way. Just engage the “sandbox mode” while your song is playing, and you will be able to fast-forward or rewind not only the upcoming song, but also the current song, in order to find the perfect point”s” where the mix would sound the best. All this of course without disturbing what your audience is hearing. The seeking happens only in your headphones. When you’re ready, just put a cue point marker on the exit point, leave your next song cued on the entry point, and disengage the sandbox mode.
You’re now ready to wait for the current song to reach your newly-set cue point marker, and start your perfect mix.”
This will definitely make mixing “on the fly” a little easier. It’ll still require practice and knowing your music, but if you can find a compatible track to the one that is currently playing (BPM, key, etc.), then this sandbox mode might very well come in handy.
So, in the week since my last post in which I was whining and complaining about not having anything to play and giving up and blahdy, blahdy, blah, I’ve done two things:
1. I put on my big boy Superman underoos.
2. I’ve come around to a new way of thinking about streaming music in SL. I’m not sure what got me to this moment, but something clicked at some point along the way. I’ve decided to just give up. Not on streaming, but on concerning myself so much with what people want to hear in SL. That may sound like regressive behavior, but I think it’s healthy. As a matter of fact, I know it’s been more enjoyable to stream music since whatever it was clicked…and in some wierd way, I think that having fun can directly effect the way you present yourself to any audience (whether that audience be a group of 30 people or a single listener).
Obviously, this carries a caveat or two. I’m not going to put a set together full of stuff that absolutely no one in their right mind would want to hear; while there may be a certain segment of the population out there that gets a thrill out of listening to a couple of consecutive hours of white noise and static, I think it’s safe to say that it’s a very, very, very small segment of the population. Nothing against that segment of the population, of course. We like what we like. That’s the way human beings work. If you want to listen to nails being dragged down a chalkboard while a mariachi band is looped in the background and layered over the sounds of two cats fucking, more power to you! I won’t question your taste one bit. Who would I be to tell you that it sounds horrible. If your ears like it, that’s all that matters.
But, I digress.
I guess what I’m saying is that people in SL (and throughout all walks of life) fall into two categories: those that know what they like and refuse to step outside their box…and those that know what they like, but are always willing to let something else into their box. By trying to tailor yourself to the initial group, you are limiting what you, as a DJ in SL, can do. I think oftentimes that DJs in SL gain this mental image of what it is people like to hear, try to process that information and then try to mold that information into a package they can deliver on a constant basis…and it just seems like a terrible idea to me. It will grow stale. You will get bored with it. The worst part? When the DJ gets bored with it, it stops being fun…and when it stops being fun, the listeners stop enjoying whatever it is you have to offer.
It’s fascinated me for a while now, this business with SL DJs. Why do they do what they do? I think the very worst ones are the ones that refuse to experiment…but also choose to play what it is they want and try to force the listener into appreciation. This often turns into a situation where the listener is put-off by the attempt to force them into enjoying something they don’t like…and the DJ becoming irritated because they can’t force their will onto the listener. There’s a fine like between introducing new music to an audience and battering them over the head with it. Where do you strike that balance?
As for my take on that, within this past week I’ve come to the conclusion that the best way to go about it is to make sure you’re following these steps:
So, I rambled a little bit. Not sure where this post was headed anyway…but I went with it. That’s kind of like what I’ll be doing with music in SL from now on. Just like grammar and spelling, I’ll try to make it sound as good as possible and will work to make it legible, but every once in a while, the path might take an unexpected twist or turn. And that’s perfectly copacetic.
I guess, in the end, I’ve already known this for a while now. I just needed to get back around to it myself:
I’ve come very close lately to giving up on streaming music in SL.
For starters, I’m having a really hard time discerning what exactly it is people want to hear in SL. I think clubs have become so varied with the styles of music they play that it’s hard to narrow down your focus. Even for those in SL that claim to cater to “industrial” music, there are so many people out there throwing in non-standard electronic music into sets that loosely fit under the “industrial” umbrella that it has become a big melting pot of varied electronic music. In one set, you’ll hear a synthpop song followed by dubstep followed by harsh EBM followed by synthpop followed by darkwave…it’s hard to figure out what people enjoy and what they don’t based on what’s being played in a club.
I can’t say I’m completely innocent in all of this. As a matter of fact, earlier in this blog, I suggested that DJs step outside their musical boundaries every once in a while and experiment a little. I still think that’s good advice…but for the love of all things holy, try not to do it within the span of five songs twice in one two hour set! However, I have (lately) been mixing a few styles into single sets. I can’t say I’ve been too happy with it, but I’m just trying to find a happy medium: playing stuff that sounds decent when played back to back, but at the same time, trying to play music people enjoy hearing…and, as always, trying to give people something from an artist or artists they may not have heard too much. A lot of times, that seems to be a recipe for disaster. I guess it’s normal human nature for people to want to hear what’s popular and what they’ve heard at other places from other DJs. I get it, I really do. Songs get popular because people like to hear them…but there’s so much other stuff out there that you might enjoy just as much if you give it a chance. No, you may not like all of it, but there might be a track or two that’s played that you haven’t heard before which sets your earholes on fire. It can happen. It’s happened to me before…so, I know it’s possible.
Second, I guess it’s normal for SL to dwindle in traffic when school starts back up, but lately, there haven’t been too many people around for sets. I don’t know…maybe they hate the music I’ve been playing. It’s a possibility and I wouldn’t fault them if I’m sucking. I never want to complain about the lack of attendance at a set because traffic comes and goes…and if I am sucking it up on the stream, then it’s my responsibility to get better or play more music that people want to hear. I haven’t been taking many requests lately. I have always been open to requests, but I’ll admit that over the past few months, I’ve started to dislike requests. I’m not really sure why. I’ve been having a difficult time putting together skeleton sets of music that I think might go over well…and maybe the frustration over that is preventing me from being willing to change anything up.
All in all, DJing in SL is an exercise in frustration lately. I’ve put together a couple of sets I thought sounded really good, but when I broke them out on stream, they just sounded…off. It’s disappointing to put in all that work and then not to have it sound the way you thought it did. Maybe it’s a mood thing? The music doesn’t change, so that’s not a variable. Moods are, I guess. All I know for sure is that it’s brought me close to calling it quits and just giving up any and all shifts I’m scheduled for (which aren’t many because of my current PC situation). The problem is that I enjoy spinning music…and I miss it when I don’t do it. I just wish it wasn’t so frustrating at times. I guess I could easily go around to several different clubs, get about 15-20 tracks that seemed to be played a lot, throw them in a setlist, not worry about mixing them or harmonizing them and just throw it out there for consumption, but part of the fun for me is putting these things together. I especially enjoy making it sound audibly pleasing…even if the sub-genres get mixed up a little bit every once in a while. If the set I play has a steady beat throughout, is not audibly jarring with drastic key changes from one song to the next or wildly varied in tempo, then I can be somewhat happy with the set I’ve put together. I think just throwing a few popular tracks into a queue and letting them play is boring and shows no willingness to be creative with your set. The sets I’ve been happiest with or have heard from other DJs all have some kind of overarching theme…maybe not even the substance of the songs or the lyrics, but more so in the way the songs and the mood and the rhythms fit together.
I’m fighting through it. I spent the entire afternoon yesterday working on one set. I started and stopped at least five times. I’d pick a track I liked to start with, then I’d get about two or three tracks in and get stuck. I would then shut down the laptop and go do something else, come back to it about an hour later and start over from scratch. It’s maddening. Finally, late yesterday, I got broke through and got to something that was half-way decent (I think. It could be a royal turd once it’s streamed.)
Here’s what I have:
So, in that set, you have some classic stuff that’s pretty popular (VNV, Aesthetic Perfection, etc.) plus a few newer tracks (Junksista, MRDTC, Skyla Vertex, etc.) plus a few others that simply don’t get played very much in SL (Implant, AADF, Aircrash Bureau, etc.) It’s all harmonically mixed, so there’s no jarring key changes…but at the same time, I change keys twelve times (so it doesn’t get stale). It also goes from starting out at 125bpm up to 138bpm at the end. That keeps the pace up. The only thing I’m hating about it right now is that it doesn’t stick with one sub-genre but instead moves in and out of electro-industrial to rhythmic noise (and ends up in the experimental vein). That’s not perfect…but it’s where I’m at right now. I really wanted a full set of one sub-genre, but that wasn’t coming together no matter how hard I fought.
Anyway, I’ll stream this eventually and we’ll see how it goes. It may be next weekend, but at least I’ve got one put together. I hate having to rely on old playlists; they always feel so stale and boring. I don’t care if it’s been one day since I last streamed or a full two weeks, I feel completely unoriginal and uninspired when I have to rely on a set list I’ve played before…and worse than that, I feel like the listener can tell. I wish I was good enough to just mix on the fly and have it sound great, but I’m not there.
As always, if you’re reading this, participate in SL and frequent clubs, leave a comment letting me know what you want to hear. It really does help knowing. In the end, it’s all about fun and listening to some great music.
Last month, I finally became fed up with the exorbitant cost of cable TV and cut the line. Despite their attempts to keep me hooked, I managed to remain strong and cancelled my TV package. I figured since I didn’t watch that much to begin with, I wouldn’t miss it all that much. For the most part, that is true. However, I’m also well aware of the fact that nothing I enjoyed watching is currently running (The Walking Dead, Vikings, etc.) and won’t be back until October at the earliest. I’m guessing I’ll probably miss it a little bit then.
This whole scenario led me to the wonderful world of Roku, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. I signed up for Netflix but have yet to join any of the other services. Being subscribed to Netflix has allowed me to watch countless numbers of my cherished WWII documentaries…and there are some older episodes of TV shows available. I decided to give one show in particular a try since they had the first four seasons available: Sons of Anarchy.
What an absolutely terrific show! Why wasn’t I keeping up with this show all along? Such a good cast. The acting is terrific. The story lines keep you on the edge of your seat. The best part about watching on Netflix, though: I don’t have to sit through any commercials and I don’t have to wait months and months between seasons!
It’s my new indulgence. Jax is my hero…and I think I have a little crush on Tara. I also want a Harley, now…or the Oldsmobile 442 convertible in the BRMC video above. Or both.
Hello, dear reader. I had a strange urge to compose this entire blog entry in French for some reason, but I’m not sure why.
That’s neither here nor there…so, I won’t veer off into that direction with any more nonsense than I am capable of typing first thing on a Monday morning. You’re welcome.
So, it’s been a strange month and a half. Haven’t updated any blogs lately. Several reasons for that:
So, those two combined issues have prevented me from updating any blog or maintaining my online/virtual presence for the better part of the last month or so. Not that it’s a bad thing…a nice little break every once in a while from the grid does everyone some good. I’m still not fully 100% back to where I was before the PC happenings, though. I haven’t tried Photoshop on the “loaner” yet (although I’m itching to work on a few pictures) and whenever I do get a permanent replacement for this “loaner”, I’m going to have to be out of action a while (again) to move everything back over from external drives and get it set up so that it will work. As for DJing in SL, for the time being, I’m just going to cover shifts when I can and not take on a permanent position. Since I know that VDJ will run and the “loaner” handles streaming in some fashion, I can probably grab a shift here and there…but until I get my permanent computer back in place, I can’t going to commit to anything on a schedule. I’d hate to take a spot, then have to have it covered for a couple of weeks while I got my permanent set-up back in place. That wouldn’t be fair to anyone else that might want a permanent shift.
So…yeah. That’s what’s up with me. The blogs are still active. I still live. Life is pretty good. Well…except for the fact that it’s Monday morning and I haven’t had my first cup of coffee yet. That part kinda sucks. I’ll remedy that right now.
…that every club in SL is like every other club in SL. For those that last longer than a month (which would probably be comprised of about 10% of all clubs started), you can follow a timeline of how things will progress and what will happen:
It’s very rare that any club in SL has staying power. In SL, I’m most familiar with clubs that feature industrial and electronic music…and there are only three or four names of clubs that have proven they can last more than a couple of years: Club Industry, Sub Zero, Industrial Dreamz and Club Zero. Countless others have tried. Only those four have experienced sustained success. It’s not that there was anything inherently wrong or different from the ones that don’t make it (or won’t make it), and it’s not even that the management was any different. It’s just that in SL, people like to be around people they know (for the most part). Things become comfortable. Maybe one or two other clubs in existence out there today have a chance of sustained success, but that remains to be seen. One reason for success I will give for those four that I mentioned is that all four of them had more than their fair share of committed, long-term staff and management. CI has Osi and several other great DJs and hosts that considered that place to be important enough for them to stick around. Sub Zero had Kaetz and several other DJs and hosts that considered that place important enough for them to stick around. Club Zero has Musette and several other great DJs and hosts that considered that place to be important enough for them to stick around. Industrial Dreamz had Busa and Aash and several other DJs and hosts that considered that place to be important enough to stick around. In each of those places, the core group stuck it out. They were there to get them started, they were there to get through the inevitable lean times and they were there to experience the success when it happened. The first sign of a failing club or one that will never amount to much) is the constant reshuffling of management and staff. A club could have the highest traffic numbers on the grid, but if there aren’t reliable DJs and hosts with permanent spots for patrons to follow, then the club will soon fail.
If there is a point to any of this, it’s that every club in SL has an uphill climb to see any kind of success. As opposed to a store which gains a following by offering something the user can purchase and use (and the ability of the store to continually update their offerings), a club is offering nothing but a social environment with (basically) the same music offered by every other club out there. Think about it this way: let’s say stores in SL all sold the same exact thing. How, then, would a store be expected to gain traffic/patrons? They would have to offer something in the way of a friendly environment and a place that is enjoyable for people to visit. Yes, they could put out a game to draw temporary traffic…hold contests to bring in numbers for a night…but those things aren’t going to sustain a clientele. At the root of it, what has to be unique is the experience…and with so many clubs looking the same in SL and offering the same overplayed tunes, it’s really hard for a club to set itself apart and gain a loyal following. The club has to be unique. They have to have DJs that know what they are doing and can offer something a little different from time-to-time (even if it falls into one genre or a sub-genre of music) and they have to have a place which is welcoming to everyone (this is why cliques in SL clubs are so detrimental to success). Even if they do all of those things, SL clubs still have to contend with the fact that people get tired of doing the same thing in SL day after day, week after week, month after month. Turnover is inevitable and so are the lean times when the traffic will fall off. It’s just the way SL works…and in that respect, every club in SL is the same.
This blog is where Dex Chaffe shares his thoughts on being a DJ in the virtual world of Second Life. Also included are tips he's learned over the years, links to helpful web-based tools, set lists and information about upcoming sets/shows/events happening within SL.
If you would like to participate or add your own thoughts, please feel free to use the "comment" section below each post.