“What is the one thing that most DJs lack?”
You know, if someone were to ask me that question, I'm pretty confident that I have a good answer. “Patience.”
This manifests itself in a number of ways… not the least of which has to do with self-proclaimed superstars playing banger tunes at 9 PM. But we can save that conversation for another day… that's not what I'm talking about here.
What I'm referring to is the overall idea of becoming a DJ, developing the craft, and increasing one's influence. I'm talking about the game. The question is, are you playing a finite or infinite game?
Finite and Infinite Gaming
Any gamers in the house?
Let's take a well-known example: Super Mario Bros. This is a game with very specific rules. You cannot stay on one level for longer than about 2.5 minutes, or your timer runs out and the game is over. You cannot run into a goomba, or you die and the game is over (unless you jump on his head and squash him). And there is only one way to win… make it to the very last level, beat the final boss and rescue the princess. And then the game is over.
Let's compare this to another video game: Minecraft. In Minecraft, while there are rules, there are many ways to bend and break (or mod) them. And this is encouraged by design. While there is arguably an “end game”, it doesn't give you a game over in the truest sense… because that's not the point of Minecraft. The point is to mine, build, explore… rinse and repeat. The point is to keep playing.
With some games, it depends entirely on how you play them. The Diablo series, for example, has a very specific level structure and end-game boss… but ask any hardcore Diablo player if they think the game is about winning. For most, it's not… it's about turning your character into the biggest badass possible. It's about grinding and churning out awesome loot. The point is to keep playing and advancing…. indefinitely.
Governments can play both finite and infinite games. For instance, building hospitals and libraries vs. forts and missile silos.
In an infinite game, the “journey” or “climb” is all there is. An infinite-gamer who plays baseball throws a slow and steady pitch so that the batter can hit it easily, because they'd rather keep playing the game than to win.
Your DJing Career: A Destination or Journey?
There are a number of reasons that becoming a DJ is quite popular these days. We all have more music than we know what to do with. DJ software has made the technical skill barrier a lot less intimidating.
And then there's the misconception that becoming a DJ will increase your popularity overnight… possibly to the superstar DJ endgame. For one thing, the overnight sensation almost never happens overnight. And the ones that do are the exception, not the rule.
The infinite-game DJ does not ask, “how did Hardwell win?” A more appropriate question is, “is the DJ game worth playing?”
Just because everything is so easily accessible to us these days… the music, cheap hardware, the knowledge, the technological assistance… doesn't mean that fame and fortune is thereby just as easily accessible.
So, the question is, do you enjoy the climb? Or are you looking for overnight success? If it's the latter, I implore you to find another route… not because I'm worried about my precious music scene, but because I'd hate to see you waste your time. Fame and fortune is nearly always going to belong to a select few of elite marathon runners, not the vast majority of sprinters.
Characteristics of the Infinite-Game DJ
We are, of course, talking about the DJ who “plays” because he has a love of the game. He has something deep within him that needs to get out. He loves music, and loves sharing it with others in hopes of making a connection with them.
He realizes that a finite game is played for the purpose of winning, or reaching some end goal, whereas an infinite game exists for the sole purpose of continuing the play. And he realizes that only things that change can continue. He doesn't play within boundaries… he plays with boundaries.
He is generous. He gives back to his scene, and surrounds himself with other people who give back to him… not out of a sense of entitlement, but because this is how evolution works. A high tide lifts all boats.
This DJ does not care about the “EDM bubble” or the garbage hip-hop that's invaded the radio waves. He isn't scared that trap music is ruining the scene, or that nobody he knows has ever heard of progressive breaks. He's not bothered by people's use of the sync button, or the format any other DJ chooses to focus on. Nor does he care if some outsider considers him to be less than a musician, unworthy of a stage presence. This DJ thing has become etched into his soul, and he's going to seek and share regardless of the state of the industry.
Sometimes, this DJ may not even feel like he “fits” in the scene… not because a place is denied him, but because he doesn't take his “place” seriously. Like a poet or fiction writer, he views peoples roles as largely performed, their rules conventional, and their conflicts theatrical.
He embraces positivity and playfulness, because it allows for unlimited possibility and opportunity as opposed to a cynical, jaded, and very much final Game Over.
It's often our vision, not what we are viewing, that is limited.