One of my MMA students, Gabby Felix, is taking an Entertainment Music Business Class in college and asked to interview me for her final project. I was honored and gladly helped her out. You can read the interview below.
Interviewed On: 11/18/11 at 5:21pm
A DJ, also known as a Disc Jockey, is a person who selects and plays music for an audience. DJs can be found on radio stations (AM, FM, Internet Radio) or on the club scene at bars, nightclubs, raves, or even in stadiums at concerts. As far as geographical locations go, DJs can be found all over the world. DJs cover all different genres of music, including hip-hop, techno, reggae, trance, reggaeton, etc., thus making it a nationally accepted profession. In the United States, DJs are more prominent in bigger cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Miami, because these places contain more club and party areas due to their larger population.
This weekend, I had the privileged opportunity to interview my mixed martial arts instructor, Jonathan Fields, also known as DJ Trails. Fields graduated from Full Sail University in 2000 with a degree in Digital Media and has gone on to try many other things. He works in graphic design, fashion design, web design, martial arts and DJs for a company called Hip-Hop Elements. At the age of 32, Jonathan Fields has accomplished a lot more than many men his age could even dream of doing.
DJs, and the art itself, seemed to have really flourished around the same time that hip-hop began to emerge. In the 1970s to 1980s hip-hop included graffiti (tagging), MCs (rappers), break dancers, and DJs. Jonathan explained to me that it was around the mid-90s that he began to really focus on the DJing aspect of hip-hop. As a teenager, he had already been heavily influenced by graffiti and break dancing. In fact, his nickname, Trails, came about during his tagging days in the late 80s to early 90s. He really began to love the art of DJing during his frequent trips to raves, and dance parties. So much so, that he started to promote for all of the parties that he would attend in order to get in for free, just so he could enjoy the art of being a DJ.
Many DJs that produce and distribute their mixes have to pay mechanical royalties in order to legally profit from record sales. Luckily for Jonathan, because he only plays at events or at different venues, he does not need to pay mechanical royalties. The places where he is hired to DJ at pay what he describes as a “blanket fee” to ASCAP or BMI. This means that he never has to pay mechanical royalties since they have already been covered by whatever establishment he has been hired to work for. He also goes on to explain that many DJs attempt to sell their music without paying any royalties and wait to see if any lawsuits transpire, then those DJs will deal with those legal issues at that point in time.
As a DJ, it is their job to control the mood of a party. If the DJ is not spinning the most recent tracks for that genre or even the most popular tracks for that genre, whatever event he or she is DJing for will most likely result in a plethora of unhappy party goers. Thus, it is important for a DJ to know the feeling of the crowd and the main demographic of the people attending the party. For example, a DJ knows not to play hip-hop at a country bar or gospel music at a rave. A DJ must also know what songs are popular in the genre for which they are DJing. Jonathan loves controlling the party. He loves to watch the crowd become more and more enthusiastic with each track he plays. When Fields first started DJing, he really had to work hard to get people to take him seriously. He used his experience as a promoter to begin creating his own events. As more people came to respect his skills, he was able to play at bigger events. His biggest event came in 2002 when he was able to be an associate producer at the Beyond Festival at Bicentennial Park. With 10,000 people in attendance and artists such as Outkast, Ludacris, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Fat Boy Slim performing, Jonathan claims that this was “by far the coolest event” he had ever taken part in. He was also able to produce his own stage and segment, giving him a chance to perform for three days during this event.
DJing is now prominent across many genres of music, but it was hip-hop that really gave it the attention and push it needed to become such a popular art form. Arguably, one of the first hip-hop DJs was Afrika Bambaataa, who Jay-Z (Sean Carter) claims to be one of the first major pioneers of hip-hop. This is stated in Carter’s song Empire State of Mind and in his book, Decoded. As well as house music, Jonathan loves hip-hop. He states that his five favorite hip-hop albums, in no particular order, include NWA’s Straight Out Of Compton, It Takes A Nation Of Millions by Public Enemy, Erick B & Rakim’s Paid In Full, He’s A DJ, I’m The Rapper by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, and Black On Both Sides by Most Def. Fields has over 5,000 vinyl records in his collection but has cut back on buying them due to the new digital era, the cost of vinyl’s and the fact that his collection has taken up over half of his living room.
Finally, Jonathan warns up and coming DJs that the business is about the love of the music and not about trying to make tons of money. He explains that the love of the music is what is going to get a person through those times where nobody wants to hire them. Fields also states that the music business is cut-throat and that the only way to survive is to have a passion for the music. Anything else will leave a person stuck and unhappy, so it takes a lot of perseverance and hard work to get anywhere in the music industry.
Carter (Jay-Z), Sean. Decoded. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau, 2010. Print.
“Disc Jockey.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
“DJ History.” The Interactive Media Lab at the University of Florida. Web. 21 Nov. 2011.
(reprinted, Jack Denning. “Being A DJ.” Two Turntables, A Cheap Sampler, And A 4 Track. Rap
Coalition. Web. 21 Nov. 2011. <http://www.rapcoalition.org/being_a_dj.htm>.