Tag Archives: International DJ

International Resorts Pt 5: Leveraging Your Unique Experience

You’re in the midst of one of the most unique DJing experiences of your entire life. It’s an awesome time but don’t let such a big opportunity for future work pass you by! There is so much more to be gained here than the gig itself. Let’s cut right to the chase.

First and foremost have a stack of business cards handy.

Folks will recognize you throughout the resort during your down time. By day three, the staff knew my name and most guests knew me as the DJ. You’re a micro-celebrity so leverage that and make friends! It was incredibly easy to start conversations with random people as everyone knew who I was. My going solo heightened the intrigue around who I was and how I ended up there.

Have a laptop wrap with your name on it.

Folks are going to be taking pictures galore while on vacation, don’t throw away all of that free marketing! The only thing on my laptop wrap is my name and Instagram handle. Clutter it too much and onlookers remember absolutely nothing. If you know A: who I am and B: how to find me, then I’ve done my job.

Connect with the staff.

They’re tired of seeing the same people they work with each week, this makes them open and eager to chat. Meet new people from all over the world and broaden that network of yours. You never know who you’ll meet or be connected to. One of those ties might even land your next overseas gig/vacation. In my case, I met a hiphop producer from South America!

Download and connect with folks on WhatsApp and Instagram.

Much of the world outside of the US texts on WhatsApp so this is going to be your medium of communication, both on the island and staying in touch. Connecting with folks on Instagram is a great way for your new connections to see what you’ve been up to. You’re a DJ from another country so there’s going to be intrigue, leverage that.

Post your best photos on Instagram every few days.

Don’t wait until your gig/vacation is over! A few live posts have a much greater impact than uploading en masse when you get back. Your WiFi will be garbage, do it anyway. Giving folks a window into your international escapades while you’re actually there is much more interesting than showing off once you’re back. Use popular hashtags for the resort and surrounding area to get the most bang for your buck on top of the hashtags used back home. This way you’ll show up next time someone is researching their next vacation.

Last but not least: Record all sets!

These sets will be priceless marketing content back home so you don’t want to miss a single minute. Make sure you have plenty of disk space before you leave since wav files consume about 1 GB per hour. They’ll also act as your own personal window into an awesome time.

Conclusion

The biggest takeaway from all this is to never assume you don’t have enough experience for a gig. Don’t wait until ‘you’re ready’. Guess what, you’ll never feel ready. You’re going to figure almost everything out on the fly.

International Resorts Pt 4: Resorts vs Clubs

A larger than life foam cannon stood beside me, ensuring no inch of pool surface remained anything other than mountains of suds. Water balloons flew up and down the terrace above. Girls battled in fierce chicken fights while staff paraded through the foam pouring shots into the mouth of anyone they could find between the building layers of bubbles.

Earlier in the week fire dancers gyrated across the sand completely covered in body glitter, blasting six foot flames under moonlit palm trees. In competition with my Reggaeton was the sound of crashing waves in the near distance, soft yet as powerful as the ten thousand watt system under my feet..

Each week performed these showcase events. Most of the resort would be in attendance, not daring to miss the kind of parties that only Dominican Republic’s sexy coast could offer them.

The energy would be high for sure. There was a decent percentage of folks in their 20s but a larger portion was in their 40s and 50s, hailing from countries all over the world. Canada, Germany, United States, Argentina, Chile, France. I’d need to put my best DJ hat on and weave together all sorts of varying genres to keep everyone happy.

This is where personal interaction was paramount. Many folks were traveling in groups so I’d ask for a request as they hung out by the pool throughout the week. All you had to do was play a single song emblematic of their nationality and they’d go crazy, taking along the rest of the crowd in the process. Enough of these paired with ‘drop-in’ staples to bail you out of occasional duds and I easily string together a great set working the diverse crowd.

All DJing is is connecting with folks. For most dance floors this will be Pop music because they recognize the songs. For niche dance floors like House music, they connect to the type of music. You just need to relate on some element and you’ve got happy dancers. Maybe it’s lyrics from songs they recognize, or a genre. Once they trust you and your crowd gains momentum you gain the freedom to really get creative.

For the crazy foam parties I largely played music that had EDM and House undertones with Hip-Hop sprinkled in for variation; think Pop EDM Remixes. After my first set a guy my Dad’s age came up and said he had a son that goes “to all these EDM festivals. It always puzzled me but now I get it, why he goes. Thanks for that.” It just goes to show that sometimes folks simply need to be exposed to newer concepts in a way they can connect to. I was playing a bunch of rock songs from the 70s that had EDM builds and drops. He was able to relate to the music on the basis of relatable lyrics and the energy of the environment.

Tips for Beach and Foam Parties

  • Connect with the vibe and don’t be afraid to experiment, look to your surroundings for inspiration and keep the energy fun and elevated
  • Prepare to be on a very shoddy setup with questionable power quality
    • My keyboard stand was shaking around as I danced on flimsy plywood that was the ‘stage’, I had to hold my Laptop so it wouldn’t fall off!
  • Elevate all cables/cords
    • My flight case and audio cables were actually electrified as a result of all the water and foam that splashed near the setup!
  • Set up far enough from the water and use a plastic keyboard cover. 

Now rocking these parties and enjoying the sun is only part of the reason why I came down here. Spinning internationally at a four star resort is a huge opportunity for future gigs. Our last part recaps how I made the most of this amazing trip.

International Resorts Pt 3: Playing Out

“Reggaeton. Heavy on the Reggaeton tonight.”

It was the last thing I wanted to hear.

I was only halfway through my residency when I had run through all of the Latino music I had prepared. Every last bit of it.  Day by day I watched anxiously as my un-played Reggaeton list shrank. And now the entertainment manager, my boss, had asked for even more of it.

She was laid-back, very much an island personality. I didn’t even speak to her until the day I arrived. But she had given her first bit of feedback, underscored by the preceding days of silence.

I had an especially large crowd that night. The lasers were flashing, the haze machines were cranking, the girls were prancing around in their snug dresses, the dance team pumping up the crowd.

Randomly I spotted a clipboard in the corner. Boom, my salvation. I grabbed a pen and passed each through the glass opening, the gateway between the DJ booth and the world beyond. I wrote in large block letters “REQUESTS”. What better way to find more Spanish music than by going directly to the source? Hands instantly reached out to make their mark on the night beyond.

The clipboard was a big lift as verbal requests were impossible. My DJ booth was locked away behind a six inch opening and with me were a pair of dual 18” subs. These bass cannons destroyed any chance of communication each time they fired, nevermind the varying accents I had struggled to decipher as folks yelled their requests. No, the easiest form of communication was to instead decipher the questionable legibility of intoxicated hands of my fellow vacationers.

And it worked like a charm. In addition to a full request list I had made a new friend who. He was a club enthusiast from Argentina who had been enjoying my music all week. More importantly he was plugged into the South American music scene and emailed me a list of over forty Reggaeton staples. You better believe that business card I handed him was well worth the price of admission. (Get on that folks!)

Between my new Argentinian friend and request clipboard I would have enough tunes for the remainder of my stay.

That being said, what else did I do to ensure my music was fresh each night?

Setlist Strategies: Digging Deep for Freshness

  1. Prep at least triple the music you need for each set. 
    • We all know to do this, but it’s so crucial it’s worth stressing. The more relevant music you have ready on hand the more fluid your sets will be. Think of all the things that you look for in reading a room: that crowd, that moment, that venue. Then think of the elements to go into a great transition: Vibe, Tempo, Energy. Imagine having 5 songs to choose versus having 50 songs. What do you think will be more effective? What do you think will be better mixed? Do your homework, it’s worth it. 
  2. Dig deeply into your library for the gems you’ve forgotten about. 
    • Even if you’ve been DJing for a few months you’ve got them, moreso if you have years under your belt.
  3. Sort by ‘Last played’ and scan your library in reverse order. 
    • Chances are you have tracks that aren’t tagged correctly so take this as an opportunity to fix those gems as you add them to your ongoing setlist.
  4. Get a sense of the clientele at the resort
    • Walk around during the day and introduce yourself, see what the guests are into. “Hey I’m the resort’s DJ for the week, is there anything in particular you want to hear later?” 
    • Ask the staff, what kind of people predominantly stay at the resort? What age groups? What countries? What music typically works here? What events/days/locations typically have what vibes?
  5. Keep track of songs played each night in a master playlist. 
    • In Traktor you can make this playlist your ‘Prep list’ which will then flag all played tracks with a diamond. At the end of each night add all songs under ‘History’ for easy tracking.

In the next article we dive into what it was like to DJ crazy beach & foam parties, and the curve balls thrown my way like getting electrocuted!