While I’m no club expert myself, I think it’s fair to say that there was a time when people used to go to clubs with no intention to see the particular DJ spinning that night. Clubs were known to have a particular sound; whether it be a jazz club or a techno club, the people were there for the vibes and not the name. People wanted to have a good time at a location that makes a business off providing a good time. Understandable. If the DJ can fit the sound of the club, he or she can get booked. Seems fair enough. Because of this, the club DJ could be seen as more disposable than the patrons paying thousands to attend. Again, understandable.
But times are changing, and electronic music is (still) experiencing a massive increase in popularity. Clubs that used to promote a certain sound are now promoting specific DJs, targeting the rising market and fanbase of EDM. The line between club and concert venue is slowly being diminished. More people are going to XS to see Zedd play a set, not because the club is XS. This has led big name clubs to book appropriately sized DJs, many of whom comfortably sit in the top charts. The problem starts here, as the Top 40 list remains pretty stagnant in its sound. In turn, there is a relative definition of ‘club music’ now, and it’s pretty much the Top 40 + Beatport Top 10. This presents a problem to the underground, which is constantly evolving. New artists emerge daily and push the limits of what’s acceptable. These up-and-coming producers can’t find sizable outlets to pump out their music, as the most prestigious clubs are only available to those with legendary status or those willing to mix ‘club music.’ Understandably, this presents a pretty big problem to those trying to break out into the electronic realm.
Enter Dillon Francis, a name we have all learned to laugh at and love. He recently published an op-ed on Medium titled The Moment I Decided to Put My Own Music First and really hits the nail on the head. He talks about his early days in the DJ circuit, working as a “sound guy” for Drai’s Nightclub and opening for the main DJ the nights he would work. Dillon mentions a nightmare situation for anyone trying to express their own creativity, saying…
The club’s management would constantly come up to me and say, “Hey, can you play more mainstream music?”
This is stifling artistic expression in its purest form. Dillon even defined himself at the time as “an open format DJ without a signature sound.” Had the club’s management let him be the Dillon Francis we all know and love, they would have known they hit gold. They could have been the ones to push the boundaries and bring something brand new to the table. But instead, they told his creativity to fuck off and played it safe, catering to the bottle-buying patrons in an already tried and true (but overused) method.
It took one argument with management for Dillon to call it quits, leaving the mainstream club life to pursue his own productions. He said himself, “It ultimately led me to doubling down on the sound that became my signature — moombahton.” He was really digging Dava Nada and Munchi’s reggaeton-inspired sounds, and, though not the most popular artists at the time, decided to pursue a career in moombahton. Only a short time later we were graced with “Masta Blasta” and all its moombah glory. Surely he’s the one laughing now, as I’m sure any club today would be more than happy to accommodate his needs.
So, while we have the banality of ‘club music’ to thank for the rise of Dillon Francis, it truly is an increasing problem in our scene. More clubs should take notice of the trends and remember the artists are just that, ARTISTS. It may work out better than expected.
For the full piece by Dillon, click HERE.
Argument formed in collaboration with Peter Rubinstein