Now that the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the job outlook for announcers and masters of ceremony to play out like a slow drag in coming years, a growing number of emcees and DJs in Los Angeles are setting their sights on the big city’s teeming nightlife. With hundreds of thousands of bars and distinguished clubs dotting the landscape at every twist and shout, many in the entertainment industry are discovering a groove that’s considered a creative way to make a buck.
“With the advent of Serato and other MP3-based forms of DJing, everyone with a laptop is a DJ,” said Diallo Riddle, a celebrity DJ and Emmy-nominated comedy writer. “This increased competition doesn’t make all DJs equal, but it does increase the chances that mediocre DJs can swipe good gigs just because they know the right person and have a laptop with a few thousand songs on it.”
The Harvard University alumnus said, although the number of jobs for DJs in L.A. is expanding, hitting pay dirt remains a roll of the dice.
“It’s hyper-competitive with a lot of DJs competing for a few gigs,” Riddle said. “And when you luck out and get a gig, chances are, you either know or have met the guy you are taking it from. It can lead to some awkward exchanges because the DJ community in L.A., although growing, is still really small and incestuous.”
Riddle added that the role of a DJ means being able to slam dunk a presentation that’s dramatic enough to impress an audience.
“As in all professions, once you get the gig, you need to perform. That first impression will always define who you are and what you bring to the table,” said Riddle, who performs at exclusive engagements in L.A., including movie premiere parties.
What makes a great DJ?
“The DJ’s job is to manipulate and mix existing songs in a way that, hopefully, makes the sum of those songs more valuable than the experience of hearing them all separately.”
What is the most important job as a DJ?
“DJs must be able to adapt easily to their working environment. If it’s a big dance club, you’d better keep them dancing. If it’s more of a performance or a lounge, then the focus is less on the dance floor and more about exposing people to music they may never otherwise get to hear.”
What is your advice to emerging DJs?
“Don’t be afraid to start off in a dive bar or just DJ for your friends. You don’t need to start off DJing the Golden Globes. Get good at it and then show off your skills to strangers.”
Sharon Raiford Bush is an award-winning journalist who covers topics of social interest in greater Los Angeles. Some news articles she has authored have been archived by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Sharon also contributes to Examiner.com.