Op Ed: “It’s My F*cking Turn” – DJs Please Stop Hogging The Decks!

Dj Stop Hogging
Author : 6AM
November 09, 2022

Op Ed: “It’s My F*cking Turn” – DJs Please Stop Hogging The Decks!

If you all remember the Gordo vs. Waze/Essel dispute a couple of months ago where Gordo was accused of not getting off the decks despite having two supporting acts confirmed to close out after him. The twitter feud and reaction that then followed from the initial accusation by Waze, opened up a flood-gate of people ranting about other incidents whether as an observer/attendees or they themselves were the DJs that experienced the trauma of not being able to play their supposed time slot because of the DJ in front of them (usually the headliner)- despite being confirmed.

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Not The First Time, Won’t Be The Last Time.

While the end result of that Twitter feud ended on a positive note where Gordo offered both Waze and Essel make-up gigs and to tour on a couple of shows with him. I still can’t help but to think it was a nice PR move done by Gordo’s management team; after all….Gordo did respond back a bit initially about the incident but then a resolution was posted on his Instagram 3-4 days AFTER it happened- meaning they had time to discuss how to handle this. Regardless, I think it was the right move on Gordo’s management to diffuse it with a positive gesture.

BUT LET ME WARN YOU NOW – this sort of incident or behavior by DJs refusing to get off the decks when it’s their time to finish isn’t going to end anytime soon. It will probably happen a lot more in the coming future and this is what I want to dissect and address here.

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My Story

In 2016 I was asked to close at Exchange LA after a big techno act (someone who I deeply admired at the time). Needless to say, it was a big opportunity for me and I was super excited to play. Without going into too much detail, the techno act that “requested” a closer, decided he wasn’t tired anymore after taking a fat bump. When I stepped up to prepare for my set time, the techno act looked back at me and knew I was coming in to close out for him; he immediately pointed to his manager and a gentleman approached me and the following dialogue took place:

Manager: Hey man thanks for your time but he will take it all the way from here. Enjoy the party!

Me: Umm ok but I was asked to close out after him; I was booked because he wanted a closer.

Manager: Yeah but he’s good now, hope you understand thank you

The stage manager had a word with the artist manager and after a few minutes the EXLA stage manager came to me and said:

“I’m sorry Jia but he wants to close the party now and I know you were booked because he asked for a closer but he wants to finish. Sorry about this but we’ll make it up to you”

At the time, I didn’t really feel anything because it happened so fast….one minute you’re supposed to be closing out a packed club and the next you’re being excused for the night despite me being there from almost the beginning with 25-30 of my friends waiting for me to close.

It was one of the most embarrassing experiences as a DJ…I packed my bag and did exactly what the manager told me to do…enjoy the party. I never made it a big deal after that besides a few close friends being very upset while I unleashed a few nasty comments privately about that act.

I’m sharing my story not because I want empathy and pity but to let readers (especially DJs who are reading this) be aware that I know what it feels like because it has happened to me. I am able to provide context today because of my past and now I have a full understanding of why these things happen and why they will always continue to happen.

Dj Stop Hogging

Where This Behavior Stems From

Real talk – the majority of the DJs today “love to perform” in front of a lot of people or a big crowd; no matter how much they love to just “play music”. I know for a fact that almost ALL of them dream of playing in front of people at a real party. After all, getting the attention and praise for playing their music selection is something almost all DJs chase (or have chased before). Our need for attention and praise is a very natural human need; even employees at the lowest level of any company could do better with some praise and attention from their superiors or boss when they are doing a good job. This is more of a psychological thing than anything else and it definitely gets amplified when we talk about the need for DJs to be praised by the masses. While I know it’s not every DJ’s intention to get all the attention and praise, I also do know that no DJ would ever refuse that sort of recognition, attention, and praise for their set – as mentioned earlier, it’s why they “love to perform”.

Depending on the DJ’s upbringing, this plays a major effect on how they approach this industry when they are DJs playing out at venues. It makes me question whether they are someone who was neglected by their parents and, therefore, as adults crave this attention more than their peers who got more attention from their parents and family growing up.

While I am no psychiatrist, there have been multiple studies and publications that can confirm that whatever it is we lack or suffer as children the need for that missing link gets amplified when we’re adults. A child who grew up poor and missed out on the good life early on tends to focus on making money and seek out pleasure and entertainment as adults. A child who was abused or bullied by others tends to become the adult that protects their circle, family, or community. Whatever neglect we face in life, that need becomes greater as we get older.

Most DJs (not all) fall into this category, where some form of neglect happened to them as children and now as adults, they can’t even explain why they NEED to DJ in front of people or a crowd. I actually know why…because they (including me) crave that attention/praise when we’re on the decks. As someone who was bullied in school most of my life and neglected (unintentionally) by my parents because they were always working, I’ve developed that need and I found out how I could fulfill that need by actually doing something I love such as DJ’ing and playing music – I know I am not alone here.

NOW – how does this apply to the plethora of social media accusations by so many DJs and fans about so-and-so DJ refusing to get off the decks?

“Most DJs (not all) fall into this category, where some form of neglect happened to them as children and now as adults, they can’t even explain why they NEED to DJ in front of people or a crowd. I actually know why…because they (including me) crave that attention/praise when we’re on the decks.”

For one, this doesn’t just happen at big clubs and festivals – it fucking happens at private afterparties (of all sizes) where every DJ there is fighting for their 30-minutes of attention to play their music. I have experienced other peers refusing to get off even at a small private afterparty despite them being on the decks for more hours. This behavior happens at ALL levels and this is where that behavior stems from, usually at the beginning of their DJ career.

If you’re the type of DJ that already have this mindset of “fuck everyone else, it’s my turn and my turn only” please understand you’re really exposing your childhood trauma and your immature brain (lol not sorry!). Also you’re showcasing how much of a brat you really are.

Your lack of respect for the game (yes, I call it a game) comes from your lack of awareness of what is even going on. Why you need to act this way and why you can’t stand when others take the attention away from you  – not every DJ can accept that. And those who are in the position of being headline acts today, carry that behavior forward even at the highest professional level, because they never really grew past their childhood trauma of neglect and their deep desire for attention and praise ALL THE TIME – they do not care who they hurt as long as the attention is on them.

DJs Stop Hogging

I can only imagine (and safely assume) that Gordo, the Blessed Madonna, and the techno act that snubbed me were all deck-hoggers at these small afterparties in their beginning days. I highly doubt they became deck-hoggers when they finally broke through as headliners but they were probably deck-hoggers ever since they started. This behavior isn’t formed from a single occurrence (i.e. this one time at Coachella or this club etc) but rather it’s a consistent pattern that’s been happening all throughout their life. It’s why some agents have to literally FIGHT promoters to beg them to give their artist the “better” slot because more people are assumed to be there if the artist plays a later slot rather than the earlier or opening slot. Agents also feel like they are doing their job when they do their part to fight for their artist’s attention with the masses because it helps raise their artist profile so it’s a win-win situation for both parties.

In order for us to understand this form of behavior, we must unveil the deeper meaning behind it. We are all products of our past, whether good or bad we cannot change it. We can only use them to understand why we are the way we are today and why certain DJs simply have the respect and courtesy to share the attention (aka slot times) while others seem to have repeated issues again and again. Refusing to get off the decks is the most extreme case. But we have ALL heard of DJs pulling out their USB stick right before the next DJ goes on to intentionally kill the music and whatever tactics they use to snub the next DJ coming on because their set time and their attention is now being taken away.

By understanding that pretty much ALL DJs come from some form of trauma, we can finally accept that this form of behavior will NEVER end even if a million DJs read this article. There will always be those who cannot let go of their past trauma and will do whatever they can to fight for their ego, pride, and the need to get that attention. Since we know this kind of BS will never end, here is how we can approach these situations from all parties involved.

 

To the DJs Who Disrespect Other DJ’s Time Slot

In Gordo’s defense based on his response to the situation (FYI he deleted the apology and makeup gig post from his IG lol – again I question his intention and still think it’s a PR stunt). There were a lot of comments on that post from big DJs saying “this happens all the time – closers sometimes are just there as back up”.

“We are all products of our past, whether good or bad we cannot change it. We can only use them to understand why we are the way we are today and why certain DJs simply have the respect and courtesy to share the attention (aka slot times) while others seem to have repeated issues again and again.”

That statement is true IF that DJ who was booked to close should have been properly COMMUNICATED to as such! Most of the time, there is no communication at all. While I know it’s not Gordo’s job to make sure his management is communicating with the venue or promoter (or the actual supporting talent)- I do think it is important for the headliner’s management to bring awareness beforehand. This way there isn’t any misunderstanding of the situation where the support DJ(s) thinks they are getting snubbed. In this case, Waze and Essel totally felt they were snubbed and took things to social media to blow this thing up and this is why I’m writing this article.

On top, I think EVERY DJ (headliner or not) should use some common sense courtesy to know that if there is someone behind you or next to you pulling out their headphones/USBs/Vinyl they probably are the next DJ coming on. Turn around and say “HI” at least to acknowledge their presence and to know why they are even there at the first place. I have heard horror stories of headlining DJs not even acknowledging the presence of another DJ coming on even when they know they are there to switch out to the next set (next DJ). This is such a big moral “f*ck you” to the supporting DJ who is probably a fan until this very moment. Human courtesy and respect is the most basic thing you can do as individuals regardless if you’re the headliner or not. No one is above anyone when it comes to this common decency – it’s what OUR ENTIRE ELECTRONIC MUSIC COMMUNITY IS BASED ON! Respect.

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To ALL of the DJs out there who intentionally or unintentionally hog the decks; please understand one word – KARMA. I know you telling the next act “one more track” or “this is my track” is a nice gesture of saying “I ain’t done yet” but it’s still rude and wrong. All DJs are given their exact slot times before the show and should know and understand how to craft your set to end ON TIME, not 5-minutes over and sure as hell, not 30-minutes over or to the most extreme case; not getting off the decks at all. Understand that this behavior is toxic and you would quickly lose respect from your peers for being a deck-hogger if you ever pulled that on others. Cutting other people’s set time short for the benefit of maximizing yours is the quickest way to reveal who you really are inside: desperate, immature, disrespectful. I hope the point was driven home here. If not shoot me an email jia@6amgroup.com so we can chat about this more!

 

To The DJs Who Got (And Will Get) Disrespected by Other DJ’s Unprofessionalism

I got one word for you STOICISM: essentially controlling only what you can control and making the most of a tough situation. I am not going to sit here and tell you it’s easy getting snubbed from your set time by a headlining DJ or any DJ for that matter and you shouldn’t take any crap from them either is what I would also encourage but do it with respect and professionalism even if you don’t feel like that’s how you’re being treated. That’s how you win the situation (at least the one with your mind) – this isn’t going to be your last gig ever nor the biggest one you’ll ever play (unless you got snubbed at Awakenings, EDC, Ultra, or Tomorrowland but I doubt that’s you – if so please email me jia@6amgroup.com, would love to chat about how that happened!)

As I mentioned above, this sort of behavior will never end, it is something nobody can control nor stop it from happening to you and others because there are really f*cking DJs out there who just don’t give a damn. So the best you can do is always prepare and perhaps be proactive about things!

For example, if you get booked for a closing set after the headliner ask the promoter if your set time is just back up and have them inquire with the agent or manager so everyone can be aligned. This is something I personally do whenever I get the closing slot just so I don’t ever get hit with a surprise (again). I’ll still take the gig even if my set time was optional but I was still getting paid; no harm done as long as there’s communication about it. I also prefer to just take opening slots these days, it’s way more challenging to set the vibe than bang it out in the end; it allows me to dig deeper and create versatility when selecting tracks, and let me tell you I have never heard of an opener get snubbed by the headlining DJ, they usually show up 10-20 minutes before I end my set. This is me taking control back of that situation I never want to face again, you can do the same next time you’re booked to close for a headliner.

“…if you get booked for a closing set after the headliner ask the promoter if your set time is just back up and have them inquire with the agent or manager so everyone can be aligned. This is something I personally do whenever I get the closing slot just so I don’t ever get hit with a surprise (again).”

Now if you’re actually running into the situation without confirming before the show and the headlining DJ is not getting off or have told his tour manager to tell you to f*ck off- here is what I would’ve done if I get to re-play my scenario at EXLA that night with Chris Liebing (there I said it!! No hard feelings, I’m gonna see him in LA on Nov 26th for OBSERVE – still respect the guy and it’s been more than 8-years now). I would have requested, respectfully, to speak with Chris and give him my personal confirmation that I understood the situation and if I can take a photo with him because after all, I am still a fan. I would have exchanged some nice words with him and end it with a hug. I would’ve done all of that instead of shouting at the stage manager, flaring my hands up, and walking away shaking my head. I know I said I went and had fun because a nice red pill was waiting for me on that dance floor so it didn’t end all too bad.

While not all of the DJs who get snubbed will get makeup gigs like what Gordo offered Waze and Essel, what I do know is that no one (the promoter, and the manager of the headliner) enjoys being caught in the awkward situation between the supporting DJ getting snubbed – it’s really a bad situation I wish no one ever has to go through, but it happens.

Usually, the promoter who booked you will feel bad and a make-up gig is usually immediately in the discussion so that the show is made up. The best way to look at the situation is you’ll more than likely get another shot if your timeslot got pushed out because the DJ ahead of you wanted to continue and there’s nothing anyone can do (such as in Gordo’s case). Understand that you will get another opportunity and that this wouldn’t be your last gig ever, don’t make it worse than it really is – after all…it’s just a gig. While I understand the sentiment of “I worked so hard to be here” – let me tell you that not everyone who works hard will ever see the opportunity you just went through and will continue to go through… So you gotta do your best to let it go and try to go after the next opportunity.

“The best way to look at the situation is you’ll more than likely get another shot if your timeslot got pushed out because the DJ ahead of you wanted to continue and there’s nothing anyone can do…”

 

To the Promoters Who Can Diffuse The Situation

Besides DJ’ing I am also a promoter myself and have been doing my own events and booking talents since 2010. I can honestly say that none of us (promoters) want to deal with any extra drama especially at the event when the show itself is already stressing us the F*** out! The last thing (and I mean it) the last thing we ever want to deal with is this absolute BS where the DJ we booked refuses to get off the decks and I don’t care who the hell it is – you get off the decks when your time is up! However, there are times when the artist would like to extend their set on the spot but only through communication and mutual understanding can this be achieved without another social media feud.

Headliners wanting to play extended sets are a norm and as long as they don’t hog up the entire time of the next DJ, I personally think it’s OK to extend 15-30 minutes max, if this was not pre-communicated and a decision needs to be made on the spot. This must be immediately communicated to the supporting DJ with the full understanding they will still get their play time; this is also dependent on the closing slot time – if it’s only an hour then we should get the next DJ on and extend at max 5-10 minutes. If the closing set time is say 90-minutes to 2 hours then a 15-30 minute max extension is considered a fair middle ground.

DJs Stop Hogging

Anything over that is unacceptable especially if there really is someone after the DJ. As the promoter, you need to take a stance and ultimately understand that this is YOUR PARTY so you make the call and stick with it.

The importance of transparent communication between promoters and artists (and artist management or agent) is often overlooked but it makes the difference between Gordo saying “f*ck off” to the next DJ and Waze making a big deal on Social Media. And now here I am, still writing this article (but I’m clearly loving it!)

In EDC 2012, my good friend Trent Cantrelle had the following options:

1) Play EDC Vegas main stage opening slot on day-1

or

2) Closeout for Carl Cox at Drai’s Afterhours 2-nights in a row – but he was told before he accepted this gig that the closing slot is not guaranteed meaning if Coxy wanted to play the whole way he is free to do so. Trent would still get paid but not guaranteed play.

Trent took option 2 – I never saw him close for Carl Cox both nights I was there…end of the story, no rant, no social media blah blah because why? Because it was clearly communicated that would be the case. Did it suck for Trent? Perhaps… but was he in a position to lash out at the promoter? Nope… not at all!


Conclusion

With our scene being flooded with DJs who believe their music and flawless mixing skills can save alzheimer’s disease, you bet we’re not going to hear the end of this where DJs refuse to get off when it’s their turn to get off. The common thread here is to communicate and realize how you can diffuse the situation no matter which angle you’re playing in this particular scenario. We also need to use some empathy that the deck-hogging DJ is fulfilling something that’s deeply missing in his life now as an adult doing what they love the most; playing music in front of their fans.

For the DJs that are worked hard to be the headliner, please understand you were once that supporting DJ trying to cut your teeth in the scene by giving it your best when the opportunity comes. Why ruin it for others now? Just because you made it? Never forget your roots and understand that the scene could use a lot more positive influences rather than the one that tries to hog it all – we have plenty of that in the scene and industry already so why not be different?