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Behind The Mix - Teacher + Playlist Curator by DJ Marinko

July 25, 2020 2:26 AM | Deleted user

Stories from the Canadian DJ Landscape

Teacher + Playlist Curator by DJ Marinko

After becoming a father, I came to the sudden realization of how precious and scarce of a resource time is.

One of the main challenges of my DJ career was being forced to turn away clients because there are only so many Friday and Saturday nights. I had some regular bookings on other days, like Sunday afternoons at Stratus Vineyards, but I had to face the fact that I was not being paid on the majority of the days of the week. I decided to focus on solutions and came up with two main ideas: teaching DJ skills and creating playlists.

At first, as a teacher, I worked with anyone who was receptive and interested in my ideas, I taught at a Montessori daycare, local high schools and grade schools, as I got more experience and refined my teaching skills, I increased my prices to reflect my experience and my client list kept growing. Creating playlists for corporate, restaurant and retail clients was a great way to generate regular income and it paid its dividends in terms of opening up new opportunities. My goal was to build a roster of regular clients that could keep currency flowing and not require me to be present “performing.” This became a crucial asset starting in mid-March of 2020.

While my normally busy summer event season has been significantly affected by the global pandemic, I am one of the few DJs in my area still getting paid to perform and I'm continually generating future bookings without having to pay out of pocket for marketing. One of the main things I learned from all of this (pandemic playlists and DJ lessons), to quote the song Big Fun by Inner City, "We don't really need a crowd to have a party.” This is to say that there are other ways to get paid for our musical expertise as a DJ, than just performing at events. 

Some clients I work with include Stratus Vineyards, Dispatch (one of EnRoute's top Canadian Restaurants 2019), Ruffino's Pasta Bar & Grill, Backhouse Restaurant, Old Stone Inn Boutique Hotel, Itty Bitty Pie Company, SRC Vinyl & Limited Distillery, Honey's Boutique, Vaughn's International Cuisine, Kasbah Lounge, Hippokampus Beach Bar (Mljet, Croatia), Paradiso (Tribunj, Croatia), Niagara College, Brock University, Niagara Artists Centre, Terra Viva Montessori Daycare, and Wheatley School

Would you like to know how to become a playlist curator? Following are some of my tried, tested and true experiences.

  • Start with businesses that you know and already work with, trade at first (case of wine, dinner, etc.) and build from there. 
  • Sharing is caring. Let people know what you're up to, the businesses you work with will appreciate it and likely reciprocate.
  • Build playlists based on customer demographics, desired atmosphere, time of day, season, special events or just because.
  • Bust the algorithm! Choose some songs that are unexpected but awesome and pay attention to music not on the top 40 or typical cliche playlists. If it isn't unique, why would they pay you?
  • Pay attention to what the client is saying and fine tune your selections based on their feedback.

For an example of my DJ instruction, check out this Treehouse DJ Lesson with Piggy. This is an excerpt from a video I made for In The Soil Festival, which became a virtual festival in June 2020 due to the public health emergency (this is an example of some of my most simple DJ lessons).

I eagerly await the day that we can have events and not be overly concerned about physical distancing, barriers and exposure to people we don't know. Since events are being restricted in many ways, it is important for us all to think of creative solutions to keep our role as entertainers relevant.

As businesses begin to open their doors to customers, I think that the vibe a DJ creates with music will help attract paying customers. There are numerous studies showing that "music influences behaviour", so in the same way that we choose songs to help create and enforce emotion at a wedding, we can create an atmosphere that makes it comfortable and inviting for people to spend their hard earned money. Finally, as music educators, we can share the knowledge we have to help others in this unprecedented time.


Special thanks to CPDJA Member DJ Marinko for sharing his story with us here for publication.


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