Having a residency in Toronto as a deejay at any venue is no easy task. Now and then you’re left dealing with unresponsive crowds (regardless of what you throw at them), and other times you’re stuck in the middle of industry politics, with owners asking themselves how they can squeeze the most out of you to increase their profit margins. Maybe that statement is a bit harsh, but over the last two decades, the concept of nightclub residency has been one riddled with greed and indifference on the part of entertainment-company giants. Sure, it provided the deejay with consistent pay and the reassurances of having gigs lined up over long periods of time, but the contracts always came with a price.
Once you signed along the dotted line, you were given a stage to master your craft and learn the intricacies associated with feeding off and compelling the crowd – you were given an environment where developing showmanship was encouraged. However, the contract could also be restrictive and rather overwhelming in nature, preventing true artistry and expressiveness within each sampling. Industry professionals watched your every move like metaphoric hawks in Armani suits (It’s like Animal Farm meets the clubbing district… or not at all… I never finished reading that book to be honest). If they felt the crowd would respond better to top 40 tracks, then guess what… Top 40 was being played that night, regardless of how it made you feel inside as a musician.
The reality is, after years of gaining credibility and acceptance as the next logical stage of modern musicality – that of the turntable as instrument with digitized sounds the message – clubs found a way to make even something so pure and unintentional an attractive commodity. The resident deejay was no longer his or her own person, they were just a simple and naïve pawn in a game marked with dollar signs and tacky promotional nightclub flyers (I’m talking about the ones you still find on your car windshield after running into Yorkdale for 10 minutes… Seriously, how sneaky are those all-ages assholes!) But, as I was saying (seriously, a flyer on my windshield? You think I’m actually showing up to your event now? Get out of here) the position of resident deejay slowly degenerated into the same category as wedding singer or even sweet sixteen banquet hall emcee… It was just a job that paid the bills, but didn’t quench the thirst of the artisan’s soul.
Luckily, that phase is behind us (along with my over dramatics), and the movement towards a much more artistic and professional understanding between deejay and venue only continues to improve. Finally, clubs are beginning to realize that taking the intelligence of their audiences and entertainers for granted is no way to sell a brand, or even more simply, provide Toronto with weekly events that actually inspire, not brainwash. This crusade towards re-establishing real content within nightclub venues, steering away from the commodification trends of misguided business folk, is being spearheaded by some of the world’s most talented musicians, forcing the suits to back off for once and let the music do the talking, not the cash flow.
At the end of the day, I’m just glad to see the role of the resident return to its original prominence. It’s about time we hear music that actually express the inner-workings of the artist and not some z103.5 remix the club owner heard on his way to work that night – yeah, really getting tired of Z103.5 (no, you do not play today’s hit music…).
But that discussion is for another time.