When’s the last time you bought an advance ticket, made a fuss online in the week leading up to the gig and then went to the club to listen — actually listen — to a resident DJ with the same conviction you would a headliner from say DC10 in Ibiza?
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the job of the resident DJ is perhaps the most undervalued role in the nightlife industry (and underpaid, under recognised, etc.). It also wouldn’t be wrong to say that it is perhaps one of the most important. But in Asia, where clubgoers only go gung ho for international acts, resident DJs hardly have the reputation they do in the west and dance floors are often sparse with the absence of a “headliner”. Do you have any idea how much these headliners from those Ibiza venues are charging? I promise you’d be singing a different tune if you did.
Enter 2020, the year that coronavirus swept through the world and changed the course of the music industry forever. We’ve all spent months stuck indoors complaining that our clubs aren’t opening fast enough and that our favourite festivals have been cancelled. The media (yeah, us too) has instilled within us the idea that this is “the new normal”. Well, what if things don’t go back to the old normal, would it be so bad? Perhaps this is the reset that our (hugely inflated) industry has needed, because if there is a silver lining to this COVID-19 situation, it’s that things are about to change for the resident DJ: 2020 is the year that resident DJs will reclaim their dance floors.
The art of the resident DJ is not a fucking easy one to master. The resident DJ establishes the romantic connection between the club and the community. They are the beating heart of the clubs they play at and spend years honing their craft while learning what their audience wants to hear. They struggle with finding the perfect sound that will get people in the door early and they struggling with filling the dance floor (and keeping it full…one bad track will clear a room). They are tasked with creating something out of nothing, maintaining the energy (but not too much energy) and ensuring that the atmosphere is perfectly syncopated for the star attraction to take over — and most people don’t even notice. Let’s just say it: we’ve taken resident DJs for granted. They put us on the list but we’re too tired, too lazy or too hungover from Friday night to go. Or we show up minutes before the main act takes the stage and leave as soon as they’re finished.
If you think about it, residents are just main acts in the making. Think Larry Levan, who was a resident of New York City’s Paradise Garage and David Mancuso at The Loft. Nowadays, we pay big money to see fabric resident Craig Richards or Berghain resident Ben Klock play in Asia. The media tells us that these residents are so great at defining the sound of a club we’ve never even been to, and we buy it (by buying the exorbitantly priced tickets). And somewhere along the way, we allowed these international acts to define the sound of Asia's nightclubs, taking the job away from in-house selectors and disrupting the years of work invested by residents DJs. We have to wonder, does the younger generation even know what a resident DJ really is?
But it would appear these days are over. At least for now. For long enough anyway that clubs won’t have to stress about budgets for headliners for a while. And as venues in Asia start to reopen, clubs can focus on investing back into their residents because residents are the lifeblood of our local scene. Their dedication has kept dance music culture alive in our cities and they're about to have their moment — and we’re going to use our voice to help them not just survive but thrive amidst the pandemic.
Introducing Resident Revival, a series of events geared at putting resident DJs back in the spotlight and letting clubs rediscover their defining sound. Through these events, we’ll thrust resident DJs back into the limelight as they once again become the headliners of their clubs, and we’ll make sure the world hears about it.
Resident Revival first lands at 1900 Le Théâtre in Vietnam with NgoKien — one of Vietnam's pioneering DJs as well as a resident selector at 1900. The club was closed for several months and was amongst one of the last to reopen in the country. But now that they’re open — and really fucking busy — their mission is clear:
“The coronavirus has certainly been a blow to the music scene in Vietnam as all clubs and shows had to be stopped for an extended amount of time but we’ve been fortunate enough that the virus has been contained so far, and clubs are allowed to open again,” said Dong Nguyen, 1900’s Marketing Director.
1900 is the largest club in Vietnam and is used to hosting many of the biggest names to roll through Vietnam like Tchami, Malaa, Zomboy, Mark Knight, What So Not, Diplo, Dillon Francis and more — in fact, it’s what made them famous. Before the club opened four years ago, the country rarely saw talent of this calibre — but that whole strategy is going to change. “The coronavirus for us is a fresh restart button and it will offer local artists a lot of opportunities to showcase themselves in front of a full house since international acts can’t yet travel. We want to provide them with a platform and a stage to shine on.”
The club’s plan is to use this time to focus on developing more local artists and working with them to elevate their performances so, in the future, regional events are just as impressive as when they host international acts. “Oftentimes, local talents are just as skilled as international ones, but they simply lack is a stage to perform on and an audience who knows them.”
If you think about it, there are over four billion people in Asia. There is A LOT of talent here playing in their bedrooms but lack the marketing ability, luck and oftentimes language to break out (because really, that’s what it boils down to). The next Larry Levan could very well exist in Asia, they just need a residency to prove it.
“Regional DJs have their own charms and possess a kind of talent and knowledge that international DJs don’t always have. They also bring amazing music from their individual local scenes that the mass audience of electronic music has often never heard before since it's not as popular."
"Most importantly, they also just understand an Asian audience better."
Resident Revival will echo this mindset across Asia. The movement will begin in Vietnam this week and continue on to other countries as the region continues to open up. Coverage will include interviews, mixes and venue spotlights curated in a way that will assist in bolstering local music communities in a functional, positive and forward-thinking way. The series will help give clubs the opportunity to redefine their sound without international influence, a reputation that Mixmag Asia will help carry forward to the world.
Resident selectors are the unsung heroes of the music industry who are too often heard and too little appreciated. Join us in the revolution.