How to be Involved in the Music Industry without being a DJ/Producer
You don't have to just producer or mix to be help your community
October 9, 2023 at 12:00 AM PT
In general, when most people think of being involved in the music industry, they assume that means you need to be a musician. And in the house and techno sliver of the industry, that means being a DJ or a producer. While it is true that being a DJ/producer is a fruitful way to make a career in the music industry, it’s not the only way to do so. In fact, trying to make it as an artist might be one of the hardest ways to make it in the industry.
Yes, it’s certainly the most enticing and exalted avenue to head down, but it’s one with a bottleneck that not everyone will make it through. For every artist that has made a name for themself in the industry, there’s a line of dozens of other artists behind them just waiting for the opportunity to get their foot in the door; some of them will end up getting their chance, but a lot of them won’t.
I’m not saying this to discourage anyone from trying to be a DJ/Producer, I think everyone should go big and follow their dreams. I’m saying this simply because that’s just the harsh reality of this industry. And believe it or not, there are many other ways you can be involved in the music industry and potentially make a career for yourself without being an artist.
I don’t have a single musical bone in my body. When I was young, my dad bought me a nice classic red fender guitar and got me some lessons; I gave up after lesson #3. In middle school music class I chose to play the trumpet at first, but then quickly switched to the cymbals which had about 3-4 notes per song because I couldn’t read sheet music. I was once given a harmonica for my birthday but never played it because I didn’t like the taste of metal. That is the extent of my career as a musician.
With that being said, that never stopped me from finding my way to be apart of the music industry. Even though I knew I wasn’t going to be an artist, I knew that this was the scene I wanted to be apart of one way or another. Fast forward to today, and I have a large chunk of my life consumed by involvement in the music industry. I write articles, promote events, and sell T-shirts all in the name of techno. I don’t own any synthesizers, I don’t know how to beat-match, and I don’t even know the difference between analogue or digital; but all that put aside I can still look you dead in the face and say without a doubt that techno is my life.
Often times people look at me surprised that I don’t produce/play music considering how deep I am in the scene, but I just love the music and the community so much that I’m down to do whatever it takes just to be involved with it. So if you’re like me and don’t want to make/select tracks but still want to be apart of the house + techno community somehow, here’s what you can do to be apart of it and potentially make a career for yourself too.
Volunteer Your Time
It’s not the most glorious way to get a start in this industry, nor are you going to make any money at first, but it’s definitely the best way to immediately give back to the community and show that you are really about it. I myself actually started off my career as a volunteer with 6AM working event operations, as did most of the people working for us as well. And it’s not just something 6AM does, many groups and organizations in the music industry take in volunteers.
Volunteer programs are in place to make sure that only the real ones with genuine intentions get to be apart of the team. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen with ulterior motives get weeded out through the volunteer program because they were not there for the right reasons. But if you’re signing up because you love the music and community and want to find a way to contribute to it, then you certainly are there for the right reasons and there will be opportunities for you down the line.
I was once changing overflowing trash cans on packed dance floors, swapping out toilet paper in warehouse party porta-potties, getting told to go f*ck myself while passing out flyers outside of other clubs, and doing various other non-desirable grunt work in the late night for free. Now I’m getting paid to manage the merch booth, handle social media posts and other online promotion services, write fun articles, and to be apart of a team of other like minded individuals- and it’s all because of the sacrifice I made volunteering.
Yes you will be working for free for a while, but it’s just the same as with any intern position for any other company, except way more fun with loud music. It will be worth it down the line, and potentially sooner rather than later. You ultimately get what you give.
Work The Bar
Ah, nothing says working in night life quite like bartending does. Working the bar is a great way to get into your favorite shows for free and be involved in the music industry while making some solid cash along the way. It’s a good opportunity to meet people and make connections too since most people in attendance will need to get something from the bar one way or another, and you never know who you’re going to make a drink for. Sure, the nights will be long and sometimes you’ll get over the seemingly endless hoard of people needing to order from you, but it’s honest work that’ll keep you around the scene (and keep your pockets full).
It goes without saying that when you book an artist to play your show, you need to make sure they’re being taken care of, and that’s fully its own job right there. Working hospitality is not only very important, but it’s very fun! Your role is to literally hang out with the artists and make sure all their needs are met. This could include driving the artist to and from the show, taking them to dinner, putting together their riders and care packages, making sure they have all their needs met while back stage, etc… there’s a lot that this role entails. And it’s a great way to not only contribute to the operations aspect of the event, but also a great way to enjoy the party! The artist you’re in charge of might be super cool and wants you to take shots with them! Or wants you to dance backstage while they’re playing! Or literally anything else that could be done at a party, you just go with the flow and make sure the artist has a good show.
Become a Photographer
When someone throws a crazy event, it’s more than likely that they’ll want to hire someone to capture it all on camera so they can promote it for the next one. Sure, pretty much anyone these days has a camera in their pocket, but not everyone has the proper equipment or photography skills to document it. So if you want to be apart of the event while also getting to be in the moment and enjoy the party, become the photographer that gets hired to do so.
Get into Stage Production/Lighting
Music production is not the only production that will get you heavily involved and make you lots of money in the industry. When looking at all the aspects of what it takes to put on an event, playing the music is only half the show; it’s up to an entirely different crew to curate the dance floors atmosphere with lighting and decorations. So if you’re the artsy/crafty type but aren’t interested in making music, then maybe you should consider getting into stage production and lighting.
My friend who got me into 6AM in the first place is actually a lighting technician himself. He started off in the scene as a volunteer too, and never had any aspirations of becoming a producer/DJ either. As he worked his way through the ranks and became more involved in the community, he realized that he not only wanted to stare at the lights, but wanted to set them up and operate them as well. Fast forward to today, and he’s not only doing the lights for 6AM parties, but many other events across the scene as well and even has his own company to do so. This just goes to show that there are many possibilities to manifest your creative vision in the music industry without actually making music.
Have an Online Presence
As I mentioned earlier in this article, and as you read the words I write, one of the ways I got involved in the industry is writing house/techno related articles online. This is one option available to you if you like writing and are able to get onboarded by a media company, but there are so many other things you can do online these days to impact the industry. Social media is an incredible phenomenon that has been connecting the community for many years now, and theres many takes on it you can use to make your contribution. You can make funny relatable tik-toks, promote and review various festivals/events, or you can even just run a meme account generating/reposting memes about the scene. The options are limitless and it seems like everyday people are figuring out more stuff to tie in the community online.
Throw Your Own Parties
If you’re not playing the music at the party, what’s the next biggest thing you can do besides that? Well, you can throw the party of course! There are different levels and scales to running your own event with lots of different moving pieces, ranging from DIY with a small group of friends to something more proper with an official team at a legitimate venue, going all the way up to throwing a massive music festival. But everyones gotta start somewhere! All your favorite event promotors started off all the same: just a group of people who wanted to throw a party. So if music events are something you feel very passionate about and something you might want to curate yourself, do it! You never know what your events will end up turning into, just look at 6AM.
Find Your Own Tune in the Industry
There are so many ways to make a path for yourself in the music industry without having to make any music. What I mentioned above are only a few of the ways out there for you to get involved, the options are really limitless as it’s an ever growing industry. It’s up to you to follow the beat of your own tune and figure out what works out the best for you on your journey through the music industry.