I Want to Branch Out But My Fans Won't Let Me. Help!
By: Jessica Hopper
Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.
Be completely honest with me... Am I, DJ [NAME REDACTED BUT NO IT'S NOT STEVE AOKI] past the point of making a fresh impression on people? Over the past year, I've been falling out of love with DJing and set the goal of producing way more music, like actual songs as opposed to what I call "DJ music," and setting up a live show for performances. Basically, I want to make the transition from just being known as a "DJ" to an actual artist and producer. I've had this moniker for seven years now and a part of me feels that no matter what I'd do differently, it wouldn't get a new look from people since they might already have an idea of my capabilities.
I've been working on some new music which I'm really excited for since it dives into some territory that my name currently hasn't been in (actual songs/me singing/etc.) and I've been thinking about possibly pursuing this all as a new project with a brand new name. DJ NOT STEVE AOKI will still be there, but I'd like for it to be more on the backburner. Is this a crazy idea?
Keep up the awesome work!
While I don't think your situation is quite as bleak as you do -- people know you have skills, you have a solid professional reputation in a major city and have regular nights, and that's not nothing. Nevertheless, I understand. DJing can lose it's sex appeal after a few years of nights you labor over promoting and booking and then it's maybe 38 people on a mid-winter Thursday and the opening DJ flaked and so you have to play for four hours by yourself and after-work-wasted dudes are not stopping with their goddamn Macklemore requests; it's a real "FUCK YOU AND YOUR DRINK TICKETS, AMERICA!" situation.
Whether you ever dive back into the full-time DJ grind or not, making your production efforts under a different name is smart. At the very least it preserves your, err, brand identity with "DJ NOT STEVE AOKI" and frees you up to get as weird as you want without people being, like, "Oh, I thought you were the rave mash-up dude," and thinking you are just bandwagoning into your post-Frank Ocean phase or whatever it is you are embarking on. You get to be fresh and new without exploding your other thing. Plus, there is an energy inherent to starting a new thing and that will help propel it. It will also free you and help put get some emotional distance from some of the exhaustion and disappointment that's happening in your existing DJ career. It may also serve to re-energize your DJ efforts whenever you do return to them -- sidepiece saving your proverbial marriage style.
So, don't "possibly" pursue it and no it's not "crazy" -- dive right in. Having a different moniker for your DJ endeavors, your production work and your singing-a-song efforts is totally normal -- though hopefully it won't confuse your fans. After all, just look at ol' Aphex Twin (that's just one of the dozen-plus names he's gone by) and Jeff Mills (who has recorded under seven different monikers). Worst case scenario you are mysterious and a little confusing -- which is not a bad thing to be, given how obvious and dumb most people insist on being. Chances are it'll just make you look really multifaceted and busy and maybe you can make up for the DJ-bucks you aren't making by getting on different types of bills with your emo-trap-rap thing and your feminist power-electronics project (I'm guessing--but also suggesting!). The most important thing is that you pursue whatever is going to make you happiest, musically and creatively.