It was only last week on the 13 November 2020 that I wrote the below post on my own Facebook page.
It had been nearly 8 months since my last paid gig and I was feeling a real sense of loss and had no idea what to do, how to reinvent myself (as was suggested by some) and how to actually hustle beyond what I had always done, stay active, involved and continuing to push my vibe and love of music and playing.
This is what I wrote…
‘Like many Melbourne Djs, before this pandemic hit in March, I had a regular Friday night gig each week, a fortnightly Wednesday and a couple Saturday sets a month with the occasional guest spots on a Thursday and Sunday here and there.
As venues reopen and I see some of my local Dj peers out playing again and getting bookings, I wish them well, as I do the venues.
For me it looks like there will be no return to those regular bookings and it’s a worrying time for all concerned with venues at limited capacity and hours reduced if there is any at all.
I do have a fear that after 21 years as a professional dj, it may be over.
If you have booked me in that time and supported me in anyway, thank you very much and all the very best to you.
I’m giving this another shot and reaching out now to my network/friends/acquaintances as I know times are tough for many and gigs are few and far between.
I’ve had a great run but before I pull up stumps and head for the hills, I thought I would ask that if you and/or anyone you know requires a professional, multi genre and multi format dj, that can add value and support across Social Media, booking other djs, curating playlists and promoting your venue via mixes to my large Mixcloud following let me know!
Either way, stay safe and well.’
I had just come off a week of soul searching and had really started to worry about what I was going to do and how I would continue to support my family going forward and take some of the pressure off my wife who is the main breadwinner.
Lockdown has been hard here in Melbourne, real hard and had been going since March except for a few weeks in June before a massive 2nd wave hit and the Government sent us into a lockdown with a 5km travel limit, most businesses closed, a night time curfew, compulsory mask wearing and only being allowed out of the house for 4 reasons and heavy fines if you were caught breaking any of these rules.
That freedom of movement and gathering I had taken as a given in my life and in my city and country was taken away.
I have been luckier than most, as I have a great homelife and a beautiful family and was lucky enough to have a house in the countryside to which we moved to sit out this pandemic with some relative freedom and nature around us.
As a dj I got creative and got involved in Live Streaming for The Forty Five Kings, kept doing my radio show ‘The Sounds You Hear’, kept doing my weekly mixes, developed and populated The Forty Five Kings website (alongside Dave Cowan), ran the Forty Five Kings facebook group alongside my fellow moderators and admins, ran the rather huge Forty Five Kings Raffle and Mixcloud pages and managed to home school my son during this time, but there was always something missing.
As more and more time went by, I increasingly felt like I had nothing to offer, sure I loved doing the streams and setting up and running the Kings has been amazing and truthfully has kept me busy, sane, involved and I’ve made so many great friends and the support has been immense to say the least, but I felt a real hole developing in my soul, maybe it was all that time without face to face interaction and the collapse of my life as I knew it, combined with getting older, grumpier and feeling I should be doing more, but I didn’t know what that was truthfully.
My post received quite a few comments and suggestions and all were offered with concern and experience but most of them only made me feel worse and compounded my dark thoughts, none of this the intention of those who commented.
I had already reached out via sms, email and messenger to everyone I knew in the industry and coming off the tail end of a lockdown made it impossible to keep up any face to face contact.
These efforts had proved fruitless and the dj game as many of you know is not always about talent (I’m nothing special), your Mixcloud following, how passionate you are and the size of your OG collection of 45s but who you know.
I had always been a dj that played long residencies year after year for the same venues/businesses and those links had dried up over the pandemic with some venues not reopening, not going back to having djs just yet or booking managers who have used it as an opportunity to have a ‘clean out’ of some djs and to change up the venue’s vibe.
Makes total sense, I get it but I don’t feel done just yet and feel that I still have something to offer, hence my post was part of my ‘hustle’ to reach out and let people know that my hand was up and that I am here and ready to play, to include me in your forward planning and that I could offer a lot more than merely spinning records.
I have also been told that my huge reach on Mixcloud means nothing but to me that is a cop out and it means everything as it represents my efforts, my hard work, my diligence and professionalism and is my calling card, my introduction to you.
I have had more gigs and made more friends because of it and toured Sydney, Perth and Thailand multiple times due to it.
The amount of times people have approached me at gigs and told me they first heard me on Mixcloud and just had to come and say hi and bring friends who had also enjoyed my mixes has been humbling to say the least.
Mixcloud has also given me a bigger reach, led to me being a member of the Waxnerds for a while and helped me become the first guest dj on the 45 Live Radio Show and gave me some context when forming The Forty Five Kings.
I’m also a dj that has tried to avoid playing the latest pop music, I’d rather not go lowest common denominator and resort to the ‘Hits of the 80s’ and jump on the latest fad.
I’m no purist but I like to go deep and tell a story about the music I like and the life I’ve had when I play, I like to weave genres together while keeping a funky, soulful and jazzy vibe and like to do this with 45s.
For me format is everything, for others it’s the music, for others it’s the buttons and effects on a controller or cutting up doubles on serato, whatever your tools of trade in the end most people aren’t djs and just want to hear music they know.
As I said I’m not always a dj that does that and I guess this makes it even harder in these tough times to get a gig, when venues just want to make money after a long time of not being open.
In the end my post did not earn me a gig, left me feeling even lower than I already was but I also appreciated the calming words of support, and those who told me to wait a bit, don’t rush, it’s not over, you’ll be ok, well they were right (I’ve always been an impatient bastard and 8 months of waiting has wore me thin).
Just when I was feeling at my lowest and had pulled out of streaming for the kings and withdrawn a bit from being super active in the kings fb group to try to pull myself together, my phone beeped and it was the most unexpected message that read:
This is D……. from Arbory Here.
Just seeing if you have any interest in playing tomorrow 1-5pm?’
I read it like 10 times, double checked the number to make sure it was real before even mustering a response….Yes!
Then I got excited, then nervous, then excited, then nervous, would I be good, is it just a one off, what should I play, what should I wear, how should I get there, shit now many records do I need for a 4 hour set, which dj bag?
I packed and repacked my 45s (all 200 of them!), double checked I had my adaptors, needles and spare needles, headphones, slipmats, business cards, stickers, wallet, keys, phone, phone charger, my heart was beating so fast.
See I used to play the Arbory about 3 years ago and was doing well there but they changed booking managers and brought some new crew in and went more electronic with their music and well I’m old school, and I hadn’t heard from them since then, so this was an unexpected booking and had not come from any of my own efforts to hustle (is there a lesson in that?).
They were also a much bigger venue now with a whole new floating section with it’s own kitchen, bar, swimming pool and dj booth which opens over the river, really a prime location and one of Melbourne’s finest venues.
Finally I went with 2 bags of classic hip hop, funk, soul, jazz, boogie and disco breaks and thought to myself if this is a one off gig, I’m going to do my best to play a good set, to keep it funky, tight and to let them know that I can play well, keep a killer vibe up for 4 hours and do it with just 45s.
I wanted to stand out, make an impression and I truthfully treated it as though it was my last gig.
Must have worked though, as I kept having staff and customers coming up (1.5 metres away with a mask on) and telling me they were loving it and that I had made the day so much fun and better.
As I looked around I caught people’s eyes who were smiling, shaking about, nodding and digging the vibe.
Man it felt good to be playing again, to be outside, to drink a beer in the sunshine, to see people out and about, happy and smiling.
I felt normal and let out the biggest breath, what an absolute relief even if it was just this once. I wasn’t quite back but I was soaking up every single moment.
The dark clouds had lifted, I felt taller, like there were still possibilities for me, that I could still do what I had dedicated my life to for over 20 years.
As I was leaving one of the managers approached me and said he loved it and it blew his mind that in the wind and rocking pontoon I had played 4 hours of 45s and made the effort to bring vinyl. He also said customers had told him as well as staff they they had loved it.
You could not wipe that smile off my face the whole way home. My wife and son could see it in my face when I got home, I’m not embarrassed to admit we cried together as they could see that a weight had lifted.
I was on a high the rest of the night and went to bed thinking, if that was it, so be it, I gave it my best shot.
Then as I was walking my son to school the next morning my phone beeped with a message:
‘What’s happening Rob, I heard good things yesterday. Mate how would you feel about Mondays 1 – 5pm for the remainder of the year?’
What can I say, life works in funny ways and this pandemic has knocked our industry, our employment, our employers and ourselves about like no other time I can remember in my 51 years.
I know many are hurting, really hurting and many of you are back in serious lockdowns and watching your world crumble around you once again.
Is a weekly 4 hour gig going to pay my bills and solve all my problems, my issues and my need to be out there and working to support my family, well no, did having it save me last week, most definitely.
Does having it to go to each week give me hope, it absolutely does.
I cannot offer any advice except to say believe in yourself, stay the course, speak to those around you if you are suffering (I did and a big thank you to Dave C, Marky and Criztoz for the support), do your best to stay engaged, busy, active and to keep those really important relationships going.
Back yourself and believe in your work and what you do.
Do your utmost best when an opportunity is presented to you, believe me they are few and far between.
All the very best all and thanks for your time.
Dj Mr Lob
Just a reminder that once a month we are involved with and host one part of the ‘Sunday 7s’ Live Stream Show that is about raising awareness of men’s mental health and money for a mental health charity.