Ahhhh the early days of EDM, before "EDM", before laptop DJs, before Live Nation and SFX. It was a little rougher back then and a little simpler too, everyone and everything had a function that was fairly clear.
DJs didn't make 20 million dollars a year for playing two-hour sets that were already mixed, and there certainly were no LED walls, it was a huge deal if there was even a laser. Mostly production was all about massive sound systems, and lighting was always there but kind of in the background to some degree. If you made $5,000 you were huge, like big time for the USA anyway, Europe paid better.
If we thought that everyone wanted to be a super star DJ back then, now the numbers are off the charts. Even Shaq is a DJ now, well the term DJ should be used loosely there. Very loosely. The list of DJ atrocities is kind of like climate change, hearing about it just depresses the shit out of you.
So what did a DJ do back then? Well, first off they all didn't produce like they do today, there actually were DJs that just were magnificent DJs. The producers tended to be more wall flower types and happy to be in the shadows because they could make a little money producing records.
The art of DJing was about how well you could mix and about what kind of records you had in your box. Getting good records was hard, you either had to have a guy down at the record store that would hold things for you the day they came in, or you had to be lucky enough to be on promo lists.
Delivery day was always ferocious with every local DJ buzzing around like a bunch of malnourished sharks waiting for a kayaker. There might be 3 or 5 copies of a great record and most of the time those wouldn't even make it to the shelf, they were held behind the counter for the big boys.
Another bummer about being an early 90s/00s DJ was the fact that singles could cost up to $12 - $14 for one track. Many guys didn't eat or went broke trying to make it as a Disc Jockey.
You spent hours and hours and hours locked in your room with your new plastic best friends learning the art of mixing. DJing with vinyl actually required serious practice and skill, especially if you were learning to scratch.
Once you got that right, you had to beg your best friends sisters friend to play at her birthday party. Getting a gig, any gig, was done simply by having full blown hustle not about developing a social media strategy with phony metrics (i.e.,. fake friends, plays, followers, likes, etc.).
In those days, it was straight raw aggression, insane dedication, and more street hustle if anything. Today you still have to hustle, but it's a softer hustle and more based on deceiving people into thinking you are bigger or better than you are.
DJs in the early days couldn't hide behind fake metrics, you just had to kick serious ass on the turntables and have more hustle than the roadrunner on speed.
Your job and your goals were pretty straight forward, DJ at clubs or raves and get paid. If you made it that far the music industry machine would snatch you up, sign you to make a mix CD and deploy their blueprint marketing and sales strategy.
Today in a way is harder because there is infinitely more competition, you have to produce to get noticed, and there are more places than ever before to get lost. How the hell do you jump into that game? We used to be able to see the mountain top; now it's hidden in the clouds. There is no blueprint anymore, no clear way to make it, no yellow brick road.
The ironic thing is, all the super star DJs put all the super star magicians out of business in Vegas.
What does that tell you? Good luck, you are going to need it.