Support Your Local ______

So, how do artists eat? Let’s change perspectives before we get into that, a lot of people have a skewed view of the arts and economics behind them. Imagine the biggest artist you know and how much money they make. If you thought Kanye or Tom Cruise, you’re probably right. They probably have a lot of money. 

Now think of an artist you actually like and how much money you imagine them to have. If you mentioned a more mid level celebrity…an artist who’s prime was in the ‘90s, a technically proficient artist that’s out of the mainstream or just someone regionally well known. If you’re thinking millions, you’re probably way off. First, remove celebrity from the equation. Imagine you didn’t know their name. You’re just thinking about their job and the salary that brings them. Their salary would be the things that from year to year, they can rely upon. Steady gigs (round down, because you never know when it’ll be a lean year), product sales (you have a core audience that will always buy your work) or royalties/residuals. That salary generally stays pretty steady for an artist and it tends to hover around the middle to upper middle class. So about the same as a skilled worker or perhaps an engineer or someone in the medical field.

Now, that is with some people that are genuine celebrities…meaning you’ve paid for their concerts or bought their work and they’re generally well known. Their celebrity might earn some extra over their salary in a given year but that money can be very finite or very conditional. For example, album advances. Record labels give you large advances when you get signed but that money has to put towards actually making the album. You have to pay for studio time, engineers, equipment rental, session musicians, graphic designers. Basically, they have to pay the next class of artists under them. 

That brings us to where most of us are at…local DJs, dancers, session and live musicians graphic designers, event promoters, social media content providers, engineers, editors, and other artists. We have a salary too and if you do the math for a lot of us, I’d bet it works out to about minimum wage. If you keep up with politics, you know that’s not a lot to support a lot of people out there. Most of us work day jobs, second jobs or use disparate creative projects to generate any income from any form of art we can do. Again, removing celebrity…social media feedback, YouTube views, Soundcloud listens…all that shit is temporary. It adds to the salary in a given year sometimes but now of that extra income ends up going to upgrading gear, paying other artists for work you need done, going bigger with your projects, etc. Any added popularity adds to your salary but it also adds to your expenses. Mo’ money, mo’ problems, you know the deal. 

So today in the breaking community there’s a lot of talk over charging three dollars to watch a highly anticipated battle. There seems to be an idea that, since we’ve been provided high-quality battles on YouTube up until now, why should we have to pay for this? Let’s be clear, you don’t have to pay for it. You don’t have to watch it or you can find it for free, that’s up to you. I was a pirate for years so I’m not any position to judge you. However, don’t knock the hustle. If someone wants to make money of the art they’ve already put money in to, don’t badmouth how they’re doing it. 
In this specific case, we’re talking about the promoter who paid the dancers, the DJs, the judges, the venue, the cameramen and editor to bring you the content that you’re looking at. It was an enormous cost to them and I’m sure they’d like to do more in the future. To do that, they’ll need more money. They’ve got to to increase the “salary” so they can quit a day job or free other elements of their life that would allow them fully commit to doing this to the best of their ability. They’ll also have to pay more dancers, DJs, judges, and everyone else. They probably want to be able to pay those people even better next time around so they can also fully commit to their craft. 

This is personal to me. I get hired to DJ breaking and dance events. I’ve sacrificed a lot of time, effort and expense to do that because I care about these cultures. I could switch focus to doing wedding gigs and make more in one day than I would from several breaking events. It already takes a lot of work to be an artist. To try and be one in an extremely niche arena on top of that; it’s extremely tough. The breaking community is not a large one and many of the people working within it could be doing other things with their time and many of them eventually have to because this scene can’t sustain a career for many of us. We can all name plenty of dancers that had to move on to the studio and film world or promoters that moved on to day jobs or club promotion or DJs that are doing mobile and club gigs. 

Back when I started DJ’ing around ‘99, there were these “Support your local DJ” stickers that were ubiquitous. They were on record crates everywhere, didn’t matter if it was a rave or a b-boy battle. There was an idea that if you like a local, you support them. You did it because you wanted them to get further ahead to do better things so you could get a better product in the future. They were a part of your scene and you wanted your scene to be as awesome as possible. I think this idea is still even more important than it was when I started but the internet has fundmentally changed how all that works. 

We’re all competing with each other for your time because there’s millions of hours of content out there today. TV, Books,Streaming Video, Films, Podcasts, Audible, Spotify, Soundcloud, Mixcloud, Vimeo, YouTube, Video Games…there’s a lot of stuff and you can get 100% of it for free if you want. As artists, we need to keep a decent salary but this type of thing basically eliminates two of the main ways we could get it; product sales and royalties/residuals. We basically have to rely on live performance. That means that we have to provide free content to get our name out there to compete against the millions of other things you can do for free. Eventually, that free content has to lead to payment down the road or else, it is no longer worth doing. Either through a product (like renting a battle), through more live performance or the rare and random chance that someone decides to donate money.  

If you like the free stuff you’re getting, you can’t assume it’s going to keep coming for free. Occasionally, you will be given the chance to pay for things you like. It’s up to you whether you choose to give that or not, but if you want better content in the future or more of it, you should pay. Remember that “Support Your Local DJ” bumper sticker I was talking about? Forget what local means, we’ve all made our own tribes and communities and for us, the global breaking community is “local.” We’re all in close contact with each other and have the means to exchange content and ideas. And forget the “DJ” part of the sticker, this goes for any artist in a community you support; the promoters, videographers, dancers, judges. You pay one of us, you’re essentially paying all of us. You’re raising the tide. You’re contributing to something that could lead to YOU getting paid. 

Like I’ve said, you don’t HAVE to pay. If you’re not going to pay though; don’t knock someone else for trying to survive and move things ahead. I can’t believe I even need to say this, but definitely don’t steal the content they’re trying to sell and provide it for free. Even if you don’t think you should pay, you can at least have enough respect for the people in your local commnunity to not steal from them.  

How to Throw a Jam Master Post

Part 1: Vibe – Deciding what exactly your event is going to be and what purpose it will serve in the scene; why are you throwing a jam?
Part 2: Budget – How much will your event cost total and where does the money go?
Part 3: Date & Venue – When and where should you throw your event?
Part 4: Personnel – Who should you hire and what exactly is their job?
Part 4.5: A Breaking Promoter’s Guide to Dealing with the DJ – Pretty self explanatory from the title but the info is useful for all members of your team
Part 5: Promotion – Getting the word out

Part 6: Final Hours – What’s the day of the event going to look like and what should you keep in mind?


Tucker & Bloom North to South Bag Review

Traveling can be a pain. When you’ve got to lug a set’s worth of vinyl and a laptop and drives, it doesn’t get any easier. For a while now, I’ve been able to survive carrying all that with the UDG creator bag. In the past couple years I’ve booked more gigs that require me to get on a plane and traveling with such a large backpack has grown to be a hassle. Although it fits the airline’s sizes for carry-ons, I still had trouble getting through crowds at the airport plus a few zippers had worn out. I started looking for a new bag a little over a two years ago and came across the Tucker & Bloom North to South Bag. I decided to give it a shot.

Tucker & Bloom is a bag company that has operated out of Nashville for the past thirty years under the watch of father and son team, David and Case Bloom. The latter is also a working DJ. For the record, I’ve never been given anything from Tucker & Bloom and outside of a few FB messages with Case, I couldn’t say I know him very well. I say all this just to insure that this review is unbiased.

First of all, the North to South bears little in common with a lot of other DJ bags that seem to be going for a look that Marty McFly Jr. would love; Lots of mesh, 3M reflective bits, and neon yellow. It seems to be modeled after classic English bespoke game bags more so than contemporary messengers. Simple black ballistic nylon shell, leather trim, sturdy metal buckles. It’s something you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have on your shoulder if you ever find yourself in a job interview or a fox hunt at an English estate, which is great since we know that either of those things are equally likely to happen for a plenty of DJs.

This eye towards classic fashion runs across most of Tucker and Bloom’s bags. Everything has a clean, understated design. Any eyes it catches are earned honestly from good craftsmanship, not obnoxious colors or gimmicks. Their bags are a pair of Allen Edmonds in a sea of Ed Hardy sneakers.

I had my eye on it for a while, then a couple yeara ago I copped it while it was on sale for a day at the Tucker & Bloom site. A couple weeks later (each bag is made to order), I received it, and the next day I got on a plane for a nine day trip to California. First stop was San Francisco, which turned out to be the perfect testing ground. Every day I was there, I spent a good twelve hours on the MUNI or walking around town so I needed to carry everything I might possibly need while away from the hostel. In SF that included:

  • Kindle
  • iPhone
  • Jacket or sweater
  • Water bottle
  • Sunblock
  • Leftover mission burrito
  • Muni passes, SF maps

It held up well and never felt felt any discomfort even when it was weighed down by the aforementioned burrito. The leather and shearling shoulder strap broke in quickly to the shape of my shoulder, within a couple of days at most.

It’s become my go to bag for when I’m biking around town. Toss my u-lock in, my handytrax and I’m out for a quick record dig. The included bike cross-strap keeps the bag out of your way and it can be stowed against the side of the bag or removed when your off your bike.

I’ve had to put leftovers in it after biking around a couple times and as you might expect, there have been accidents. Turning it inside out and wiping down with a wet cloth was all it took to clean out all remnants of whatever juice comes out of a container of Mongolian beef. I’d still not recommend carrying food in your bag, I’m just letting you know it’s possible.
There’s one large compartment that is not padded for your laptop, records or larger items. This may be a concern for some but I keep my laptop in a separated padded sleeve regardless so it hasn’t been an issue for me. This is a bag small enough to be kept close to you at all times so I feel padding would be a little overkill anyway. For a larger bag that might get stowed away or handled by others, I can see the need for padding but not in this case.
Within the main compartment there is  also a smaller, mesh zippered pocket. Good for pens, a phone, 45 adapters, small tools for fixing your electronics, business cards, etc. 
If you’re someone that needs a thousand dedicated pockets for every single tool, this isn’t the perfect bag for you. You get about three pockets that are a pretty tight fit to hold your smaller items and a metal snap on the inside. I’m always afraid of something falling out or getting out of place if my bag tips or turns over but so far, that fear is unfounded. It gets tossed around a lot but things stay in place.
There is an unintended advantage to having the pockets be such a tight fit. Not having the dedicated pockets does require you to take a couple extra minutes and think about where you want things to go but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being forced to think about your loadout really helps to pare down your gear by eliminating the things you never use. Once you find a packing strategy you’re happy with, you have little to worry about.
Everything is always in easy reach. This is huge when I’m traveling through the airport. It can just hang on my shoulder when I have to quickly unload getting through security. There’s also several places to put your documents that you can get to without ever opening the bag.

The Cosmo Baker edition, which is the one I went with, features two added inches of depth and about a half inch length. It also has a leather badge with Cosmo’s logo and a wolf. If you have qualms about another DJ’s name on your bag, I personally think it’s worth it for a little more room, especially if you’re the type that prefers at least a few extra 12″ records outside of your control vinyl and laptop. Also, a fuckin’ wolf bro. Honestly, you’d have to be quite the narcissist for a stamp sized logo to be enough to bruise your ego. I’ve found the leather badge to be very useful with the addition of a carabiner. Day to day, I attach my keys to it and for events, I attach my headphone case.

For a typical DJ gig, this is what I pack:

  • Serato CV (main compartment)
  • Laptop (main compartment)
  • Charger (front panel)
  • Shure needle case (front panel)
  • Two hard drives (front panel)
  • Deoxit pen (zippered mesh pocket in main compartment)
  • Headphones (In a separate case that is usually attached to the leather logo badge with a carabiner)
  • Anti-static brush (Front panel pocket)
  • Vinyl solution and brush (front panel)
  • Dicers (front panel) 
  • Phone, phone charger (Side pockets)
  • Stanton Überstand (back panel) 

    Packed for a gig


Since I’ve purchased it a couple years ago, I’ve used it for numerous gigs, both local and around the country plus nearly every time I leave the house. Other than some natural fading on the leather, it looks as good as the day I bought it. It’s held up perfectly and better than any other DJ bag I’ve had.  I don’t plan on getting another DJ bag anytime soon and if I do, it will probably be another Tucker and Bloom.

How to Throw a Jam pt. 6: Final Hours

Bashville EmptyThis will be the last in the How to Throw a Jam series.  At the bottom, you’ll find links to all the previous installments in the series. In the future I might compile everything into a single PDF or other ebook format. If anybody’s interested in that, just let me know.
In this installment, I’ll be going over the final days of the event and how that can go, what speed bumps to avoid and what to do once everything’s settled. I’ll start off in the week leading up which mostly consists of…

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New Mix for the Summer

Just in time for your weekend BBQs! 
New mix for the summer, not a lot of planning for this one. Had a vague idea a couple weeks ago, went on vacation, came back and recorded it in the last couple days. Working on some other mix projects and a lot of these are songs that weren’t quite working in those combined with stuff I’ve been playing recently at my club/bar gigs. As usual with most of my mixes, heavy on groove so expect some funk, disco, house, Afrobeat and things  in between.

Enjoy and share to spread the groove if you dig it!

Summer 2015 – AlphaTrion



How to Throw a Jam pt. 4: Personnel

Venue and date are confirmed and it’s time to start hiring the talent that’s going to bring your event to life. Many general details such as payment, housing, travel expenses, contracts, etc. are already covered in A B-boy Promoter’s Guide to Dealing with the DJ so I’ll be skipping over a lot of those things here. Much of that is consistent with anyone you hire so I’d recommend reading that article after you get through this one.

In this installment, I’ll mostly cover what exactly you should look for in the specific people you hire so you can make sure you’re getting the best person for your particular event…
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How to Throw a Jam Pt. 2: Budget

You’ve decided on a vibe, so let’s figure out cost…how much is this going to run?

More than you have. Go into promotion expecting or at least prepared to lose money. There’s no way around it. I’ve never spoken to a single promoter that made a profit on their first (or sometimes, any) of their events. It’s just a fact of this style of promotion. Throwing a dance event is a gamble.

You’re not selling bottle service and a VIP section, you’re selling an opportunity to dance with a bunch of people who probably already see each other every weekend. It’s extremely easy for b-boys to talk themselves out of attending an event since there are so many these days. If you did the work we talked about in the article about vibe, then hopefully you’ve already got a concept that sets your event apart enough to make it worth going.

Now that it’s worth going to in your head, you have to put a dollar sign on all the things that make it that way…
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How to Throw a Jam Pt. 1: Vibe

Full disclosure: I’ve never thrown a jam. Why? It’s hard. That’s the first thing most new promoters get wrong. They think its easy. The common assumption seems to be that all you need to do is get a venue and people will flock from all corners of the globe. Sorry to break it to you but this isn’t Field of Dreams. It’s gonna take a lot more than a local rec center gym, a can-do attitude and James Earl Jones for people to show up just because you built it.

(correction: James Earl Jones might help)

They don’t think about costs of paying judges, DJs, hosts, hotel rooms, travel expenses, staff, graphic designers, printers, equipment rental, prizes or security. Sometimes they don’t even think of the fact that they need some of those things. You’d be surprised how often I’m contacted by promoters that have locked down a venue, hired judges, made flyers, sent out 1000 Facebook invites and don’t even have a sound system a week before the jam.

So what gives me the authority to write about this? I’ve been behind the scenes at a lot of events as the DJ or just a friend of the promoter  and I’ve seen just about every mistake a promoter can make. I don’t claim to be an authority on this, I’m just giving you the absolute basic things you need to do or at least think about. If you’ve never thrown a jam before, reading this is at least better than going in blind. If you want more info, look to your local scene. If you know promoters in the area or DJs who have been active in this for a while, talk to them. This isn’t the end-all, be-all in the subject and I certainly don’t know what it takes to recreate the success of Cros1, Mex or Tyrone of IBE, I’m just trying to help you not ruin your future as a promoter before you even get started.

Theres a lot to talk about when it comes to throwing a jam so this will be broken up into a few parts so I can be as in depth as possible.

Let’s start with a few things you can do without dragging any one else into this: Finding your vibe, budgeting and setting a date.

For today’s article, we’ll start with…
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