Nolan Dalla Rants: DJ’S Earning Millions — Madness Spinning Out of Control
I swear — I’m not making this up.
A few days ago, a story appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a so-called “superstar DJ.”
I know. I had to do a doubletake on that one, too. “SUPERSTAR DJ.”
He reportedly earned $2 million last year.
Just in case you don’t get it — a “superstar DJ” is a personality (I cringe at the notion of celebrity) who is invited to a special event — usually a hot nightclub opening or swim party — to come in and (hold your breath) spin records.
That’s right — spin records. As in pop a few LPs on a turntable and pump up the volume.
Which begs the first question — wouldn’t it be a helluva’ lot easier to just load up a few CDs, hit the “play” button, and watch the dancing begin? In the ecstasy-laced fantasyland of velvet ropes, VIP lines, and $22 cocktails, you think anyone in these high-priced insane asylums would know the fucking difference?
So, like I said — the “superstar DJ” shows up on a busy Friday or Saturday night and plays club music. You know what I’m talking about — that inpenatrable thunder of batshit with the bass turned up so fucking loud your eardrums explode. You know, that techno-jizz created by pre-programmed software. You know, that mindless industrial gunk played so goddamned loud you can’t even hear the person next to you screaming in your ear. Then again, maybe that’s the appeal.
I’m told these clubs are little more than meat markets. How anyone actually picks up someone in one of these places is a complete mystery. I mean, what’s a the typical opening line, “What a nice girl like you doing in a shithole like this?”
Stick with me. There’s a punch line coming.
Like I said before, I swear this is all true.
Some “superstar DJs” are actually bigger stars than the creators of the music they are spinning. They are worshipped like bona fide rock stars, although that term hardly seems to matter much anymore since there’s no such thing as a rock star. Today, a lot of pop music is pretty much churned out on an assembly line of sounds crafted by machines , utterly void of heart, spirit, or emotion. It’s not music. It’s the anti-thesis of music.
When I read about a certain DJ making $2 million last year for what amounts to a few days of “work” each week, I was flabberghasted. I shook my head, rolled my eyes, and uttered a few profanities. Hint: Start with an “F.”
After I’d regained my ability to think clearly and continue, I went back to my newspaper and turned the page. I filed this topic away for a possible future rant.
And, now just a few days later — it’s Friday. The time has come. The time is now.
I saved the newspaper article about the “superstar DJ” who reportedly made $2 million last year. I won’t post the DJ’s name, because first, I’ve never heard of him and second, the very notion that someone is making such an obscene amount of money to play records and isn’t wearing a mask and a gun strikes me as outright robbery.
So, why the rant?
I think what makes this such a gross perversion is the (emphasis added) lack of acceptable proportionality between compensation and talent. Allow me to explain.
Take a moment to consider the thousands of extraordinary singers, musicians, and songwriters out there — creating all kinds of music — who linger in total anonymity. I’m talking about people with real actual talent, performing on cramped stages in front of a largely indifferent audiences, scrapping by on $150 a night, if they get that. They play in bars. They play in restaurants. They perform at open-mike nights. They often play for free. These are musicians that can actually, you know, sing and play instruments. You know, people that have ACTUAL FUCKING TALENT.
So, what fuels my outrage and what does this have to do with overpaid DJs? I’ll tell you.
This past May, I was in New Orleans walking along the levee near the famous French Quarter. It was a path I’ve walked a hundred times before. On each occasion, either day and night, street musicians perform for passersby, hoping for a few spare coins in exchange for sounds from their souls. Alas, this is what we’ve been reduced to. In our culture, compensating local music has been reduced to feeding the pigeons.
They are trumpeters — and I mean great tumpet players. They are saxaphonists — and I mean great sax players. There are incredible drummers who rythmically beat the tops of big white plastic cans and make it all sound like orchestrated poetry. There are tap dancers. There are guitarists. Virtually all types of music are played and enjoyed.
To me, New Orleans is a magical place. I bring up New Orleans because it’s the city I’m most familiar with, aside from the place I now live. But it could be any city or town where there are gifted people who love music and perform it for little or no cost to the public. There are usually deeply personal reasons why these musicians play their music. They surely aren’t doing it for the money. Even a world-class musician who performs nightly on Bourbon Street makes no more than about a average salary. Fact is, most are doing it purely for the love of the music. Their music is who they are.
One musician has remained with me in a spiritual sense for a very long time. I’ve seen him perform on numerous occasions when I walk along the levee. He plays when it’s burning hot, with sweat beading on his forehead. I’ve seen him play during wintertime when his frostbitten hands are covered by wool mittens only with the fingers cut out so he can properly fret the chords, hitting the perfect note each and every time as cold winds blow off the Mississippi whistling through his shabby wooden guitar.
I do not know his name, which tells you everything you need to know about his status in society. He’s an old black man — perhaps 65, or maybe 70. Or, he could have been 75 still. The years have taken their toll. Each time I return to beloved New Orleans I see the man who so happily plays his worn-out guitar. Maybe you just have to be there to see, to hear it, and to experience the majesty of his art and passion. It’s like what might have happened to Jimmy Hendrix or Lenny Kravitz if they hadn’t become famous. He might strum his guitar for three people, but each time he plays with such passion, you’d think he’s the headliner at Fillmore East. Oh, he can play that guitar. And, he can sing.
And he always sits there on that same bench, with his guitar case wide open, like a hungry gator mouth begging for a few quarters. There’s always some assorted change laying in his case, and occasionally a crumpled up dollar bill or two. It’s not a handout. It’s a job. It’s his salary and retirement plan, all laying in the bottom of a guitar case that might add up to $30 or $40 on a good day.
I can’t help but think about that man and all those wonderful musicians back in New Orleans and in so many other cities who barely make ends meet. Which now brings me back to the “superstar DJ,” making millions.
As I said before — I swear this is true. I promised you a punch line. Now, here it is.
I went back and re-read the newspaper article one more time. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss anything.
Recall that I said the “superstar DJ” made $2 millon last year.
I was wrong.
My figure was a little bit off.
According to the article, last year the “superstar DJ”actually made — $22 million.
Thats right, $22,000,000.
TWENTY-TWO MILLION DOLLARS. In one year.
For spinning fucking records a few nights a week.
I mean — WHAT THE FUCK!
Let put this into perspective, shall we? Guess how much Eli Manning earned last year? He’s an NFL star quarterback who led his team to a Super Bowl victory. Manning made just $12.9 million during the same span — or about 60 percent of the DJ earned. Talk about making the wrong career choice. Pro athlete salaries are fair game for criticism, but in the case of Manning, his talent is rare. There ere perhaps two dozen people in the entire world who can match his skill set, which is what makes him such a rare commodity. Can the same be said of a fucking DJ?
Wait. It gets worse. As it turns out, he’s not alone. According the article, there are ten DJs who made $7 million or more each, last year who work the Las Vegas nightclub circuit.
What this means is — some people are actually paying a lot of money to see and listen to this shit.
Some of the most incredible musicisions on the planet are struggling on street corners, begging for quarters. Meanwhile, some 24-year-old punk wearing a fedora is standing on a stage somewhere spining records and makes tens of millions of dollars.
I’m convinced. The world has truly gone mad.