DJ Growth Conference - An (un)fairly biased review.

What was it? 

A one-day conference for DJs and producers with guest speakers and workshops. 

Who was it aimed at? 

Anyone in the music industry. 

Where was it? 

The Ministry of Sound, London. 

How much was it? 

£47.00. 

 

It was a no-brainer when my fellow Yorkshire-to-Ibiza pal Danny Savage asked me to be a speaker at the DJ Growth Conference. I first got to know about the DJ Growth Lab and Get Booked Academy run by Danny last year. At the time I was on top of a mountain in France as I’d got a residency in a ski resort club for the winter but I was already thinking about the summer ahead. I’d moved to Ibiza the previous year and was looking for a way to raise my profile. I checked out the groups in January and by April I'd launched my own night Sweetcheeks

Danny wanted me to speak at the DJ Growth Conference on a panel titled, ‘How To Launch an Independent Club Night’. I have to admit to feeling slightly under-qualified as Sweetcheeks is still a relatively new concept, but in the short time it’s been running it’s been held in Ibiza venues Pure, Eden and Savannah and two days before my journey to London I'd secured taking it to a weekly residency at Plastik for the 2020 Ibiza season.  

My fellow panelists were to be Lluis Royo from Elrow and Lee Pennington from Riffraff in Middlesbrough, two guys with years of event experience, and ReK, a Brazilian duo who have also found success from taking part in the DJGL & GBA groups. The opportunity to share my journey with others, give something back to Danny and learn from my peers was something I wasn’t going to miss.  As soon as I had the dates my flights were booked. 

Ministry of Sound 

The conference was held on Saturday 16th November 2019 at the iconic Ministry of Sound. I’d arrived in London the day before and stayed at a friend’s with every intention of being at the club the following day for the 10.30am start. Unfortunately, two flights, a tube ride, a train journey, an hour’s drive to central London to see a gig, an hour's drive back and a rolling roadblock on the M25 left me needing a damn good sleep. When the alarm went off at 7am Saturday morning I hit snooze. 

I arrived at the Ministry of Sound at midday and was warmly welcomed at reception by Events Assistant Ahmed El Haddad who couldn’t find the lanyard with my name on it.  He wrote one for me which looked like someone drunk with no fingers had done it. I unofficially fired him from his post, wrote my own and headed into the bar to be greeted by people I knew and social media contacts.  I got a fleeting wave from Brandon Block whose Habits to Happiness talk I’d missed due to arriving late. I stuck my head into the workshop room where Gary Wood, (who messaged me the following day to say he’d found my name badge), was finishing up his presentation on NI’s Maschine.  The room was full of interested learners, likewise in the auditorium where a panel was just beginning on 'How to Get the Most out of Music Conferences'.  Still dragging my luggage with me from my travels, I was spotted by someone who asked if I wanted a coffee so I spent the next half hour mingling and finding my bearings.

Something for Everyone 

There wasn’t just something for everyone on the day, there were many things for everyone. It's impossible to attempt to comment on every seminar from the day.  In the auditorium, famous names and industry experts sat alongside those of us who were new to our projects to give a fully balanced perspective of our specialist subjects from ground-up to the top. Tips, tricks, advice and tools to become more productive, knowledgeable and successful were offered all day with subjects including mindfulness, project planning, collaborating, production techniques, new innovations and best practices for social media, (the list is long so check out the DJ Growth Conference website for the full list of subjects and speakers).

The approach was one of being able to up-skill everyone attending regardless of their knowledge or years of experience in the industry. I spoke to DJs, producers and musicians and from genres spanning drum and bass, hard house, hip hop and house. People from associated industries such as photographers, life coaches and tutors were also there to learn new skills and expand their networks. As the day went on, there were fewer people hanging around the bar or outdoor areas as first day nerves were banished, new friendships were made and confidence was gained. 

 

FOMO? 

Sorry but if you missed it, you definitely missed out. Yes, there are bigger and more established conferences around such as the Brighton Music Conference or the International Music Summit but the DJ Growth Conference brought something special. A grass roots, no frills experience which had Danny’s straight up, ‘tell it how it is’ personality stamped all over it. Nobody was inaccessible, there were no egos, and most of the speakers stuck around the whole day to talk to people. You could grab a drink and have a chat with Slipmatt, Brandon Block, Saytek or even Danny himself if you could catch him for more than 2.8 seconds. Most of us speaking on the day gave our time free of charge, so for very few speakers to have gone home after their 45 minutes on stage is testament to how much support there is for the concept and the people attending it. 

Every seminar I went into was very well attended and seemed to keep perfect timing, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Event Manager Flo Cannon and Presenter Katie Knight.  My own panel was a lot of fun, (mainly due to the great stories Riffraff's Lee Pennington was sharing,) and was over far too quickly.  Unfortunately, we ran out of time to take any questions.  If anyone has anything they'd like to ask about how I got Sweetcheeks off the ground please feel free to comment below or use my contact form. 

At no point during the day did anyone say to me, ‘that was boring’ or ‘I didn’t like ...’, there was an atmosphere of positivity and support all day. The only negative comment a friend relayed to me was that there wasn’t enough time to chat or mingle between segments, something that has also been mentioned on Facebook by another attendee.  I’m guessing that the Ministry of Sound comes with a pretty hefty rental fee so a longer day would ultimately mean a bigger price, something that would have to be added on to the ticket. 

Invest in Yourself

Almost every career these days has Continuous Professional Development attached to it. No matter where you work you have to keep your training up-to-date and your qualifications valid. The music industry is no different. If you learnt to mix five years ago, guess what? Things have changed. If you learned to produce two years ago, your DAW has had an upgrade since then. You can’t keep doing the same old thing if you want to stay current in the music industry, it’s vital to invest in yourself. No matter how much you think you know, you can always learn more. 

Conferences are one of the best ways to be informed about changes and to have experts on hand to demonstrate them. Large events spanning several days come with an equally large price due to their length, venue hire, the number of guest speakers they have, the artists playing, etc. There are also additional costs of transport and hotels which can often make them inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t have much disposable income or who doesn’t want to make the trip alone. To have a one-day event at an affordable price of under £50 at a venue every can get to with ease shouts, ‘I'VE GOT YOUR BACK, COME ON IN!!’.  

I managed to sit down for half an hour with the Godfather of Rave, Slipmatt, a man who has a career spanning more than 30 years. Chatting about how important it is to keep learning, Slipmatt told me that he has a business coach, who in turn has a business coach. He also let slip (Matt) how much he’d spent on his own career development in the last twelve months. I won’t divulge the figure but I can assure you it’s an eye-watering amount.  I myself did the Toolroom production course at the start of the year and I've also booked some further tuition in another area which I start tomorrow.  Investing in yourself will you give you the best return on your money.

Get involved 

I’m going to point out here that I’m not employed by Danny, nor has he asked me to do this write-up. I got involved with the Get Booked Academy, sought advice, took it and now have my own night running in Ibiza. Along with many others who have gone down the same route, our outcomes have been successes so I encourage you to get involved.  Here's how.

Look out for next year’s DJ Growth Conference date. If money is tight or you’re on your own, you’ll have time to get yourself a cheap train ticket, find people to meet up with beforehand or even share a hotel room with if you need to stay over. 

Join the DJ Growth Lab Facebook Group. This is free and gives you access to video streams, articles and advice from Danny and the team, along with the other people from the group. You’re free to ask questions and someone will try to help you out. There’s no spam allowed, (apart from Danny Spammage of course), so don’t join just to post your mixes or DJ set live feeds as you won't last long. 

If you want a more personal, one-to-one level of coaching you can join the Get Booked Academy. This is the route I took and highly recommend it. There are only openings at certain times of the year so register your interest if there isn’t anything being run currently. Here you’ll get coaching calls from Danny and other industry experts, in my case the man on the end of the webcam was Roger Sanchez, someone who is heavily involved with the Get Booked Academy so you're pretty much guaranteed his personal advice if you join.

Attend an Ibiza DJ Retreat. Yes, these are a real investment but for the money you get a full 7 day workshop with some of the most technical producers and DJs around, most of whom are qualified tutors in their own rights. Courses are being run in Logic or Ableton production, advanced DJ techniques, DJ business management and live production. These are run from a top class villa on the island where you’ll also be staying and experiencing the best the White Isle has to offer. 

There you have it, my unfairly biased review of the DJ Growth Conference, for which I make no apology. 

Be sure to sign up to the mailing list for updates straight to your inbox.  Next blog post on the importance of image in the music industry.

 

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