By: Jade Story
The world of DJing has long been associated with late nights and a culture undeniably intertwined with alcohol and substance abuse. Beyond the fun, social atmosphere, and getting lost in the music lies a complex interplay that has long been a cornerstone of club culture.
In this article, we delve into the sometimes controversial relationship between alcohol and DJing. It can be an intoxicating allure that is oftentimes seen as inseparable from the world of electronic music; the two have shared an intertwined history, shaping the way we experience and perceive the essence of nightlife. With all the fun that can be had, there must be an acknowledgement of the darker side of this relationship, as excessive alcohol consumption or even reliance can lead to unfavourable outcomes and even jeopardize your personal well-being as well as your career as a DJ.
However, a growing movement within the DJ community is challenging these norms and embracing sobriety as a path to unlocking a new level of creativity, self-awareness, and well-being. In this article, we explore the concept of DJing sober, diving into the reasons behind this shift, the challenges faced, and the profound impact it has on both DJs and their audiences.
We become like what we most surround ourselves with, and the DJ lifestyle is synonymous with drugs and alcohol. Your environment can have a massive effect on you if you let it.
The world of DJing entails late nights, socialising, networking, etc. For many people, alcohol makes this entire process easier to cope with. Settling pre-gig nerves, having the confidence to network with important people in the industry, and fitting in with fellow DJs. We all know how difficult it can be to exist as the odd one out in any group setting.
The ability to break free from these stereotypes and bravely choose authenticity and self-awareness over conformity comes with a sense of power and leadership, spilling over into all aspects of your life. Forming solid beliefs and developing them as part of your identity builds confidence and instills a sense of discipline and self-control. Shifting the power from an external place to an internal place. After all, empowering habits build successful people.
Being capable of withstanding the potential skepticism, backlash, and peer pressure that come along with not adhering to the norm develops a strength of character like no other. Standing out and being yourself in a world full of conformists immediately makes you memorable and well- respected.
Being sober or learning to strike a responsible balance between alcohol's allure and its potential drawbacks is crucial for fostering a sustainable DJ career. This will ensure you maintain a level of awareness and presence, gaining you higher levels of respect, avoiding self-sabotage, and ensuring each performance is professional.
Of course, not being completely wasted helps you read the crowd better and react more alertly to what is needed to lead the energy of the night successfully.
You need to ask yourself some serious questions and answer them honestly:
Being honest with yourself is going to give you a good indication as to where you are right now with your drinking. Your popularity as a DJ could also play a role in this, as if you are booked more regularly, you are obviously placed in the club environment more often, sometimes multiple times a week, every week. There are times to have fun, and there are times to realise this is also a job and should be treated as such.
It is important that you acknowledge and become aware of what type of person you are. Are you capable of just drinking casually, or do you always take it too far? If the latter is true, you may need to reassess your choices if your DJ career is important to you.
Only you know when enough is enough, but the good thing about bad experiences with alcohol is that you can use them to motivate change. If you can't enjoy yourself without drinking or can't enjoy activities sober outside of a party environment, you may see life without alcohol as dull and uneventful. You need to take a hard look at yourself.
"If you can't spot the problems, disasters happen."
Transitioning to a sober DJ lifestyle is not without its challenges. The music industry, like many others, has long glorified the image of substance-fueled artists, perpetuating the idea that drugs and alcohol are essential components of creativity and performance.
Understanding that you can still feel alive, energetic, social, and connected without alcohol is the mindset shift you need to develop, because it really is all about your mindset and what you believe you are capable of without the help of external substances like alcohol. You never want to get to a stage where you need it to gain confidence or settle your nerves before a gig. You can be sober, healthy, and bursting with energy; it is just the mass mindset we have been surrounded with that has this core belief that we need to be on something to have the maximum amount of fun and exude confidence. Challenging societal norms and the norms within the music industry is a necessary way of approaching your DJ career and maintaining an influential and sustainable career going forward.
If you personally feel you'd be better off not drinking, then you have to be 100% invested in your decision; that's the key to success. If you start to doubt your decision not to drink, then it will find a way back into your life. A simple shift in the way you speak about it to yourself and others can make all the difference. Instead of saying "I can't have that", which doesn't feel empowering and can leave you feeling left out. Practice approaching it as something you no longer associate your identity with; saying "I don't drink" instead of "I can't/I'm trying not to" holds far more power and leaves you feeling in control of your life and your decisions. Something as simple as shifting your wording has the potential to be a highly effective tool.
Shift your mindset from feeling like you're missing out or that others are having a better time than you; your path is different from the rest, and you will gain far more in all aspects of your life simply by avoiding what the majority are doing.
When it comes to professionalism, how you choose to present yourself is everything. Promoters take notice that you're presentable, punctual, and not slurring or train wrecking. You'll make long-lasting, positive impressions by keeping your drinking under control.
A lot of DJs fall into the trap of alcoholism and suffer the consequences of missed opportunities because of it. Living for the night instead of for their future, DJs can quickly become washed out and irrelevant.
If DJing is your passion, understand that your awareness of yourself needs to never go unchecked, even if you view yourself as someone who can easily take it or leave it, has a cut-off button, and is capable of knowing when to call it a night. Understand that you are never bigger than addiction and can easily fall down the slippery slope if you leave yourself and your habits to go unchecked.
There is a very fine line between drinking and drinking too much, and you'll want to strike this balance very carefully if you want people in the industry to take you seriously. Being drunk could severely impact your chances of being taken seriously in the industry, and you will quickly become known as unprofessional and unreliable. Wasted people are annoying, and the last thing you want to be is annoying to the people who are booking you.
If you start associating your good times with drinking, before you know it, you may feel that you need to drink to fit in, or worse, to even enjoy yourself. This is really sad, as it means you're missing out on life and only experiencing it through a filtered reality.
Alcohol in small doses can loosen you up and may even help you think more creatively and eradicate nerves, giving you more confidence, which can translate to reading the dancefloor well and taking calculated risks in regards to track selection. It can give you the courage to engage with your crowd more and network before and after your set.
If you take this seriously as your career, you should never be seen playing a set in an out-of-control, drunken state. Nobody will be impressed by this, and it's disrespectful to the owners, the audience, and the event organisers.
If you want to control your drinking rather than quitting altogether, then it is advised to stay in the 'tipsy stage' (1-2 drinks per hour) and drink water in between.
Another excellent way of controlling your drinking is to incorporate resets and detoxes into your life every so often; this is where you will go for a few months completely sober. This is a great opportunity to form new and empowering habits. What you'll find after doing challenges like this is that you won't even want to drink as much or as often as before because you'll have the chance to experience how good it feels not to and how capable you are of doing things sober.
Never let your success make you think you can stop keeping yourself in check. Alcohol doesn't necessarily lead to anything good or to your growth as a person, but it does carry the potential weight of taking away everything you worked so hard for.
Always make sure that what you choose to do is your choice and your choice alone. Just because you're in the nightclub scene does not mean you have to take part. Stick with what works best for you instead of trying to please or fit in with others. If your decisions are based on what other people think, you will constantly be putting yourself second.
If people want to judge you for not drinking or not see you as fun because of it, then so be it. If you're no longer willing to compromise your health or integrity for the sake of fitting in, you have taken the first step to standing in your power.
The people who matter will respect you; it will only weed out those not meant to be in your life or the friends who were only there to get wasted with, because these are some of the easiest acquaintances to find anyway.
Not relying on something external to make you feel capable is the most powerful feeling you will ever experience. Once you've built momentum around not drinking and you realize you can do all the things you never believed you could while sober, you'll be on top of the world. Once you play an incredible set sober, once you network without being drunk, once you get past the barriers you built in your own mind, you'll see you could do everything without liquid confidence, and that's a whole new level of confidence in itself.
In truth, owning your choices simply becomes a habit, and you realise you're not missing out on anything. Being sober at a club can also be an eye-opening experience to see things from the point of view of someone who's perfectly in control and not behaving stupidly. You will very quickly realise how terrible and annoying drunk and high people are, and you'll most likely never want to be that person again.
An ounce of discipline equals multiple rewards.
In conclusion, the decision to DJ sober or to learn to control one's drinking as a DJ is a deeply personal journey. While the allure of the nightlife scene and the perception of alcohol as a social lubricant can be tempting, it is crucial for DJs to recognise the potential risks associated with excessive drinking before, during, and after their performances.
The sobriety movement in Djing comes along with many benefits, namely: enhanced creativity and focus; no hangovers; more energy; the development of good habits such as discipline and self-control; standing out from the crowd; being seen as respectable and professional. Not to mention the health and longevity benefits that spill over into all aspects of your life, ensuring you have a far more sustainable career in the long run and never have to look back in regret at your own self-sabotaging behaviours that stunted the potential growth of your career and yourself as a person.
By developing and maintaining self-awareness, having a strong sense of discipline, and making deliberate and informed choices, you will positively impact your life and career as a DJ.
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