Today’s nightclub DJs are generally more complex and sophisticated figures, having evolved with advanced technology and, in many cases, gained celebrity status.
ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY — The nightlife scene of yesteryear consisted mostly of clubs staffed by DJs who were mainly music lovers with a sizable cache of vinyl and the latest in what was then modern technology.
Now, as evidenced by the vast number of names arising on social media and all over Atlantic City on billboards, print and broadcast advertisements, many DJs have gained personalized fan bases and celebrity status that rivals those of rock stars.
In the midst of the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) eruption and computerized music craze, some DJs have become so adept at blending high-tech video graphics and electronic music tracks that they can command five- and six-figure salaries per gig, and sell out many of the biggest and best-known nightclubs in the U.S. and internationally.
“It’s a strange time right now,” says Howard Weiss, director of nightlife operations for Caesars Entertainment eastern division. “What we’re seeing right now [in A.C.] is Revel and Borgata going head-to-head with these big-name house DJs. They have become celebrities who get anywhere from $20,000 upwards of $200,000 per night for a couple of hours, and most of the time they’ll sell out these arenas or nightclubs. ... They’re the new celebrities.”
“It’s really exploded in the last six months, and you do notice that when you’re driving into town on the A.C. Expressway,” says Kevin Friel, vice president of operations and marketing for Dusk Management Group, which operates Dusk nightclub at Caesars. “You used to see Jay Leno and the Doobie Brothers and all these kinds of acts up there, and now you’re seeing the names of DJs. It really took off in Europe and it slowly but surely made its way over here, and I think right now it’s a big part of the nightclub scene.”
While some nightclubs in A.C. are taking a similar path that Las Vegas has found successful with high-profile EDM DJs others, like Dusk and The Pool After Dark at Harrah’s, are taking a more mainstream approach to nightclub programming.
“We don’t program that hard house electronic music at The Pool because it’s not our niche,” says Weiss. “We’ve been successful off mainstream DJs like Lil Jon, will.i.am, Pauly D — those are our strong points. Vito G, one of our resident DJs, and others play Top-40 mash-up and open-format style, which is the kind of music we thrive on.”
Vito G, whose nightclub career started in security, says that reading an audience and knowing what the crowd craves is key to a DJ’s success, whether EDM, open format or otherwise.
“The key to adapting and keeping a crowd entertained is staying relevant,” says Vito G, “and what I mean by relevant is overall style of music, fashion, and connecting with what’s going on with the times. I feel I’ve done a good job of reinventing myself over the last decade, which gave me the local and national following to continue to do what I do. And the formula to reading a crowd and finding the vibe is similar to a quarterback who is in a groove and threading the needle with every pass — when you’re in that zone and stringing together song after song and patrons can’t wait to see what you’ll do next, that’s when you have their full attention.”
Paul Castro is a resident DJ at Mixx nightclub at Borgata, and has nightlife roots in the A.C. area dating back to the early 1990s. His resumé also includes touring the international circuit with the Grammy-nominated, NYC Latin hip-hop group Tres Coronas.
“My approach to weekly events such as Mixx Sundays at the Borgata or out-of-town gigs consists of research of the Billboard charts, remixing, and production studio sessions,” says Castro. “I study music like people study for college exams, and every party is like a test I’m being graded for. I would say that I have a pretty good grade-point-average, and people who frequent my events enjoy my approach.
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