a traditional vinyl record we all enjoy playing

vinyl record for a turntableA few months ago I wrote a post about turntable record players making a comeback. I got so much mail from my readers concerning this post. It’s weird, because the site isn’t really even about that topic, but it seems to have really hit a nerve with people.

Most of the messages I got were people telling me that they love vinyl. Like it does for me, it reminded them of their time growing up, listening to the dad’s record collection on his player. They want to relive those nostalgic feelings, but they don’t have a record player of their own and their dad’s has long ago disappeared. Sure, they could get music files that were taken from vinyl and recorded into the digital format, but it really is not the same.

In short, they want to buy a record player, but they had no idea where to get one. The really aren’t many stores selling turntables like this anymore. Most of the ones you buy are specifically tailored for DJs. DJ turntables can obviously be used to play records, but they have a lot of features that you don’t really need and are missing other features that you probably do want. You end up paying for a lot of things you don’t need and, of course, missing the features that you really could use.

a traditional vinyl record we all enjoy playingI actually thought the answer was obvious, but from all the messages it appears it wasn’t. And that answer is: buy online. Seriously, there are so many online stores that sell practically anything these days, that it seems like a no-brainer that they would also sell record players. A site like Amazon, has thousands available.

Now obviously, that presents a whole other problem. Of those thousands of record players available, which ones are actually any good and which are simply ripoffs? The truth is, the majority are cheap products coming from China. Some of them won’t work at all, but most will work for a while and then breakdown. Usually they will break right after the warranty period runs out.

So how do you avoid these crappy products? You do your research. You’ll find a ton of sites online that review the top record players and give you a list of the best ones. Not only do these reviews have a ton of information on each product, most of the sites also feature charts of the top turntables, so that you can see at a glance which one is best for you.

Check out the website I mentioned above, or do a quick search and find hundreds of similar ones. You may notice that most of them are written by a mentally challenged four-year-old. Or so it would seem. The one I mentioned is well-written and that’s why I mentioned it. So many of the other ones aren’t and their reviews are completely useless. They were clearly written by people who’ve never used the products themselves.

So there you have it. Online is the best place to buy record players, but you face the same dangers as you do with any other products online. A lot of them simply aren’t very good and it’s hard to tell which ones those are. Furthermore, the sites that claim to review those products have the same issues. Most of them are worthless as well.

So you first need to find a good review site (I helped you with that) and then you need to go find a place to purchase a record player that you decided on. If you do all of this correctly, will end up with a wonderful player that will help you enjoy your dad’s old vinyl collection or your new one. Alternatively, you could go to a store selling DJ equipment and pick up a turntable player favored by DJs. Either way, happy listening!

a more modern vinyl record player

On a recent trip to Japan I was walking through one of their many old-school shopping arcades when I stumbled upon a quaint little music store. I walked in to check it out and found they were selling hundreds of different turntables. And I’m not talking about the DJ kind of turntables. I’m talking about record players. You know, the ones that play those ancient vinyl discs. And there are some cool players in Japan.

an old turntable record player
This looks like the record player we had growing up. By Hellbus – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Actually, I  hadn’t seen one of those in many years. My dad had one growing up, since at the time cassette players were the only alternative and they were far below vinyl in terms of quality. Unfortunately, all the records we had back then were crap. My dad and I definitely do not have the same taste in music and I did not have enough money to buy my own records at the time. By the time I started to buy music, CDs were the medium of choice. I did buy a few cassettes before CDs came out, so I owned a couple of those, but only a few.

During my high school and University days I amassed a collection of over 500 CDs. Nowadays they’re all gone. Everything is digital these days and by digital I mean MP3s and other files like that.

But through it all, vinyl somehow held onto a small piece of the market. Of course there were always the collectors, but there are also quite a few others who still prefer the sound of vinyl. Personally, I’m not really one of them, but I do see the appeal.

And I definitely saw the appeal on this day, walking into this record store. Actually I should say music store. They didn’t sell any actual records, they only sold the players. They ranged from incredibly intricately and elaborately designed players to ones that were quite cheap and basically looked like what my dad had when I was growing up. The prices weren’t too bad either. Basically they were what you would expect, ranging from under $100 to many thousand dollars (obviously actual prices were in Japanese yen).

a more modern vinyl record player
Another style of record player.

I talked to the shop owner for a while and learned that there is actually a huge subculture of vinyl collectors in Japan. And not just the DJs. Obviously DJs collect vinyl everywhere in the world. But in Japan there are a lot of music lovers who have returned to vinyl. Also many who never left. I found that quite interesting. It sounded like there were definitely more people in Japan percentage-wise who own a vinyl record player than there are in the US.

I can kind of guess why this might be. The Japanese have always had a love for tradition. It is a very traditional culture and they hang onto many traditions. That creates a lot of problems for them in the modern world, actually, but it also makes the country one of the most fascinating on earth. Given all this, it only makes sense that they would continue to have this love for vinyl.

You are probably thinking or wondering: did I buy one? No, I didn’t. I travel a lot and I have learned not to buy anything overseas, because you have to carry it back with you in the plane and it ends up costing you four times what you paid for them due to the baggage fees.

But I am thinking of buying a turntable record player the next time I’m back home. The only thing that’s holding me back is that I don’t have any actual vinyl records. I would have to start a collection and that would get expensive. It’s something I really don’t need and probably shouldn’t buy, but somehow it is just alluring, especially after seeing that record store. In the end, I imagine I will probably get one.

A DJs turntable at a wedding

As you know, I travel a lot. I’ve been all over the world and have played all kinds of clubs. In addition to the clubs, I’ve played raves, I’ve played electronic dance music festivals, I’ve played birthday parties, I’ve played frat house parties, I’ve played weddings. You name it, and I’ve played it.

Now the list of places I hate playing is exceedingly long. The list of places where I love playing is shockingly short. But I’m not going to go into either of these two lists in this article. That would fill a book. Scratch that, that would fill a multi volume book. Maybe even an encyclopedia. You know one of those old ones that took up a whole bookshelf in your dad’s study? Yeah, the list of places I hate DJing could fill one of those. And you know that business card some idiot handed you the other day? Turn it over. The list of places I like playing would easily fit on there.

A DJs turntable at a wedding
DJing weddings is even worse than DJing for tourists

Anyway, I digress. Today I want to talk about one specific club. A type of club you may well know if and even play quite often, if you travel and DJ like I do. It is the club full of tourists. Like this one. I hate these. That is not to say I especially like playing local clubs either. Those very much depend on the country. In some countries, the locals are great. This is true in much of Europe. It’s even true in parts of the US. It’s not true in China. It’s not true in Thailand. It’s not true in countries like those where people dislike horrible music.

Again, I digress. Back to the tourist clubs. Why do I hate them? I’m sure you can imagine this on your own, can’t you? I realize tourist is a general descriptor. They come in all shapes and sizes and have all different tastes in music. That is the problem, I suppose. When playing a club or show, I like the audience to have generally the same musical taste. That way I can create a set that will take them on a journey. It is specifically tailored to what they like and as a result they love me.

When you have a lot of different musical tastes to cater to, this is impossible. Every song you play, 60 to 90% of the audience will hate it. You can’t really create a coherent set. You have to just wing it. In many cases you have to do the unthinkable: you have to take requests. Now this is the absolute worst. People never seem to request good music. They generally request stuff that doesn’t fit in with anything else you’re playing or stuff you would never be caught dead playing. They expect you to have tracks no one has heard of and tracks everyone has heard of, but no self-respecting DJ would have. Dealing with these requests is the worst.

But when you travel and DJ, you often have to play events like these. You’re not going to get the best gigs when you’re new in town. It doesn’t matter how great your reputation was in the last country, people won’t know you in the next one, unless you are one of those superstars. So you have to build up your reputation again. That means you have to start from near the bottom again. It’s simply the price you pay for traveling the world in our profession. As with any other job, if you want stability and security you can’t move around.

So what do I advise aspiring traveling DJs to do? Suck it up. If it gets too much, vent to your friends. If they don’t want to hear it anymore, do what I did. Start a blog and vent to the public. Probably no one will read it, but some people might. You just did, after all.

Womb Nightclub in Tokyo, Japan

International DJs like me, get a chance to travel all over the world doing what they love. We see great destinations, meet beautiful women and play music all along the way. It’s a great life and I try never to complain about it. That said I’m going to do just that here: I’m going to do some complaining. To make up for it, I’m also going to do some raving. In short, I’m going to list my favorite destinations for DJing and my absolute least favorite.

My number one favorite destination on earth for playing music is Tokyo. I just love the city and everything about it. I love the excellent food you get, I love the futuristic-looking buildings, I love the ancient-looking buildings and I love the way all of it melts together. I love the excellent transportation system, I love the friendly people, I love the nightlife. I love going out to clubs as a partygoer and I love playing them as a DJ. Nowhere on earth beats Tokyo.

Now, there are better destinations to party. Don’t get me wrong, though, Tokyo is great. The problem is that the Japanese people as a whole are pretty conservative and that there are very few international people in Tokyo, relatively speaking. If you’re totally into Asians, it’s a great destination to meet women; if not, you’re kind of screwed. Because of that, I prefer cities like New York or Las Vegas for a great night out (find out where to see DJs in New York). But for a travel destination to play as a DJ, Tokyo is number one.

Of course, I love New York and Las Vegas and London and Paris and Berlin and all of these cities as a DJ, too (the top 5 clubs in Vegas). These are some of my other favorites. It should come as no surprise, that these are also my favorite cities in which to party. A night out in any one of these places is a wonderful experience, although all of them, except for Berlin, will set you back quite a lot of money. For that reason, I suppose Berlin is my favorite city for a night out. It has a strange nightlife, though, spread out all over the city and often hard to find the best place to go, but once you do, it’s a blast.

You may have noticed I left off Madrid. It’s true, Madrid has famous nightlife, but it shouldn’t be so famous. I think it’s only famous because the Spaniards enjoy going out so much, but the truth is, the clubs are pretty horrible and extremely overpriced. One bar closes after a few hours when a new one opens and you have to move there. You have to spend money everywhere.

I was felt like I was being herded around and ripped off at every step. I had some fun nights in Madrid, but I consider it one of the most overrated party destinations on earth. Playing Madrid as a DJ, however, can be quite great. The city attracts so many beautiful women, on top of the gorgeous locals, and being a DJ in the city attracts those women to you. Enough said.

Naturally, I should mention Ibiza. This is another one of the top destinations in which to DJ. If you get a chance to spin music in one of the famous clubs here, jump on it. The same goes for other tropical places in Europe, like the Greek Islands.

Speaking of tropical places let’s head back to Asia and to Bangkok. For a night out, the city is absolutely horrible. It’s another overrated one. It actual costs far more than it should, surprisingly, but what’s worse is that none of the clubs are really any fun. The music is far too fast and too loud and the crowds consist of Thai couples and hookers.

If you go to the bars that only attract foreigners, you’ll have a good time, but you’ll pay even more for it. And you’ll be dodging hookers all night. Apart from the working girls, there’s really no difference between those bars and ones back in the West, except the ones in the West are better.

Womb Nightclub in Tokyo, Japan
Club Womb in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

As a DJ, Bangkok is all right to play, but I generally prefer to stay away. In Asia, Tokyo is the best city and Seoul follows after that. Hong Kong is also a great destination but I think that will change as China takes over more and more. Chinese clubs are horrendous, and China’s one of the worst places to play in Asia. The only real exception is Shanghai and a few of its clubs.

I realize this list is far from extensive, but those are the places that popped into my head first. Someday, I’ll sit down to write a much longer and more detailed list, but for now just remember which cities you’ll definitely want to accept gigs in and which ones you’ll want to avoid. Of course, if you’ve never been, you might want to accept a gig there anyway, just for the travel experience.

Breaking into DJing is difficult. Whenever somebody asks me how to become a DJ, I make sure to make clear just how hard that path will be. It will take hours of practice to get good enough to play in clubs—and not good clubs mind you—and once you’re in those clubs, it will take years before you get into the good ones. But more than the time, probably the most prohibitive aspect of breaking into the industry is the equipment cost.

DJ equipment
A common DJ setup

That’s why it’s absolutely vital you do your research and you buy all the correct equipment from the beginning. You don’t want to have to buy things again, because you bought something substandard. You also don’t want to end up buying superfluous equipment. So make sure you buy exactly what you need and only what you need right from the beginning. Here’s a quick rundown of the essentials every DJ will need:

 

Input Devices

You’ll need a minimum of two input devices: either two turntables, two CD decks or whatever. You can get more but you need at least two to mix tunes.

 

A Mixer

You’ll need a mixer with at least two input channels, so that you can mix your two input devices into each other.

 

Headphones

Without headphones, you can’t DJ. You need them to hear the next to you will be mixing into the current one, to cue it up and to do all this without everyone else hearing it. Make sure you get a good pair of headphones with a good sound quality.

 

A Sound System

By sound system, I mean speakers and an amplifier. You will need these for obvious reasons. These days many people opt for powered speakers, which could save some money and is also easier to transport. Personally I prefer a separate amplifier, but this is just a matter of personal preference. Do what is right for you.

And that’s it. That’s really all the equipment you need. Of course, just this equipment will run you quite a bit of money. That’s what I would say don’t discount secondhand equipment. If you can find good quality stuff that’s been used but not abused, go for it. It’s a great way to save some money. One thing you want to avoid in your quest to save money, though, are the boxed sets. You know the ones: DJ in a box, DJ kit, etc.. Stay away from these. They’re often substandard quality and they don’t always include all of the equipment you’ll need. I can also pretty much guarantee that you have to replace everything as you get better and demand more from your set up.

As for brands, Pioneer and Technics are probably two of the best. These are also the two that I would recommend buying secondhand, since they’re built to last and there’s not a huge chance you’re buying crap. If you can’t afford the best equipment, I suppose you have to buy something cheaper. Just know that you’ll probably want to upgrade eventually so it does make sense to buy the best from the beginning. Of course, that’s only possible if you have the money to spend. There you have it: that’s the equipment you need and a few tips for getting it. The rest is up to you. Make sure you do plenty of research and know exactly what you’re getting and why you’re getting it. And once you have it play some music. Then play some more music and then some more. Never stop practicing…

That’s a good question. First of all you need to be a DJ. And I don’t mean somebody who plays his friends little parties, or even as a monthly gig at the club down the street. No, you need to be much bigger than that. You need to type the biggest clubs in your city. Actually, you need to be at the biggest clubs in the country. But that’s only to be a true international DJ. Maybe your definition is a bit different.

Maybe you just want to be DJ who plays internationally. Someone who has a long-running gig overseas. Maybe you live in Madrid and play weekly at a local club. Or maybe you live in Bangkok and rotate among the few clubs there. You’re a DJ and you’re international, so you definitely fit many definitions of the term. But you’re not what most people think of when they hear the phrase international DJ.

A truly international DJ and someone who plays music in all of those cities. You spend a month in Shanghai, maybe a few weeks in Tokyo then head to Osaka been to Seoul and to Beijing and you go to Europe for a while. You’re so in demand that the biggest clubs in the biggest cities pay you a lot of money to fly you in to play there. Sometimes you only play one night then you move on.

This is what the biggest international DJs to and this is what I’m assuming you want to do and this is what this website is close to help you do. But even if your definition is the other one; just someone who lives overseas and place little bit of music, you’ll find help here. So keep reading and hopefully you, too, can one day be an international DJ.

To become an international DJ, you’ll need to do some traveling. To that end, it’s helpful to know something about some of the world’s top party destinations. I’m not necessarily talking about those places where people only go to party, like Ibiza or the full Moon party in Thailand, but about the gigantic cities that host some of the most famous clubs on earth. Let’s look at some of those cities:

 

DJ in Tokyo club
A DJ spinning music in a Tokyo club

Tokyo

I listed this one first because it’s my favorite. The world’s largest city, if you take the whole metropolitan area into account, Tokyo has over 35 million people. It can appear that it has almost as many bars. It has some amazing clubs that draw the world’s top DJs. And I doubt it one of Tokyo’s main clubs and experienced no one will forget. If you are interested in seeing the city, wikitravel has a great Tokyo travel guide for people on a budget.

 

New York

Not much needs to be said about New York. It is world-famous for clubs and for club music and the only thing that can make a night out in New York less fun than should be, is the price. Tokyo gets all the fame for being expensive, but New York is actually much worse. Here’s a guide to New York: http://www.nycgo.com/

 

Las Vegas

Known as sin city, this place is naturally a great place to sin. Yes it’s got casinos and yes you can lose a lot of money. But the best thing about Vegas is the clubs. These days most are located within the casinos, but the best are probably still standalone places. For more on Las Vegas go to this page: http://www.lasvegas.com/planning-tools/free-visitors-guide/

 

London

I haven’t been to London myself, but I hear the nightlife is pretty incredible. That said, it’s also expensive. Nevertheless any time you can party outside of the US, where the laws are not generally conducive to having fun, it’s a good thing. London is large and the something for everyone and all the famous DJs play here. You’ll want to do the same. Here’s a guide to London: http://www.visitlondon.com/

 

DJ Jeff at a Shanghai club
DJ Jeff playing his music in a club in Shanghai

Shanghai

Beijing might be the capital and Hong Kong seems to be more famous for its nightlife, but Shanghai is by far the most fun city. The nightlife here is much better than Hong Kong and much much better than Beijing. That said, it still China. Most of the clubs is the city kind of suck and you have to figure out the few that don’t. If you do, you’re guaranteed a great time. To help you figure it out, try wikitravel’s travel guide for Shanghai.

 

Berlin

Last, but certainly not least my little list is Germany’s capital. With very liberal laws and ridiculous amount of clubs, this city boasts what is probably currently the best nightlife on earth. Berlin has a few clubs where a night out is not just a night out, it can be a life-changing experience. Even though the love Parade no longer takes place in the city, it’s spirit certainly still remains. Known as one of the coolest cities on earth, Berlin is a place you don’t want to miss. For more the city try this Berlin travel guide: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/germany/berlin

 

I know there are many more cities I could’ve and probably should’ve included on this list, but I just wanted to give you a little taste of to get you started. Get familiar with the cities and ideally visit them and spent some time there, and you’ve made a good start. Then you can move on to the next ones, like maybe Singapore, Miami, Los Angeles, etc. basically, if you want to be an international DJ enough to be international you have to travel. So get out there and see the world.