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. And if you try to do any singing, don’t even get me started…

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. They also love karaoke way too much. But if you’re a good singer, that works to your advantage. Nevertheless, because of those two points, 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. Oh, and a tip for saving money: always travel with a hammock. Read this post to learn why.