international

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.

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.

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. Many of those are karaoke bars, but if you like singing, that can be a good thing. It also 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.

The biggest drawback is the cost of accommodation, but you can save a lot if you travel with a hammock. Every place I stayed at was more than happy to let me hang my hammock on their property in exchange for a small fee.

 

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.