The crawl to the big bucks and good life in the DJ/Club culture requires a little bit more than just skills and luck, although both are very important commodities to have. Today, there are more DJ's than ever trying to break into the top, than there are venues and nights for them to play.
Salaries for top tier DJ’s can exceed 100k and seven figures — for the Electronic Dance Music gods — is not unheard of. Mixed format DJ’s gets less but $50,000+ gigs are commonplace. Plus there's the glamour, celebrities, perks and the travel to exotic lands. Some have spin-off clothing lines, others radio gigs. The world becomes wonderful for the gifted, lucky and marketable.
And Lindsay Luv is a marketing machine. She is proud to tell all that will listen that she is Victoria's Secret Turntable Goddess or MTV's "DJ to the Stars" or about her work with Spice Girl Mel B. She came from humble club beginnings and today has become an international touring DJ. She’s a woman with a million dollar smile and an optimistic die hard approach to the game. She is ambitious and has an energy that is geared for the big time. To be all this and a sweetheart requires a strong sense of self. Luv has always been and remains seriously fun. Nightclub Confidential caught up with her and asked her all about her journey.
Nightclub Confidential (NCC): DJ AM told you to do it and you went forth to become a celebrated DJ. When did you realize that being a DJ — and at that a female DJ — required almost as much skills marketing yourself as spinning the music?
Lindsay Luv: I believe that I placed an equal emphasis on the marketing side of things and my artistry as a DJ from day one. Before I started DJing I was in music event marketing and dabbling in band management, nightlife promotions, and music distribution — so to me marketing was always a part of the bigger picture for any successful artist. Plus, I had already created this persona of myself as Lindsay Luv on Myspace with about 30,000 followers in the years leading up to DJing — so I was already Lindsay Luv before I was DJ Lindsay Luv. New York scenesters likely knew me as someone who was in the mix with the music and nightlife scene; mingling with revered nightlife people like yourself [Steve Lewis], in pictures with artists backstage at events I produced, traveling to festivals like SXSW each year, and so on. When I started DJing my brand was already in place and I was just extending new legs on it. In the very beginning I got some slack here and there from other veteran DJs due to the fact that the reason I got gigs was because of my marketing and people skills. But after a bit of time, numerous gigs, and lots of practice, my skills matched the marketing.
My brand is always first and foremost about the music and I always took the art of DJing seriously. DJ AM told me that the only way to earn respect from my peers and music lovers was to learn the original way via vinyl — Serato via vinyl and always with turntables — and to date I have never strayed from my ultimate respect for real DJ equipment and putting in the work. You wouldn’t show up to a tennis match with a baseball bat, so why would I DJ with anything but the best.
NCC: You started out in artist management with indie bands like Chromeo and The Presets. How did you transition to a pop set that’s required for your gigs? How much rock and roll remains in your set?
Luv: I always say that I am a music geek before I am a DJ. Meaning I have a broad love for music that stretches across most genres and a hodge podge of artists. With that said, I am the type of DJ that plays to each crowd in front of me. I size up the venue, client, crowd, vibe etc. and pick my songs accordingly. I never go into a gig with a setlist as I never know what I am going to be faced with. I prefer to please the crowd and client versus self-indulging.
Not to say that DJ’s who stick to their shtick are self-indulgent — they just run a different game than I do. For example, we’ve DJed together before and you [Lewis] are a rock n roll guy; I think seeing you play Katy Perry remixes would be an odd fit. In order for me to make a living solely off DJing I had to be flexible. LA is a top 40 based nightlife scene than NY and I am expected to play what works. I try to be as innovative with my choices as possible but ultimately it’s a job; making people dance and yearn to return. However, rock n roll and oldies is my personal favorite music. When I am home all I want to listen to is Neil Young, The Kinks, The Cramps, The Cure, The Raveonettes, Jack White, Radiohead and The Stones just to name a few. I still DJ at some rock spots here in LA like The Bronson Bar where I can ‘get it out of my system’ and, to be honest, I’d rather get sick of hearing a Katy Perry song than a Stones song!
NCC: Tell me about the international Lindsay Luv, your big gigs here and abroad. Is music becoming universal?
Luv: I’ve been touring quite a bit and it’s been an amazing and sometimes terrifying experience! I’ve played a bunch in Canada, Switzerland, Mexico, and more recently I played in India! I am so in love with traveling and especially to exotic destinations. I generally pick the road less traveled. It’s really incredible to see places that aren’t necessarily overrun with tourism and haven’t been too “Americanized”. I like to hang with the locals and experience things authentically. When I went to DJ in India I made these amazing friends at my gig that had me over for dinner at their house in the suburbs. That was such an unforgettable experience!
As for DJing abroad, it can be the best gig you have ever had and also the most nerve-wracking. Generally, it is hard to really know where a country is at in terms of popular music; you may play a song you know is a hit in America and they stare blankly as they haven’t heard it yet. Or you play a song you aren’t sure of and the crowd goes wild. I think that’s a big reason why EDM and House are so big these days — it’s the kind of music that transcends all cultures. The vocals are limited and the beats are pumping! I would say one is safest playing house/electro when DJing international markets. Here in the states the gigs are equally exciting - GUESS Hotel at Coachella, Victoria’s Secret Angels events, spinning for a Richard Branson Gala, the Playboy Mansion and so on. While I do love to tour internationally, some of my favorite gigs are often right here in my own backyard!
NCC: With your move from NY to LA your brand grew exponentially. Were you just about ready to blow up or does LA offer a better climate?
Luv: It’s funny because the day I moved I had my a big print article in Time Out NY hit the stands and read it for the first time in the airport - seriously questioning my move. I thought I was doing fine in NYC and that I may be making a serious mistake. Looking back now it was the best decision I ever made. While my personality is totally a New Yorker — NYC is always my first love — moving to LA was the best fit for both my career and for transitioning into the next phase in my life all around. I actually think in the nightlife world LA is much harder than NYC to blow up within. In NYC there are more nightlife venues and cool kids are always popping up and finding their niche. In LA, the scene is small, weekend based and most of the nightlife scene is veterans in the biz: i.e. promoters that have been doing this forever and DJ’s who have maintained residencies for years at clubs. In NYC I was constantly shuffling around but there was always work; in LA you either hit it big or have nothing at all. The clubs are loyal to their resident DJs which it makes it very hard for new talent to get in. They also have such big name celebrities coming out that the clubs don’t want some newbie cool kid DJ fuddling around with the equipment — they want a DJ that knows how to rock a top notch set for their VIP clientele. Because of this setup, I have maintained my longest residency yet at Skybar at the Mondrian, and the rest of the time I am generally busy DJing events, special guest gigs and touring rather than fighting it out for the scarce residencies.
NCC: It is very likely to find your name in a fashion spread not just a music spread. How have you used fashion to push your name, furthering a celebrity DJ status?
Luv: Fashion has gone hand in hand with my music career, especially so in LA. In NYC I generally just wore black — and a lot of it — but here in LA it’s sunny all year and so I had to finally break out of my shell and try some color which led to a lot more fashion experimentation on my part! I think for female DJ’s part of the marketing shtick is indeed how you look. A women’s brand such as the Betsey Johnson line will likely be more excited to hire a female DJ to wear a cute Betsey dress while spinning than a guy wearing his own clothes; it just fits. I think female DJs in general are under the gun to look as fabulous as they sound. Sometimes this can be a blessing and a curse. For me right now, it is a blessing. Because of my ability to wear any brand that hires me both on decks and off, the brand extends their marketing and I extend mine from fashion to music and back again. I also think the two are always interlocked in a variety of ways and because of it I have merged the two with projects with the Victoria’s Secret radio station I launched.
I also think there are a variety of ways any DJ can go with their career. Some DJ’s are all about the residencies night after night, some are into producing and DJing their productions, some are huge in the festival circuit; others are big in the events/brand world and so on. There are great payouts and fun fashion in the brand events world, plus it is a world I understand from my past professional and personal experience, so I have begun to tie it into my own style and lifestyle website.
NCC: Tell me about what equipment you use and the better sound systems you have worked with in clubs.
Luv: I exclusively use Serato (Scratch Live) with Technics 1200’s (turntables) and I prefer the Rane 57 mixer, as it is compact and easy to record my sets on. I don’t know too much about the sound systems, I just know that when they are great they’re great! I almost never use CDJ’s unless forced — not a fan— but I can adapt if pushed, as they are the mainstay in international venues. Sigh.
NCC: Las Vegas is big — way bigger than conceivable just a few years ago. What is it like for you to DJ there?
Luv: I just went out there to spin a bunch of events on behalf of Hudson Jeans for the big Magic/ENK fashion tradeshow and it was insane! I have DJed there before but each time I go I am newly amazed! As a DJ, playing in big venues in Vegas is kind of like going from playing a music dive bar to Madison Square Garden. While we all love intimate gigs, there is something indescribable about melting people’s faces off in a huge room with an insane sound system! Vegas does not skimp on being over the top!
NCC: Are you having fun?
Luv: I am having a blast! The one thing I always said I wanted to maintain no matter what was working with music, and I have managed to do that throughout my career.
NCC: What’s Next?
Luv: I am excited to see where things take me as I am always moving and shaking. I have launched my website LUVLIFESTYLE and am eager to see how it develops over time. I like to think of it as a living resume and an extension of my brand. You can really see what I am up to by reading interviews with people I admire, spotlights on brands I am working with, recipes I am concocting to entertain with, and of course all my own trend forecasting and cool hunting. Plus there is naturally a great music component to everything. I would really like to see the site grow and continue to develop the other side of my brand, which is my interest in getting behind the music, fashion, and lifestyle. Otherwise I have been working with some amazing brands like Victoria’s Secret, GUESS, Hudson Jeans, Perrier and Andrew Marc (as an ambassador), and I would love to develop more relationships with brands and work on further collaborations and music curations!
I am itching to get my hands into designing a capsule collection for shoes or jewelry, and I would love to become a go-to music guru outside of the booth; offering playlists and music selections for brands, retail, gyms, hotels and such. And lastly I plan on further touring — possibly with a great artist and/or group. Only time will tell but I can promise you I am not slowing down any time soon!