Zero To Hero: The Ursus Project – Let’s Talk To The Experts
Q&A: A Ministry Of Sound Resident DJ, Promoter & Producer
Gallery Resident, Neil Page
Neil Page is a resident DJ at weekly friday night The Gallery at Ministry Of Sound , arguably one of the most famous clubs in the world. His position has seen him support acts including Steve Angello, Laidback Luke, Arty & Markus Schulz amongst others. He’s also a producer, having released on labels such as Nano Beats , Suka and Applique. In addition, Neil has since 2010 run his own night at Ministry: Neil Page Presents which has seen him book talent including a Get Physical showcase . He also plays in Ibiza, and produces additional material under pseudonym Neer. How he had time to write this Q&A is beyond me, so thanks Neil!
So what came first for you – DJing, promoting or producing?
Deejaying is where everything started for me. I was very lucky growing up, my family opened a club in London in 1987 and it’s still running strong today. This, alongside two groups of friends starting their own club nights meant I could DJ regularly at different venues in London.
How did you make the transition to each?
Promoting came as a natural consequence of Deejaying for bigger promoters. It’s a well known headache now that most deejays are required to promote an event, more often than not in the form of ticket selling. It takes a lot of hard work to move from a ticket selling deejay to a paid deejay, and trust me, it’s a long and often soul destroying road and many give up!
The creation of my night, ‘Neil Page Presents’ was actually due to Ministry of Sound. Back in 2009 I was in discussions with the in house promoters, looking for regular gigs. They basically said, “we can give you a room, but not a gig!” So I took the plunge, booked 4 other deejays and we all worked tirelessly to get the ticket quota done so that the night would be a success and we could all do it again. I’ve been hosting my night at Ministry ever since, and this year we even got the 103 (the second biggest room) and haven’t looked back since.
Becoming a producer or not is a conscious decision most deejays come across. I really believe the transition to becoming a paid deejay, more recognition and better gigs requires a deejay to make their own music. This isn’t true in every case, as is evident with deejays like Lucy Stone a.k.a Bam Bo Tang who plays all over the world.
You’re signed to multiple labels – how does that relationship work – are there different levels of “contract” with labels?
Getting signed to a label is different now than it used to be. To be actually signed to a record label means the label invest time and often money into you and your productions. This means support in making music, mastering, high level distribution of your music and paying other producers to remix your tracks. This investment can be large amounts of money and most labels just don’t have the resources.
The way that most producers operate, is to get their single tracks signed to record labels. I have multiple tracks signed to labels from all over the world, and this is a different arrangement than being a signed recording artist. Basically, you send the record label your demo, provide a brief introduction about you and your music, they listen and if they like it, they license the track and agree to distribute it.
After speaking to many label owners, a good tactic is to try and build up a relationship with one label, and work with the label in the aim to getting that higher contract to be signed recording artist.
As a resident for MoS, You DJ at the highest levels: what do you prioritise, production or DJing? Or does it not work like that?
In my eyes, as a deejay turned producer, the ultimate is being able to play your own track in a club and see the crowd react. This means that, both production skill and deejay ability go hand in hand. You need to make sure you’re deejaying the sound you produce, so that any following you get from your deejaying will result in actual fans of your music.
As we’ve discussed, you’re a promoter for Ministry of Sound. A lot of bedroom producers will have considered putting on their own night locally to get their name out there. Would you recommend this? Or is it better to focus your efforts on getting your mixes to existing promoters?
It’s not always about mixes and sending mass messages to promoters. What you need to do as an aspiring deejay is to make sure you contact the right person, pre arrange to go down to one of the nights, meet the promoter you’ve made contact with, buy him/her a beer, get a feel of the night and express your interests in getting involved. As a booker, I look for deejays who are willing to work hard, who are good communicators and understand the genre of the night I am booking them for.
Putting on your own night can be a great way to generate gigs, get your name out there and also organise gig swaps etc. You get to meet other deejays who might have contacts elsewhere – just be careful not to be labelled as a ‘promoter’ rather than what you wanted to do, which is to deejay!
How do aspiring DJs get a promoters attention? What do you look for in emerging DJs?
I often get messages, emails, texts and calls from aspiring deejays looking for a gig. It pains me when I check out their social media presence and they haven’t made the effort or got things in order. It’s easy to update your soundcloud, facebook page, website/twitter. Have a look at your social pages, make sure they all show the same information, remember that as a deejay you are a product and it’s your job to make that product look appealing, neat and tidy.
Promoters also like to see that you’ve got a good social circle, to help boost the night they are booking you for, but this isn’t always the priority.
Do you have to be a signed producer to get high profile gigs?
The answer is not a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’
The best answer is that being a signed producer dramatically increases the chances of getting high profile gigs. I’ve only known a few deejays to get festival gigs without having their own records out. The extra promotion you get as an artist by the label, by your records being played on radios and deejaying at label parties all help you climb up the ladder to bigger, better gigs.
MoS residency, promoter, producer – What’s been the toughest part of your journey?
Promoting for me has no doubt been the toughest aspect to date. As a person who just wants to be in the studio all day, then go to a club in the evening and deejay, the logistics and organisation required to run a night successfully is really demanding. The problems you encounter on a regular basis have been really testing, but I wouldn’t change any of it as the knowledge I’ve acquired by being on both sides of the fence, both booker and booked is invaluable.