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Where Can You Find Up-and-Coming DJs?

DJ Rashida at Condé Nast Traveler's 2008 Readers' Choice Awards at the New York Public Library

Photo: WireImage

Big-name DJs bring a certain cachet to events—and a hefty price tag. But how do you find the next Samantha Ronson or DJ AM? Brent Bolthouse, longtime DJ and founder of Los Angeles-based Bolthouse Vox Events, says the best way to find new talent is in person at small venues. “We are constantly going to little clubs looking for good DJs,” he says. “Sometimes they don’t even know they can get $1,000 to DJ a party. They’re happy making a couple hundred.” Money aside, Bolthouse says the most important thing to watch isn’t the turntable but the dance floor: “It’s not about mixing; it’s looking at the crowd and seeing who rocks the crowd. You could be the best mixer, but you’re the worst DJ if the crowd isn’t having fun.”

Michael Aiken, managing director of Spring L.L.C., a New York-based music marketing company, specializes in corporate tours, events, and
branding campaigns, like a five-city DJ/producer tour to promote Nikon and Volvo in 2007. Spring is approached by many up-and-coming DJs, but Aiken says his team also seeks them out in small clubs and through production credits and Web sites that allow users to post music playlists. You can search for DJs on MySpace by city or on the site’s music page, which is categorized by genre. “I won’t hire someone purely off MySpace, but you can use it to find someone and then have a discussion,” he says. “MySpace only shows five to six tracks typically, and if the DJ is a record-head, he or she is probably more diverse than MySpace lets on.”

Although it may seem like a thing of the past, Aiken says radio is still a good place to find raw talent. “Lots of up-and-coming DJs are on regular and satellite radio. They clamor to get on mix shows on stations like [New York’s] Hot 97.”

Anjali Saigal, associate publisher of marketing services for Condé Nast Traveler, hires DJs for many of the magazine’s events, namely the Hot List party and Readers’ Choice Awards. Saigal says Scratch Events, a New York-based DJ booking company, is a good resource for booking up-and-comers. The company has more than 600 DJs on its roster and can send bios, demos, as well as photos, which are important to Saigal. “We look for an eclectic, worldly type of ambience, whether it’s in the music or the look of the DJ. So we ask for head shots, or a link to their Web site. Their look is equally as important,” she says.

Don’t rule out the management companies that represent higher-priced DJs. “Maybe you can’t afford AM, but you can afford some new guy in San Francisco,” Bolthouse says. “All you have to do is ask, ‘Do you have someone young within my budget?’ Most likely they have already weeded through some of the [bad] stuff, which saves you time.”

And don’t forget the obvious: “When I go to parties and hear good music, I always get the DJ’s card,” Saigal says.