When the Coronavirus shut us down, clubs and festivals ceased, and everyone was essentially forced inside with no definitive end in sight, DJ Times wondered: How is our tribe coping? How are DJs getting by?
So, we sent out our “Coronavirus Questionnaire” to DJ/producers from all musical genres to find out. During this period, DJ Times will continue presenting the questionnaire responses from talented music-makers from all over the world. Here’s our latest entry, this time from Canada’s British Columbia, the Vancouver-based acid-techno master 747 (aka Ryan Chan).
What’s it like where you’re living? Early on in the pandemic, Vancouver went into a strict lockdown, but since then it’s been relatively chill. The past year went by a lot faster than I would have thought and, honestly, I can barely remember what I’ve done this year. Every day feels the same, so it’s all been a blur, but also kind of calming – if that makes sense. At least I know I’ve been somewhat productive with an EP in the pipeline to show for it!
Did you lose important gigs, or income-producing work? I lost gigs I had scheduled. It’s been really difficult to try and reschedule with all the COVID aftershocks popping up. Everyone is on the same boat, though, so I figure there’s no point losing sleep over it. I consider myself lucky to be living in Canada where the government has been supportive of people whose income has been affected.
Are you doing anything now that can or will produce music-related income? Have you learned anything in the downtime? There are a lot of different revenue streams in music, especially on the publishing side; but events are the biggest by far, so everyone’s trying to figure out how to fill that void. I tried streaming studio sessions on Twitch for a bit. Others are getting into teaching production lessons, and a surprising number of artists are still taking gigs under the radar – to each their own, I guess. I started to love streaming because it was an opportunity to connect with my followers directly and to test tracks out, but I began to lose inspiration as the lockdown dragged on. Consequently, the sessions were getting less interesting, so I decided to stop. I also felt like I was being more conservative in the studio with people watching and was taking fewer risks. I think a lot of artists are learning that we should diversify our revenue streams outside of music, so right now it’s just a bit of trial-and-error to find something that works, whether that’s music-related or not.
What are you doing now that’s ultimately constructive to your music life/career? For example, any releases during this period? My single, “While My 303 Gently Weeps,” is out now. Also, I have a four-EP of the same name slated for February 12 on Aquaregia, “While My 303 Gently Weeps,” which is the result of some of the work I put in through lockdown. It’s my first release in over a year so I’ve been very impatient to put it out. I’ve been teaching myself to play guitar, as well so maybe that’ll make it into a track one day.
In the studio, what’s your set-up? The core of my setup is a Cyclone Analogic TT-303, a Roland JP-08, a Korg Minilogue XD, a Behringer Model D, and Ableton Live. Plug-in-wise, I love collecting reverbs, and lately, I’ve been getting into some of the u-he synths.
What’s your creation process in the studio? Generally speaking, I like to work with a chord progression and an acid line and see where that takes me, but it’s a lot of trial-and-error, really. My final track rarely contains any of the parts I started with.
What’s your typical DJ set-up? Two Pioneer CDJs and two Technics 1200s. I play differently when I’m playing vinyl versus with CDJs and I feel the combination of styles brings out the best I can do. Vinyl requires way more concentration and it forces me into a zone where I have to be careful with my selections and think a few songs ahead. On the other hand, CDJs allow me to have a massive library of tracks, so with my setup, I’m able to get the best of both worlds.
What’s the most surprising thing you’ve realized during this period of social distancing? The lockdown has exposed how undervalued music has become as art in society. Music takes a long time to produce and oftentimes an even longer time to release. I’ve realized the problem is that we’ve thrown music into this revenue model where it’s free to consume and is only monetized by subscriptions and ad revenue. This model rewards volume and numbers and, while I don’t think it’s wrong that the most streamed artists get rewarded, this model is more appropriate for less artistic, quicker-to-produce pieces of content – something like YouTube videos.
Can you further explain? YouTube videos can be filmed, edited, and uploaded a few times per week with the help of a small team, and can be even monetized through external sponsorships. When you’re putting out 150-plus videos per year, quality is less of an issue compared with music. If a video flops, it’s fine – there are more videos to average it out. Imagine if artists started releasing music three times per week… music shouldn’t encourage that type of output. Art is something to be collected and appreciated, not mindlessly consumed like YouTube videos. The price to consume needs to reflect the amount of work that went into it, and it can’t be free. Music sales used to be a substantial piece of the pie when people had vinyl or CD collections. Now people have a list of songs they’ve hearted on Spotify. The current free-to-consume model has completely devalued music to the point where it’s no longer a viable revenue stream for artists. Instead, we all rely on touring, which this pandemic has exposed as a whole other issue.
Have you done anything online recently? I’ve taken part in a few DJ live-streams organized by different promoters – one was pre-recorded and the other was streamed live. Maybe COVID has made me forget what a live event feels like, but the set that I was streaming live almost felt like a real gig! Watching the artists before me, getting excited for my set time, reading comments from strangers in chat while I was playing, it all felt familiar. It’s just not the same as a real event, though, and it’s a bit depressing that this is what it’s come to.
Any theme tunes recommended for the moment? Considering we are now already over a year since COVID first became a thing, Pink Floyd’s “Time” seems fitting.
Any advice on staying sane & relatively positive through this situation? I hope I’m not wrong about this, but in terms of the music/events industry, I think we’ll look back at this COVID era and it’ll be a very minor setback in the grand scheme of things. So I’m not getting too worked up over all the “it-will-never-be-the-same” narrative.
To check out more Life in Lockdown interviews, click here.