Photo by: Khachik Simorian
A few months ago the harsh realities of being a DJ in the middle of a pandemic became abundantly clear. Oscillating between a steady rotation of shock, depression, and aspiration as spring turned into summer, with the hopes of starting to get back to normal in the fall. At the latest.
During a routine doctor’s appointment (by phone, of course) before refilling my antipsychotic medication and boner pills, she closed by preparing me for the second wave.
“It’s gonna come back much harder later in the year, so just be prepared.” She said.
This stuck in the back of my head as the emergency funds began to empty and the delayed affects of the March shutdown started surfacing. Throughout this thing I’ve taken my cues from trusted sources and the smart people in my life, a few that work in medicine, and watched with horror as large swaths of ignorant people began following the advice of opportunists making money from ignorance and the mayhem (cool band name alert!).
In the best of times making a living as a DJ, musician or any other type of performer/creative is a battle. It often takes years and years of hard work, making connections, gigs, crippling uncertainty, and most importantly working on your craft to get to a point where you can pay all your bills from your art. And even longer than that to start really getting ahead in life. Most creatives are willing to make this sacrifice early to do something they love. It seems like a fair bargain.
The shock of the pandemic on the careers of millions of performers around the world has most likely by now reached the next phase. Denial and depression punctuated the spring months, sprinkled with some glimmers of hope and recognition of some silver linings associated with the pandemic. Anger soon followed in the summer months as I began to question the effectiveness of the lockdowns and the uncertain downstream economic and mental health repercussions of such an archaic unprecedented strategy.
I went through some serious bargaining when clubs closed down here again in early September. I knew it would probably happen but in hindsight I can see I had been floating in the warm elixir of denial the whole time. Hey, it’s not necessarily a horrible place to be. At least it contains some hope. I’ll take a heaping can of denial over depression any day, but sooner or later you’re gonna have to pay the piper.
I had a few job offers around the same time, but felt resentful of having to jump into a completely different industry and start over. After wrestling with those feelings for a few weeks, I got there.
This is the longest I’ve ever went in my life not performing. Sure, I’ve made a few mixes (yet to be released) and released a track in the summer, so I haven’t been completely useless. Nevertheless, one can’t sit around and wait for the world to get back to normal when it may never be the same. You gotta roll with the punches.
Sometimes you have to pivot.
If there are two things that my experiences this year have taught me it’s that (a) our social connections are so vital to our overall well being and ability to flourish in life and that (b) everybody needs something to do. In fact, most management schools will tell you that money comes in second as a motivator for employees. The number one being finding meaning in their work and feeling recognized for their efforts.
As much as the idea of having your schedule wide open and a couple bucks for doing nothing may be ideal in theory, the point of diminishing returns is reached quicker than you’d think when most of your income evaporates and the everyday social connections from your work life vanishes.
The mind is a terrible thing to waste.
It makes me think of the concept of Universal Basic Income and I will probably dive down that rabbit hole in the future and report back. Some of the stop gap measures enacted by the government like CERB, gave us a taste and no doubt prevented bankruptcies, mortgage defaults, homelessness. and ultimately lives in the process. It may be that UBI detractors may have had it half right when they argue about exploitation. Only, instead of a large number of people exploiting it to live rent-free on the government’s dime, maybe it prevents everyday people from being exploited by their employers.
With infection rates (700+) breaking records every other day and hospitalizations rising, the Government of British Columbia came down with some of the most sweeping new restrictions since March. Recommendations of no contact with people outside your family bubble, in addition to further restrictions on exercise facilities, traveling, gatherings and a provincial mask mandate, the hopes are that we can avoid any bad scenarios later by getting tough now. What many people don’t realize about exponential growth is that it sneaks up on you and when the health care systems start to feel like they are in trouble, then it’s probably too late. That’s why it’s easy to get complacent and feel like everything is fine. Everything is fine. Until it isn’t. Then it’s real bad.
Let’s hope we never even get that close
JT James is a DJ, producer and writer based out of Vancouver, Canada. A veteran of the DJ and recording worlds. he has produced several projects in the genres of hip hop and electronic music under various aliases such as James Divine, Track Nicholson and Sandy Villanova. When he’s not on the decks, in the studio or staring into a blank word document you can catch him at the beach, hiking through the forest or telling people how much yoga can change their life. Look out for his latest project Wulvun and their debut single ‘Far Away’ streaming now on all major platforms.
Wulvun Single https://youtu.be/LPDQThtj_TA