An early pioneer in the world of livestreaming, The DJ Sessions launched in 2010 to give DJs and artists a new media platform to perform and share music. Since The DJ Sessions’ debut, they’ve gained recognition as a Twitch featured partner and an Apple “New and Noteworthy” podcast.
With ten years of shows, streams, and mobile sessions in the books, TDJS continues to pursue their mission to “provide music, art, fashion, dance, and entertainment to local and regional communities via events and video production programming distributed through broadcast television and the internet for live and archival viewing.”
TDJS has also launched a new in-person series, “Safe Silent Discos,” in a bid to overcome the pressing challenge of safely delivering a live music experience to the people of Seattle during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Dance Music Northwest had the chance to chat virtually with The DJ Sessions founder Darran Bruce on his past, present, and future accomplishments and goals.
Get to know The DJ Sessions, Darran, and their newest “Silent Concert” series by diving in below!
DMNW: Darran, first thing’s first, congratulations on ten years of The DJ Sessions! Looking back on this milestone, what were some of your favorite highlights?
Darran: Thank you, it’s been a wild ride. With over 1,900 episodes produced so far, it is hard to pick a few of the highlights. I can say that our “Mobile Sessions” and “Silent Concert” series are the ones that our fans remember the most.
Having the ability to take DJs on a tour of the city, with up to 15 other people in a one-of-a-kind glass-box party bus – and add a livestreaming studio with a sound system that you can hear from 1/4 mile away – [it] always turns the heads of people. Watching a mobile party happening right before their eyes. Getting them to dance along with us and smile is always a treat to see happen.
(These events happen every Wednesday from 6-10pm PST)
In addition to “Mobile Sessions,” our “Silent Concert” series allows us to have up to four DJs playing together, each with their own channel that our fans can listen to, up to 1,000 feet away from the stage. We can have up to 16 DJs play in a four-hour period.
One of the key goals of TDJS was to always keep it an “open table” format. All a DJ needs to do to play is go to our website and fill out the “Request to Play” form. From there we verify them and let them pick the dates they wish to play. We have 128 slots that we can fill every month, and our current resident roster has been hand-picked from this process.
Our favorite places to set up are Golden Gardens in the summer, and when the Seattle weather turns we move to the covered area of Gas Works Park. We are launching two new locations soon and plan to have more announced after the first of the year.
(These livestreams take place every Saturday and Sunday from 2-6pm PST)
Currently we are the only establishment in town that can do this. The feedback from all of the people who have come out to attend or stop by our setup have been 100% positive. We are ecstatic that TDJS can provide a shared music experience for others, get them out of the house, and get them dancing in some of the most beautiful locations in the Seattle area.
The core mission of our series has always been to put smiles on the faces of our fans and the DJs that play on the show. Just by producing these two series, in addition to our other five (Rooftop, Cab, Secret, Virtual, and State of the Industry Sessions), we keep our hands full and our audience entertained.
DMNW: What was your original vision for TDJS? Did you imagine it growing into what it is today?
Darran: Absolutely. We actually started two years before the Boiler Room. We were featuring celebrity DJs and became a UStream Featured Partner from the moment of the show’s conception. Dave Dresden was one of the first to do this and I still go back and watch that episode from time to time. Him grabbing Simbi the Disco cat and bringing her on the show was priceless.
Once we started doing our own events and adding in the “Silent Disco/Concert” element, it let us quadruple our livestreaming output and give more DJs a chance to play in front of a live audience in an already stifled, politicized market. It was always the number one goal to show people from around the world the amazing amount of talent we have here in this city, and who was coming here to play.
Our immediate plans for the future will be bringing in celebrity talent to our shows and giving our audiences more value for the dollar than has been traditionally been able to be done in the past electronic music experience.
Think of a show where you can have 12 multi-genre DJs open for the headliner in an amazing outdoor location, and give everyone an option to listen to something and not be focused on just one genre of music. We are planning to make some upgrades to our “Silent Concert” series by having up to nine channels. That would be nine DJs playing at the same time on the same stage. As you can see, the possibilities are endless as to how far we can take this.
One of the other unique features about our platform is that you can actually watch all four of our stages from our “Silent Concert” events. Whether you are in person, watching on your mobile device, or at home you can have what we call a “round trip” experience by being part of the event from anywhere in the world.
DMNW: Where does The DJ Sessions find their roster of performers? Are there any new faces coming to the team?
Darran: My team and I are passionate about music, getting people to dance, and offering spaces of healing and unity for the community in these difficult times. The rewards of making that happen keep us highly motivated. There are a multitude of DJs in the Seattle metro area and we have had most of the well-known ones on the series over the years.
Our current resident list consists of the following DJs: DA33L€, DJ Shaggy, DJ Tgro, Excalibur, Ganin, Justin Murta, Machine Logic, Serjey Andre Kul, The DJ Moss, Timid, and Whispah the Ruler.
We are also excited to announce it here first that we have added the following DJs to our roster in the last few months: Avian Invasion, CHRIS138, D Miner, DJ Kitty, DJ Shonuph, DJ SPITFIRE, DJ Transcend, EVA, Gnomer, Karmy, LUZI TUDOR, and Orion. This is one of the most amazing teams I have had the honor to work with, and each one of them delivers a pure 100% music listening/dancing experience.
(Visit the Residents page on TDJS for more info, sets, and more)
I am always on the lookout for people that just want to have fun, play good music, dance, make others dance, and most importantly make them smile. If you’re a DJ and you want to play somewhere other than your bedroom, living room, or backyard, go to our site and fill out the “Request to Play” form and we will be in contact.
DMNW: TDJS recently updated certain shows to include the use of a Woojer Strap. I’m curious how soon they’ll be live at your events? What’s your take on this enhanced experience?
Darran: This is truly a game changer in the silent events industry. One thing I had heard in the past from people was the fact they couldn’t feel the bass like they can from a nightclub or concert sound system. You have to realize those are two different music delivery systems and really can’t be compared.
Now that we have received our first Woojer for testing, the feedback has been, “When are we getting more?” I had someone use it for three hours the other day and they will be renting it every time they come to a show now. Because the music that activates the device comes from our headsets, you can be up to 1,000 feet away from our stage and still “feel” the low end bass through the Woojer.
It really does change the listening experience. We are in talks with Woojer to purchase more of the units in the next few months. This really completes the experience. The device is easy to use, is lightweight, and doesn’t get in the way or encumber your dance experience in any way.
DMNW: Regarding your “Safe Silent Discos” series, what was the process to get approval from the city and state for these events to continue during the pandemic?
Darran: I am glad you asked about that because there have been some misunderstandings over the last few months. I’d like to set the record straight. Safety is the utmost importance for not only our guests and families, but for our DJs and their families as well.
Our WA State non-profit corporation, The DJ Sessions Events Services, is allowed to function because we are an “essential business/workforce,” as categorized by the Washington State Governor’s office under the “Communications” and “Community-Based” sections of the WA State COVID-19 guidelines. The headsets we use are merely a component of our overall livestreaming production, just like utensils and plates are used at a restaurant or shopping carts are used at the grocery store.
We actually found this out in April and, because we qualified to remain open, we had launched in late May. I decided to focus my efforts in other areas once the protests started, and in late June, I made the decision that a portion of our proceeds would be going to the NAACP, ACLU, and other organizations as we saw fit and get back to doing what we do best, livestreaming electronic music DJs.
I had chosen the new launch date of July 18th because the numbers that the WA State Governor’s office was using looked like Phase Three was going to happen around that time. That didn’t happen, but it didn’t mean that we had to stop what we are doing.
If anyone wants to come out and check on our operation, I would encourage them to do so. If the recommendations for going to a park are followed by the people that attend our live taping, outlined in each of the phases, they will have a fun socially-distanced collective music experience.
DMNW: How does TDJS finance the events and activities you’ve spoken to us about?
Darran: There is another misconception about our series. When it comes to our shows, it has never been about making money and we’ve never been a revenue-generating operation until this year. Every DJ that has played on the series has been aware of this for years, and had agreed to playing on the series in trade for production services rendered. We now have had a compensation model in place that is fair for everyone for the last two years, and we are eager to make payouts at every one of our events.
I actually used to charge DJs to play on the series from 2010 to 2015 to cover some of the costs of operations. When I formed The DJ Sessions Event Services, I made it a nonprofit organization with the purpose of focusing on raising funds for educational purposes. We have now expanded that to other areas as well. The time donated by the DJs in the past has been one of the most precious resources we have counted on.
If I told you all what this really costs to do most of you would be amazed. I have told people for years to go and get some quotes from companies to do all this and then do the math, with the amount of production we have done. It’s great to see everyone streaming from their bedroom, kitchen, backyard, etc. But if they really knew what it takes cost-wise and weren’t getting paid for it like we do, 99% would quit before they even began.
Don’t even get me started on the licensing costs either. Most people’s heads would explode if I told them how that all works out. And one more record-setting fact, TDJS pays for the licensing costs to use every single song played on the series. If you want to do it right and not get sued, you have to pay the dues. Those that are out there not paying for the licensing are essentially “stealing” the music they use.
There are actually two different processes for getting music cleared for both livestreaming and VOD (Video-On-Demand) and those are called “Sync” and “Master Use.” It is almost two full-time jobs arranging all this on the back end to do a show properly. None of us are getting paid to do [this].
We are in talks with some major brands at the moment, and it is just about negotiations and making sure we can deliver. Hitting in the top ten positions in the Twitch Music section every time we go live helps as well.
DMNW: TDJS is hosting a “Bundle Up and Boogie” food and clothing drive this October. Can you tell us about that?
Darran: I have always been about giving back to the community. I have spent thousands of hours over the last ten years along with the contribution by all the DJs that have played to make this all happen.
By starting up the #BundleUpAndBoogie campaign we are able to collect nonperishable food items and clothing (coats, gloves, socks, blankets, etc.) and get them to people in the community that need it the most. This will be running during the fall/winter months and we already have our 2021 spring/summer campaign planned out.
This is why it is so important to give back to our community, provide a place where DJs can come and play and meet others in the industry to network, and build a legacy that will endure for years to come. DJs should not have to worry about production, distribution, licensing, etc. We take care of all that and we strive to provide this for them, cost free, so they can focus on what they do best: playing music and getting others to dance.
DMNW: Out of all of The DJ Sessions’ novel studio locations, which one is your favorite?
Darran: I would have to say the TDJS Mobile Studio Sessions are by far the best to produce. Where else can you drive around such a beautiful city with music playing that gets people dancing and smiling? We get to have three things happening in the same moment, and it provides an amazing backdrop for our DJs to play against.
We have had studio spaces in the past. Golden Gardens and Gas Works are amazing as well, but using a whole city as your studio…that’s a first that I know about in the world. We kinda have a few of those under our belt on The DJ Sessions.
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