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Typical Day

Your first voicemail is from your Uncle Larry. He sounds a little worried. "Hey, sport, we're really in a pickle over here. You know your cousin is getting married next weekend and I know it's a huge thing to ask, but...."

You hit delete. You already know what the favor is. He needs a real DJ, not just someone's friend of a friend who turned out to have some scary tattoos and kept talking about "bringing down da house."

"Hey, Uncle Larry, don't worry about a thing. I got your back. What's the date?"

"Oh, man, thank you! We'll be glad to pay you whatever you need. If it makes it any easier, we already have a list of all the songs she wants."

Ordinarily, the songs a bride requests are like musicus interruptus for your creative soul, but this time you're relieved. Your uncle sent you an email with everything you need: the guest list and the bride's favorite songs. The tropical theme made things a lot easier. All you needed to do was set up a basic sound system: your laptop, a PA, speakers, and a microphone. The songs she suggested were easy to find and not too hard on the ears. Just pick some rock, R&B, reggae, hip hop (not too hip or too hop), soul, blues, funk, and disco. Tag different tracks for different parts of the wedding and reception: the cocktail hour, the dinner music, the best man's toast, the bouquet toss, and then the fun parts: the two or three hours of dancing. Look for some slow dances with a variety of BPMs (beats per minute), save the playlist to iTunes, and add the event to your crowded schedule.

Next is your shift at the local college station, WBPM. Listeners tuned in to hear your eclectic mix of dance music. Your job is to entertain them with interesting facts about how dance music has evolved. This week you plan to illustrate how waltz music is related to dubstep.

You'll practice your on-air voice and build your segue skills through talk rather than audio fades. Your four-hour shift ends just in time to do sound check at Sudz 'n' Budz, the hipster brewhouse downtown. The best part about being the opening DJ is starting and ending before midnight, but tonight the headliner was a friend and she was getting really popular. And for good reason. DJ SheBert really knew how to read a crowd. When they started to wander, she played a recognizable track and moved on with some creative fades, some vocal samples, and some amazing, dramatic drops. She cleverly avoided a few train wrecks (matching two tracks with different tempos). More exposure was even better than the two free drink tickets.

Back home around 4am you snarf down a couple Hot Pockets and Gatorade and crash. At 11am you're back up and ready to go. Your next gig is to set up the sound for the Dirt Pool Collective Arcade and Fire Eatery Festival. After lugging equipment and sound checking the board and stage monitors, you watched from the wings as the main act settled into his cockpit, the blinking lights and glowing computer monitor twinkling before him. After some easy trip-hop and up-tempo ambient tracks, the DJ slowly brought up the volume and increased the beats. The festival goers milled around until they unconsciously starting moving to the rhythms. Conversations died down and people started closing their eyes and bobbing their heads.

The DJ flipped on the mic. "Good morning, dirty poolers!"

That was the signal that began every year around dusk. The announcement that the weekend was about to get rolling.

"Are you ready?"

A cheer went up.

"I can't hear you!"

He wasn't kidding. He really couldn't hear them. He frantically scanned the sound board and noticed the headphone jack just in time. He wiggled in and the explosion of sound nearly twisted his head off. He cranked the volume in his headphones a little higher and started the first track. A simple, stark, crispy beat to get the crowd unified. He brought up the volume on another track and laid it down on top, and then another and another. By the time he had the vocals—a Mad Men audio sample—the crowd was a sea of waving arms and the crowd was his. Later on, he'd sneak in a sample from "White Wedding," but only enough to smash it into sonic splinters with an audible buh-BAM!

You wade out into the crowd and let yourself get swept away in the aural overload, but keeping track of ideas for your shot at the big time.