Have a think for a moment. Can you name 5 resident DJs? Residents. Ones that play at the same club week in week out. Im sure many of you can, but is it as easy to do as say 5 years ago? Many more I expect are thinking, why? who cares? The fact is, residents have been the backbone of club culture since, well, forever. Historically, there used to be one DJ for the whole night like Larry Lavan, David Mancuso or Junior Vasquez. Guests were unheard of, and the concept of ‘superstar DJs’ was a lifetime away. DJs weren’t paid much, some even swept the floor of the club after the gig and helped to carry the empties out. They played because they had an unquenchable passion for music and a vast record collection they didn’t mind sharing. People would come from miles around to hear the DJ play all the great music of the day, and for a few really good residents, came the spoils. One of those unsung heroes was Ian Ossia. He was resident for world famous progressive house night Renaissance throughout the 90s, and played with the best DJs in the world. Ian is seen by many (including me) as one of the UKs top residents.
“Guests come and go, and take their glory, but a resident is the heart of a club. The connection you can build with your crowd is a powerful thing. Your set evolves and becomes honed to perfection, and you and your crowd become bonded. You can also take risks musically that you can’t take as a guest. Being a resident at a good club is really the best and most satisfying place a DJ can be.” - Ian Ossia
So why is it that we see so many club nights with 15 DJs on the bill all playing for 45 minutes each, or promoters offering gigs if you sell X number of tickets? What happened to believing in your brand and allowing the DJ to create magical moments. Tim Andresen, resident DJ at Denmark’s’ Culture Box thinks promoters don’t have a reason to keep you as a resident unless you offer something unique, “There has been a growing public demand for something new and fresh all the time. The club scene is not new anymore and clubbers are traveling internationally for clubs and festivals like never before.”
He went on to say, “We are living in a hype world… it has to be said that we are completely outnumbered by the people who only go [clubbing] for the big names, go for a special venue or for a free party.” And its this insidious ‘fair weather’ clubber that seems to proliferate the scene these days. Or so promoters would have you believe. The simple truth is, clubbing is now a global business, and the promoters that do well make a stack of money is a very short space of time. Its this allure which drives the vast majority to book big name DJs with out a thought for brand identity or natural growth.
There was a time when a brand could pull a crowd without the help of an internationally known headliner. The residents were good enough to hold the attention of the regulars and they were rewarded by big acts on special occasions. Some clubs still manage to run on that principle like Fabric in London, but most don’t. Easier it seems to book a bunch of people on a weekly or monthly basis and get them to bring their friends; instant crowd. Neil Browne, a resident at LoCo in London thinks a lack of residents does the brand a disservice.
“I grew up as part of the Irish clubbing scene and was exposed to some great residents with varying styles down the years, people like Robbie Butler, Johnny Moy, LRB, Darren Flynn and more recently in London, Craig Richards, Terry Francis, Samantha Blackburn & Shane Watcha are all people I would say have mastered their trade and as consequence I would always consider going to a residents night because I am already sure of their quality, but a constantly changing line up of opening acts removes the possibility of even holding one of these parties which I feel can sometimes be a stern acid test of the success and popularity of a night in tandem with going some way to building your core support of patrons.” - Neil Browne
Certainly DJs like Paul Woolford and Danny Howells for instance, have profited enormously from being aligned with a particularly good brand, and have headlined gigs the world over with their finely honed sounds. You go initially because they play for a big organisation, but inevitably leave a fan of the DJ themselves. Its a sad fact of the ever evolving nature of dance culture that these types of DJ are a dying breed, and with everyone out for themselves trying to be the next Armin Van Buuren or David Guetta, one wonders whether the role of the resident will fall by the wayside to make room for the current trend of booking a zillion average DJs where one good one would have done.
So what makes a great resident, and how does that differ from a guest who plays lower down the list? Well, for a start, most DJs will agree a resident is a DJs DJ. Someone with a vast collection of music and with enough flexibility in their sound that they can fit into whatever mould is need for the night. Tribal Sessions resident Jozef K summarises it as “an eclectic taste and lack of ego”. Another trait of the resident is the ability to warm down a crowd as well as pump them up. Remember any club night you’ve been to where the guest DJ has to play somewhere else and so plays at the start of the peak time and leaves before the club shuts. That guy taking over has the hardest job of the night – he has to keep you dancing when you’re thinking to yourself, “well, the headliners’ gone, I may as well go home now.”
That guy keeps the floor energised and screaming for more, if he’s good. Otherwise he’s that slightly annoyed dude who watches everyone leave the club until its just him, the bar staff and a few wreck heads still buzzing off the 10 pills they took. A great resident has personality, charisma which is translated in the music, they’re dedicated and passionate, and that too is transmitted across the dance floor and picked up by the crowd. They are the shamen of the tribe. They understand their role within the context of a club night, and they appreciate how a night should flow. One club really pushing this ethos forward is Culture Box in Copenhagen. Head resident Tim Andresen agrees that careful planning and attention to detail can really turn a clubs fortunes around, and it doesn’t mean throwing money at guest DJs necessarily.
“The last 6 months have seen the numbers up and it’s been the best period in the 10-year lifetime of the club. No doubt some of it has to do with an ever increasing focus on quality and who is playing, guests as well as residents. DJs seem to love often being able to play for 3+ hours rather than a ridiculous 60 minutes. Less is more. No one here likes to see 10 guys switching cables and controllers all night. They want proper DJ sets delivered by proper DJs whether it being the guests or the carefully picked residents.” - Tim Andresen
And so to the future, what would you like to see at the club nights you frequent? I think residents are the most important part of any night, and to see them go, sacrosanct.