Hi, Doctor Nick! - Balancing Work with Music, Playing the PR Game, and Vinyl vs. Laptop DJs

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Thursday morning has arrived, which means it's time again to welcome Dr. Nick Hook back to the front page of XLR8R. Even if he's not actually a doctor, his wealth of wisdom has already helped numerous readers with their burning questions about life, music, romance, travel, production, and more. If you have an inquiry of your own, don't hesitate to mail it in to doctornick@xlr8r.com, and perhaps Doctor Nick will help you in a future edition of his weekly advice column. In the meantime though, continue reading to find out his thoughts on keeping the creative fires burning while holding down a job, the vinyl vs. laptop DJ debate, and how best to play the PR game.

Hi Doctor Nick,
As a creative professional, I’m quite lucky to have a job where I get to create all day, but my job only represents a fraction of the other creative outlets I enjoy–most of which are music things. I’m always at my creative prime in the morning, which is great for my day job, but by the time I get done at work, go to crossfit, and get home, all I want to do is sit on the couch. How do I find the creative juices and energy to work on my own music without it feeling labored and passionless?

I dunno man. I think you need to assess what's important and try to focus on that. I only had a 9-5 job for three months once, but I went through what you are going through. I got home and I had nothing left. Creative energy is something that I think is hard to talk about, because sometimes it's not important how long you actually work on something, but where your head is at when you do work, just so you can pour it all out in a focused batch. It's that five minutes where you are at your best that could impact the next 10 years of your life, or more. I sacrificed all of the normal things humans usually have—insurance, a steady income, relationships, etc.—because I did realize that I wanted to do this. It's just now kinda starting to work out after a LONG time. Maybe you talk to your job and switch a few days around so you can focus two days a week on being creative at your prime. Maybe you eliminate crossfit. I'm not sure, but something has to give. You can't do it all.

Hi Doctor Nick,
As a new DJ (I've been mixing for 12 months), will purely using vinyl limit my progress or opportunities for success within the club scene? I'm not looking to become the next Pete Tong or make loads of money, I just want to be able to play decent music to decent crowds on a regular basis.

I started out with just vinyl is because I didn't own a computer at the time and could only afford either a basic laptop or a pair of secondhand 1200s and a mixer... so I chose the latter. A year later, I'm confident enough to hold down a decent 1-2 hour club set and I have a quality collection of music, but I'm wondering whether I would find it easier to get DJ gigs and build my DJ profile if I started using Serato or CDJs. I do own a Macbook Pro now, so I could make the transition fairly easily.

If you can switch easily, why not do both? I think the main thing is to be yourself. That's why you will get booked. If nine million dudes are playing trap, are you going to fire up your laptop and torrent everything so you can be just like them tomorrow? That would kinda blow.

I do miss the times of all-vinyl DJing, just because every single one of us was completely different. I'd go see one friend cuz he had all the weirdo '80s electro records and my friends liked to come see me cuz I had all of Project Pat's records. I think if you can utilize all the time you've spent in record stores to show what personifies you, then you are on to something. Obviously, the computer is going to help cuz we all know it takes seven million years for something new to get to wax.

I appreciate the non-purist thing. To me, you can extract so much out of both kinds of DJing. Going into a record store is so inspiring on so many levels—the format, the art, what it took to make those records, the sounds—but it's also dope to play an MP3 your friend sent you that day.

Anyways, be yourself. That's gonna shine through everything, whether you have a computer or not.

Hi Doctor Nick,
Is hiring a publicist to work on releases worth it for small- and medium-sized labels? Is it better to build a network of contacts yourself over time, and build personal relationships with bloggers and tastemakers... or hire someone who is already established to do it for you? I've been grappling with this question for a few months now. It seems kind of silly to be paying someone a pretty penny to ultimately do what I want to be doing myself.

I think it's a balance, although your geographic location is really important. I live in New York, which I did make happen myself, but I'm also lucky that everyone is always coming in and out of here. I've also established a ton of business relationships that actually had nothing to do with business, just by connecting with people. (Kinda like my relationship with Shawn, our editor at XLR8R. To be honest, I don't know if he loves or hates my music, and I never send it to him, but that's cool, we connect.)

My band Cubic Zirconia, we had to start our own label cuz no one really liked us, except for our artist friends. I think the more I'm in the music biz, the more I realize that I don't even understand why half the people are in this industry. They go to bed at 10 p.m. Literally EVERY business dealing I've ever had in music has happened at like 5 a.m., and maybe I was high as hell and wasted, but they were genuine and they actually all happened.

Also, I think it's important to inspect your own product. You need to target the RIGHT people, not just anyone. And if it's not interesting, no one's writing about it, so make sure everything you do is dope, or at least on the way to that. Make sure you're an asset, not a liability. If you can build some steam with some contacts, once a press agent does finally come in, you give them something to run with. THEN you can focus on being a better A&R and promoting your records in new ways, while they do what they do.

Remember: spend money to make money... but do it wisely.

Hi, Doctor Nick! appears every Thursday on XLR8R. Do you have a question for Doctor Nick? Please submit your inquires to doctornick@xlr8r.com. Nick Hook can help you.