12 Rules For Strip Club DJs (Part 2)
Published March 2020 in Exotic
Continued from last month, here is the second in my two-part guide to adopting the title of Dance Commander For The Clothing Impaired. None of these rules are in any particular order and you should not take anything I say seriously, ever, for any reason. With that said, enjoy...
7) Play For The Crowd
The balance between appealing to dancers, club staff and customers is one that often results in DJs just giving up and playing 50 Cent for twelve years (speaking from experience). If you’ve got a room full of [insert biker club here], five dancers who hate each other as much as they hate rock music, two offduty, elderly staff members and the owner (a fan of ‘80s jazz), all under one roof, good fucking luck making everyone happy. So, who do you play for? Well, this may be controversial, but I always side with the crowd, and for one main reason: when compared to dancers and the staff, individual customers spend the least amount of time in the club, and therefore, the duration of your relationship with them is too short for a bad first impression.
If a customer is in the club for an hour and hears nothing but (what they consider to be) shitty music, they may never come back and you won’t get a chance to make it up to them. However, if you play (what the dancer considers to be) shitty music (because [insert customer group here] is in the building), you can always apologize and make it up to her later in the shift (or next time). As far as owners and staff, I tend to avoid clubs where the owners give a shit about music. Strip club owners who don’t trust their DJs are always a pain in the ass to work for and bartenders usually drown out anything besides drink orders. I’ve also never, not once in my fifteen-plus years working strip clubs, heard a bouncer or security staff complain about the music. Yes, I always make sure to throw in some hits for the staff, but the staff is being paid to be there—customers are paying to be there. Strippers technically fall into both groups (they pay fees to make money), but a good dancer can put on a show to pretty much anything, as long as the crowd is making it rain. Offer any rap girl a thousand bucks to dance to Slayer and you’ll realize how unimportant the beat and tempo is.
8) Sell The Fantasy
This overlaps a bit with the previous rule, but there is more to making someone’s night than just having the right amount of 2 Chainz on standby for the college kids and wannabe gangstas. Even though us industry folk tend to forget this, many strip club customers are drawn in by a fantasy—particularly, the idea that a woman who is miles out of their league is willing to give them positive attention, naked boobs and good vibes. From this, the concept of "reality" should be far removed from any show put on by a professional adult entertainer. If Blue Collar Joe and his band of merry laborers wanted to deal with real life, they’d just go home for lunch and eat with their wives and/or girlfriends. If Aspiring Rap Star Guy and his crew had any actual ambition or talent, they wouldn’t be hanging around the club on a weekend night, when they could be out performing at an actual show. If OffDuty DJ Asshole From The Magazine just wanted to stare at naked women while listening to select songs, he’d have just stayed at work. Instead, all of these people seek out the services of stage-bound sex workers, to distract them/us from our day-to-day grind. Tell me I’m cool. Pretend my jokes are funny. Here’s a few dollars. Pretend to like me. Smile and do that thing with your butt. Here’s a few more dollars. This is selling the fantasy.
While the burden of selling the fantasy technically lies in the hands of the dancer (quite literally, depending on her pole skill), a DJ can make or break this illusion. Never, ever refer to a dancer by her real name. Never mention that she has a significant other. Never tell a customer that their song request is lame. Never get on the mic during a bachelor party dance and remind the audience that two-thirds of marriages end in divorce, with women initiating the vast majority. Instead, learn to lie. "This is Destiny. She loves you. Give her money." Whatever it takes, just fucking lie and sell the fantasy. And, keep in mind that everyone has their own fantasy— mine is to watch attractive women in their early twenties put down their phone for five minutes. The next guy or gal, well, theirs may be to have that same attractive woman added on Snapchat. The stripper? Well, her fantasy should be to make as much tip money as possible and sell a ton of dances, so have her back and remind her to put her fucking phone away, because the background screen is a picture of her two kids and current husband. Remind her that if she does this, you’ll consider playing 2 Chainz for the bikers and this will also be a lie. Lie, lie and lie until the fantasy is off the lot and on its way to the private dance area.
9) Average Your Earnings
As a DJ, your income will fluctuate like the emotional outbursts of a stripper during menopause. For example, I can guarantee that simply typing that last sentence cost me a few bucks in tips from some of the more "seasoned" dancers I work with. But, once those same seasoned dancers realize that I’m okay with playing them Hall & Oats on a weekend night, my tips will likely double... but then the owner will hear the Hall & Oats and cut my base pay, so we’re back to square one.
Most clubs pay a base rate that is close to minimum wage, with dancer tips making up the large portion of a DJ’s income. Much like strippers, whose per-night value fluctuates like Bitcoin on meth, DJs will have good nights and bad nights. The key to keeping your job is to average these out. If, on one hand, you get too used to that sweet winter break bump that always results in a few extra bucks, then January is gonna suck ass. On the other side of the coin, if you’re used to making shit money because it’s slow season, you’re going to be a total buzzkill by the time shit picks back up again. Plus, the more the income fluctuates for the dancers, the more it can fluctuate for the DJ. This, of course, isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, as I know (and appreciate) many dancers who tip me a flat rate, regardless of how well they do. Bad night? Thirty bucks. Good night? Thirty bucks. And, while these dancers are actually smart (because really, really, really good nights are, well, thirty bucks), they’re in the minority, with regards to how they tip out. Most strippers will give their DJ a percentage of what they make, and even if the percentage never changes, the amount that it equates to will.
Here’s what I tend to do, if I’m experiencing one of those having-my-shit-together phases: I set aside my base pay and whatever the bare minimum of dancer tippage would be. Then, I put the excess into a DJ slush fund, to help me balance out bad nights. So, if I’m at a club where dancers usually tip me thirty bucks and a dancer gives me thirty-eight, I set aside the eight bucks and use it to tip myself up, when a bad night results in shitty tips or when a touring stripper stiffs everyone on tips. During good seasons, this slush fund gets big enough that I can afford to take some time off or buy the good, topshelf pot on the way to work. But, during bad seasons, it allows me to hedge against the "winter storms," protests or whatever bullshit is keeping Portland-area patrons from coming to the club. Never count your tips before they hatch, but if you average low and discipline yourself, good nights will be awesome nights and bad nights will be no sweat.
10) Quietly Volunteer For Light Waitstaff Duty
When a customer walks into the club, they see the whole thing—this includes crumpled up napkins, cigarette butts or empty drinks at empty tables. This tone will set the customer’s spending bar higher or lower, depending on their first impression. Often times, the inside of a club will feel nothing like the surrounding neighborhood, for better or worse. Club Rouge, for example, is located in downtown Portland, but once inside, the place feels like an upscale club in a nice part of Manhattan and you’d have no idea that vegan food cart owners are arguing with homeless hipsters two blocks away. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve been to clubs in the west hills that feel like trap houses (don’t worry, these clubs are all closed down, but the mid-2000s were a shitshow that no one misses).
So, if your club has two waitresses and a thousand customers, it’s not a bad idea to step up, take care of some of those empties, toss a few napkins in the trash and sweep up the cigarette butts. Sure, it’s not your job, but your job is fucking easy and you shouldn’t be above keeping the vibe as classy as possible. If Spendy McSpendsalot notices that your club is clean and well-kept, he’ll be more likely to spend more money. And, no, I’m not just talking about DJ tips from customers (or at all, really). Rather, I’m talking about how the customers will approach the dancers, who will in turn tip you out at the end of the shift. If the place has ashtrays and empty Pabst cans lying around, it’s gonna be tough to convince Moneybags McGee that stage tips should come in the form of tens and twenties. On the flipside, if a semi-ratchet dancer is performing to semi-ratchet music, but on a clean stage, in a clean club, with clean staff who keep things clean, her tips will vastly outweigh her perceived value as a dancer. Bonus points for those waitresses who toss their helps-clean-shit-up DJ a few tips at the end of the shift.
Put simply, your club is not a communal squat on Hawthorne and no none should be bickering over chore notes left on the fridge.
11) Get Your Liquor And Security Permits
O.L.C.C. and D.P.S.S.T. cards aren’t just for bartenders and bouncers. These state-issued documents (or their equivalents) are easier to obtain in most major cities than H.S.V. and they can only help you out. It’s a good idea to know the laws that govern the people serving your customers (and, possibly you) drinks and keeping your customers (and, definitely you) safe. Plus, should shit ever hit the fan and you find yourself actually serving up shots or ass-kickings, it’s nice to be, ya know, legal. Liquor and security cards are like medical marijuana cards, in that they protect you from all sorts of shit that could make or break your ability to return to work. If you need to step behind the bar, you’re covered. If you need to escort out a dancer while your bouncer is talking to the cops, you’re covered. This isn’t a widely talked-about aspect of being a strip club DJ, but it makes more sense than not and both permits can be obtained with a few hundred bucks, as long as you have an I.Q. above room temperature.
12) Have Fun
This is the one rule I constantly break and it’s the hardest one to follow. Whether or not you have a fun job, it’s still a job. Do you like music? Well, say goodbye to that. Nothing ruins a good iPod playlist or music festival than associating every single song with what you do for work. After about a year of DJing, my car stereo had stopped playing anything besides talk radio and country music. Why? Well, all of my favorite music has been played out at work and I forgot that it was actually entertaining (and not just a job skill) to relax and enjoy some J. Cole for J. Cole’s sake—not worrying about cutting the song at 3:30 or lining up another one after that. Do you enjoy drinking? Well, now the sweet taste of your favorite tequila reminds you of work, particularly the fact that you only drink it to make your shift go by faster. Enjoy watching hot girls do naughty things on video? Well, it’s kind of a boner killer when the mere sight of a ten-and-a-half reminds you of that one girl who walked out without tipping last week. It’s easy to get burnt out and spoiled, when your job resembles most people’s night out.
The trick to keeping your job as a DJ fun is to remind yourself that most people hate going to work—not just "dislike" or "tolerate," but actively hate. These people will grind for decades, just to be given a small stipend to get themselves through their worst years, as a "thank you" for fifty years of loyal service to a shitty company that makes rich men rich and everyone else broke. My brother makes six figures a year as an accountant, but do you know what he’s never done? Slept in until noon with two girls half his age, before driving them to a bar, taking shots, bumping Biggie Smalls and getting paid to do so. Will being a strip club DJ make you a millionaire? Probably not. But, will going to work for five days a week, slaving to a corporation and spending the majority of your downtime in traffic make the million-dollar opportunity worth it? Hold on, let me ask my 22-year-old date. Her dad works in finance.