I had a chance to talk with the internationally recognized DJ/producer Jay Hardway. Here’s a paraphrased version of our conversation where we discuss the impact of COVID, evolving artist careers, and how the music industry is changing.
Joey: How are you doing?
Jay: Good! Not touring, so I’m good physically since I’m sleeping better and having a healthier schedule. Mentally is a whole other story.
Joey: It’s an interesting time, especially for the level of artist that you are. From one day to the next, you almost lost 100% of your income. The biggest artists are the ones struggling the most with no touring schedule. What have you noticed around you?
Jay: At first, I think there was maybe a denial mechanism: people didn’t want to believe that their whole life was basically turned upside down. People were doing live streams but soon realized that they couldn’t do it every day or week. So yeah, that’s where we’re at right now. I’ve noticed some guys are not panicking, but a bit stressed about their future. I’ve saved some money so I can take some more time to think.
Joey: And what have you noticed with other industry players like booking agencies or managers?
Jay: They still work on keeping in touch with artists and helping understand how laws are changing with regards to the virus in other countries, but they have less to do.
Joey: How is it being home and spending more time with friends and family?
Jay: It’s good to be in the same time zone with everyone. If I was in China and it’s 2 pm, I had no idea what time it was in Holland. I now feel more connected to home. I’m also noticing how much energy I have left at the end of the day. I used to be chronically tired on tour. My whole private life has changed. On the other hand, staying at home still impacts me mentally.
Joey: Do you have a plan for the upcoming months?
Jay: I’m still going to release music regularly. I’m kind of winging it and trying to figure things out right now. I may have gotten too comfortable with my music last year, so I now have the opportunity to explore different directions.
Joey: Are you comfortable adapting to change?
Jay: Throughout my career, I realized how to adapt and not stress when something unexpected happens. I remember playing in Vegas for the first time, and I had 10 minutes between my dinner and my set. I didn’t have time to stress or whatever; I just walked straight into the DJ booth. That taught me a lot.
Joey: Were you always comfortable on stage?
Jay: I learned DJing at small bars. Technically, I was fine, but I’m not a born entertainer, so I was insecure about the way I performed. I’ve now learned to enjoy it and bring the right energy to my sets. I also know that the scene has gotten more commercial, where the performance is more important than the music.
Nowadays, there are some big DJ’s that can survive by just playing their own music and have their fanbase. You normally fight for that freedom at the beginning of your career, but you soon understand what works best. The industry is changing. I still feel that I’m still at a point where I need to prove myself in some countries.
Joey: Do you think artists are willing to change?
Jay: Well, that’s the question, should artists be adapting right now? The music industry used to be only about labels and big studios. Then, the electronic music came up, and people with a computer could make something that would get super popular. I think we’ve reached the peak with Martin Garrix, and now it feels like we’re back to square one. To stand out among all the electronic musicians, you need connections with a label, playlists, or radio station. We need to bring back that feeling of independence and having success with self-releases.
Joey: How is the dance industry evolving?
Jay: I don’t think there’s exclusivity in music anymore. Maybe that’s what we’ve lost in the last couple of years. Having a new track and promoting it to specific DJs has become less special. People now focus on who has the best production or biggest name on the poster. It’s not necessarily bad because the industry has become more commercial, and people can make more money, but there are definitely some downsides. The industry should be more about the music.