Industry Talks: Nicolas Van Dedem on starting out as a DJ, growing an online community, and giving artists a platform

Nicolas Van Dedem is our guest in today’s edition of Industry Talks! Born in ’92 and raised in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, he is now based in Utrecht, the Netherlands. With an education in International Communications and Media Design at Hogeschool Utrecht, he now wears many hats career-wise: he is a DJ, radio host, event manager, label A&R, and producer! Sounds like a lot to have on your plate, but it doesn’t feel like it when you love your work.

His DJ-ing experience began at 16 but Nicolas says he lost interest fairly quickly as he felt more at home on the dancefloor, and not behind the decks. Two years later, however, seeing a vinyl DJ for the first time changed everything for him as it inspired him to start collecting records and experiment more.

1. How did your love for vinyl first start?

My first record player was a Panasonic from my dad that was purely for listening purposes and I was listening to psychedelic rock, jazz, and other records that my father had given me with the player. I am the youngest of 3 children, so we had a bit of a hand-me-down culture going on with my oldest sibling getting the newest stuff, and the youngest — all the old stuff. It’s where I learned that old=gold and to appreciate everything I have. My mother is also a huge fan of second-hand clothing and she took me to a lot of second-hand stores, where I found my first 80’s synth electronica records and, ultimately, where most of my quirkiest records come from today.

2. Tell us about the first time you played at a party.

I had to think hard about this one because, to be honest, I don’t even remember anymore. I also think you need to define the term “party”. I guess my first time in front of people, and people actually dancing, was at my old high school in Switzerland, but if you ask me where my first paid DJ gig was, I’d say Basing House in London.

It was a strange but amazing feeling! It happened because of a local promoter contacting me on Soundcloud. He had heard one of my mixes and asked if I could come over to play. The club was very rowdy and drunk when I had to get behind the decks, so I felt the urge to play energetic tech-house. Little did I know that the crowd was more into minimal and deep house, so it took me another 20–30 minutes to build down to the right vibe after my banging opening track. Lesson learned and never forgotten.

3. We know that DJing is only one of the many talents you have. Can you tell us about your different roles in the event and music industry?

First and foremost, I am a DJ. It has always been my passion to collect as much music as possible and make people dance! With that came my work around organizing events and marketing which I do for several collectives now. I also run 3 labels together with close friends and some industry people I look up to.

4. What has been your experience during the pandemic as someone working in the events industry?

Devastating, to say the least, but also a great learning moment that made me grow positively as a person.

The importance of community is immense and I feel we have come together at Birdcage Radio to facilitate a stable platform for DJs to perform. Moving from an amazing events momentum and a year planned ahead full of cool opportunities and finally, some cash-positive projects, to having everything canceled was a hard blow for us as a community here in Utrecht.

From sheer necessity we set up an online video chat hangout on Discord that then evolved into people sharing their art, reading books to each other, painting together, exercising, playing games, and ultimately led us to radio and DJ shows on Twitch. We learned so much while live-streaming and building an online community on Discord and that there is too much I can talk about. I get to hang out with a larger demographic of people than I ever would in real life, and I’ve felt supported and heard as a DJ during these times which has meant a lot to me.

5. You are originally from Frankfurt. How are the music/nightlife scenes different or similar in Frankfurt and Utrecht?

It’s quite different in Germany in general, but I would say the main difference is that Frankfurt is a big metropolitan city compared to Utrecht being much smaller, hence there are fewer places to go.

I realized that in a large city you go out as an individual and meet your friends at the party or take a taxi to the club together. Whereas in Utrecht, you are more identified by your group of friends and the club nights promote in that way. I miss the anonymity of Frankfurt’s nightlife and just getting lost in the club lights and hypnotic sounds of RPR blasting at Robert Johnson, for example. We don’t really have such nights in Utrecht yet…

6. What’s next for you?

I have been building an online community together with Rochelle Dietz and it’s growing every day, so this will continue to be my main focus. Finding a physical studio space for our daily radio and a workshop for enabling us to build our festival decoration are our next steps towards growing our platform to higher professional standards. We aim to show our 3k followers on Twitch that we are doing everything we can to improve the viewing and listening experience of our daily radio program. Once that has settled, I want to launch an all-immersive DJ course with industry insights and workshops where I will share my knowledge with the next generation of DJs to come!

7. What are your top 3 pieces of advice for young DJs who are just starting out?

  1. You are only as good a DJ as your friends, meaning wherever you go to play, you need to bring your friends along. Don’t try to bring as many as possible but focus on getting at least 50 of your best friends and acquaintances to build a community. Promoters will see that you draw a fun-loving crowd and will book you again.
  2. Stay true to what you think sounds great or defines your taste in music. Don’t follow trends and hyped genres, it’s almost never worth your time or money investment.
  3. Buy your music and play in the highest sound quality possible. If tracks are not high quality or don’t have that punch you need, then make an edit yourself and get it mastered before you play! Also buying your music shows support for your colleagues in the scene and can open doors for you with labels and the right people in the industry.

You can find Nicolas here: Instagram & Facebook.

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