We’re joined today by Darran Bruce, the creator of ‘The DJ Sessions,’ a podcast focused on all things electronic music. Darran goes in depth about the show, detailing its inception and growth over the years, and also discusses what fans can expect moving forward from here!
Hi Darran, thanks so much for joining us today to discuss the journey of “The DJ Sessions”! When did you start “The DJ Sessions” series and what was the initial vision?
Thank you for having us here today. The DJ Sessions started in 2009 after I attended the Winter Music Conference that year. I had spoken with a colleague of mine about the possibility of live streaming DJs via video and the potential of doing a series like that.
The initial vision of the show was to work with local DJs in our scene and get them exposure outside of the local markets they were in. This also included interviews that we would do with each of the DJs pre and post set. After months of bouncing the idea around to local DJs and nightclubs, a friend of mine, Alex Eagleton, who I was with in Miami at WMC, called me up one night and said I’m coming over and we’re doing The DJ Sessions!
After a few weeks of doing the show in my apartment out of my bedroom I had the opportunity to invite Dave Dresden to come by my apartment and do an interview and the set. I had met and interviewed him at WMC earlier that year. This was the moment that actually opened my eyes to the possibility of making The DJ Sessions a worldwide brand. I immediately secured studio space and started the first build of our live streaming studio, the ITV LIVE 007 Studios.
What have been a few of the milestone moments for the series since its inception?
The first milestone we hit with The DJ Sessions was when we pitched our concept to UStream and LiveStream, the two hosting companies that we were using at the time. Both of them recognized The DJ Sessions as a front runner in the electronic music industry and both of them made The DJ Sessions a Featured Partner on their platforms.
The next milestone was when Apple recognized The DJ Sessions as a “New and Noteworthy” podcast series and we were prominently featured in the iTunes Store, now Apple Podcasts. That definitely helped our download numbers increase and it not only happened once but twice and it has been featured three times in the Apple Podcast section.
The next biggest milestone came in 2018 when we actually had to find a new streaming company and I approached Twitch as our new platform. Twitch immediately onboarded us as a Featured Partner which is no small feat to accomplish. Our first live stream that we did to Twitch was placed on the front page and garnered over 2,700 live viewers and a few thousand people in the chat room, something that we were not prepared for. After that I knew things were going to get serious and I spent the next few months making sure that we had a decent website and our socials were dialed in.
Over the next few years we continued to develop the brand, produce more episodes, grow the team, and it was actually in 2021 when we decided to re-emerge on the market with a brand new website…now we knew we were going to move forward with everything. With success on the Twitch platform and the new website we have constantly hit in the top 10 in the world in the Twitch Music section and constantly place in the top three in the Electronic Music, DJ, and Dance Music categories. We also rank in the top .11% percent of all live streams on Twitch.
The next milestone we are working on is to take the brand internationally with a production of over 1000 episodes per year. We are expanding to not only include DJs, producers and exclusive mixes, but we are now also reaching out to all electronic music industry professionals and making The DJ Sessions the place to go for the most up-to-date electronic music news. In addition to that we will also be starting a label in Q1 2023 and I am sure I will come up with something more down the road.
How did the pandemic affect your plans and process for the “The DJ Sessions”? Did you find yourself developing any new concepts during that time?
The pandemic actually gave us a breath of fresh air when we saw everyone in the world, from the top DJs to somebody who never even thought of doing a podcast or livestream, jumped online. We took a step back and made sure that we had all of our paperwork and legal affairs in order. As you can guess I was inundated with phone calls and emails from people wondering how to go about doing a livestream / podcast series since I’ve been doing both for over 15 years.
The concept that we actually were able to develop out of the pandemic was something I was looking forward to launching in 2020 and that was our Silent Disco / Concert events. After finding out that The DJ Sessions Event Services qualified as an essential business and working within the guidelines provided by our state, county, city, and health department, we literally wrote the playbook on how to do “safe” events using our silent disco / concert technology.
The government entities that were making the suggested rules at the time couldn’t officially endorse us, but everyone we presented the idea to applauded us because it truly was a way to bring people together and share a collective dance music experience without letting them be within six feet of each other. This was something needed in 2020 and 2021 when all nightclubs and venues were closed.
This kept our spirits and hope alive. It helped to put a lot of smiles on people’s faces that wanted to get out and do something, and being able to facilitate that and make that happen was amazing. We even started introducing other things into the silent disco concert programming that included wellness, exercise, and guided meditation as part of the lineup.
And arriving here today in 2022, what are your plans for the rest of this year and beyond with the project?
We have some great things that are rolling out in 2022 and beyond. One of the biggest things we did was to take the format of our series and switch it up a bit by expanding our reach to not only just DJs/producers and guest mixes on the show. We are now reaching out to all electronic music industry professionals from around the world and getting a more behind-the-scenes story of what it takes to make this industry move.
There are a lot of great people out there that do a lot of amazing work that don’t get talked to that much so we are adding this to our current lineup of the series to become one of the most informative electronic music websites in the industry. By no means in any way are we taking a break or step back from our DJ interviews and guest mixes. That will always remain at the core of what we do.
In addition to this we are ramping up production to over 100+ hours of content each month, launching our virtual reality nightclubs, and expanding our global PR. One other large undertakings that we are doing is finally getting the opportunity to go international “on the ground” to ADE and give our audience an “up to date” / “in the know” as to what’s happening in real time around the world, something we haven’t been able to do since WMC 2009. We are looking to meet up with many of the people that have appeared on the show in the past and finally get to shake their hands, give them a hug, and say thank you in person after only being online for the past few years.
All of this is leading up to one of the biggest things that we’re looking forward to though and that is the launch of our label in the 1st / 2nd quarter of 2023. We have been working with our UK team and will be in a position to launch this next year. We are looking forward to getting submissions from artists and releasing our own tracks from our wonderful resident / producer team and we can’t wait to show the world what we have in the works.
Talk to us some more about how you approach curation for your different programs and selecting guest and resident DJs.
The curation for our programming comes from me thinking of an idea and then figuring out how I’m going to record or livestream that idea. Looking at some of the series that we’ve done in the past – our mobile sessions, rooftop sessions, silent disco / concert sessions and more – we always try to do things that others aren’t and show that to the world.
When it comes to selecting guests for the series, and even our resident DJs, I made one of the key mission statements of The DJ Sessions that we would always have an “Open Table” policy. We look to work with anyone in the industry that has a passion and desire for electronic music and wants to share that in a positive way. We have expanded our residency program to now include what we call “Honorary Resident TDJS DJs / producers.” This title is reserved for those that we recognize and that may not live in one of the local markets we are located in, but want to be part of an international brand, distribution company, and label to help further their career goals in the electronic music industry.
It is pretty easy to get started with The DJ Sessions. The first step is just reaching out to us. There are some key things that we do look for when selecting our resident DJs and producers but we’ve made the onboarding process relatively easy and we are always looking to guide and mentor those who show passion and desire to grow.
Each of the TDJS Resident DJs that are on the show today have been handpicked because they show that they have what it takes to be on the series. I would like to take a moment thank the current TDJS Resident DJ team who are already in their own right ready to breakthrough; WubMama, High Season, DJ Disco Vinnie, DJ_Spitfire, Zona, Tripdubb, Synergy, DJ Dangerish, LUZI TUDOR, DA33L€, Avian Invasion, CHRIS138, Orion, Justin Murta, Machine Logic, and Serjey Andre Kul for their continued support.
What have been a few of your favorite all time episodes and guest artists, and why do they stand out?
I get asked this question a lot and after 2300+ episodes I always say every single episode has been my favorite all time episode. The one question I never get asked is, “Have I ever done an episode that has never aired?” The answer to that is yes. There is the infamous Felix da Housecat episode along with the tiDy episode that have never seen the light of day… and never will, lol… Not because they are bad episodes, it was just that there was a little too much “fun” going on to share with the world and some things that happened in VIP need to stay in VIP.
I am literally living my dream job and getting to meet so many phenomenal people from around the world that every guest that comes on the show is my favorite and I’m honored to work with them and their teams that help make a lot of this possible.
You’ve focused a lot of time on Twitch over the past several years. Can you speak some more about the rise of that platform, and how you see it fitting into the radio show / live stream ecosystem for electronic music?
Becoming one of the first Featured Partnered live streaming DJ shows on Twitch in 2018 was a huge honor for us and we weren’t ready for what was in store. Our first stream with them was put to the front page of the site and I didn’t know what to expect. I found out that these spots are reserved for high-profile brands and streamers and some companies pay upwards of $50,000, or more, for two hours to be on the front page of Twitch… we didn’t pay that though… they just loved our concept / series so much that they decided to feature it.
When we debuted, we were positioned at number eight out of ten and had over 2,700 viewers in the first five minutes watching. The chat room was on fire and we were not ready for it. After that experience I went back to the drawing board to focus on building a new website, version 2.0, and make sure that all of our socials were in order and we were ready to move forward with our brand… we had entered the big time.
While we were in development over the next year and a half, something extraordinary happened… the world jumped headfirst into podcasting/live streaming. This rush of everyone from the top number one artists in the world to people who never even thought about doing live streaming was unprecedented. For the first time seeing double digit growth in a medium that I had worked in for over 10 years really blew us away.
It was at that moment that I actually decided to take a step back from podcasting / live streaming because there was too much clutter going on to launch our brand in the middle of everyone jumping online and trying to do the same thing that we had been doing for 10 years. This really gave us the break we needed. While the rest of the world was trying to figure out how to duplicate our model, we worked on other backend things to make the brand even stronger because I knew just like most industries that there’s always going to be a rise / rush, a plateau, and a decline. We are seeing that decline happening right now.
People who jumped on board but were not prepared did not see the instant gratification that they were hoping to see. They had not prepared their physical audience, which they relied on, to transfer into an online audience. Once the disenfranchisement starts for people you’ll start to see them give up and move towards other mediums / projects / endeavors.
This however gave way to a lot of unknown artists that are still going strong to this day and is giving them the opportunity to understand the relevancy of maintaining an online brand / persona. It is exciting to see those artists still going strong today and Twitch will be a major player for the exposure of new artists in all forms for years to come and we look forward to growing with them.
As someone who has run a successful podcast series for over 10 years, what advice would you give to others (whether individual artists or brands) who are looking to start / develop a consistent radio show series?
The best advice that I can give if somebody is looking to start up a podcast or livestream series is this… do your research. What I mean by “do your research” is knowing the topic that you want to talk about, educating yourself on it, and the top people in that industry or subject that you’re going to be focusing on. It will make for a better show overall.
The next piece of advice I would give is understand the technology that you’re going to use. You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on gear to start a podcast or live streaming series. Pick a platform that you want to distribute on. You can use a webcam, a $50 LED panel light, and I’d recommend getting a good Bluetooth wireless microphone to start out with. Lighting and audio are key when it comes to production and a lot of people have missed the mark on this when they first start out.
The last piece of advice that I can give is to pick a schedule and stick to it. Whether you choose to do a monthly, weekly, or daily show, make sure that you stick to it and make sure that your socials reflect your new episodes as they go up and you are tagging and emailing your guests that they are live / online.
It is very easy to get backlogged on episodes. Don’t let that happen. If you interview somebody, make sure you’re getting the interview out in a timely manner. Do not wait two or three months to publish an interview. By then the relevant information is not so relevant anymore and will not be of interest to your audience. You’ll also miss out on the social rush that can come from publishing a time sensitive episode.
And remember, nobody gets paid right out of the gate or gets thousands and thousands of viewers unless they already have a great social media presence, right from the beginning. It takes time to build these things up. But with patience and diligence and good subject material you can become a successful podcaster / livestreamer.
For anyone interested in getting involved with The DJ Sessions, what opportunities might there be and how could they get in contact?
The best way would be to go to the website and fill out the Request to Play form. In the near future we will have a submission page for the label as well.
We are always looking for new talent to be on the show, at any experience level, but we do require a person to be active within the electronic music community to be a part of the series.
Any other plans for summer 2022 that you’d like to share?
There is always something cooking at The DJ Sessions, and you can see that by going to our TikTok page and watching the cooking videos that I post there, lol.
Thank you so much for having us on 1001Tracklists. We look forward to being on the ground and talking with you in person in the near future.
Don’t forget you can check us out on Twitch, Instagram, Twitter, FB, and TikTok. Get our app, check out VR Nightclubs, and of course our website because “at The DJ Sessions…
”The music never stops.” View the original article on 1001Tracklist