Hailing from the steel city of Pittsburgh PA, Digital Dave is well know as one of the busiest DJs in the country. A testament to the work ethic of the city he calls home, Dave is well respected on national scale for his DJ abilities, consistent networking, and a constant stream of new content. He knows what it takes to have a full life from DJing and how to stay booked in the best venues around. We are pulling back the steel curtain to find out more about his life, his drive, and the secrets to his success.
How long have you been DJing and what made you want to DJ?
I’ve been DJing 21 years. I started at a Roller Skating Rink when I was 15. I always loved music, but I just really fell into DJing when I was a skate guard. One night a DJ no showed and I had to fill in on the fly (they had music there). The first song I played was Phil Collins “Something Happened On The Way To Heaven.” A few months afterword, another DJ quit and I picked up his shifts. I DJed through high school and college but never had planned to make it a career. However, by the time I graduated college I was making about 40K a year working about 25 hour a week in nightclubs. I was having the time of my life and I was like “I gotta give this a go.'”
What is the club scene like is PA these days?
Honestly, it’s seen better days. There are a three dope club spots in Pittsburgh CAVO, Cruze & Diesel. CAVO & Cruze I play at on a regular basis and Diesel I play guests spots at from time to time. While these are great venues, there traditionally have been 5-10 clubs in the city at any given time over recent years, but we currently only have three. CAVO is a bottle service club with the trendy crowd and that plays open format, Cruze is an LGBT club that attracts a straight crowd as well and plays mostly dance music. It’s also where I host the Third Thursday Twerk Off with Jesse Ryan. Diesel is open format and does bottle service and attracts a younger crowd, most twenty somethings. They do EDM shows from time to time as well. We also have Tilden which is an after-hours EDM club. Even though it’s after-hours, some people that want EDM go directly to Tilden without going to a club beforehand.
How has it changed in the past couple years?
The scene has become much more oriented toward smaller venues. They often open early and serve food & craft brews and then have DJs later in the evening such as Goldmark, Twelve Whisky & BBQ, and The Flats on Carson. These smaller size venues are dope and have a less clubby vibe which allows you to be more open with music selection. You can work in soul, rock, R&B, old school, etc.. in additional to your standard club joints. We’ve also had 2 casinos open, Rivers Casino & The Meadows, both of which have venues with DJs. I’m a regular at Rivers and play guest spots at Meadows. Even though their venues aren’t traditional clubs there is definitely a portion of the club crowd that goes to the casinos for the entertainment as well as the gambling.
What are some of your favorite places you play at and why?
I like paying at different venues for different reasons. One of my all-time favorites is my Thursday party at Cruze. I have been there for four years and it is my longest residency I’ve ever had in my 21 years of DJing. I love that party because the crowd is so open minded. I can play music they’ve never heard before and they still really get down to it. The Tilden crowd is very similar and I love playing their as well. CAVO is a lot of fun as it’s a big room where I can play EDM, both new & old hip hop, trap, twerk, moombahton, and even original versions of rock tracks like Rage, RHCP & The Killers. Twelve’s brunch is dope. The format is 80’s & 90’s R&B such as Gap Band, SWV & Aaliyah. Goldmark is a very anti-Top 40 spot which I love and Down & Derby, a monthly adults only roller skating party with alcohol, is a great time as well.
One of my favorite out of town venues I play at on the regular is Heist in D.C. They really appreciate DJs and cater to a “music lover” crowd. It’s open format but you can definitely go deep into your house & hip hop crates and the crowd and promoters appreciate it. Another out of town favorite is Indigo in State College. It is a big room with a very open minded college crowd. My favorite all time gig has to be Ol’ Dirty Sundays in Ybor City (Tampa) at Crowbar. Crowd is unbelievably knowledgable about golden era hip-hop, funk, soul & house. Such a fun party to play. It’s played host to the likes of Tony Touch, Riz, Rich Medina, Cosmo Baker, Charlie Chase, and Grand Wizard Theodore. I’ve played their 5 times to date and have recorded all of my sets. You can check out my sets on my Mixcloud.
You are one of the busiest DJs around, often having multiple events on the same day, what do you attribute that to?
A lot of things. First and foremost my work ethic. I know a lot of guys who have the opportunity to play multiple gigs in a day but choose not to as they don’t want to deal with the burden, the stress or long work day. I commonly play 2-3 gigs on Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays. My record was in May of 2014. I played 5 gigs in one day. I got home 23 hours after I left for the morning. The gigs were the Highmark 5K, a private birthday party, a wedding, CAVO & then Tilden. I left home at 6 am Saturday morning and got home at 5 am Sunday morning. That was a bit too much, even for me.
Also I’ve spent many years doing the right things, marketing myself, networking and most importantly being able DJ so many different formats. Last week I opened for A-Trak & EC Twins and played Ol’ Dirty Sundays in the same day. The Friday before, I played a very poppy open format set. That Saturday I played dirty south hip hop and trap set. Having the ability to play a diverse range of gigs is definitely necessary to be able to pull of multi-gig days. It also helps keep me passionate about DJing. Trust me, if I was playing the same format 2-3 times a day 2-3 times a week I’d definitely get burnt out. I’m playing everything from Drake to Aretha, from Brillz to Louis La Roche, from Rage Against The Machine to A$AP Ferg, and from Bieber to MJ. The variety of formats definitely keeps it interesting.
Ultimately I love DJing. If I can support my family by DJing multi-gig days several times a week versus less gigs and having a day job, I’ll take the extra gigs all day.
What is the difference between booking club gigs and booking private events like weddings?
They’re really opposite sides of the same coin. Both are accomplished by networking & building a portfolio that convinces potential clients that you’re the right choice for the job.
Networking should be done in the club scene with owners, managers, bartenders, promoters and other DJs. I always tell DJs who want more work, go out to the hot spots every night you are off. Just be there, hang out, talk to people and work will follow. For your club portfolio, you want to build a strong club resume, produce mixtapes, bootlegs & remixes, have good social media presence, and make radio & podcast appearances.
In the wedding & private event scene, networking is best done with event/wedding planners and venues. Other vendors such as photographers can be extremely helpful as well. It can be a slower process, as networking occurs primarily when you work together. Always be polite to all of the other vendors, try to make their life easier, and pass out lots of business cards.
Your wedding & private event portfolio has a lot to do with reviews. Make sure you solicit them from your past clients. An impressive client list can help as well. For instance, I’ve worked with clients such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Price Waterhouse Coopers & American Eagle. An impressive client list legitimizes you in the eyes of a new potential client just like playing at a well known club legitimizes you to a club client. Social media presence and your club & radio resume can also sometimes help in this arena depending on the client and what they are looking for. I market myself as a trendier option for private events. Last year I was dropping Marshmello remixes & Drake/Future songs at a Fortune 500 Company’s holiday party, so it’s not out of the question for me to present a club mixtape to certain private event clients.
The ultimate goal is to get clients to hear of you before interaction with them occurs. Whether it is a bride hearing about you from her friends, someone planning an event for their company that heard your mixtape, or a promoter or DJ who likes your remixes, if they know who you are before you meet or speak you’ve got a good chance at sealing the deal. Other DJs have asked me how did I get some of my best gigs, like big clubs and national radio appearances. My response is simply “I asked.” While I do tell DJs it can never hurt to ask, my point is, more than likely the person booking me knew who I was already and that made the “Yes,” much easier.
How did your association with club killers come about?
I’ve been friends with Alex Dreamz for a long time, going on 10 years. We were fans of each other’s mash ups back in our Crack4DJs days. We connected originally via MySpace and became friends. We hung out in Vegas, LA & Pittsburgh over the years sharing our love for music, pinball, Mexican cuisine, and 1980’s WWF Superstars. I was honored that Alex asked me to be a part of Club Killers before the site was even designed or any public announcement was made about the brand. It’s a great product, the crew is a bunch of great, genuine, down to earth, very talented guys. and it’s seen great growth and evolution over the past few years.
Who are some of your favorite DJs to watch?
Jazzy Jeff would probably be favorite to watch followed by the homie Spryte who is my all time favorite DJ. I still tell him I wanna be like Spryte when I grow up and I mean it. I also love watching A-Trak & Vice. My homie Bombay from Columbus is a DMC style guy and is ridiculous. Look up Sexerham Lincoln on YouTube, trust me.
Thank you Digital Dave for taking the time to tell us about your busy life and giving DJs insights into what it really takes to be successful.
If you want to keep up with Digital Dave and his many adventures Follow Him.
by DJ Dini