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By Richard Salvidge.
My earliest memory was sitting in front of my mum’s record player listening to Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head’, and there was always a John Denver or Gordon Lightfoot disc in my dad's car.

I'm a rocker at heart. I've seen hundreds of rock bands over the years and spent thousands, if not tens of thousands, on music. A drummer in my youth, I then moved to guitar, bass and even tried keyboards (badly). When I wasn’t playing music, I was listening to it. I listened to as much as I could in as many genres as possible: Sinatra and the Rat Pack, 60s, 70’s, 80’s, rock, pop, swing, funk, soul, anything from classical to metal – I loved it all. I picked up the club scene in the 90s and with the aid of legendary DJs like Carl Cox, Pete Tong, Judge Jules, and the Radio One crew of the day, including late greats like Steve Wright, John Peel, Alan Freeman and of course the best voice ever on radio, Tommy Vance (which incidentally gave rise to the rhythm for my stage name Richie Vince in tribute to the master of metal), I learned to appreciate all forms of music in my early years.

For me, the 90s were all about rock, clubland and hedonism. I still have a massive love of 90s house, and I’m equally at home with a clubland CD in the car as I am with Iron Maiden or The Who. Although the sight of an aging, slightly overweight, middle-aged man bopping to Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ in a blue Octavia is slightly amusing!

My background

I started DJing purely by accident. In 1998, when I was 18, I moved to Portsmouth and became involved in Portsmouth University’s nightclub (The Garage), working as a venue rep with artists like Michelle Gayle, The Super Furry Animals, and, believe it or not, Motörhead. I took a keen interest in light and sound engineering and ended up running light and sound on club nights during term time.

After I left Portsmouth I returned to Kent and didn't have anything more to do with DJing until 2006, when a mate asked if I wanted to help him out by covering the occasional gig. I had nothing better to do, so I thought, why not? He lent me a Peavey 9-channel mixer and I bought some 100W speakers, mics, a karaoke computer, and a couple of lasers. With that kit, I started doing karaoke nights in the Foresters Arms in Tonbridge. I was so good that after a couple of weeks the landlady asked me to take it over full time, and when she left that pub I travelled with her, again and again.

I already knew many of the DJs in Tonbridge – well-established DJs like Mick Ruck, Matt Sargent, Shaun Easton and Micky Clark who provided the soundtrack to many a night out in Tonbridge: being in my twenties all I particularly wanted to do was go out and have some fun.
It seemed to me that having fun behind the decks and being paid for the pleasure was as good a way to enjoy myself as any.

I remember seeing Jerry Wright down the Chequers pub one Saturday. Jerry was an old hand at DJing, having started his career on Radio Caroline alongside many of the DJs who went on to become household names on stations like Radio 1. We got talking and he introduced me to a guy called Neil Long, a former Capital FM DJ, and Neil and I have been firm friends ever since. Neil introduced me to lots of other people and venues throughout the southeast, most notably in Surrey where he is based.
During the 2000s and early 2010s Tonbridge nightlife was buzzing, with most pubs offering some form of entertainment on any given night of the week. Now the situation is quite different, and I think Mickey, Matt and I had the best of those years. Many of those venues are now flats and the handful that are left either don’t or can’t provide entertainment based on either cost or noise grounds. I had DJed most pubs in Tonbridge before landing at the Chequers, where I spent almost three years DJing karaoke nights on Fridays and Saturdays.
I was a fair singer in my own right and I found it very enjoyable, but I had no designs in that direction. I sang the songs to get the public singing, and whilst I briefly toyed with the idea of becoming a tribute act to Sinatra or similar, it was never a serious proposition.

During only my second gig at the Chequers, I met my future wife Danielle. She and her friend turned up towards the end of the night and by the time they left, Danielle’s friend had given me her phone number and told me she thought I should give her a call. I did, and then we met up and dated before finally marrying in 2017.

Professionally, I’m a family solicitor and the bulk of my day is dealing with divorces and family breakdown, so I've always found DJing to be a great antidote to my professional career. During the first half of the 2010s I continued to DJ in pubs and at private parties, as a sole trader alongside my legal work. From Monday to Friday I was suited and booted, but the weekend was party time. I was doing karaoke on Friday and Saturday nights, and the occasional midweek gig. With the delusion of transforming into a radio DJ, I also became involved with Hospital Radio Tunbridge Wells, on which I did the Request Show on a Tuesday evening, as well as outside broadcasts (OBs) to raise funds for the charity at supermarkets across the local area.

Off the back of that, I met Neil Munday from Surrey’s Susy Radio and was lucky enough to be offered the Thursday morning breakfast slot. Broadcasting to Sussex and Surrey on FM radio was a boon to my career and something I particularly enjoyed, especially as Neil had an outside broadcast wagon (I once went out live whilst on a carousel at a funfair!).
I had maintained my legal career alongside all my DJ work, but in 2014 I went fully self-employed, after I was headhunted by a firm to help them out with a heavy workload. I saw self-employment initially as a financial challenge, but very quickly came to see it as an opportunity. At that time (as now, in fact) I really wanted to spend more time on my DJing but found that working a 50+ hour week dealing with cases involving abuse and family breakdown was mentally tough and often left me with little appetite to focus on pushing my DJing forward. Of course, there is less financial security as a self-employed professional, but transitioning to consultancy work opened many doors which would otherwise have remained firmly closed, especially in terms of lifestyle.

I could structure my week in a way that suited me, and, being paid on results, my business partners were supportive and could see the benefits to a DJing solicitor! I often appeared on business radio and could use my lighting at trade fairs and events. I once DJed a wedding for a friend of mine, and, some years later, divorced the couple!

Living the dream abroad

Following our marriage, Danielle and I had honeymooned in Cyprus, where we hatched a plan to move there so I could focus less on the law and more on DJing – and destination weddings. I already had all the kit I needed and we visited the country every couple of months or so, each time treating it as part-holiday, part-business trip.

One of the unseen benefits of becoming self-employed is that you learn to become an effective networker. By late-2014, I was a member of BNI, which is a worldwide business networking group with chapters all over the world, and I was able to use my connections to meet business people in Cyprus, and put in place an entire framework in advance of leaving the UK. By the time I arrived in Cyprus I’d already engaged all the professionals I needed – I’d worked hard to expand my network to include lawyers, accountants, freight forwarders, estate agents, car dealers, recruitment specialists, and financial planners in Cyprus.
And I already had business relationships with them, so that when we arrived I could just get on and build my DJ business.

Danielle and I moved to Cyprus in March 2019, a full year earlier than we had anticipated. We knew that after Brexit we could not achieve a move as easily. So we sold pretty much everything we had in the UK and condensed our stuff down to two pallets of DJ gear and a pallet of our personal possessions, along with five suitcases. Putting in the groundwork meant that when we arrived I already had bookings lined up and a network in place. During our last pre-visit one of my contacts introduced me to a DJ called Alex Georgios, known professionally as DJ Alex G. We instantly connected, and as it turned out we spent a very happy, professional and personally fulfilling year working together right across the island. I started as his roadie but very quickly (again through networking and introductions) ended up DJing in my own right either on his behalf or through gigs he got for me.

When I arrived in Cyprus, I immediately set about ingratiating myself with the scene. Alex helped me massively by introducing me to people like wedding planners and hotel managers, whilst I also sought out anyone and everyone who might help me establish myself on the island. As my contacts grew, I ended up working for hotels and venues up and down the island, as well as on British military bases and for other DJs. 2019 was good to me, and I really felt that I was getting somewhere with DJing. I was relying less and less on my legal consultancy work and my skills as a DJ were improving because of the amount of work I was doing. I was also becoming more known on the island, I'd worked on my social media, and work was coming in steadily.

I was feeling confident for 2020. As far as I was concerned, I was living the dream. I'd gone from working in a stuffy office in cold, rainy, windy England, to playing gigs in venues and on beaches in perpetual summer, doing a job I loved and getting paid to party. Compared to Cyprus wages, I was earning in a week what a barman would earn in a month. And when I wasn’t working, I was living in an island paradise, with world-class beaches and dive sites minutes away from our apartment.

However, in September 2019, Thomas Cook went bust, and many couples who were due to marry in Cyprus in 2020 cancelled shortly after. Having not been in the country for particularly long, we were unable to access state benefits. And, as it would in the UK, my self-employed status meant I wasn't entitled to much, if anything. Danielle was working, but her salary alone could not sustain us. In addition, my legal work from the UK was decreasing because I was not around to market my legal services. It was clear that unless bookings returned to their previous level, we would struggle to get through 2020. Consequently, over Christmas we made the decision to return to the UK. We left our Cyprus dream behind and returned to the UK in March 2020.

Surviving lockdown

Leaving Cyprus was one of the hardest decisions we ever made as a couple, but with the benefit of hindsight it proved to be the right one. We arrived back in the UK almost a year to the day after we had left. Four days later, the UK went into its first coronavirus lockdown.

Cyprus imposed a lockdown shortly thereafter. As it turned out there was no entertainment at all on the island that year, and many of my British expat friends struggled to survive. Some did, but some returned to the UK owning only what they carried, their dreams destroyed by the pandemic. Whilst it hurt to leave our dream behind, had we not returned when we did, I think we would almost certainly have lost everything and become bankrupt with no way to return to the UK during the crisis.
The only positives I can draw from our return are that our dream failed through no fault of our own: had we stayed I am certain the financial and social stresses of the pandemic would probably have torn our marriage apart. Returning to the UK and the pandemic at least gave Danielle and I some welcome time to spend together. For all the joys of living in Cyprus, the different nature of our work meant that we were drifting apart: she had a day job and I was DJing nights. From a cashflow perspective, we were relatively insulated from the financial effects of Covid as I immediately continued with my legal career – divorces and domestic abuse don’t stop simply because you’re not allowed to leave your house, and if anything I was busier than ever as the social effects of Covid intensified. And Danielle found a job as a remote worker for a travel insurer.
The pandemic meant that there was no way I could immediately re-establish the DJ side of my business, but Neil Long came to me with the proposition of running online parties. That idea morphed into Lockdown Long, and every Sunday I would do a rock show on my own Mixcloud site, as well as Neil’s. These became popular, and Neil, myself and a handful of other DJs established a sort of co-operative, where we would co-host a lockdown party which ran for 12+ hours on a Sunday (at first) and then most evenings, just for something to do. I did one show on a Thursday which reached over 1000 streams. Amazing given that I was essentially an unknown DJ doing what thousands of other unknown DJs were doing at the same time!

That rock show morphed into the Richie Vince Rock Show, which was picked up by Paisley Radio in Scotland. Paisley Radio is an online station which has now won the Prestige Award in Scotland for Best Radio Station three years running. As a rocker at heart, I was only too pleased to pump out a two-hour rock show where, unusually for radio stations, I got to pick what to play. Paisley now plays it four times a week to a worldwide audience of at least 250,000 at any given time, so I guess that means my show gets at least a million streams a week. Not bad for a part-timer!

I had always had an idea of my ideal set up, and last year I raised some funds to turn my idea into reality. I took the rig I had in Cyprus, consisting of an overhead kit, four ADJ Inno Pocket Spots, some uplighters, and the Electro-Voice subs and tops I still use, and added six podiums, two ADJ Starbursts, and four Prolight Equinox Fusion 200 Spots. Much to my surprise, I won the award for Pro Mobile’s Gear Junkies Rig of the Year 2024 after sending in some photos to Pro Mobile in response to a letter asking for photos of moving heads on podia.

I was not aware I had even been entered for the award until I bumped into Matt Sargent, who told me about it. As it turned out, I was up against Shaun Easton, who I already knew from my early DJing days – and it was his rig, together with Jack Wilson’s rigs at Kent Discos, which had inspired me to develop my idea. Furthermore, it would never have happened if it were not for Tony Caliandro, who, over a pint or two, encouraged me not to quit DJing when I was seriously considering giving up.

If you were to ask me my number one rule of business, it would be that you cannot do it alone, but need to enlist the help of others to assist you in achieving your aims. That can only come about through the transmission of passion, determination and self-belief. A racing driver in my network once concluded a presentation on his business by asking the audience: “If you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to invest in you?”

Doing business post-pandemic

My professional career as a solicitor has shaped the way I do business and made me keenly aware of the generic consumer’s view of what makes a product important to them. It’s not the product, it’s the effect the product has. As a solicitor, I sell intangibles. No client has ever asked me about my background, the type of pen I use, or how I do the job. The client wants to know that I can help them get through their problems, that I can lead them through the pain to the pleasure, that I can shoulder their burden and make their life easier.
Similarly, in my DJing career, no-one except other DJs (and then only rarely) has ever asked me about the kit I use, or how loud the speaker is, or commented in any detail on the lighting rig I use. All customers want to know is if they book you, will they have a good time?

This is where the importance of targeting the right market comes in. It’s also about changing the way we provide our services. For example, my rig is modular and the client can have as little or as much of it as fits their budget. However, by understanding and then targeting the right type of consumer, I can upsell to the premium product, because the consumer I market to wants the product and the sale is not dependent on price. (This is why I do not answer those Facebook posts which say ‘Anyone know a cheap DJ?’ or similar.)

The phrase ‘I can't afford it’ is often a polite substitute for ‘I don't want to pay for it.’ To my mind, that situation arises when the average consumer does not value the music or the product you offer. They just want something to dance to, which they know they can get from a Spotify playlist for free – a tempting option for many consumers, especially considering the cost-of-living crisis. This means, as an industry, we must innovate, be tough on costs, and go easy on people's budgets. We need to provide a product which is of value, and communicate that value.

What does the DJ bring that a Spotify playlist doesn’t? Lights? ‘We can get some cheap ones from Amazon for a tenner.’ Sound? ‘We can get a Bluetooth speaker for 50 quid.’ Musical knowledge? ‘I don’t care, I just want to dance to what I like.’ No, the value of the DJ is in creating an atmosphere and giving people new memories – things that cannot be replicated by simply sticking a playlist on.

The future of the industry

My aim over the next few years is to regain my passion lost over the pandemic, rebuild my DJing and events company one event at a time, and get back to and surpass where I was prior to the pandemic.

But it's clear to me that the entertainment landscape has changed, and with clubs like Pryzm recently going under, the industry itself will have to innovate if it wants to remain current. I believe the future of DJing is more in events than in pubs and parties, and I can't see the return anytime soon to the heady days of the 2010s. Instead, I see the industry morphing from small-scale pub gigs into large-scale reminiscence nights, where partygoers can relive their youth. After all, people my age have disposable income whereas people in their 20s don't.

It is our industry, and therefore up to us to make it what we want it to be. As DJs we must educate and inform the public about the ‘how’ of DJing. In terms of private parties, we need to tell clients how we can make their night more memorable, how we can make it run smoothly, how we can take away their organisational headaches and leave them to enjoy their party. In events, how we can make them forget about their daily troubles, how we can provide a few hours’ escape from the monotony of their daily grind, and how we can make them recapture the euphoria of their youth.

We can only do this by supporting each other, by working collectively, and by informing the public about what value our industry can offer them as individuals.
The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 125, Pages 16-23.
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