DJ Konflikt is a highly successful open format DJ who clocks in 150,000 travel miles a year for gigs. He also won Red Bull’s 3Style DJ Battle local battle in the Miami area in 2013. He was awarded $5000 in cash, and when he moved on to the regional finals he won $10,000 in cash. Those who placed after him were also awarded cash.
This year’s Red Bull battle recently had its national championships in Philadelphia, and it was through his fellow DJs that Konflikt found out that the multi-billion dollar company was no longer giving out any kind of prizes to its local, national and international winners, neither cash nor gear. There are regional competitions within the US, as well as 21 other countries holding their own competitions that lead up to the finals in Taiwan. The website states, “The main award for each National Finals Participant is the opportunity to take part at the respective National Final” and best of all “The prize for the World Champion is to be awarded the title ‘Red Bull Music 3Style World Champion’.”
This seems antithetical to a concept wherein everyone in the process of the competition is getting paid except for the DJ.
“They’re supposed to be celebrating the DJ, and they’re the ONE person that doesn’t get paid.”
Konflikt says, “They spend time effort and energy, their well being, they spend their whole lives working on their craft…..word play, transitions, mixing, scratching, timing, creative control of samples, a lifetime of lessons that culminates in 15 minutes onstage…They’re supposed to be celebrating the DJ, and they’re the ONE person that doesn’t get paid.”
Maybe there are budget cuts that inevitably happen in any business model. But then again, there is a cover charge for the attending audiences for these events, and the judges, the venues, the people who do sound and lighting, the marketing people… they all presumably get paid. Why is it that at the end of the day, the ones that get sacrificed are the DJs upon which the whole concept is predicated upon?
If the whole point is to celebrate the art of DJing and all its creative possibilities, why is it the winners no longer get anything from their hundreds if not thousands of hours of work that they put into their craft?
In the meantime, this is a massive marketing campaign for Red Bull, which has branded itself throughout the years via its Music Academy and many music based initiatives as a leader in pushing electronic music and DJ culture. Many DJs have expressed this to be somewhat exploitive, if not contradictory.
HOW IT STARTED
Every year since 2007, the Red Bull 3Style DJ championships would scour the globe for the world’s top open format DJs. According to their YouTube page, “Red Bull 3Style has cemented itself as a home for real DJing. More than just a competition, it’s a global community that brings together the most skilled DJs to learn, develop and celebrate the art of the mix across dance floors worldwide.”
The contest was born in the mid 2000s, when open format DJing, or the spinning of multiple genres was taking the world by storm. Red Bull began testing out the idea at its first contest in Vancouver’s Atlantis club in 2007, broadening it to more Canadian cities in 2008, until the first Red Bull 3Style national final in Toronto in 2009. What started out as DJs being selected through an elimination process via regional cities then grew into a global competition with DJs from 10 different countries that would culminate in a World Final. Come 2013 the Red Bull 3Style was seen as the biggest and most prestigious DJ competition in the world.
If the whole point is to celebrate the art of DJing and all its creative possibilities, why is it the DJs get nothing from their hundreds if not thousands of hours of work that they put into their craft?
PROMOTION AS PAYMENT
Some would argue that the prize is promotion for the DJs. And sure, DJs knew what they were signing up for in the rules and regulations. But how many times have we heard that song and dance? DJs can’t eat off of potential promotion, and placing anywhere but first place in a competition doesn’t always guarantee future bookings.
With the insane amount of time and effort these world class DJs put into preparing for the competition, is the message that Red Bull, which over the years has presented itself as a massive proponent for the music culture, that DJs aren’t worth the money?
Konflikt decided that instead of merely being another agitated voice on social media, he put into action a GoFundMe to help raise money for all 5 national finalists and winner of this year’s competition. He kicked things off with $1000 of his own money and has inspired others in the DJ community to help contribute.
He states “I don’t believe DJs should practice for months, help expand a brand and not be compensated for their time and effort. With your help, we can make the situation right. Once the target has been reached I will make sure all of the DJs receive their prize money.”
What initially started as a $3500 goal has now, 4 days later, reached up to over $8000 dollars. Konflikt’s plan is to continue the GoFundMe until Friday Oct. 26th, then will personally hand over checks to each of the 6 competitors.
FEAR OF THE RED BULL
His Instagram post with the initial call to action purposely didn’t mention the Red Bull name because he’s aware he’s going up against a litany of lawyers that may come after him for defamation. But based on the numerous comments on the post, all the DJs know exactly what competition he’s referring to.
The hashtag #PaytheDJs has now been their call to action, and if you were to go to Red Bull’s post congratulating national winner DJJespinosa, the hashtag is in all the comments. Red Bull has been tagged quite a few times in multiple posts but they have yet to respond.
View this post on Instagram
@djjespinosa with a Rocky like performance in the city of brotherly love. He knocked out the USA competition and has booked his ticket to Taiwan for the #3STYLE World Finals in Taipei this Jan. Shoutout @pioneerdjglobal and @djcity for all the support and making the Finals one for the books. #playwithmusic #jayarea
The 5 finalists and winner of the national competition have not commented publicly on the lack of prizes. The World Finals in Taiwan are coming up in January and the national winner will obviously be competing. The remaining 5 finalists are potential wild cards for that competition as well should someone cancel out last minute.
So yes, through these competitions Red Bull is pushing the DJ culture forward, but if they aren’t rewarding the very people that are putting all their effort into it, what does that say about their worth? Konflikt isn’t worried about what others think, he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is “I have a commitment to my DJ community to always stand with them over anything else.”
To donate to the GoFundMe to help pay for six participating DJs in the Red Bull 3Style US National Finals, you can do so until this Friday Oct. 26th: https://www.gofundme.com/paythedjs