A few years ago, the London nightclub XOYO announced a change to their program – shifting from rotating guests each week to a program of residencies – the same DJ playing every week for a 3 month period, alongside a guest or two in support. The announcement proclaimed the importance of going back to the lost art of the residency – a focus on something deeper and more connected than the fly by night style that had become so prevalent.
The announcement caused some ripples, including with the bookers of the legendary Fabric venue. They’d had two residents playing on Saturday nights for the past 17 years.
The point XOYO were probably trying to make was that in a world of short sets, special guest appearances, and venues and brands that came and went seemingly overnight, the residency was needed more than ever.
The resident DJ used to be nothing special. In Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton’s book ‘How to DJ (Properly)’, there are various tales from now big-name DJs reminiscing of their days shunted into a back corner where no one took any notice and they were lucky to get a few free drinks, let alone payment.
Before the days of the superstar DJ, the resident DJ was the DJ. Then, as the era of the big names began, the resident needed to show a different kind of adaptability.
Being a resident meant being able to warm a room up from zero, play a closing set after the headliner, or even take on the peak time booking if the main act didn’t show up for some reason.
Around the mid 2000s the resident’s perceived value began to diminish as the barriers to entry lowered on music production and any producer with a popular track was thrust in as the main attraction. The rise of social media exacerbated this, and the resident’s place was often back in the corner.
But then the tide began to turn. Headliners began to play for longer, sometimes all night, becoming warm up, peak time booking, and closer all in one.
And while touring around the world still has an allure like nothing else, there was something about having a place to go each week with the same setup, where there’s more of a story, where there’s a connection with a crowd, and a few friendly faces each and every week.
The role is the resident is to know the room, know the audience, make the right space for guests to perform, and set up everything so it just…works.
If practicing the craft is the foundation, then perhaps the residency is doing the reps.
The residency is the road testing. The elements that can only be developed from time on stage, with an audience, and over an extended period of time. The residency has a sense of home, but also the need to deliver something more, every time. The resident is adaptable, curious, able to play well with others, and not afraid to take risks when needed.
And as we all seek community and connection in a world that has too many options and tyranny of choice, the resident becomes more important than ever.
They are the person to welcome us in; someone we trust to understand the atmosphere and vibe, and the one to know how to best challenge us with the new and different.
We’ll find residents in nightclubs and restaurants; galleries, tattoo parlours and even venture capital firms.
Where else could the resident step out the shadows?
And what’s a residency we could create for ourselves?