Presenting one of the country’s biggest radio shows is a pretty amazing achievement for a DJ. We caught up with BBC Radio 1Xtra‘s DJ Semtex, to talk about the future of the music industry and how you can get your name out there.
He’s also got some advice for aspiring musicians that you won’t want to miss!
1. What do you look out for in new artists?
I chase demos, 9 times out of 10 if someone’s hot I’m hitting them up for music more than anything else. I do listen to demos and everything and it’s great, but I would rather discover artists off my own back. There is a girl called Nadia Rose, I saw some of her videos online and straight away I got her on the radio. She came on recently and performed freestyle with a beatboxer. She hasn’t sent any demos to anyone and I think that’s the best way to do it. You should attract people to come to you.
2. Do you think artists need a social media presence to get noticed?
I think you can bypass that and everybody’s path is different. Take WSTRN for example, they had 800 followers on Twitter until they did a track that went up on LinkUp TV and I want to say it went viral. Within two weeks everyone knew about it and DJs were playing it up and down the country. They did it differently, you did need to do all that sweating for two years to get 250,000 followers or whatever. As long as you’re making great music, you’ll get it heard and people talking about it.
3. Do you have any advice for aspiring DJs?
Persevere. It’s hard work, you get constant knock-backs coming through. You’ve got to really want to do it. The amount of time I put into this, the amount of practice – I was doing two hours a night at one point just to get used to the decks. Now I can go to a club and know exactly what to do. But to get to that 10,000 hours it’s practice, dedication and doing parties for 4 hours and getting paid £20, it’s doing shows and getting booed. If you really want to do it, you’ll do it.
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4. Do you think it’s harder for artists to break through than stay in the limelight?
Now is the best time for artists, it’s an open playing field. I think that if you want to get heard you can be, if you want support from certain people you can position yourself in that way. It’s easier to forge alliances with people. The way things are working at the moment between the UK and the US is making an artist community. In terms of staying in the light, the artists are the industry. If they want to make big records, they’ll make big records. There are artists coming through who are making commercially-minded music, not because the label told them to, but because that’s what they want to do. There are other artists who are doing grime with no intention of crossing-over. The artist has control of how they shape their own careers – it’s a level playing field more than it’s ever been.
5. Why has grime not really taken off in the US yet?
With grime it’s still really early. It’s a baby in terms of the length of time it’s existed as a genre. Hip hop took 40 years to get to the point that it’s at. It came about in 1973 and even after 10 years in existence it wasn’t impacting worldwide, you know it wasn’t as big as it is now – far from it. Grime is 10 years old so massive things have got to be accomplished. Artists are going to emerge that will connect with the audience.
6. What do you think about Kanye West?
He’s the greatest of all time. He inspires. I think he’s one of realest people, he wears his heart on his sleeves but he’s also one of the greatest rappers, one of the greatest musicians. I think he’s doing a lot of things that are very hard to match creatively. Forget the TMZ reality show stuff, as an artist, every single album that he’s put out has inspired a new generation of artists. If you look at 808s & Heartbreaks, it inspired Drake, The Dream, Frank Ocean – he’s inspiring artists from different genres. He did with Yeezus as well. He’s one of the greatest.
7. Are there anyone at the moment who is going to make it huge this year?
I think J Hus is the future of UK music. He’s taking influences from Africa, Jamaica and England in the rap aspect. I think he’s one of the best artists in the UK right now and is going to do some amazing stuff in the next few years.