Building a narrative, a project, a campaign is much like being a skilled DJ, fully in tune with the people on the dancefloor, with a deep knowledge of the music at hand and a mind trained to intuitively read the vibe of a large crowd of people.
Back in the days – and we’re now talking way back in the days – I was heavily into the techno / house / trance-scene. You know, the one now pushed under the EDM umbrella and struggling to come up with anything new and exciting to give to people (yes yes I know I’m rapidly moving into old people’s “GetOffMyLawn!”-territory, but I don’t really mind 🙂 ). Not much could compare, I felt, to spending uncounted hours dancing to the tunes of the Hardfloors and the Orbitals and the Prodigys and the LTJ Bukems of that age.
I also dabbled in DJ:ing, but I was never as good as most of the more pro-DJ:s I knew. Beatmixing required far too much time to master than I was prepared to invest, especially as my interests lay more on the journalistic side of things. I loved DJ:ing though, and still do.
The more I’ve looked into and adapted to the trains of thought regarding content creation, audience engagement, multiplatform storytelling, transmedia principles and so on, the more I’ve seen the parallells to what I (to a lesser degree) and other DJ:s (to a much higher degree) were striving to achieve behind those turntables.
Firstly, there’s the music. Just like I would not start playing Dutch gabber-trance at a house party (except for the times I did of course) or do a 3 hour ambient set from midnight to 3am at the busiest dance venue at the time, so a storyteller or producer needs to assess her or his target audience and frame the story and the content accordingly. Alternatively, if the content does not lend itself to reframing easily, approach a new audience better suited for your narrative.
Secondly, a DJ builds an evening of ebb and flow, of chilling out and banging on, of waiting for the beat to drop and never wanting it to stop. That is the same as a producer or a content creator striving to keep the audience involved and engaged through not making the narratives monotonous or boring, but offering the same ebb and flow of content that allows the recipient to take it easy and content that challenges the audience and demands action and interaction. And just as this all hangs on the DJ being intimately familiar with the records and the tunes in the record bag, so must the content producer and storyteller know all there is to know about the characters and the events and the narratives that are brought in front of the audience.
Thirdly, just as the DJ needs to master the tools at her or his disposal, be they the Technics SL1210 of old or the Traktor softwares of today, or something else, so must the producer and creator today master the tools of storytelling. Without mastery the experience is lessened and interrupted, immersion becomes more difficult, the suspension of disbelief impossible and everyone is happy when they finally can go home to get some sleep. In the same way the content creator and producer needs to have full knowledge of and proficiency in the platforms she or he decides to use for the project. If the storyteller enters a subreddit without proper knowledge of Reddiquette the impact will likely be more negative than positive. If the storyteller does not understand how chatbots work and function and how they are best applied in a rolling narrative the audience’s experience of them will likely be one of confusion and bewilderment.
There are a lot more likenesses to identify. One thing that clearly differs though is in the interaction with the audience. Where a DJ (hopefully) “reads” the vibe of the dancing masses in front of the DJ booth, a content creator can invite the audience into the narrative, give them spaces and initiatives to work on themselves and incorporate the content that is created into the main narrative or in side stories, as needed. The DJs I know would most likely be somewhat annoyed with the fifteenth person of the evening lining up next to the DJ booth to request “that song that goes da-da-da-daaaa da-da-da-dooo”. The content creator would (or rather should) welcome any such interaction and even actively encourage it, harness it, celebrate it and use it as a springboard to further the reach and engagement level of their narrative.