If the world’s most popular DJs are your mentors, you might think that they would surely prepare you for what your future will hold. Burnout, an up-ended life, loneliness, a constant struggle against jet lag, and so on. But this isn’t necessarily the case. The sudden death of Avicii, an internationally famous Swedish DJ, shocked the music and entertainment world, and more and more people started to talk about their demons. I met with Dannic, a Dutch DJ discovered by another famous Dutch DJ, Hardwell, before his January 2019 show in London.
Read on to learn what we discussed, and how Dannic learned to set his own boundaries and build his future more intentionally.
1.NOBODY TALKS ABOUT THE DOWNSIDE
Do a search on the internet, and I guarantee that before Avicii’s death, you will find only minimal mention about burnout among DJs or admission that any struggled with mental health issues. This somehow didn’t fit in with their image, and so of course, they didn’t communicate about it—as it turns out, not even among themselves.
“My mentors never warned me,” said Dannic. “Since Avicii’s death, and before that, one of my best friend had a burnout three years ago. I knew about it, but I would never think that it would happen to me.” Dannic has already mentioned the essence of the problem: that he didn’t anticipate that such a thing could happen to him. In the heat of success, one is inclined to shrug it off and keep walking—up until the day you experience one of your first setbacks.
2. THE DARK SIDE OF TURNING YOUR PASSION INTO A BRAND
“It all starts with passion,” Dannic begins. “You are passionate about music, it’s like a hobby. But when you get more famous, you get a status, people expect something from you, both professionally, but also in social life. You tour a lot, so you don’t have much time to spend in the studio to produce music.” The difficulty only appears once your calendar, which up until now had been filled with studio sessions, is now filled with your tours, which might have 150 stops. From then on, you have to give the same quality every night, a small team’s livelihood depends on you, while you travel 17 hours from one city to another. Your biorhythm is totally ruined and only made worse by jet lag, reducing the time you spend making music to almost 0%.
“I am most creative when I am on the airplane, when I am relaxed,” Dannic continues. “Sometimes even after a gig I am super inspired by the crowd. There’s a lots of energy going on tour. There’s always lots of people around you, people taking care of you, fans, and at home everything is back to normal, and you are just yourself again. It can be challenging. Creativity sometimes happens in the hotel room, or when taking the shower. The moments when you are most relaxed—that’s when I can be the most creative. I tend to not think about the pressure. If I look back on all the tracks I made, it all came very natural.”
3. STRESS AND TOURS CAN TRIGGER BURNOUT
I soon found out that I wasn’t sitting across from an introvert like Avicii or Dyro, since although Dannic loves to retreat among his loved ones to recharge, what really charges him is the stage. But there’s a catch: in order to tour, he has to travel, and that’s far from one of his favorite things. When I asked him if he ever reached the point where he’s really had enough, he smiles and just says: “Not in particular with the stage thing, that’s what I love the most. But the travel part, yes. Basically, another 17-hour flight is the worst [nightmare],” he adds.
In Dannic’s life, travel was one of the triggers for the first stage of burnout, which was only made worse once he tried to perform too many tasks at once. “Every time I got [symptoms of burnout], I was like ‘I need to pay attention right now.’ In the beginning I almost had anxiety attacks when I got a text message. There’s also a point [you reach] when you are successful and you have a lot of people working for you, and that puts a big pressure on me as well. I was right on time, so I didn’t experience a huge burnout, but I knew I had to change mentally,” Dannic says. Changing his mindset meant changing his quality of life, once he understood that he couldn’t go on long like that.
4. YOU HAVE TO FIND SOLUTIONS
Performing artists are expected to be larger than life so that their fans never see a glimpse of their personal troubles, but the truth is that this double life really puts on a strain on their everyday lives too. “Do I like being in the spotlight? When I am on stage, yes, because I am comfortable with what I do. But I didn’t chose the famous life,” Dannic explains. “That’s part of our own fault. We show the nicest [aspects of our lives] on social media, but for a 1 hour show we travel 20 hours to get there sometimes, and that’s not something they always see.”
One thing is for sure: for Dannic, this life of 150 tour stops per year isn’t sustainable, so after he tried out this lifestyle and experienced what it was like to make the necessary compromises, in the end he decided that he would design his career according to his own rules. “It’s a lifestyle. If you are ok with not having a real home, and living out of your bag, then that can work,” Dannic said. “I am not that kind of person. I did that in the peak of my career when I started out; I did 130 shows a year. That was crazy.”
5. SET YOUR BOUNDARIES
Dannic happily talks about how he has some weekends free now. Maybe one week he’s in the USA, and the next week he’s in Asia, but between the two journeys, he has time to visit his loved ones. “I am very blessed. It doesn’t matter if I don’t see my friends for months, when I see them again, everything is back to normal. They cope with that in the right way,” he says. Besides this, he keeps a free day every Monday. That is a day when he doesn’t have to do anything, he doesn’t work, he doesn’t go in to the studio. On these days he is with his friends or his loved ones, and does whatever recharges him. “I am super straight [now] with [setting] boundaries. I am more confident to say no, which is the hardest part.”
6. RIGHT MINDSET
You could press Dannic about why he doesn’t have more followers, or why he doesn’t want more success, but it wouldn’t move him at all, since he is grateful for every moment. “I am actually happy that my career is slowly building, and doesn’t have a sharper curve. If you have a hit song, people want you to follow up with a hit song. You really have to live up to people’s expectations. I enjoy what I have. I don’t want to be number one DJ of the world, I want to be second best,” Dannic said.
In the end, it seems that the best thing that could happen with Dannic’s career in terms of his own happiness is keeping up the healthy tempo of work/life balance. Setting boundaries and priorities gives him the possibility to live his personal life, too. Without that, he couldn’t be who he is on stage.
Proofread by:Xylia Buros