Originally written in 2009 as an email to my fellow VJs in New York City, this document quickly circulated around VJ communities worldwide. Within a month, it had been voluntarily translated into numerous languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, German, Dutch, Swedish..... with some calling it a VJ Manifesto or VJ Bill of Rights. The original domain I had for it respectyourvj.net is long gone, but in recent days I have been feeling the need to repost here. Though some of the details have changed, it continues to shed light on some of the practicalities surrounding our collaborations as we move deeper into the era of digital and immersive environments. My hope is that it helps pave the way to make it easier for current and future VJs and live visualists to continue creating, making, and imagining beautiful video art. xoxo
VJ - also known as visualist, projectionist, live mix video artist...not your videographer, not your filmmaker, we are performers mixing our video artworks LIVE to the music all around, with our fingers on our gear, and our eyes on the crowd, projections, and screens......our performances unfold as the evening unfolds....
*~*~*RESPECT YOUR VJ*~*~*
So, you want to work with a VJ. Curators, promoters, musicians, artistic collaborators, producers, curious minds ---- here are a few simple things to keep in mind to keep that special VJ happy.....it all comes down to
GIVE CREDIT CREDIT CREDIT
VJs are performers, just like a DJ, a band, a singer, a dancer etc. They make the show happen. GIVE CREDIT!
- Include your VJ on all email listings, flyers, websites, social network feeds etc as you would any other artist in your event. Do not skimp on this credit---VJs are working your event, and doing lots of prep work in advance and deserve these props.
- Book your VJ before you get everything out to the press. If its too late, a second blast of emails etc with your VJ listed is helpful.
- Don't know where to put your VJ on a flyer? List them with your DJs, or where a DJ may go.
- Ask your VJ how they want to be listed. Depending on the gig, some VJs prefer alternate titles instead of "VJ."
- If you are a band, make sure to let everyone know you’ve got a VJ on your side! Consider them a fellow band member!
- Notify any press of VJ presence at the event so they can photograph and cover accordingly.
- This shouldn't even be here, but Introduce artists to each other! Let them know they are all working together to make the night/show happen. Sometimes artists don't even know they are working with live visuals. The more everyone knows the better and this could lead to amazing collaborations.
- Ask for bios, samples, stills, websites etc if compiling artist/show information.
- Show some love! Give your VJ the option to play onstage. This will help your audience realize they aren't experiencing pre-recorded visual artwork.
- Don't be shy to shout out your VJ's name! Treat your VJ as you would your DJ---your VJ will often mix video live the whole nite
- Provide drinks, comps, etc.
- If this applies, provide backstage/stamps etc for full access for your VJ. You don't want them getting stuck with lame security issues in the middle of your event!
- SHOW SOME LOVE!!!
- If any press, make sure they are aware your VJ is part of YOUR event, not separate tech crew as is often misunderstood. This will allow their work, and your event, to get that extra special documentation.
After the event:
- Pay your VJ day of event, if not in advance.
- Include/mention your VJ in any documentation of the event, for example, on your website! Don't forget, a VJ at an event is something to celebrate, you know that cuz you asked them to do the gig. Pass the word around, you know those visuals looked amazing.
- Be clear and up front about your collaboration. If this is a paying or non-paying gig, make sure everyone knows. Don’t be surprised if your VJ asks you up front, even if they are your friend.
- Be clear about how long you want your VJ to play—whether it is one set with a band, visuals for all bands, visuals for a whole party, or half the party, for the runway show, or in between sets…. Make sure you are both on the same page! This will make payment easier to figure out.
- Depending on your event, proper pay for a VJ can go anywhere from $200 to $5,000+ per event. Of course, this depends on what kind of work you will be asking your VJ to do. Take a look at the first note in Tech Specs. Be prepared to discuss.
- For low and no budgets-- treat a VJ like any other performer--- a few bucks, a couple drinks/tickets, guest comps, a ride home..... etc, are ways to keep your VJ happy. This often applies to musicians and bands working with a VJ, treat them like one of your band.
- Again, GIVE SOME LOVE!
- There are huge differences between a "plug-and-play" gig, a full video installation, and a specialized content gig.
- plug and play is when your VJ plugs their gear into an existing video system.
- full video installation requires your VJ to install video projectors, screens, scrim, inflatables etc, then set up their equipment to mix. This is often the case at outdoor events, warehouse parties, converted spaces etc.
- specialized content gig requires your VJ to make specific visuals for your event, as is often the case in a corporate gig, or personal event like a wedding or birthday.
Lots of gigs are combinations of the above. Make sure to clear these differences up with your VJ in advance and be clear on what you are asking of them. They will be able to give you the proper timeline and cost for what you are asking them to do.
- Again, whether the gig is a plug and play, or needs installation or equipment rentals etc, go over this with your VJ beforehand. Think of it this way, you wouldn't ask a band to come play before making sure they know there is no sound system at the venue....
- Discuss who will provide and install screens, cables, projectors, fabric etc. Don't worry about all the technical details, your VJ will guide you. Talk over the entire scope of your idea with your VJ to see if there are technical issues that need to be addressed before the day of the event.
- Lighting influences projections.
- Have your lighting designer and VJ work out an environmental scheme that allows for their work to support each other.
- Keep in mind that the presence of smoke, light on the screens, equipment blocking the view, daylight etc can destroy a VJ performance and should be addressed in advance.
- If it calls for one, arrange site visit with VJ to discuss all design needs before event. It may be helpful to invite the lighting designer and technician/engineer to this visit as well.
- VJs need a safe place for their gear, keep in mind that they will most likely need a sturdy table/surface where they can see at least one of their projections from.
- VJs need power, an outlet, a generator if it is outside.
The point is, talk with your VJ and the visuals will follow!
A SPECIAL NOTE FOR VJs
VJs: Get your shit together. Respect is a two-way street. Only expect it if you can properly prepare for and deliver quality performances. Know your collaborators and their work, know your venue, test your gear in advance. Ask questions, figure it out, fess up if you mess up. Most of all, love your craft: create amazing visuals & the respect will follow.
Thank you for reading this and supporting the art of VJs!