During the March 2020 lockdown, Sean Enright (SeanE) made an unexpected connection with a community of like-minded music enthusiasts who now make up the 20-member collective: Melomaniacs. At the time Worldwide FM had just started using Chatango as their chatroom, which is where they all met, but it wasn’t until a year later that they officially connected IRL. Fast forward to today and Melomaniacs have launched their own takeover, a monthly Mixcloud live stream on South London’s Run Dem Radio. The group operates out of a Discord group and consistently mentors beginner DJs in their community.

Though many of the crew were early on in their DJing journey, Run Dem Radio were drawn to their enthusiasm and passion for music. Thanks to Sean’s chance meeting with Run Dem Radio producer DJ Nav, Melomaniacs had the opportunity to become presenters themselves. In the words of Run Dem Radio founder Charlie Dark, the station “was established to give a platform to people interested in getting into radio so it made perfect sense to have them involved.”

With the news of Worldwide FM ceasing new programming, Melomaniacs wanted to pay tribute to the station that made all this possible. In their recent Run Dem Radio takeover they honored the WWFM DJs who inspired them to take to the decks in the first place, performing B2B sets with their heroes.

Connect with Like-Minded People

What are the benefits of being in a group versus working individually as DJs? 

Mark Jenks: We are a very eclectic bunch, from all walks of life and backgrounds. What holds us together is a thirst for knowledge and an openness to music of all kinds. It’s more than just a “yeah I’m into my music collective,” there’s a real passion among us and genuine interest in what each of us is doing and how we are doing it. 

Rileforce: Depending on which dictionary you read, a Melomaniac is someone who has "a great enthusiasm for music". We are collectively a group of passionate music-obsessed selectors. As a group I wouldn’t say any of us are extroverts, so doing this has meant all of us getting out of our comfort zone, and of course, we've laughed and supported each other through it.

AdeleAmis: Without the support of this collective, I would have never had the courage to start DJing. When asked to DJ for the Melomaniacs’ debut, I initially declined feeling too self-conscious to have a go. After lots of encouragement from the other members, I agreed and made my debut on Run Dem Radio.  My fellow Melomaniacs supported and encouraged me throughout the set giving me the confidence to face my fears.

SwayOfTheVerses: We chat daily on WhatsApp and various chatrooms and meet up regularly to go to gigs. It's more like a bunch of friends hanging out and playing music. The musical selections are brilliant and are taken very seriously. But no one claims to be a professional DJ, or has any expectations of becoming a superstar DJ, which keeps it very fun.

KarenC: Being in a supportive collective of like-minded people has given me a chance to try something I would have found difficult to access as an individual. I would never have done this alone, the imposter syndrome would have kicked in and I would have shied away, but I know the Melomaniacs got my back and I have theirs... it's reciprocal.

Tea: We might be different ages, come from different places, and have differing levels of experience when it comes to DJing, but our love of music (and Worldwide FM) brings us together. It’s a truly warm and welcoming community: no gatekeepers, no genres, just good tunes and good vibes.

Start with the Basics and Learn the Technical Skills

What was your first step in learning to DJ? And what tip would give to some one just starting out?

Luka (Fresh Junk): Make some mixtapes for friends - even if just in Audacity! And seek out local community radio stations that will let you have a go on their decks.

DjShed74: The first step for me was to beat mix, blend two pieces of music together, and match the tempo. 

SuzyDance: I came to this group without any technical knowledge of how to DJ -  just a truly deep love of music, connection, and dancing. If this is something you dream about, just do it, research, and start by making playlists and mixes.  For technical know-how reach out to a DJ friend, or local DJ and just ask all the questions.

Tea: Keep an eye out and sign up for Open Deck sessions, they’re a great way to showcase your music taste, meet like-minded people, and build your confidence.

Karen: With learning to DJ itself, my first step was to limit myself to Broken Beats. I then listened to as much of it as possible - to really listen and take in each tune - the beats, the energy, the vocals. Then began piecing a set together with a beginning, middle, and end, like a jigsaw puzzle.

Rileforce: DJ equipment can be very pricey! My tip would be to get some old second-hand decks Pick a handful of records or a similar genre and mix them again and again. Learn the fundamentals of beat matching. If you are using a USB, cover the BPM display with a post-it note, and master beat-matching by ear. Once you've mastered mixing, create a faultless mix, network and jump in the deep end and look to practice in the real world. There is the old saying 'A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for'. Think about that. 

Mark Jenks: Everyone's a DJ yeah? I've heard this countless times and even though there is some truth attached to that statement I think the difference between a music fan and a DJ is the lengths a DJ will go to in order to make his or her selections really personal. If you want to be a DJ, bring something really genuine and authentic to your approach. Don't recreate what is already out there, be yourself and find your own voice. If you have passion, the audience will find you.

Curate88: I would say always try to play the tunes you genuinely love rather than trying to second guess what other people will like. If you really believe in what you’re playing, everything else will follow. Also, if someone is hesitant about giving DJing a try, I definitely think that having the opportunity to play out with a group of friends so that you can support each other makes a big difference and that’s what Melomaniacs is all about.

Take Opportunities and Put Yourself Out There

How did you get your first opportunity as Melomaniacs? 

Sean: It was over a random conversation I had at a Vintage Fair where my wife trades that the idea for Melomaniacs first popped up. I was chatting to DJ Nav at his Beats & Grind coffee stand, and he invited me on to Run Dem Radio which is one of several stations he has shows on. He explained they were doing weekly takeover sessions and that I could potentially join. The mention of a takeover immediately made me think of the rest of our crew and how much they might like to participate. I suggested to Nav that I might be able to get enough people together to put on our own takeover if there was space available.

He took a chance on us and we did our first session in May of this year. The session was a success and we had a blast that came across on our stream. Several of us made our radio debuts that day and some of our DJing debuts too. It was pretty nerve-racking then, but I personally couldn’t think of a better way to put yourself out of your comfort zone than being surrounded and cheered on by a super supportive group of friends from our community, which all started in the WWFM chatroom.

What’s your advice for a DJ who wants to get heard on radio or in front of a live audience? 

Sean: If you want to get into radio explore the websites of any internet radio stations you listen to and get involved in any chat rooms they have. Invariably stations will have an “apply for a show” link. Make a few applications and see what happens. If you get knocked back try somewhere else. You’ll hopefully get a trial show somewhere and once you do it can open up all sorts of other doors. Voices Radio for example have a great Discord group for all their presenters where they organize shows, and arrange swaps for when presenters can’t make it, but they also share a lot of gig and job opportunities as well as generally sharing Djing experiences and knowledge. 

Play Music That Helps You Push Through The Nerves

What were some of the challenges that came with live streaming, and how did you overcome them? 

KarenC: During my first session I had an initial "rabbit in a headlight" moment... but then I found my groove, I felt comfortable and in control and super confident about my selections. I loved seeing how those around me in the studio reacted to the tunes I played and also getting the feedback from the chatroom - amazing how energy from the audience can still be felt on the radio!

Mark Jenks: Live streams are a really different experience for me, I’m more used to seeing who I am playing records for. Being able to judge what works and what doesn’t. I think you need to be confident in what you are playing and just stick to your plan. I started a recent show with a Portishead track I’ve always loved and even though it’s quite a commercial record, I felt it was the right opener and set the tone for what followed. Sometimes you just need to play what you love.

Interact with Your Live Stream Audience and Nurture Your Community

How do you stay connected with your audience while live streaming? 

Sean: Hosting our radio debut on live video was, without a doubt, quite a daunting experience. The feedback from the listeners, however, has been amazing, and being able to interact with them live via the Mixcloud chat just adds a whole new dimension to the radio experience as it becomes a two-way, interactive communal event. The Versus Battles have been so much fun. Complete chaos and technically quite challenging to pull off but so much fun. We did this as an experiment in our first session but it’s been quite a popular part of the takeover so we’re keeping it going as a ‘winner stays on” format. This feature only really works thanks to the Mixcloud live chat as we get the listeners involved by asking them to vote for their favorite tracks over several genres and rely on their feedback during the live show to choose the winning selector. It’s a lot of fun.

IssyB: I absolutely love the interaction with the listeners via the live chat. The last time I played the Melomaniacs takeover, I had someone listening in from Siberia which really blew my mind & really opened my eyes to how far-reaching live streaming can be.

SwayOfTheVerses: We started a versus show: two DJs, seven rounds of different genres, tune for tune, with viewers of the live stream voting which tune was the best for each round. This was and keeps being a great way of involving the audience, each session has evolved and will hopefully become more popular!

Discover Melomaniacs Collective on Mixcloud

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