Adapting & Reinventing: Three Latin DJs Get Real About The Future of the Industry

Mr. Pauer
Claudia Calle

Mr. Pauer

Before the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., Alex Sensation was in Colombia celebrating Kevin Roldan’s birthday. Upon flying back to Miami, Sensation, a renowned DJ, recording artist and radio host for SBS radio stations La Mega and El Zol, made the decision to shut down his booth at SBS and take it home with him. Since then, he’s been hunkered down in quarantine with his family.

DJ Candy Boy [real name: Ramon Enrique Gomez Davis], who is Yandel’s tour DJ and the programming director of Central Florida’s Urbana FM, also made some drastic decisions, furloughing staffers and postponing important shows.

For Latin Grammy-nominated DJ and artist Mr. Pauer (a.k.a. Toto Gonzalez), the Electric Daisy Carnival in Mexico City marked not only the biggest show of his 15-year DJ trajectory but also one of his last major gigs. On March 15, he performed for the last time at Miami’s El Patio Wynwood, where he had a residency.

Like everyone in the music industry right now, these three DJs are finding ways to adapt to a new reality as they reinvent themselves within the Latin marketplace. One thing that they all still have in common: a positive outlook.

In an exclusive set of interviews for Billboard, Sensation, Candy and Pauer opened up about life during quarantine, their new normality, and the future of the DJ scene. Read the Q&A below.

How has the current health crisis affected your careers?

Alex Sensation: Right now the music industry is in pause. The most important thing is for everyone to be safe. Everything else can wait. I put a pause on about seven concerts that I was going to produce this year around the country. We’re talking about 15,000 to 20,000 people and I had already planned all the lineups and venues, which include New York, Los Angeles, Puerto Rico, and Miami.

Music-wise, I had about one single that I was going to drop every two months. I had singles and videos ready. I dropped the first one in February with Silvestre Dangond [“Dame un Chance”] and then I dropped the second one in April, “La Calle.” People are streaming music and watching our lives more than ever but in order for the music to get more exposure, we need the festivals, the concerts, the nightclubs. For now, I’m holding off from releasing more music. No one was expecting this but the good thing about us Latinos is that we can adapt to things quickly. We’re warriors. The radio show is solid. I’m trying to give as much good energy as I can on the air and help listeners disconnect a bit from reality.

DJ Candy Boy: I had many pending presentations as a DJ in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Puerto Rico, besides going on tour with Yandel. I had many concerts lined up but for obvious reasons, everything had to be postponed. I also had to make many drastic decisions at the radio station that I work at such as furloughing my staff, which made things a bit challenging for me.

Mr. Pauer: The show in Mexico was my entry into the EDM scene at big festivals. I had plans to continue developing that with follow-ups and scheduling more dates in Mexico. I also had plans for Europe, looking for residencies in Ibiza and Barcelona. The year started on a high and then there was a fall that affected absolutely everything. I invested a lot from the beginning, taking crash courses for livestreams. I equipped myself to give my audience a high-quality performance from home.

There was a lot of monetary loss, but we’re all in the same boat and we have to find the positive side of it. I’ve also been helping out many of my colleagues, sharing my knowledge and resources, and helping them as much as I can.

As a DJ, most of the income is from live shows and the club scene. With all of that on pause, how are you generating money during these times?

Alex Sensation: I feel very bad for the DJs that only depend on gigs as an income. I have many friends in that situation. The DJ community is a family and we all know each other. A lot of them live off of the nightclubs, the concerts, the parties. It’s affected our income a lot. I have a radio contract, so my income comes from my main job on the radio. I generate income from my music and a couple of brands have sponsored my virtual parties as well.

Greg Doherty/Getty Images
Alex Sensation performs at Calibash Las Vegas 2020 at the T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 25, 2020 in Las Vega.

DJ Candy Boy: In my case, I get my income from the radio station but that has declined as well. It’s complicated because there’s no way of making extra money, in terms of playing at the clubs. I’ve been looking for brands and sponsorships for more income. It’s not what I’m used to making but it’s something, you know? Everyone is doing it but I try to mark the difference. I’ve taken this opportunity to reinvent myself and find different ways to generate money.

Mr. Pauer: 100 percent of Mr. Pauer’s income has been affected. Since I’m a performer, the main source of income is my shows. Yes, I have my discography and certain things online that can be monetized but the truth is, my tour income is my real profit. In lieu of this, I’ve created new ideas and proposals -- for instance, for my merchandise line. Things are being consumed and enjoyed differently now, so I’m also being more open when it comes to releasing my music and creating content. I’m totally confident that the arts will overcome everything that’s happening.

What was your initial reaction to the news about the pandemic and quarantine?

Alex Sensation: In the beginning, everyone thought it was just like the flu or a little stronger than the flu but when it started hitting hard, especially in New York, I was like, "Wait a minute." I have family members and close friends who were getting sick and hospitalized -- and that’s when I called my mom and dad up north and told them to go into quarantine. We ended up taking my dad out of his adult community and he moved in with my brother. My mom is with me, we brought her down from New Jersey.

DJ Candy Boy: I thought there was going to be some sort of control but everything got out of control. I began to get really worried when I saw that big companies like the NBA and Disney were shutting down. Things got serious. The entertainment industry was the first thing to begin closing with lots of concerts canceling. When I saw everything coming to a stop and experts saying things will go back to normal in 2021, I thought esto se jodio!

DJ Candy Boy cr @OSCARMENA

Mr. Pauer: I always thought this was something temporary, to be sincere. I thought that by May I was going to be back on the dance floor. But everyday things seem less and less optimistic. I don’t have any plans for now. All my shows are on pause. I’m taking things seriously and calmly. As a musician, this is very crazy. Having all this free time is weird, but at the same time, I’ve been working more than ever these past three months.

Social distancing, face masks, live streams, drive-in concerts, working remotely -- how are you adapting to the new normality?

Alex Sensation: With the help of the engineer at the station, we built a studio in my house in Miami. I do every show live and it sounds perfect on the air. I’m very picky when it comes to the sound and the quality of the show. The quality is just the same as in the DJ booth. All I need is high-speed Internet and I can connect from anywhere in the world. That’s the beauty of technology nowadays.

DJ Candy Boy: I’m paying close attention to the situation and wondering how I can motivate my audience? I kicked off Noche de Cuarentena on social media. It’s not the same feeling as being on stage, but I try to take my lives to another level by creating the club ambiance. I also started El Sotano de Urbana on Facebook lives, where we have at-home, deep conversations with special celebrity guests.

Mr. Pauer: My Pauerful Sundays, produced by Claudia Calle, has been a beautiful experience. The backyard of my home has become the perfect set to use as a studio. I’m still learning about technology and streams but in the midst of everything, this is the most fun and safest way. During the one-hour live set, which is at 8 p.m. every Sunday on my Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, we laugh, dance, and relax. The feedback from the audience, saying that they’re enjoying the performances, makes me feel good.

How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of the DJ industry?

Alex Sensation: The most important thing is having a reset. I always try to find the positive things. It gave me much-need quality time with my family because I traveled a lot. I’m preparing myself to go at it again the next year or so, doing live concerts with social distancing. All my colleagues need to adapt and have faith that things will go back to normal.

DJ Candy Boy: People are going to have a hard time getting used to social distancing. This affects our industry the most. Many ideas are coming up for concerts. One option that can be effective is to do outdoor shows following the safety guidelines. We’ll have to see how it’s going to work but we have to try it. We can’t be in lockdown forever.

Mr. Pauer: I have lots of friends in different industries who are hurting but I feel that the worst hit is the entertainment industry. In Asia and in Europe, venues have already moved to open locations. I hope the City of Miami can be more flexible with event promoters and club owners to make these types of changes. Miami has a lot of open spaces that are perfect for this. We need to rethink how we’re going to entertain people from this point on so that there are long-term plans and real help for everyone in the music industry. The comeback is going to be really hard.