Philipp Straub: the journey on how to be a Dj

13 February 2017

Philipp Straub is a leading head in the European music industry; As well as a BURN Residency mentor, he is the CEO of Titan International, an agency for placing artists for placing artists managing events and work around youth culture. With the launch of this year’s competition, we spoke with Philipp on topics such as how to make it on the island and advice for new competitors.

BURN: From Austria to Ibiza. How did it happen? And what does it takes to make it in Ibiza?

Philipp Straub: Like most people, I dreamt of having my own residency in Ibiza, be able to survive during most of the year on the island and also have a life as a Dj. I had the pleasure to play some gigs over the years in Ibiza, most of them for the Coxy family, which I really appreciated. I wanted to play more often, but a lot of the offers did not match my expectations as a Dj, I turned some of them down and only agreed to mix at some highlight gigs, unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to stay in Ibiza through the whole season. It was only after I joined BURN Residency as a consultant and head mentor that I had a real reason to head to this beautiful island and stay all summer. I traveled a long path and it took some time to be where I am right now, but it was worth it.

Today, it’s even harder to make it in Ibiza, it’s still a great hub, the mecca of electronic music and one of the best places to learn about this industry, but it’s also very competition. So my advice is to show presence without getting lost along the way, by all means.

BURN: Nowadays, young talents are attracted not only by the music but also the “famous DJ” lifestyle. In what state of mind should competitors enter the competition?

PS: I always say to my friends “I wish my life would be as it looks on Facebook”, where I only highlight important events, behind that image there’s a lot going on, it’s like fruits on a tree; you can see the final result when they’re shiny and ready to be consumed, but before that stage you need a good piece land, once you’ve planted your tree you need to look after it. If your job was done properly, you’ll get a good result. With this profession it’s the same thing, of course once you’ve “made it”, it’s glamorous but every artist I know, even the top superstars are working their asses off every day. This is not a job; it’s a never-ending mission, work starts and stops, this lifestyle doesn’t have a pause button, It’s about 100% of dedication. A certain experience in life is good in order to be balanced and know what you really want, also a lot of self-control is needed, if you come for girls, fame, pictures and fun then you are wrong. At least in the beginning, in order to eventually come close to the real deal, you need to completely commit to this life and it won’t be easy at all. My advice is to come with a clear vision, a clear business-and life plan. There is a lot of homework that can be done, having talent, good taste in music, stage presence and so on, is just one part of the big package that we are looking for.

BURN: Being a Dj, it’s also all about the journey and a story to tell to your fans. What kind of story do you think Dj’s should be passing to new generations?

PS: Difficult question. Telling a story with music is really hard; most sets are only 90 minutes long. You can only create a short story during that time and most dj’s will use at least 15 minutes to play their best releases. The best thing to do is play longer sets, in small clubs or to friends and family, you need to learn how to build a set, entertain people in different states of mind and different situations. Play the Beatport’s Top 100; everyone can do it, especially with the technical equipment nowadays. Older generations have the responsibility to pass on a story, only by doing that things can gain something deeper, and that’s exactly what we need in our industry; we don’t want things to be too cheesy or superficial, we need content with a lot of backgrounds, history with a lot of emotion. It’s our role to build up an intelligent new generation of artists and new professionals in this industry.

B: As a mentor for BURN Residency, what would be the perfect set or what kind of tools do you think new talents should be mastered to impress the judges? Instruments? Back to vinyl?

PS: It’s not all about the setup really, nor the taste of music, it’s also not only about technical skills, It’s mainly about originality, and that starts with the music and it ends with the personality. It’s about being able to stand out, copying someone might be good enough to come out of the shadows, but won’t lead to a higher goal in the long term. We have all these great artists like Sven Väth, Pete Tong, John Digweed, Dubfire and many more, we do not need a second Sven, a copy of Pete or someone trying to do the same as Dubfire. Find your own way to express your feelings and deliver messages through music, but also through your character and the more you invest in yourself, the better. It starts with social media, the way you engage with your fans, how you present yourself and how you run your business, when we listen to the applicant’s sets we always look their profiles and only a small number reflect what we are looking for. Being honest and true to yourself, pays off.


B: Have you ever came across an artist that hasn’t reached the boot camp stage but was actually a real diamond to polish?

PS: For sure! I have many talents reaching out to me every week and I was lucky enough to help many of them too. I started releasing music of now well-known artists on my own label back in the days. The main task was to connect people around the world, good producers with record labels and so on. I can’t fully dedicate myself to it, but I always enjoyed that part of the job, if the artist is good enough to catch my attention, I’ll be happy to help. From time to time I get one outstanding demo, which I feel instantly attached to when that happens, I’ll find my way to work something out.

B: I saw your session on Be-at Tv, and apparently, you have duplicate copies of vinyl, one to play and another for collection. Which records are your most prized possession?

PS: Haha! You did your homework well! Yes, from 1993 to around 2000 I only mixed with vinyl. Right now, I must have around 24,000 records, I bought the most important ones twice, one copy to play, after some use it will get shady and another one that stays sealed and untouched. Richie Hawtin was the one who introduced me to Final Scratch, around 2000 I was so amazed that I switched to digital but after a few years that made me lose some of my passion for music, it was just too technical. I missed the physical interaction with tunes and how they developed an own shuffled groove until things comes back together, and everything just flows perfectly. Ten years ago I switched back to CD’S and now I play with CDJ setup, it combines the best of the old way to play records and the new way to use digital advantages like looping and effects. At the end of it, it’s about finding a way to deliver your message in the best way possible with the smallest efforts. I want to enjoy the moment with the crowd and the music not only think about bits and bytes. I respect digital dj’s as they turn more and more into live acts, but not everyone is able to really handle it, you also need a crew to make sure that it works. Coming back to your question, I never had the time to go trough my entire collection. It’d be a great thing to find the best 100 records and play them out again. It’d take me a long time to listen to all of them again, plus new releases; it’d be an impossible mission. The last time I listened to old records was with Bog; we found some rare pearls on Pokerflat, some great old tunes from Steve Rachmad and my old favourite Bandulu! But there are so many more! It’s really hard to only pick a few…

B: And do you have any final words for this year's competitors?

PS: I think I included a lot of valuable knowledge and input for the guys! Good luck to all of them!


If you want to be the next BURN Residency winner, upload your mix here and get Philipp Straub as a mentor!