You can check out, but you can never leave! Marshall Jefferson told Mixmag in 2020 that he was quitting DJing – so did the Hotel California effect bring him back?

Back in the 1980s, when acid house became a thing, no one thought about the question of what would happen when DJs became old. The jocks spinning on the turntables were often the same age, if not younger, than many of those dancing to their sets – and everyone was so busy enjoying themselves that nobody asked, or probably cared.

As the 90s went on and many of the early DJs realised they’d basically built themselves entire careers, the question started to arise about the future. Would they really still be able to sustain their lifestyles beyond their 20s – or would life begin to rudely interrupt? As ageist as it might sound, knowing what we know now, it was a fair question.

Nowadays, no one bats an eyelid at DJs being considerably older than most of those in the club. Carl Cox is now 60 years old, yet nobody says he should be bundled off into an old folks home. David Guetta is 55, but no one suggests he’s too old. And when DJs do try to step out of the spotlight, it never seems to work.

Take Marshall Jefferson. He’s contributed more to house music than many, including “Move Your Body”, the Ohio neighbour bothering song which was the first house track released on vinyl to use a piano. In October 2020, Mixmag’s Blackout Issue – about the only good thing the publication has done in recent years – carried an interview with the man himself, and he had a few things to say.

Here was possibly the most striking part…

“Last year, I played at a packed club in Ibiza for 4000+; I got about $2000. I found out the DJ that played at an empty club next door got €250,000 and decided to quit DJing. I’d previously thought that if you filled a club, you deserve the money, simple. When guys get paid more than me for an empty club, I’m out.

That wasn’t all the fault of racism. That was mostly on me and my dumb business practices. But Black DJs will NEVER get 250k+ fees like white DJs get. THAT’s racism, but not in the KKK-I-hate-Black-people sense; it’s all in the numbers. Black people are a bad investment numbers wise because we’re getting a tenth of the audience.”

Since pandemic restrictions started easing in 2021, however, Jefferson has apparently been persuaded to perform at a number of shows – despite his pledge to stop doing them. Indeed, his Resident Advisor page currently has two listings up – so what explains all this?

A friend who has known Jefferson for many years spoke to Ears To The House on condition of anonymity – and said “It’s all about the money. He agrees to do a show from time to time. Because he doesn’t do as many now, he can charge more. It’s thrown off a lot of time wasters. Marshall is happier, has to spend less time travelling, and earns a similar amount to before. It’s a real no-brainer.”.

Whilst one of our regular Detroit sources who also knows him simply said “It’s the Hotel California effect. Like a lot of my friends in the DJ world, he’s found that he can check out, but he can never leave. Being a DJ is addictive. I don’t think you can ever stop doing it completely. He’s just learnt to play the game differently.”.

Perhaps that house music is finally going to set him free…

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