On the DJ career, music industry, marketing, professional growth, productivity tools, personal journey and life

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Three new Psy-Trance sub-genres on Beatport

I’m happy to report that we’ve added new Psy-Trance sub-genres on Beatport:

Psy-Trance as a whole is very diverse, and obviously, there is much more to it. As the author of the Psytrance Guide, I know this very well.

So while these sub-genres won’t cover the whole variety (and I’m sure some people will complain), I believe this is a good change that provides better opportunities for all DJs, labels, and artists.

 No comments    167   7 mo   Beatport

The main purpose of a DJ

What does a DJ actually do? What is the main purpose of a DJ? And what tools does a DJ use to achieve that task?

Let me share my thoughts.

Some people think that the main task of a DJ is to play music. But a computer can also play tracks one by one: just throw in a playlist of hundreds of tracks, and that’s it!

Others say that the main task of a DJ is to mix the tracks, i.e. to play music in a continuous mix. But you can put on a pre-made mix, and that’s it! Another problem is that if one thinks that a DJ’s main job is to mix tracks, it’s easy to fall into the trap of misconceptions: for example, that a DJ who plays vinyl records is better than a DJ who plays with a controller, which is of course simply not true.

However, in fact, playing music and mixing tracks are just tools to achieve a goal, but not a purpose on their own. Moreover, mixing is one of the easiest skills in DJing, frankly.

What, then, is the main task of a DJ?

The main purpose of a DJ is to make people feel good on the dance floor. Of course, the definition of ‘good’ varies depending on the type of DJ set, the event’s format and other factors. In some cases, it might be a sense of novelty, new tracks and an interesting musical experience. In other cases, it might be nostalgia for an artist’s old favourite tunes. And sometimes, it’s good when soft music is playing in the background. There are many situations, but essentially it all comes down to this: whether people feel good on the dancefloor or not.

A good DJ focuses on the audience in front of him and decides in a given moment which track will work best for that particular crowd and situation. Play a Top-1 track from the charts, which will make everyone put their hands up in the air in bliss? Or give people something new, unexplored? To raise the energy levels? Or, on the contrary, slow it down a little to give people a break? It’s impossible to predict in advance, so they say that a good DJ “feels” the dancefloor.

The main purpose of a DJ is to make people feel good on the dance floor

When you look at the DJ’s task from this point of view, all these endless online debates on the coolness of this or that equipment and effects become unimportant.

But does it mean a DJ must play for the crowd only? What about personal enjoyment, you may ask? How about “playing for yourself”? The best thing is when the event and the type of crowd align with a DJ’s music, with what a DJ likes and wants to play. This gives a lot of musical freedom to a DJ and the ability to cultivate a fan base. But such perfect circumstances may not happen 100% of the time, especially for new DJs, you have to be honest about it and be prepared for that.

If “to make people feel good on the dance floor” is the main purpose of a DJ, then the main tool to achieve it is the following: to play the right track at the right time. And for this, a DJ should understand what is expected of him at a particular event, cultivate his musical taste, keep his music collection fresh, know how to build sets, read the crowd and much more. And it’s surely not the same as just ‘playing music’.

 No comments    417   7 mo   Advice   DJing

Fixed deadlines, flexed scopes

In the recent episode of The Rework Podcast titled Your Estimates Suck, David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried, the co-founders of 37signals, discussed an exciting technique that allows their company to be productive. 37signals is a software development company, so the discussion was related to that topic, but I think you can use this approach in many other areas in general.

So the premise is that people are terrible at estimating how long it takes to complete a particular task if it includes any novelty. If you make something cookie-cutter for the tenth time, you might be somewhat decent in your estimations but still not perfect. And if the process includes any form of creativity, making something new that you haven’t done before, then your estimates surely suck, as the podcast episode title suggests. And that’s okay; it’s just how our brains naturally work.

In practice, in many companies, it works like that. Let’s say someone wants to make a website. Some person, a project manager or a developer, usually gives their estimate: “It will take us six weeks to build it”, for example. By the 4th week, the team realised they hadn’t done even a half because certain features took them longer than expected. So after negotiating with the client, which took another week, they decided to postpone the launch for a month to give the team more time. Then the same happens again and again, and eventually, the demoralised team built a product that no longer reflects the client’s needs. On top of that, the company or the client had to pay for this much more than initially estimated because time is money.

I had experience working as a project manager in software development, so I know for a fact that my made-up example above is a pretty accurate illustration of what often happens in the industry.

So how is David’s and Jason’s approach different? First, it starts with acknowledging that estimates are no better than guessing, and guesses are not a reliable source for planning weeks, months, and especially years ahead. Second, they fix the timeframe and the deadline and never change them. And third, they ship the product on time no matter what, even when the resulting product isn’t quite what was planned. Instead of delivering a set-in-stone product that would take an unknown amount of time to make, they set the deadline in stone and ship what they believe is the best version of that product possible to make during that timeframe. With this approach, they basically say, “let’s spend an X amount of time to solve this problem, and once X is passed, we are done”.

Sounds controversial, right?

The key here is that you cannot sacrifice quality. Things you deliver must be good. What you can discuss and possibly cut, though, is the scope. Going back to that website example, using this approach, they would ship it after six weeks, but probably with fewer features. And having fewer features is not necessarily a bad thing. What’s important is that the company or the client would have an actual, good working product exactly when they wanted, even though the product might be slightly different. And that alone sometimes is enough to start generating profit or making decisions on further iterations based on real-life user interaction with your product rather than theorycrafting for months while your product is stuck in a never-ending “work in progress”.

I believe that this mindset of fixed deadline rather than the scope might be helpful outside of software development in things like marketing, personal projects, or even music production.

I’ve been hosting my monthly music podcast for more than a decade, and you know how often I would like to have just a little bit more time to find some new tracks to include in the show? Every time, pretty much! Luckily, I have a fixed deadline, so I keep delivering new episodes every month, even though each episode usually isn’t as ideal as I would like it to be. I’m sure I wouldn’t make nearly as many episodes if I’d kept polishing each one until perfection.

I think this paradigm of “fixed deadlines but flexed scopes” might be especially useful and act as a self-protective mechanism for creative work where it’s so tempting to keep working until a so-called “perfection” (which sometimes means infinite). And as they say, done is better than perfect.

Productivity system that helps me to achieve goals

How to do things that matter

I like productivity apps: to-dos, calendars, notes, timers, and things like that of all kinds. I like being organised and that feeling of satisfaction by completing a task (which is probably just a dopamine release, but whatever).

But what is productivity, exactly? What does it mean to be productive? If I tick ten to-do’s a day, am I productive? And what about other things that I want to do but don’t do? The usual excuse is, “I don’t have time for that”, so does it mean I need to improve my time management?

I started asking myself these questions about a year ago, and eventually, they led me to the whole system that I’m going to share today.


One day, I remember completing yet another dozen tasks, but strangely enough, I felt it didn’t really move me anywhere. All of those tasks that I ticked every day were repetitive little tasks that helped to maintain where I am but didn’t contribute to moving the needle for me.

At the same time, ironically, I always felt behind and thought I could have done more. For example, I could release more music, but I had an excuse that I didn’t have time and felt bad about it.

So, on the one hand, I didn’t feel any progress despite completing many tasks. On the other hand, I felt guilt and anxiety for not doing things I could’ve done. That’s where I was in the middle of 2020 or so.

After that, I started to think about it: “Okay, I’m stuck like a hamster in the wheel and don’t move anywhere. Hm, but where exactly do I want to go in the first place?”.

That made me think even deeper, or rather higher if you think about it as zooming out from the ground level, and I asked myself what my goals are. Literally, my goals in life. “What do I want?” – that simple question became game-changing.

Now let me explain to you the key concepts of this approach, and then I’ll give some tips on how to turn it into a doable system that you can copy and use for yourself.


The first important thing is to write down your goals. You can use a pen and paper, or any note-taking app like Apple Notes, Google Docs, Bear, Notion, or whatever. I use Craft, but again, it doesn’t matter.

To find out what your goals are, you need to ask yourself what do I want”. Asking this question seems obvious on paper, and yet we constantly get so busy and induced with information and distractions that we rarely ask ourselves any questions of that kind. For this reason, you may struggle to answer this question initially, and that’s okay, give yourself some time.

A goal can be anything. Spending a vacation in Barcelona can be a goal. Writing a sci-fi novel can be a goal. Releasing an album. Launching a course. Buying a house. Anything you want.

When writing down goals, you need to be very specific. And there is also a very tricky difference between focusing on the input versus the output.

For example, “have at least one gig a month” sounds like a nice goal for a starting DJ, right? The problem is a gig is an output, the result, and generally speaking, we have no or very little control over the outputs. You see, to get a gig, someone needs to book you to make it happen. And how do you know for certain whether someone will or will not book you? Well, you don’t!

Another and probably more common example of goals focused on the outputs could be “get 5 kg of lean mass” or “lose 5 kg of weight”. And although such numbers are very specific which is supposed to be a good thing, you don’t have direct control over them. Furthermore, not meeting those numbers can lead to disappointment and frustration. Instead, I’d suggest writing this as “Make a habit of exercising three times a week”, which is much more tangible and within your control.

Here’s something interesting. If you think about the example above, “Make a habit of exercising three times a week” doesn’t look like a goal unless exercising itself is your goal. I would say, for most people, exercising is probably a way to get healthier and feel more attractive. So in this case, “Get healthier and feel more attractive” might be the real goal, and exercising three times a week is just one of the many ways of achieving this goal. Be honest with yourself.


If you are lucky enough and know what you want, then the answer to the question why do I want this” is your value. For example, someone may say “I want to work remotely”, and that’s the goal. But why? The answer might be, “Because I value the freedom to work from anywhere I want”, and so in that case “the freedom” is the value for that person.

But sometimes it’s less obvious. Since we live in a monetary world, many things are tight to money or the possibilities it can provide, whether we like it or not. For example, oftentimes a person might see their job as a way of paying the bills, but not the actual thing they enjoy doing. So to eliminate money from the equation, I find the following thought experiment useful.

Imagine that you’ve got one million dollars. Or that you have an almost infinite amount of money, so you never need to worry about them again. Or that society is free from money and everyone does whatever they want. You can play around with the exact scenario of this thought experiment that feels best for you, but the main question is, what would you do then? How would you spend your resources, time and energy? What would change for you?

I’ll give you my example. At some point, I supposed that I run my advice series as one of the ways to contribute to increasing my income. Although the advice series is completely free, the idea was that when I share some helpful information, people start to see my expertise and the value I provide, so it helps to spread the word about my name, and eventually that influence leads to more business opportunities and hence more income. If you shorten the path, it can be expressed like “I run the advice series → I get more income”. And as a matter of fact, this blog does indeed give me an extra indirect income, as some people I worked with explicitly said that they wanted to do some business with me because of my writings, which only supported my initial belief.

However, after having that thought experiment I described above, I realised nothing would change for me. I would still run this blog and the advice series even if I had all money in the world. As it turns out, my motivation for doing that wasn’t financial at all. And that shift of perspective changed everything for me.

After that discovery, I went through all activities and things I do (or don’t do) and asked myself why. Sometimes it took me several layers of “why’s” to get to the real answers. For example, “I do A. Why? To get B. Why?”. That articulation of why is crucial, and I’ve learned so many things about myself. For example, I realised that I didn’t produce music due to a so-called lack of time but simply because I couldn’t answer the question “why”. It was a revelation.

So write down your values next to your goals or somewhere. These are the things that are important to you, your motivation. And they are usually very basic, like health, influence, fame, curiosity, et cetera. Again, be honest with yourself and make sure to understand why you want (or don’t want) certain things, as this understanding is crucial.

Projects and tasks

Once you know what and why do you want to achieve, it’s time to ask yourself how am I going to achieve this”. This is where projects come into place.

A project is an action that requires more than a single step to complete. It’s a group of step-by-step to-do’s that ultimately will help you to achieve a particular goal. Some complex (usually long-term) goals may have several projects; others may have just one.

For example, “Plan a trip to Barcelona” is a project because it involves more than one step. These steps might include: decide on the exact dates, purchase flight tickets, book a hotel, plan the itinerary, research local sights to visit, pack a suitcase, etc. All of those little individual steps I call tasks, or to-dos.

To keep track of your projects, I highly suggest using some form of task manager. Again, it can be a pen and paper, an app, or whatever. I have another article on how I use a to-do list to manage my tasks and projects, so I won’t go over the details here.

Quarterly planning

This system of setting your goals, understanding your values, and executing them with actionable projects works great, at least for me. But life isn’t static; our priorities, conditions, and desires change. I use quarterly planning to reflect those changes, and the name suggests how often I do it.

Quarterly planning is a 1-on-1 meeting where I check in with myself. To make this process fun and enjoyable, I usually go to a new place such as a café where I can sit with my laptop and a cup of tea for about an hour or two without distractions.

During this process, I do the following:

  • Reflect on the last quarter’s results: write shortly about what I’ve been working on, what I’ve succeeded and failed at, and how I feel.
  • Mark previous goals completed if I have any.
  • Set new goals for the next quarter, making sure those goals align with my values and articulate why I want to achieve them. Sometimes I might have dozens of goals, but trying to achieve them all simultaneously would be not realistic. During this planning, I pick up just some of them, typically from one to three, and set them as a priority for the next quarter.
  • Identify actionable projects for these goals for the next quarter and add them to the task manager as a list of specific things to do.

I find this process essential for the piece of mind and clear vision. After that, I know exactly what to do and how things I do every day actually move me towards my goals. Just knowing this brings so much calm and clarity.

Do you remember at the beginning of the article I said that I felt guilty for not doing things I could’ve done? This priority system treats exactly this symptom. By saying “the next quarter I’m going to work on A, B, and C”, I also say to myself “I’m not going to work on D, E, F, and everything else”, which is a huge deal. Compare “I don’t do X because I don’t have time for it” and “I don’t do it because I have consciously chosen to do other things that are more meaningful to me now”, that difference is a big quality shift in the attitude.

To me, doing this planning every three months turned out to be the sweet spot. One and two months seem too short for many of my projects, whereas four, five, and more months seem way too far in the future.

Weekly reviews

While quarterly planning gives a strategic birds-eye view, weekly reviews help me to stay on track on a more tactical level.

During this review, I do the following:

  • Check calendar events for the upcoming week to evaluate how much time I can spend on my tasks on each day.
  • Figure out what I should focus on next week. One of the reasons I love my task manager, Things 3, is because I can set not only deadlines for the tasks but also the day I’m planning to start working on a given task. So I usually pick some important tasks from my projects and decide when I’m going to work on them.
  • Set deadlines and reminders for important tasks to ensure I didn’t miss anything.
  • Move to “Someday” tasks I won’t be doing in the coming weeks. This is again something about my particular task manager app, Things 3, but basically this “Someday” feature hides all tasks that I don’t need right now, so I always have only relevant to-dos in front of me.
  • Remove tasks that are no longer relevant or outdated, which should be self-explanatory.

Basically, this whole process is a quick clean up where I make sure that all action steps for my goals are reflected in my task manager appropriately. Unlike quarter planning which usually takes 1-2 hours as I think about my life goals, weekly reviews take about 20 minutes. I usually do them on Sundays to feel ready for the week ahead, so on Monday morning I wake up with a list of to-dos waiting for me, and I know that these tasks have meaning and contribute to my goals.

Doing quarterly planning at The Moon And Maybe. London, October 2022


There was probably a lot of information to digest, so let me quickly summarise:

  1. Being productive means doing things that matter to you, your goals. It’s not about quantity but rather direction and consistency.
  2. Write down your goals. Things you want in your life, no matter how big or small. Take your time.
  3. Think about why you want to achieve those goals, that will be your values. Write them down too. The answers might surprise you.
  4. Identify actionable projects for your goals, or the steps that would move you towards them.
  5. Transfer those projects and to-dos to a task manager.
  6. Check in with yourself and set priority goals every quarter to stay calm and focused.
  7. Clean up the task manager weekly to stay on track.


Last but not least, I would like to give credit to Peter Akkies. Although I’ve read many of these ideas in various articles and books, his work inspired and “clicked” with me the most.

I hope my humble article will help someone, just like Peter’s helped me.

 1 comment    193   7 mo   Productivity

Theme charts

It turns out that Beatport’s curation team does quite a few different charts. Even though I’ve been using Beatport as a DJ for over a decade now, I’ve been avoiding the charts for some reason. And I shouldn’t have.

Every week there’s a different theme. For example, last week, it was After Hours Essential, and this week it’s Crate Diggers. So, as a music curator, I’m now making those charts too, amongst other things.

Here’s what I’ve selected for this week’s Crate Diggers charts:

I’ve even added a couple of tracks to the shopping chart myself. Maybe you’ll find something for yourself too.

 No comments    94   7 mo   Beatport

Rave Podcast 140

The February podcast edition is already available on Soundcloud, YouTube, Spotify playlist, and Patreon (where it appears a week before the premiere).

This episode turns on to be quite Trancey, featuring four exclusive premieres from JOOF Recordings. Enjoy!


00:00 Joseph Dalik — Manipulated Structures (Shaun Mauren Remix) Naughty Pills Records
05:32 Dubiosity, Pjotr G — Scraping (Original Mix) Lateral Fragments
09:03 Airwave — Simply Deep And Dark (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
13:30 Rick Pier O’Neil — Dark Tribal (RPO Part 2) Garbage Records
16:27 Enrico Sangiuliano — Moon Rocks (Original Mix) Drumcode
20:54 Hollen — Mainstream (Original Mix) Glasgow Underground
23:57 Introversion — Dystopia (Original Mix) Arts
29:23 D&D, Kalden Bess — Heighten Altitude (DJ Jock Remix) Ground Factory Records
32:30 Ronnie Spiteri — Professional Diver (Original Mix) Kenja Records
34:58 Slam Duck — Troubled Times (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
40:24 Spektre — Decompression (Original Mix) Misfit Music
43:50 Coredata — Petrichor (Dulcet Remix) JOOF Recordings
48:45 Adam Beyer, Bart Skils — Your Mind (Charles D Epic Mix) Drumcode
53:41 Airwave — Guru Meditation (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
 No comments    141   7 mo   Daniel Lesden   Music   Rave Podcast

New role: music curator at Beatport

Starting today, I’m officially joining the Beatport team and taking on the role of music curator.

Beatport is a transatlantic corporation known by DJs worldwide as a credible source of fresh electronic dance music and the best store, Besides the DJ store and its streaming service, the company’s assets include the plugins store Plugin Boutique, samples service Loopcloud, the distribution platform Ampsuite, and other music tools and services.

As a curator, I’ll be overseeing two big genres in the DJ store: Trance and Psytrance; assigning tracks to the right styles; featuring playlists; making editorial picks; tracking analytics; collaborating with labels and doing lots more.

Being a professional DJ, I’ve been an active Beatport user for over a decade, so I’m very happy to join the team and contribute my knowledge and expertise to the growth of the global electronic dance music community.

 No comments    208   7 mo   Beatport

How to stay motivated and not burn out

Notes from Andrew Huberman’s lecture on dopamine

Discussions about health issues, and motivation, in particular, are often neglected in the music industry. And yet I know in person quite a few people who struggle with motivation after a big release or are burnt out despite having what seems like a success.

I came across a fascinating lecture by Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist at Stanford University, about a molecule called dopamine and how it affects our motivation, drive, and even overall happiness. He discusses important questions, like why we perceive certain experiences differently; what dictates our so-called quality of life; how to keep focused and keep enjoying things that we do repetitively; what are underlying mechanisms of motivation and what behavioural patterns can reduce it; why sometimes being too ecstatic about big achievements can cause negative long-term effects; what’s an addiction; how our internal reward system works; and many, many more things around those topics. And it’s very useful for anyone, even outside the music career, of course.

I found this lecture so eye-opening, so I took some notes and shared them here my blog, even though it’s beyond the scope of typical posts in my blog.

Here is the full video that I encourage you to watch, and below are the notes that I took from it:

What it is

Dopamine is a very important molecule, a so-called neuromodulator. It’s not only responsible for pleasure, it’s responsible for motivation, drive, and craving. It also controls time perception and is related to body movements.

There is always a baseline level of dopamine in our bodies. When you feel excited and motivated, it’s called tonic and phasic release: tonic is always there circulating in the brain, and phasic are the peaks above the baseline. These two things interact, and it’s important. Dopamine can change the way our neural circuits work at a local scale (synaptic) and at a very broad scale (volumetric, affecting many neurones).


If you were to take a drug or supplement that increases your level of dopamine, you are influencing both the local and volumetric releases of dopamine. This is related back to the baseline and the big peak above the baseline. And that turns out to be important. Many drugs and supplements will actually make it harder for you to sustain dopamine over long periods of time and to achieve those peaks that most of us are craving when we are in pursuit of things.

Why? Because if you get both volumetric releases, the duping out of dopamine everywhere, and you’re getting a local release, it means that the difference between the peak and baseline is likely to be smaller. And how satisfying or exciting or pleasureful a given experience depends on the height of that peak relative to the baseline. So if you increase the baseline and you increase the peak, you’re not going to achieve more and more pleasure from things. Just increasing dopamine will make you excited for all things, it will make you feel very motivated, but it will also make that motivation very short-lived.


Dopamine is unique in our brain, it communicates with other neurones slower through G protein-coupled receptors. It slows, but can have multiple cascade effects. So its effects tend to take a while in order to occur.

Dopamine is a universal currency in all mammals, especially humans, for moving us towards goals. How much dopamine is in our system at any one time compared to how much dopamine was in our system a few minutes ago and how much we remember enjoying a particular experience of the past dictates your so-called quality of life and your desire to pursue things. It’s the way we track pleasure, it’s the way we track success. Even subtle fluctuations in dopamine really shape our perception of life and what we’re capable of, and how we feel.

This is why when you repeatedly engage in something that you enjoy, your threshold for enjoyment goes up and up.

All of us have different baseline levels of dopamine. Some of this is sure to be genetic.

Epinephrine, also called adrenaline is the main chemical driver of energy. We can’t do anything, anything at all, unless we have some level of epinephrin in our brain and body. Epinephrin and adrenalin are manufactured from dopamine.


The cortical part is important. The cortical part actually has a very specific part, which is your prefrontal cortex. The area of your forebrain that’s involved in thinking and planning, and involved in assigning a rational explanation to something, and involved in assigning a subjective experience to something. So, for instance, a pen that I’m holding right now, it’s one of the Pilot V5s, I just happen to love them, I like the way they write, and how they feel. If I spent enough time thinking about it or talking about it, I could probably get a dopamine release increase just talking about this pen. As we start to engage with something more and more, and we say about it, and what we encourage ourselves to think about it, has a profound impact on its rewarding or non-rewarding properties. Now, it’s not simply the case that you can lie to yourself. What’s been found over and over again is that if people journal about something, or they practice some form of appreciation for something, or they think of some aspect of something that they enjoy, the amount of dopamine that that behaviour will evoke tends to go up.


There used to be a cigarette and a cup of coffee, or when people drink alcohol, oftentimes they’ll smoke. And it’s well-known that different compounds like alcohol and nicotine, or caffeine and nicotine, or certain behaviours and certain drugs can synergise to give bigger dopamine increases. And turns out it’s not the best approach: layering together multiple things, substances and activities that lead to a big increase in dopamine, can actually create pretty severe issues with motivation and energy right after those experiences and even a couple of days later.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t take the occasional pre-workout if that’s your thing, or drink a cup of coffee before working out; some people enjoy that. But if you do it too often, what you’ll find is that your capacity to release dopamine and your level of motivation, drive and energy overall will take a serious hit.


Once we achieve certain things we wanted, our baseline of dopamine reduces for a while. And it doesn’t just go back down to the level it was before, it goes to a level below what it was before you went out seeking that thing.

“I’m going to run this marathon, I’m going to train for that marathon”, and when you run the marathon and cross the finish line, you feel great. And you think, “Okay, now I’m set off for the entire year, I’m going to feel so much better, I’m going to feel this accomplishment in my body, it’s going to be so great”. That’s not what happens. You might feel some of those things, but your level of dopamine has actually dropped below the baseline. Now, eventually, it will ratchet back up, but two things are really important.

First of all, the extent to which it drops below the baseline is proportional to how high the peak was. So if you cross the finish line pretty happy, it won’t drop that much below baseline afterwards; if you cross the finish line ecstatic, well, a day or two later, you’re going to feel quite a bit lower than you would otherwise. It’s so-called postpartum depression that people experience after giving birth or after some big win, graduation, or any kind of celebration. This is very important to underground because this happens on very rapid timescales and it can last quite a long time.

It also explains the behaviour that most of us are familiar with of engaging in something that we really enjoy. But if we continue to engage in that behaviour over and over again, it kind of loses its edge. It starts to feel less exciting to us.


Dopamine is released in the system only when it’s ready; when it’s synthesised. If you take something or do something that leads to huge increases in dopamine, afterwards your baseline should drop because there isn’t a lot of dopamine around to keep your baseline level going.

Fortunately, most people do not experience or pursue enormous increases in dopamine leading to severe drops in the baseline. Many people do, however, and that’s what we call addiction. When somebody pursues a drug or an activity that leads to huge increases in dopamine, and now you understand that afterwards the baseline of dopamine drops because of depletion of dopamine, that readily releasable pool. The dopamine is literally not around to be released, and so people feel pretty louse. And many people make the mistake of then going and pursuing the dopamine-evoking, dopamine-releasing activity or substance again, thinking mistakenly that it’s going to bring up their baseline, it’s going to give them that peak again. Not only does it not give them a peak, but their baseline also gets lower and lower because they’re depleting dopamine more and more.

Burning out

What about the more typical scenario? What about the scenario of somebody who is really good at working during the week, they exercise during the week, they drink on the weekends. Well, that person is only consuming alcohol maybe one or two nights a week, but oftentimes that same person will be spiking their dopamine with food during the middle of the week. Now, we all have to eat, and it’s nice to eat foods that we enjoy. But let’s say they’re eating foods that really evoke a lot of dopamine release in the middle of the week, they’re drinking one or two days on the weekend, they are one of these work hard, play hard type. So they’re swimming a couple of miles in the middle of the week, they’re going out dancing once on the weekend. Sounds like a pretty balanced life as I describe it, right?

Well, here’s the problem. The problem is that dopamine is not just evoked by one of these activities, dopamine is evoked by all of these activities. And dopamine is one universal currency of craving, motivation, desire, and pleasure. There’s only one currency. It makes sense why that person after several years of work hard, play hard, would say, “you know, I’m feeling kind of burnt out.” What is happening is they’re spiking dopamine through so many different activities throughout the week that their baseline is progressively dropping. And in this case, it can be very subtle, so it’s difficult to notice in the short term, but it kicks in the long term.

Now, of course, we all should engage in activities that we enjoy, everybody should. A huge part of life is pursuing activities and things that we enjoy. The key thing is to understand the relationship between the peaks and the baseline and to understand how they influence one another. Because once you do that, you can start to make really good choices in the short run and in the long run to maintain your level of dopamine baseline, maybe even raise that level of dopamine baseline and still get those peaks and still achieve those feelings of elevated motivation.

Healthy approach

There are optimal ways to engage in activities or to consume things that evoke dopamine. The key lies in the intermittent release of dopamine, and the key is to not expect or chase high levels of dopamine release every time we engage in these activities.

Intermittent reward schedules are the central schedule by which casinos keep you gambling. There’s something called dopamine reward prediction error. When we expect something to happen, we are highly motivated to pursue it. If it happens, great, we get the reward. The reward comes in various chemical forms including dopamine, and we are more likely to engage in that behaviour again. This is the basis of casino gambling. This is how they keep you going back again and again, even though on average the house does win.

That intermittent reinforcement schedule is actually the best schedule to export to other activities. How do you do that? Well, first of all, if you are engaged in activities, school, sport, relationship etc, where you experience a win, you should be very careful about allowing yourself to experience huge peaks in dopamine unless you’re willing to suffer the crash that follows and waiting a period of time for it to come back up.

What would this look like in the practical sense? Well, let’s say you’re somebody who kind of likes exercise but forces yourself to do it, but you make it pleasureful by giving yourself your favourite cup of coffee first, or maybe taking a pre-workout drink, or taking an energy drink, or listening to your favourite music. And then you’re in the gym and you’re listening to music, that all sounds great, right? Well, it is great except that by laying together all these things to try and achieve that dopamine release, and by getting a big peak in dopamine, you’re actually increasing the number of conditions required to achieve pleasure from that activity again.

And so there is a form of this where sometimes you do all the things that you love to get the optimal workout. You listen to your favourite music, you got your favourite time of day, you have a pre-workout drink if that’s your thing; you do all the things that give you that best experience of the workout for you. But there is also a version of this where sometimes you don’t do the dopamine-enhancing activities. You don’t ingest anything to increase your dopamine. You just do the exercise. You might think, “well, that sounds lame. I want to continue to enjoy exercising”. Ah, well, that’s exactly the point! If you want to maintain motivation for school, exercise, relationships or pursuits of any duration in kind, the key thing is to make sure that the peak in dopamine, if it’s very high, doesn’t occur too often. And if something that does occur very often that you vary how much dopamine you experience with each engagement in that activity.

The reason why I can’t give a very specific protocol, like delete dopamine or lower dopamine every third time, is that that wouldn’t be intermittent. The whole basis of intermittent reinforcement is that you don’t really have a specific schedule of when dopamine is going to be high, and when dopamine is going to be low. That’s a predictable schedule, not a random intermittent schedule. So do like the casinos do, it certainly works for them, and for activities that you would like to continue to engage in overtime, whatever those happen to be, start paying attention to the amount of dopamine and excitement and pleasure that you achieve with those, and start modulating that somewhat at random. There are a lot of different ways to do this.

For those of you that are begging for more specificity, we can give you a tool. One would be, you can flip a coin before engaging in any of these types of activities and decide whether or not you are going to allow other dopamine-supportive elements to go, for instance, into the gym with you. Are you going to listen to music or not? If you enjoy listening to music, well then flip a coin, and if it comes up heads, bring the music in, and if it comes up tails, don’t. It sounds like you’re undercutting your own progress, but actually, you are serving your own progress, both short-term and long-term, by doing that.


It’s extremely common nowadays to see people texting and taking selfies and communicating in various ways, listening to podcasts, listening to music, and doing all sorts of things while they engage in other activities. That’s all wonderful, it gives depth and richness and colour to life, but it isn’t just about our distracted nature when we’re engaging with the phone, it’s also a way of layering in dopamine. And it’s no surprise that levels of depression and lack of motivation are really on the increase.

I know this is a hard one for many people, but I do invite you to try removing multiple sources of dopamine release, or what used to be multiple sources of dopamine release, from activities that you want to continue to enjoy or that you want to enjoy more.


Hard work is hard. Generally, most people don’t like working hard. Some people do, but most people work hard in order to achieve some end goals. End goals are terrific, and rewards are terrific, whether or not they are monetary, social or any kind. However, because of the way that dopamine relates to our perception of time, working hard at something for the sake of a reward that comes afterwards can make the hard work much more challenging and make us much less likely to lean into hard work in the future.

Let me give a couple of examples by way of data and experiments. There’s a classic experiment done at Stanford many years ago in which children in nursery school and kindergarten drew pictures, and they drew pictures cause they like to draw. The researchers took kids that liked to draw, and started giving them a reward for drawing. The reward generally was a gold star or something that a young child would find rewarding. Then they stopped giving them the gold star. And what they found is the children had a much lower tendency to draw on their own. No reward. Now, remember this was an activity that prior to receiving a reward, the children intrinsically enjoyed to do, no one was telling them to draw. What this relates to is so-called intrinsic versus extrinsic reinforcement. When we receive rewards, even if we give ourselves rewards for something, we tend to associate less pleasure with the actual activity itself that evoked the reward.

This doesn’t mean all rewards of all kinds are bad, but it’s also important to understand that dopamine controls our perception of time. When and how much dopamine we experience is the way that we carve up what we call our experience of time. When we engage in an activity, let’s say school or hard work of any kind, or exercise because of the reward we are going to give ourselves a receive at the end, the trophy, the meal, whatever it happens to be. We actually are extending the time bin over which we are analysing or perceiving that experience. And because the reward comes at the end, we start to dissociate the neural circuits for dopamine reward that would have normally been active during the activity. And because it all arrives at the end over time, we have the experience of less and less pleasure from that particular activity while we’re doing it.

The striving to be better, this mindset of “I’m not there yet”, but striving itself is the end goal. And that delivers a tremendous performance. And all of us can cultivate a growth mindset. The neural mechanism of cultivating growth mindset involves learning to access the rewards from effort and doing.

If you say “Oh, I’m going to do this very hard thing, and I’m going to push and push and push for that end goal that comes later”, not only you enjoy the process of what you’re doing less, you actually make it more painful while you’re engaging in it, you make yourself less efficient at it, and also undermining your ability to lean back into that activity the next time. The next time you need twice as much coffee and four times as much energy drink just to get out the door in order to do the run or to study.

So what’s more beneficial, in fact, it can serve as a tremendous amplifier on all endeavours that you engage in, is to not start layering in other sources of dopamine in order to get to the starting line, but rather to subjectively start to attach the feeling of friction and effort to an internally generated reward system. The ability to access this pleasure from the effort aspect of our dopaminergic circuitry is without question the most powerful aspect of dopamine and our biology of dopamine.

Don’t spike dopamine prior to engaging in effort, and don’t spike dopamine after engaging in effort, learn to spike your dopamine from the effort itself.

Knowledge of knowledge can help our forebrain with getting a reward from the process itself. And that’s the beauty of these dopamine circuits. It’s not just attached to the more primitive behaviours of food, sex, heat etc., it’s also attached to the things that we decide are good for us and are important for us. So telling yourself that exercise or fasting or studying or listening better or any kind of behaviour is good for you will actually reinforce the extent to which it is good for you at a chemical level.

Social connections

Social connections, close social connections, in particular, evoke oxytocin release. Those are the romantic type, parent-child type, and friendship related. And oxytocin release is central to stimulating the dopamine pathways. So the take-home message here is quite simple: engage is pursuing quality, healthy social interactions.

6-Hour Mix 2023

As I’m sure you know, I like to blend musical genres and play long sets. Very long sets. October’s Open To Close event was cancelled, but the desire hasn’t gone away.

So I decided to give you a little surprise: I recorded a 6-hour mix as if I were playing it in a club. Of course, the live experience would have been different, but nevertheless, I tried to embody this very sense of progression through styles, tempos, and moods. Expect some deep house, groovy house, tech house, trance, techno-trance, techno and whatnot.

Anyway, enjoy, listen, and share:

0:00:00 DP-6 — Cicada Moon (Original Mix) DP-6 Records
0:06:14 Anthony Pappa, Jamie Stevens — Here We Go (Original Mix) Selador
0:10:37 Matt Lange, Kerry Leva — Inverse (Original Mix) Anjunadeep
0:14:45 Dosem — Black Unicorn (Original Mix) Tronic
0:19:23 Dosem — Become One (Original Mix) Tronic
0:24:02 Eelke Kleijn — Welcome To Orion (Original Mix) Terminal M
0:27:55 Enzo Tucci, Michel de Hey, Richard Cleber — Point Of No Return (Original Mix) Hey Records
0:31:16 Elias Erium — Keep In Touch (Original Mix) Aletheia Recordings
0:37:11 Elias Erium — Spearhead (Original Mix) Phenomena
0:41:50 La Roux — In For The Kill (Simon Doty Remix) Not On Label
0:47:05 Amir Hussain — Scarlett (Original Mix) JOOF Aura
0:50:40 Simon Doty — Tellin Me (Extended Mix) Anjunadeep
0:54:00 Simon Doty — Trance Tool (Extended Mix) Anjunadeep
0:59:38 Hoten — Mana (Dilby Remix) 43 Degrees Records
1:04:12 Deetron — Starblazer (Original Mix) Rejected
1:08:47 Stacey Pullen — Feel It (Original Mix) Factory 93 Records
1:11:49 Misstress Barbara — Don’t Tease Me (Original Mix) Intec
1:15:30 DJ Jock — Raw Love (Original Mix) Intec
1:20:12 Spektre — Skuz (Original Club Mix) Toolroom Records
1:23:30 Tom Hades — Vocalismo (Kalden Bess Remix) Rhythm Converted
1:27:33 Alex Dolby, Santos — Raw Road (Carlo Lio Remix) Rawthentic Music
1:32:20 Nicole Moudaber — Move A Little Closer (Original Mix) Mood
1:36:07 Rick Pier O’Neil — Rool Into The World (Part 1) JOOF Recordings
1:41:01 Grum — Price Of Love (Extended Mix) Anjunabeats
1:45:18 Gallago — Astral Plain (Original Mix) 10 Steps North
1:50:45 Dulcet — Subside (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
1:54:49 Paride Saraceni — Dissolute (Original Mix) Snatch Records
1:59:04 Artwerk, ShiShi, Tone Troy — Yesterday (Extended Mix) Toolroom Records
2:03:34 Joe Mesmar — Felix Ano Nuevo (Original Mix) Toolroom Records
2:05:34 Maroto & Bosco — Dune (Gabriel D’Or & Bordoy Remix) Selected Records
2:10:02 Alex Raider, Leo Lippolis — Cryptic (Original Mix) Kaleydo Beats
2:15:15 Nicole Moudaber, Victor Calderone — The Journey Begins (Original Mix) Drumcode
2:19:43 Shaun Mauren — My Dream (Eric Sneo Remix) Naked Lunch
2:24:12 Sama — It’s Not Fair (Axel Karakasis Remix) He-Art
2:29:10 Clint Stewart — Breathe (Timmo Rework) Terminal M
2:34:27 Ivanshee — Orbital Throb (Alessandro Spaiani Remix) JOOF Aura
2:38:06 Hell Driver — Lost Signal (Dulcet Remix) JOOF Aura
2:42:19 Victor Ruiz — Surrender (Extended Mix) Factory 93 Records
2:47:17 Khainz, Marcus Meinhardt — Caribic Royal (Bart Skils Remix) Whatitplay
2:50:30 Eric Sneo — Go (Original Mix) Beatdisaster
2:54:50 Don Ruijgrok, Mike Scolari — Amendment (Original Mix) Drowne Records
2:58:49 Armystrial — Fire (Eric Sneo Remix) Trial Records
3:03:31 Loco & Jam — Back To The Warehouse (Original Mix) Arcane Music
3:07:30 Daniel Lesden — A Train Into Darkness (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
3:12:12 Sven Vath — Metal Master Spectrum (Bart Skils & Weska Reinterpretation) Cocoon Recordings
3:16:55 Alessandro Spaiani — Revenge (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
3:20:53 Daniel Lesden — Binary Star (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
3:25:49 Eric Sneo — Mine (2021 Remastered) Remain Records
3:29:38 MicroCheep, Mollo — Massive Dynamics (Original Mix) iDark Records
3:33:33 DJ Dextro — FoxP2 (Original Mix) Dolma Records
3:36:13 Pig&Dan — Trauma (Original Mix) Cocoon Recordings
3:40:49 Alex Stein — Rise (Original Mix) Terminal M
3:44:29 Drunken Kong — Dark Moon (Original Mix) Terminal M
3:49:31 Jam & Spoon — Odyssey To Anyoona (Wehbba Remix) Black Hole Recordings
3:54:44 Bobina — Slow (Cosmonaut Remix) Not On Label
3:58:59 Drunken Kong — Focus (Original Mix) Tronic
4:03:06 Christian Smith — Atmosphere (Original Mix) Tronic
4:06:23 Eric Sneo — Deep In The Clubs (Remastered) Beatdisaster
4:08:59 Alexander Kowalski — Hot Spot (The Advent’s Bitch For The Night Remix) Kanzleramt
4:12:52 Sharpside — Space Cruising (Wehbba Remake) Rotation Records
4:16:59 Alexey Kotlyar — Funky Emotions (Original Mix) Guilhotina
4:20:43 Gaetano Parisio — Outset (Deetron Remix) Conform Records
4:23:58 Gaetano Parisio — Nysa (Original Mix) Conform Records
4:27:40 M.I.T.A. — A Soul From Chicago (Original Mix)
4:30:27 Goncalo M — Unidirectional Interstellar Reflex (Original Mix) Resilient Recordings
4:34:07 Keith Carnal — Consumer Products (Original Mix) Second Degree
4:36:51 Noir — Erupt 2.0 (Original Mix) Noir Music
4:40:10 Dubiosity, Pjotr G — Cataclysm (Original Mix) Lateral Fragments
4:43:45 Arjun Vagale — Time Cop (Original Mix) Quartz Rec
4:46:32 Regent — Light Of Opia (Original Mix) Arts
4:49:27 Axel Karakasis — Flaccid Tantrums (Original Mix) Remain Records
4:53:07 Axel Karakasis — Dark South (Original Mix) Remain Records
4:56:46 Deas — Isolation (Original Mix) Arts
5:00:55 A Paul, DJ Dextro — Black Rainbow (Original Mix) Naked Lunch
5:03:53 MZDZ — Syncretism (Original Mix) Default Series
5:06:38 Spektre — Love Never Ends (Extended Mix) Factory 93 Records
5:10:58 Procombo — Gold Spark (Original Mix) Tronic
5:14:35 Keith Carnal — FreizeitAktivitat (Original Mix) Bpitch
5:17:26 Axel Karakasis — Day Zero (Original Mix) Remain Records
5:20:37 M.I.T.A. — Dusty (Original Mix) Tronic
5:24:14 Trudge — Voltage (Original Mix) Raw Label
5:24:43 Trudge — Unghosted (Original Mix) Lobster Theremin
5:32:15 Obscure Shape, Shdw — Die Verurteilten (Original Mix) The Third Room
5:34:15 Resonance — Note To Myself (Original Mix) Carceres Records
5:39:14 Aethernal — Vergil (Original Mix) Vitus’ Curse
5:41:26 Fractions — Daytona (Original Mix) Monnom Black
5:35:38 Anne Clark — Our Darkness (Charly Schaller Edit) The Techno’s Children
5:48:03 Chris Liberator, Dave The Drummer — Twinkle Toes (Original Mix) Hydraulix
5:51:35 D Dan — Post Kyiv (Original Mix) Standard Deviation
5:54:40 Talfelt — Troffea (Original Mix) Vitus’ Curse
5:59:05 E-Tronic — The Glass House (Original Mix) JOOF Recordings
6:02:55 Funk D’Void — Diabla (Heavenly Mix) Soma Records

Gigs and drinking

In the music industry, drinking is considered the norm among professionals. “To get into the right mood” and “to be on the same page with the crowd”, as they say. Beer, whisky, vodka and champagne are often found in dressing rooms, and artists usually don’t mind a drink.

I have an explicit opinion about it. The DJ is like the captain of a ship. He sets the direction and is in charge of the crew. If the captain is drunk, can’t say two words and has no control over his actions, then such a ship won’t get very far. That’s why I think drinking at a gig is irresponsible and unprofessional. Alas, in my practice, I have witnessed many such cases. After the set – sure, but not before and especially not during the set.

I have no problems with alcoholic drinks as a thing, it’s not a taboo. I don’t mind having a pint when I’m in friendly company and not on duty. However, I never allow myself to drink at gigs, and my touring rider includes just plain water and energy drinks.

Hopefully, one day the phrase “drunk DJ” will become as wild as a “drunk driver” rather than the norm.

Performing at Izvestia Hall in December 2018. I drink water while sitting down to avoid accidentally spilling it on the equipment
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