12:00pm PT by Patrick Chamberlain
Inside L.A.'s Dubspot, Where Aspiring DJs and Producers Learn That Sharing Is Caring
Founded in 2006 in New York City, Dubspot has already established itself as an internationally recognized mecca for electronic music production and DJ instruction. Its ascent is due in part thanks to accessibility, a community-based philosophy and an internationally sourced cadre of instructors that includes Harvard grads, Grammy nominees and DMC champions alike — all in the thick of their careers and aware of the breakneck pace at which today's musicians must function.
At the core of Dubspot are two key individuals: director of education Michele Darling and the ubiquitous Thavius Beck, an iconically afro'ed multi-instrumentalist who has worked with everyone from Saul Williams to Nine Inch Nails while becoming an early onset elder statesman of the Los Angeles underground music scene. Earlier this year, the duo headed up operations as Dubspot nestled into a new space in Hollywood. It's a big move for the organization, but their mission is driven by more than just expansion of enterprise — as they look to the world, they're also going hyper-local.
"Dubspot has so much energy in New York, but even in the past three years, I've seen it become more global," explains Darling. "The reach was really from the online presence, the tutorials, the articles. Pretty much when you ask most students that come in, 'Where did you hear about us?' they say YouTube and Thavius' tutorials."
Indeed, poking around Dubspot's YouTube page, touted as "The World's Music School," some of their production tutorials on platforms such as Ableton, Logic, Maschine and trusty turntables have upward of 100,000 views.
So now that the project has gone digitally viral, why pick a brick-and-mortar expansion to Los Angeles? A lot of it has to do with Thavius Beck's long-standing history there — he's been intertwined with the emerging sounds and scenes of L.A. since before they officially existed.
"I moved here in '96, when I was 16, and I've been making music ever since," explains Beck, before name-checking J Dilla, Madlib, the entire Low End Theory posse and particularly Flying Lotus as pivotal agents in crafting what is now an essential node in the space between hip-hop and electronic music. "Now all these eyes are on L.A. because there are big names associated with what's been going on here for years," he continues. "A lot of these people who are doing big stuff have known me for years. I gave Flying Lotus one of his first Ableton lessons, so I've been able to see this from a birds-eye perspective."
Whereas competitors fashion themselves as trade schools by churning out graduating classes of technically proficient, generally uninspired craftsmen, Dubspot feels like an art school with dashes of social science academy peppered in. This is by design. "It's not painting by numbers," says Beck. "It's not trying to fit into this formula and be the next version of someone else who's already popular. What we want to do is enable people to create a sound that the world will gravitate toward because it's so unique and different."
Beck continues: "I'm looking at this, like, 10 or 20 years down the road and seeing what it could possibly be. What I've seen in L.A. — and I'd like for Dubspot to help break the trend — is once people feel like they've gotten their little success, that they've found a little corner of the market, they don't want to share that with anyone because they're so afraid someone will take what they've established. I think there's enough room for everybody to be creative and do their own thing. Because, if you know you're doing something that's truly and uniquely you, no one can do that, no matter how closely they mirror or imitate what you're doing."
It might seem simple, but the Dubspot philosophy is a paradigm shift, one that champions more than just technique in production. "For me, having Dubspot come out here makes perfect sense," says Beck. "This is the beginning of a very strong network of really creative and positive people that want to empower each other."