When Brandon Hoffman started mixing music the summer before coming to Ohio State, he had no idea that in just a few short years, he would be trading his basement setup for the nightclubs of Spain.
“I was always really into electronic music and I just had a lot of time on my hands, so I took the initiative and I said, ‘I really want to learn how to DJ,’” said Hoffman, a fourth-year in finance. “So I self-taught myself how to DJ. I just looked up tutorials online on different DJ skills and I listened to a lot of DJ sets to figure out what worked well and what I could do to get better.”
Since then, Hoffman has partnered with Columbus-based concert promotion company Prime Social Group, and has performed at a variety of electronic dance music concerts and festivals under the stage name “DJ B-Hoff.”
Recently, Hoffman performed at a “silent disco” at Prime Social Group’s Halloween-themed EDM festival, HauntedFest, and opened for Chicago-based hip-hop artist Chance the Rapper at a Oct. 27 concert sponsored by the Ohio Union Activities Board.
“I hadn’t really played a hip-hop set before because I am usually all electronic,” Hoffman said of his opening set for Chance the Rapper. “It was really fun to see people moving to hip-hop and it was a packed house … It switched up things from what I am used to.”
Hoffman’s HauntedFest set stayed true to his electronic roots, but the “silent disco” format was something Hoffman said he had never experienced before.
Audience members at the silent disco were given headphones and could tune to two different stations, each playing a live set by a different DJ. Using a dial on the side of the headphones, listeners could craft their own personal music listening experience.
“You could see who (at the silent disco) was listening to which station based on the color (of the lights on the) headphones,” Hoffman said. “There were around 200 headphones, and when I looked out, about 195 out of the 200 were set to my station.
“Just seeing them all on my station was really powerful as an artist.”
The Baltimore, Md, native also performed at Prime Social Group’s 2014 AbroadFest, an EDM festival for students studying abroad that is annually hosted in Barcelona, Spain.
“We had been working with (Brandon) in Columbus and we knew what he was capable of in terms of getting people to come watch him perform,” said Mat Herbers, national director of marketing for Prime Social Group. “We knew he was going to pull people into the shows and we knew he was going to play a great set.”
Hoffman said his trip to Spain has greatly influenced how he approaches his performances, and he hopes to introduce these aspects into sets he plays for the Columbus EDM scene.
“I learned about different artists and different kinds of music and learned more techniques on how to open and close for shows,” he said. “And just reading the crowd … I learned a lot about that. I wasn’t playing for the typical people that I play for here, so I had to change up my style of music over there based on what they were enjoying and what they weren’t enjoying.”
Hoffman’s ability to cater his sets to the crowd dynamic is something that initially intrigued Prime Social Group, Herbers said.
“I think Brandon has a really knowledgeable sense of scene,” he said. “So when we were first working with him, we saw that the sets he was playing were really a great opening spot for headliners.”
David Kormos, a first-year in materials science and engineering, said he watched Hoffman’s Chance the Rapper performance, and agreed that the DJ was able to successfully energize the crowd as an opening act.
“He was good at pumping up the crowd, and he played good music,” he said.
Hoffman said he hopes that his audience leaves his shows having had a good time, even though his role in crafting the music sometimes goes unnoticed by the crowd.
“If the DJ is doing really well, the audience does not even know that there is a DJ … If people are really enjoying the music, they kind of forget that someone is crafting it. They just think that they are having a really good night and they are not really thinking about the music … until after,” he said. “(The audience) likes hearing good music and I like looking out and seeing them enjoying themselves. It is like a two-way street.”