The “Not Your Jukebox” Rant

This page is meant to start a revolution, or rather work to put back right what has now gone wrong. People used to go to the clubs and raves to hear what they couldn’t hear anywhere else, to hear what WOULD be coming to radio, or maybe stay solely on the dance floor. The night life used to be the cutting edge, the musical frontier. Now it is often just a repetition of what you have been subjected to all day long.

Technology is awesome, it puts everything in the palms of our hands, instantly. It makes us masters of time and space and helps to instantly fulfill our every desires. But technology has also made us spoiled, lazy, isolated, and closed-minded. We expect to get, or in the case of music, hear whatever we want when we want. That is great when you are at home, at work, or in your car, but you should really relinquish your obsessive control freak behavior when you step on to the dance floor.

I understand you will go through withdrawals and might be uncomfortable for a moment. I know it is your favorite song, that is why you listened to it 30 times already today. Yes, yes I know you consider yourself quite the DJ and you have some really cool playlists. Yes, I know it is your birthday and that you brought everyone here. I am glad you informed me that no one is dancing to what is playing because no one likes it and of course you have impressed me with your musical knowledge of all the artists and songs you just requested and I know that you are stunned I don’t have or know about them all, but take a break from ruling every aspect of your kingdom for a couple hours and let someone else do the work.

I hereby challenge you all to open your minds, to let go of the song you have been listening to 30 times a day and accept that you may or may not hear it tonight. Open your minds and understand other perspectives of music and someone else’s interpretation of selection and order. Be on the cutting edge again and dance, dance, dance. DJ’s and musicians, I challenge you to say no to the crowd when they push you, work with them yes, but you are not a jukebox, don’t let them expect you to be. It screws us all.

I encourage you to post parties, music, and ideas that pertain to this revolution. Push forward creativity and open your minds to new experiences and be free. And quit giving the DJ crap.

You can join the revolution (in part) here:
Not Your Jukebox

3 thoughts on “The “Not Your Jukebox” Rant

  1. I agree with you that a DJ and a Jukebox are 2 separate things and that one should not be confused for the other. I want to go further to say to club owners that arranging and blending that music in an order so that patrons come back night after night (w/end after w/end) is what it is all about.

    The problem I have here is the fact that you want only ‘weathered’ DJs to have/play that music and that it must be exclusive to the clubs.

    DJ’ing like all other art-forms should be open to anyone that wishes to take up the challenge. Like for instance photography – anyone can buy all of the items used to take excellent pics, from the camera to the lightning… to the studio if needs be. The difference is that the truly gifted use their medium to tell a story.

    Digital DJing and the accessibility of things on the internet has allowed the average person to gain access to genres like Dutch House, remix artists like “Volkan Saki & Rockwell S” – using those gems to throw something into a set that can never be repeated on a radio station – or even a jukebox.

    Something that you seem to overlook is the fact that the art will live on long after we have gone and that DJing, just like any other artform, will always be influenced by newer technologies.

    I remember having to wait 3 days for prints to be developed before I could see the pictures taken with my camera. Should we go back there? OR should we move on?

  2. If you enjoy this, please feel free to post if you like. Enjoy!

    “What makes a great DJ?”
    by Jaze Wade

    De La Soul said it best; “Everybody wants to be a DJ.”

    Well, maybe not everybody, but
    as time goes by, I’ve found this closer and closer to the truth.
    Once upon a time, few could say with pride; “I’m a DJ!” 
    If you were able to say that, it was because it was a life investment for you in many aspects.

    I was proud to call myself a “DJ.”

    These days, I’m sure your friend or nephew, or perhaps even co-worker considers himself to be a DJ and promptly gave themselves a generic cool guy moniker like ‘DJ CD’ or out of original ideas, looked around the room for an idea….ummm….’DJ Lightswitch’ maybe or something like that, or a name that if they took time to Google it, they’d find is already a well-known/protected DJ name in use.

    Womp womp! Too funny.

    Did De La Soul have it right?

    I recently saw a ‘well-known’ Electronic Artist/DJ mix a dance set for a live crowd. 
    He didn’t even use headphones, which tells me it was not live but a pre-recorded mix. 
    ??
    No live ‘on the fly’ moments to be had at all, no spontaneity. Just EQing.
    “Look at me…I’m EQing!!”
    Wow!

    It reiterated to me that for many out there, the definition of a DJ has changed to;
    someone acting as a jukebox, hitting ‘play’ on a pre-recorded set and standing there twiddling knobs for no good reason. A performance of knob twisting, essentially.
    No tricks, no skills, no anything.
    Bonus DJ move: flailing their arms about like Paris Hilton.
    Yes…she’s a “DJ” too.
    Sigh.

    I digress…

    Let’s go back, boys and girls, 20 years. Back when I bought my first 1200s. Back when a DJ was a DJ.

    Vinyl records ruled and the thought of DJing with CDs was relatively unheard of. Actually, the thought of using CDs was mocked by most serious DJs.
    “Why replace the turntable and vinyl?
    You can’t recreate those elements of cool”, some would say. “Something organic to that combination.”

    You had two turntables and a mixer and had to save up to buy those. Vinyl dance records were roughly $2.00-$20.00 per 12inch.
    It was a major investment of finances. 
    DJ equipment was not cheapened for everyone’s budget either, so budget-wise, you had to be prepared to drop $2000-$3000 on a couple of Technics 1200 turntables, a rugged mixer and some decent needles/stylus.
    You had to REALLLLY WANT TO BE A DJ. 
    It was an exclusive club.

    These days, for $300 and for new DJs who don’t know better, the bpm counters and computer programs easily do most of the beat-matching/work for them. Tap out the tempo and voila!, but 20 years ago, If you called yourself a DJ, you had to learn to beat-match by ‘ear’….and strange as it may sound, even by ‘feel.’
    No trainwrecks were acceptable. 
    None!!
    I locked myself in a room for a year and didn’t come out until I could practically beat-match anything. 
    You didn’t even think about asking a club or party for a gig until you knew your stuff inside and out.
    It was an investment of time and dedication. You HAD to be good before you could give yourself the title of “DJ.” 
    You had to know how to mix beats and even read a crowd, to let the crowd’s energy dictate what music was being played next
    (a lost art since ‘turntablism’ is being replaced in the computer age under the guise of “progress.”)
    The DJ back then knew he worked for the crowd…..but had the right to put his own spin on it.
    These days DJs are like, “here you go crowd, I made this at home on Traktor. Time to loosen up the old
    knob-twisting fingers.” 

    Snooze. 

    ZZZzzz……

    (snort)

    I’m awake. I’m awake!

    When DJ equipment became inexpensive enough for the masses to easily obtain, DJs went from few…..to a ‘dime a dozen’, which made it more difficult for legitimate DJs to get work.
    It simply became a scenario of supply ‘overrunning’ the demand.

    Our friend, ‘DJ Lightswitch’ in full effect, yo.

    With leaps in technology and CDs becoming acceptable for DJ use, one no longer needed exclusive supplies like records, just simply a cd wallet or storage sticks.

    But again I ask, why ditch the original medium of vinyl and turntables?
    With those tools, it’s all about the skills. It’s the “proving ground.”

    All of that being said, skills are a good portion of the equation, however, the other ingredient that makes a great DJ is….
    (drum roll please) 
    you guessed it……..music. 

    For many modern DJs, when they want new music to play, they’ll simply click on over to their favorite EDM download site, i.e. Beatport, or hit up iTunes for the latest hit. Carefully eye-ing the “what’s hot” list.

    “I’ve just gotta have that track that Tiesto just played.” lol. “Just gotta.”

    Instant gratification for the masses is how I look at it. Not very original, which brings me to this:
    What I want to address last, but not least, is the lost art of ‘crate-digging.’ 
    Ah yes, the time-investment and quests for exclusive records that was simply REQUIRED of every DJ back in ‘tha day.’

    Many DJs today will never understand the joy of spending hours upon hours digging through crate after crate of dusty records only suddenly to find that one record that you know is out-of-print and nobody else has and you’ll be THE ONLY ONE anywhere around playing it in your set later. Wow. 
    It’s like finding gold. 
    No feeling like it in the world.

    I just love vinyl. 
    I love the smell of it. 
    I love the feel of it. 
    I love the sound of it.
    In my opinion, there’s just no replacement for it.

    In closing, btw thanks for indulging me this friendly rant, I seldom DJ much anymore. There’s no shortage of “DJ Coolguy” or “DJ Lightswitch” on each block to go around these days for everyone, but when I do a DJ mix, I only use vinyl & turntables, generally playing many music/records that are NOT available online for just any DJ or at the very least, haven’t been overplayed.

    Those records are my reward for hours of crate digging and perseverance.
    My return investment, if you will.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying technology and innovation are bad things, I’m simply saying it appears that the fundamentals can be lost amidst the progress, if we’re not careful.

    Stay true to the art.

    And who knows, ‘DJ Lightswitch’ might end up being the biggest, new thing out there.

    After 20 years as a DJ on the decks, here’s my two-cents 
    (take it or leave it):
    ‘Exclusive music’ makes a great DJ.
    Mixing ‘live’ like no one else does makes a great DJ.
    Being able to ‘read a crowd’ and being flexible with your selections makes a great DJ.
    Practice makes a great DJ.
    Being original makes a great DJ.

    Investment…..makes a great DJ!

    My old school DJs out there I’m sure would agree.

    So….here’s to all the DJs, 
    past, present and future! 

    Why not, right?

    De La Soul said it best; 
    “Everybody wants to be a DJ.”

    Jaze

    Wanna hear some pretty exclusive dance music on vinyl?
    Here’s an old DJ mix (breaks, house, electro, hard house) by me as Sw1RL, with records only, mixing on Technics 1200 turntables:
    -for your mobile device-
    Enjoy!

    http://m.soundcloud.com/jazewade/sw1rl-sample-lab-live-mix-1

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