In light of recent challenges to various dance music performers’ abilities (term used lightly, see Why old-school DJs are complaining), it has been demonstrated that there is still quite a bit of misunderstanding as to what a DJ does, should do, and how to tell the difference between the skilled and unskilled. I think this merits a bit of examination, as do these topics when applied to producers.
The good, the bad, the jukebox
Some argue that all a DJ need do is play whatever the crowd wants and make them dance. This view is clearly held by certain groups, who say, buy bottle service and feel DJs like Mark Farina, Dennis Ferrer, and
Calvin Harris should be thrown off the decks when they don’t hear what they want, when they want and how they want. Let’s call this crowd the ‘crybaby douchebag’ group for short. Crybaby douchebags consider the DJ their personal jukebox. There are plenty of DJs that make a living as a jukebox, focusing on playing the top hits and playing requests, I have nothing against them personally, but let’s keep the perspective clear. As this action can be fully automated by a mechanized jukebox, this brand of DJ really is at the bottom of the artistic spectrum. In fact, being a living jukebox can hardly be considered a DJ in the modern sense, but for sake of argument we can call this a DJ by technical standards, or ‘jukebox’ for short. Crybaby douchebags generally have this definition in mind when they think of the word DJ.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is much more artistry and creativity involved. At the artistic top end, DJs can really be considered musicians, live remixers, and live producers as they take sounds, layer them, program them, and present them in such a way that it becomes something entirely new from the original pieces used. The original songs are used like instruments in a orchestra, they cease to be ‘just playing other people’s music’. They can take a song and make it a hit, they can take noises and turn it into music, they can make you dance when they want to, and make you stop and think when they want to. There is often a message and a purposeful idea in their sound, there is a creation of a new song by connecting disconnected pieces. DJs on this end of the spectrum are artists.
Now I know there is a natural tendency to cry out that art is subjective. Yes, there is quite a bit of subjectivity, mostly on the receiver’s end in terms of whether you like it or not. There is however, quite a bit of objectivity as well. For example, you can’t drop a book on the ground and call it a painting. Nor could you call yourself an artist after filling in a paint by numbers piece, or in DJ terms, playing a pre-recorded set that was put together using computer automation to arrange and mix it for you. There has to be a certain amount of manual labor, purpose, effort, and representation for something to be considered art. I know a lot of people are going to cry about how I am professing an anti-technology stance and I’m not keep up with the times, blah blah. I am not anti-tech, I embrace it, I use it, but I use it to enhance my art, not to increase convenience. I am anti-convenience at the price of artistic vision and intent. That isn’t to say that tech can’t create new opportunities for artistic expression, but like I always ask, are you pressing start or creating art? Are you just playing other people’s music, or are you re-imagining it and creating something new with purpose and a message?
There are a lot of elements that come into play between the spectrum of jukebox and artist, each having a different level of value based on its difficulty to perform manually and live. For example, beat matching is an element of the art, but of lesser value than say, beat-juggling which requires much more effort and skill to do well. Good programming is essential for an artistic DJ, but pre-programming a set is of less value than being able to program on the fly and adapt to the moods of the crowd in front of you. A good place to start when you are evaluating where in the artistic spectrum a DJ is, is to ask yourself, are they creating something new with the songs/sounds they are playing and are they doing it themselves or is it automated? A DJ that does live what a DJ does automated or pre-programmed, is just artistically better. Now if you don’t care about art, just money, then none of this need apply to you. But believe it or not, there are a lot of people that care about art over money. I also think people should be rewarded for the pursuit of art over the pursuit of money (see Hate vs Education). What would you rather pay for, the paint by numbers piece or for the same (or even a lesser) dollar amount get an original piece of art?
Not all producers are artists
Just as there has been a recent saturation of DJs, so has there been of people creating dance music. Just as there is a spectrum of artistic value for DJs, there is also one for producers, in fact they share many of the same elements. A producer on the bottom end of the spectrum takes pre-made loops, samples, and synth presets, slaps them together and calls it a song when really it is more of an extended loop. We can call these ‘drag and drop producers’ for short. On the other end of the spectrum; thought, representation, structured pieces, carved sounds, layers, arrangement, purpose, original sounds and note composition are key elements of work found on the artistic end of the spectrum. These are ‘electronic musicians/artists’. Some of them even play traditional instruments, truly making them artists in a classical sense.
There is also a difference in artistic value between a producer that can make music in a studio and then play it for a crowd and a producer that can write music in a studio then perform it live. Certain producers may make crowd pleasing music in a studio, but others of a higher artistic caliber can please crowds while creating and performing that music live. Live, manual efforts that have a higher difficultly of skill to carry out and that are performed well always have higher artistic value than automated and pre-recorded efforts. Just because the masses like it doesn’t make it art, but to be fair, just because it’s art doesn’t mean people should like it.
And just to be especially clear on the matter, if you are creating a “mash-up” of two or more songs, don’t kid yourself into thinking you are a producer. At best you are a pre-recorded DJ which would put you near or even below the ranking of jukebox as you aren’t even doing the most basic of DJ tasks, mixing, live.
DJ vs Producer
There has also been some recent dialogue of some producers calling DJs middlemen, and DJs calling producers hacks and sellouts. The truth of the matter is that DJs and producers need each other. Producers make the music that DJs play; DJs help get that music to the people. There is a natural symbiosis, whether or not you are making and playing the music yourself.
Can’t we all just get along? No. Nor should we, DJs that pursue artistic goals should support producers that seek artistic goals and vice versa. Let’s all work to push the artistic end of the music spectrum further and further from the jukebox and the drag and drop end. Let’s make millions off of art, not convenience and hype. Let’s give the people something meaningful and beautiful and not just fill their lives with more and more inferior products led by profit margins. Art over convenience. Let’s be amazing together.
Do your homework
If you are still skeptical that DJs are or can be artists, check out any one of these guys (keeping in mind this is a very short and incomplete list of artistic DJs, in no particular order) and compare them to your average top 40 jukebox:
Norman Cook/Fat Boy Slim
Armin van Buuren
And countless other artists.
93 thoughts on “Are DJs artists?”
way to write it all out for people, most people just like to talk to hear themselves so they voice their opinion about the small music world they live in. its the old teenager having it all figured out syndrome. If you talk to the dj’s that have been in the game since the beginning and are still doing it you will find the answers you are looking for. Seems that Sean Ray has a good handle on it. Cheers
What a fantastic piece concerning another on-going debate both within and outside the electronic dance music industry. Thank you.
Now I know you say your list of artistic DJs is short and incomplete and in no way do I wish sound fastidious by replying on this point. You have some great examples in the list and I agree with them all, however I do feel there is one more important name to be included as he is one of the finest examples of a DJ as an artist. His mastery, skill and creativity on the decks (CDJ1000’s) were recognised by Pioneer themselves and as a result his collaboration with the company has helped develop Pioneer’s CDJ’s, mixers and effects units into what they are today. This contribution has made it possible for all DJs to expand their creativity and artistry far beyond what we thought possible ten years ago. Anyone watching him mix cannot help but be amazed and awestruck at his skill and ability to push the limits of the technology available to us now in such a creative way, as well as fulfilling the other important roles of a good DJ; reading the crowd, introducing them to new music (education) and importantly, making everyone dance. He truly does represent the DJ as an artist. His name: James Zabiela.
And thank you again Sean, your blog is outstanding.
Legend? Nobody heard of him until 2008. Good, but not one of those on the list.
“DJ’s can be Artists, we use music to paint a picture of sound, In my case that is true, also I am literally an Artist. I almost all the photography and graphic arts for my mixcloud sets. I am also a fine artist using acrylic and enamel on canvas. Check out my latest set ” – Dj Mr Swotch – https://www.mixcloud.com/djmrswotch/
well said, Zabiela is a legend!
I agree, Zabiela is insane! Never seen someone work the CDJs like him. Another great one is James Holden. And a new comer, he doen’t use CDJs is 100% gear and ableton, but all Live is this guy Saytek, Check him out.
Saytek was a great discovery.. Thanks!
This… is.. amazing. It calls out on all points, of all POV’s. I myself, am in the middle of this spectrum. I DJ, using only CDJs, a mixer, and a pair of headphones. Don’t even own a laptop. I don’t hate on the new technology due to the fact i’ve gotten down to several sets pre-programmed. It’s a VERY valid point and something that has been forgotten when you say DJs and producers NEED eachother. It used to be that way, and it SHOULD still be that way. VERY well written article, needs to be shared all over the DJ/Producer community.
R2DJ? Kashmir? Plasticman? You may want to proofread before posting a rant, because these kinds of mistakes negate your argument.
Maybe you’re not familiar with Richie Hawtin, Plastikman who always performed “live dj sets” that included efx boxes, synthesizers, drum machines and samplers as well as traditional dj gear. He even came out with an album called “Decks Fx and 909” that was a landmark album in techno as well as showed what one person can do with a few simple machines and dj gear. He actually went on to help create gear with Native Instruments. Green Velvet is a living legend. Maybe you should do some homework on these and the rest of the artists before you slam any of them.
He was refering to the spelling mistakes silly
This is a great article. The definition of what truly defines a ‘DJ’ has changed drastically and has allowed for many to falsely claim allegiance to an art form that they have in no way contributed to. That being said, a true DJ is most definitely an artist.
A dj is an artist to a certain extent. It does require creativity and improv skills, but siply mixing from one track to the next does not an artist make. Using newer technology and doing live remixes and live p.a.’s is something entirely different. Just because one owns dj gear does not automatically make them an “electronic artist”.
+10 for including Doc Martin in your list
Biggest calf muscles on any human being.. Fact.
One of the best!
fantastic article!..bravo..however, your list is absolutley not complete without legends Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier, D.J.P & Mix Master Mike..and yes i know, the list goes on and on 😉
Bots (from Dragon Ash/Steady & Co.)
Japan’s finest exports, and I do know you mentioned it was not all inclusive, but should be in that list.
Can’t believe you put Calvin Harris in the same class as Dennis Ferrer and Mark Farina. He was also never kicked off the decks at Tryst:
The meme you posted about vinyl versus mp3, etc. is fully ridiculous. Half the people bitching about mp3s to vinyl would never recognize the difference in quality. Despite that and other incidents of bias, a lot of your points are true and I agree with you.
Also, I definitely take Steve Angello’s side in that little twitter feud. If you’re feeling so self-righteous how about you man up and say what you have to say in person? Embarrassing.
you are a fucking idiot!!!
actually, the most idiotic thing on this whole page is your comment that says: “you are a fucking idiot!!!”. of course Steve Angello is embarrassing, but i’m still not sure if you meant him specifically or if that’s just your general way of communicating, little insignificant “chris” kiddie…
I must fall squarely in the other ‘half’ of people ‘bitching’ about mp3s vs. vinyl, because the fidelity difference and audible quality of vinyl is utterly recognizable. Always have a good laugh at the asshats who look entirely dismayed at hearing how completely louder/clearer/cleaner the sound system is when I drop my first platter after their mushed-filled-arm waving-wankery set of mp3s. Even at the best of bit rates and properly tuned systems, an mp3 will always fail miserably to vinyl. Also, what chris said.
lol, probably in a scientific test setup with all participants wearing headphones.
but really, all i can read in your comment is the classic idiot argument:
mp3 = waving wankers. vinyl = awesome deep dude… seriously? is that your line of reasoning? why don’t you please post one of your totally awesome vinyl mixes! i think only then we can measure the magnitude of your über-skills.
What you obviously forget is that vinyl will lose quality after the 20 or so plays (also pending on tone arm weights). So unless you have a endless supply of fresh vinyl every time, than your all vinyl sets will actually sound worse than an mp3 set, cuz mp3 don’t lose quality after so many plays.
Here is Theo Parrish saying exactly what you just said!
I have no doubt that you will LOVE this feature, and that you should add theo parrish to your list.
Wow! Theo that was well said. Being a vinylist for many years and adapting to the tech(forceably). I was very saddened by the transition, but have come to use the tech to push my thinking to another level that I had no idea I could do. Admittedly, I have listners that say they miss the old “style” that was developed from vinyl playing and they soon realize after a set in the new technology that it’s a trade off. Meaning that what I was doing in one format in one way has transcended into a evolved paradigm that has less limitations and stretches my vision and creativity. Fortunately, or unfortunate for many, I came from the vinyl era and no matter what format I am in I am still think in that manner and I have the background to apply the new tech with the experience of the old. I mentor many jocks and the one point I repeat is that they must have one important skill to be a good dj and that is to have the ability to connect with the music and interprete it to an audience your musical viewpoint. I wish they could learn the skill from vinyl, but that is less likely to happen in the manner we learned it. They can buy it, play it, respect it, but never see its relevence in comparison to what they have as a tool now. They will never understand the principles behind understanding the construction in relation to what the physical handling of things taught us. I constantly argue a point you made. I would rather play in an alley bar for 200 on a intimate system than for thousands and loose the sound. This clip was very well edited and spoken. Much respect.
-Thommy Davis, Dj/Producer…music lover!
Track – “Teachers” Artist – Daft Punk
Thinking a dj who concentrates on dance is only a Jukebox and not an artist ignores the art of reading a crowd, entertaining them and moving them emotionally. They don’t have to request a song verbally. You will see it from their interaction with the music if it touches them. Music does not have to be underground or not popular. Dry read Shakespeare if you will, but the play’s the thing and for a DJ who concentrates on dance, the dance is the thing. A large crowd might have large diversity in taste and bringing people together on the dance floor, giving something to most everyone, looking at a person or a group and knowing what they want, well a machine just isn’t going to do that. There is art in that.
What about a producer who makes insanely good music, but isn’t the best DJ?
Shouldn’t he have the right to play shows of his own music even if he sets aren’t the most technical?
Yeah! No one is saying that producers shouldn’t be dj’s. That’s not it at all. If anything I’m all for producers NOT being dj’s and getting their lazy butts out there and actually perform their music as a live musician, instead of pressing play. I think being a “dj” is a cop out for a lot of producers that rely on technology to make their tunes, instead of actually learning to play an instrument.
But to give aproper response to your inquiry, if being a dj is the only way for a producer to get their music out there, than ya do what ya gotta do. A lot of top dj’s who aren’t producers suck live. Most actual mixing ability out there by “top dj’s” is absolutely deplorable. But if the tunes are right, than anything is ok, so it seems.
This is an interesting article but your first consideration of bottle service douchebags I think is way off.
Real good top 40 nightclub DJs play for the crowd and respond and react to what the like this is almos completely the opposite of a jukebox and most of the time your going to want to ignore requests since your job is reading the crowd and playing to them, not any one elses and this is very hard on its own.
Not a top 40 dj but agree. I have seen some amazing things done with top 40 music……….also some “blah” things done as well.
one of the best djs ive seen was in a bottle service club in London.. yeah the music was not of my taste and very commercial but to be able to read the crowd perfectly while mixing everything from house, deep, even throwing r&b in there WAS very creative.. in song choice and the way he was doing it. Scratching, cutting ect.. He hd a lot more skill then pretty much most of these so called djs out there who press sync on their S4s
I am sorry, but David Guetta and other “show pony” DJ’s are not creative…they are DJ’s with daddy issues. They don’t CREATE anything. No one can CREATE anything original anymore. It’s just how you recycle it. It’s how you “repackage” and “repolish” something old to make it new.
Want to impress someone, CREATE SOMETHING NEVER HEARD OF BEFORE! Stop using someone’s previously crafted work and make something up YOURSELF.
You and any other DJ on EARTH can’t do it. And won’t. Because there is no originality anymore. Sad to see it go…
Now we have buzzing, beeps, whoop whoops and we call it music? Come on man! Taking 15 sounds and “programming” it together and calling it music is retarded. That’s like taking 15 babies around 1 year old and sitting them in a group and expecting something intelligent to come out of their assembled mouths.
Create something new…I dare you…using your own stuff, no one elses music. Better yet, pick up an INSTRUMENT (yeah, a dirty word cause you don’t want to get your hands dirty by actually doing it YOURSELF) and create something the WORLD has NEVER heard before.
Then you have an argument.
COULDNT HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF!
you dont get electronic music at all
Instruments only make sounds. Some have pitch, some do not. Some have the ability to sustain a pitch, some do not…
The creation of sound into something that can be referred to as music is a tough debate.
i honor your commenting-effort, but… yaawwwnnnnn… 🙂
Though you did kind of miss something important about mashups. Truly, there is something very artistic about combining two totally different songs and making it unique and personal. Im not tht great with words but there are alot of truly great and unique mashups that need to be respected and appreciated.
I agree. Making a mash up is a skill in it’s own right. However, it does not make the person a music “producer” by doing so. Mash ups are just fun little things that make a set unique. People who sell mash ups always crack me up, cuz they’re so disposable. It’s rare to come by a mash up that is as incredible as the tunes it blends. Most mash ups are of artists no one knows of or has heard to death.
gotta say….dj magic mike has influenced more truly artistic dj’s than just about anyone i can think of and he did it long before most of the dj’s you listed even heard or realized what a truly talented dj does and he put out numerous gold records with zero to no radio or media support…just good old fashioned word of mouth. started listening to him in 89 and was fasinated by the art of mixing, scratching and warping sounds forever….all things aside i truly agree with this dissection of our industry and appreciate the time you took to write this:)
Respect for Dj Magic Mike. Dude was greatness.
Funny to see how far the original image I created has spread. I made it for this slightly different story on skratchworx: http://www.djworx.com/skratchworx/newspage.php?p=archive&fn_mode=comments&fn_id=1493
We have a similar argument with classical musicians… but about performers and composers (or more modern with songwriters and bands).
I love dj dimsa! Guido P! soul seo! My first dj I’ve ever enjoyed was Frankie Bones’ Factory 101, it was pretty good, then I’ve moved to soulful house, jazzy house, and deep house. Miguel migs’ very cool as well. Just like I like pancake, you don’t have to like those things. Miles Davis is very cool.
great article. though i wish you would have included ‘andy c’ on the list. man is amazing. the way he combines the elements of two different tracks and creates a whole new track is pure magic. big ups!
This is a ridiculous article. All this article does is attack Top 40/club DJs to enable your brand of DJaying. Shut up.
No, this article just calls out dj’s that don’t possess and use the skills a TRUE dj should. If you love the art of djing, wouldn’t you try to learn every aspect of it instead of taking shortcuts so you can jump around and wave your arms?
Great article, but I disagree about the producer dj relationship. Good producers (which there are a lot of) cultivate a certain sound with their productions, which I think earns the right to play out their tracks and others that fit in with their aesthetic due the the following (and demand) they have garnered. And not to hate on DJing but I’m sure any seasoned producer could learn how to dj passably in 6 months with the right attitude and practice (I mean, hell, even Skrillex has now been seen playing sets with CDJ’s and a mixer).
And are we still hating on David Guetta as a DJ? I don’t even see him as a DJ anymore, he can pretty much be lumped together with the pop stars now, his performances are pretty much like Brittany Spears lip syncing during her concerts.
nice article, but the whole vinyl versus mp3 issue is soooo tiring… i used to do vinyl in the past but now i’m absolutely digital. the stuff you can do digitally kinda fills the gap between just mixing records and making music in the studio. every argument against digital is either religious, by people unable to master it or simply by idiots. the point against digital is always painting a picture of a totally skill-less idiot that let’s the machine do the work. such a lame argument.
let’s face it: after you remove everything congruent from the two (like having a tasty set, being able to rock the crowd blabla…) all that remains with vinyl is beatmatching… yawn. i’m not talking about “turntablism” or “jeff mills 4 deck wizardry” here, just about rockin a crowd for some hours. so if you’re a vinyl-taliban, then please state exactly what the benefits of vinyl are.
that would be “quality control”
as in, not everybody will try to be a DJ with just looks/hype/other b.s.
here we go… a non sensical answer using a non-sequitur based on the assumption that owning vinyl guarantees quality in some mystical way… a simplistic notion so old and popular now, that even “human jukeboxes” use it to “upvalue” their trade.
…next please. *yawn*
you should actually rename yourself into “vinyl-jihadist” since the “non” is somewhat misleading. “quality control”… brilliant.
“..even “human jukeboxes” use it to “upvalue” their trade”–that could be true. But i see way too many untalented, non-musical ones with silicones (but no ears)–more than half of them are not even musicians, let alone artists lol. Ehheeeeeverybody is a DJ now! hah! and they can be, as long as u own a mac and a few programs and look puuurrty.. 🙂 I mean what a JIP. It’s TOO EASY. That’s when the quality goes down–simple. The only upside to digital is u can travel lighter.
Sorry your ears are so shit.
proving my point exactly, “dudchops”… even if you tried really hard, you couldn’t come up with something that actually makes sense, is logically sound or whatever. thx actually.
At 3 or 4 in the morning, don’t drag me down with the small print!
I’d add BT. Classical background, cutting edge electronic music for almost twenty years, movie scores and more. Great article!
How I Play: BT Interview (2012): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeBrHamrleM&feature=share&list=PL6574B71B7CBABD0C
Full on Ferry Interview (2009): http://youtu.be/NhBT-ebZoAk
BT! LOL! seriously?
BT is such a bad ass. He really pushed the boundaries with edm and progressive dance!
I’d add BT. Classical background, cutting edge electronic music for almost twenty years, movie scores and more. Great article!
How I Play: BT Interview (2012): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeBrHamrleM&feature=share&list=PL6574B71B7CBABD0C
Full on Ferry Interview (2009): http://youtu.be/NhBT-ebZoAk
hey sugarpixie… somehow i’m having the feeling that during some of your sugar-rushes, you completely missed the topic of this page here… little reminder: it’s about DJs and not about “modern day trance mozarts” that give you anime eyes… just sayin’. i’m sure your cookies are awesome but… y’know… thx.
Hey Robbie, BT has been a dj for a very long time. He’s consistently been in the Mixmag top 100 for years. Get your facts right or keep looking like an idiot.
There is something seriously wrong when you have DJ’s (who don’t make music) claiming that they are some how more musical than Producers (who do make music) just because of how they perform live. I am an Ableton Producer/Controllerist, and there are a lot of misconceptions about what I do during a set. I had a DJ come up to me before my last show, look at my APC40 and say: “That’s nice, you don’t even have to Mix your tracks.” …..actually, you do. Using the Will Marshall Pro template enables you to mix your tracks in real time. starting with the highs and of course bringing the bass in last. The time I don’t spend worrying about beatmatching (because I warped tracks before hand) just contributes to me making a BETTER set, because I can focus on my live controllerism. By the way, controllerism and jamming effects live….CAN train wreck. You have to do it right to sound good.
Jeff Mills nuff said
Thats bad ass. Reminds me of Richie hawtin back in the day.
Hey, when you say R2DJ, do you mean RJD2?
That’s the third time I’ve fixed it, hopefully it will stay that way this time (DYAC)
There is often quite a huge difference between Wav and Mp3 tracks, and some of the audience are going to hear it.
Wav or Aiff files just sound a lot warmer, deeper. Sure, I love the sound of vinyl, the only reason I am talking about digital files is for the flexibility of options the format brings…
and so with that in mind, it seems important to mention that rather than the choice being … \’vinyl vs mp3\’, it could be a more balanced approach of using Wavs or Aiffs which really hold a lot more quality of sound.
Even if the Mp3 is 320kps, it is still one tenth of the size of a Wav or Aiff. Surely that should mean something. Mp3\’s have these series of ladder rungs and they \’guestimate\’ the audio spaces in between, whereas Wav and Aiff have a much more stable quality of audio information flow.
I played vinyl for years and still have an extensive vinyl collection. Headphones are fun. Turntables are fun. They’re fundamental. And on and on…
Consider, however, the fact that while we can bitch and piss and moan about an evolution in an art form – this is not new, by the way; please see film photo vs/ digital photo pissing match, electric guitars vs. acoustic…hell, you can go way back if you want and talk about the different scales that we use in music, if you like, and see that there were points in history at which certain scales were thought to be religiously heretical – anyway…while we can bitch and piss and moan about an evolution in art form, we can also choose to advance with it. Embracing something new doesn’t mean eschewing the old. This is a false dichotomy. Combine old and new. Bring decks and scratch. THAT is a truly unique dj skill and it is the sole remaining strength and province of the turntable. But seriously, stop bitching. Bitch, bitch, bitch…We’re mad because it’s unfair that DJ Dingleberry Dubstep never had to lug a flight case or learn how to beatmatch or key his records or whatever. Look at the fundamental rationale, though: “stuff was hard for me so it should be hard for the next generation.” How does that make sense? Most people listening to a set in a club or at a rave have no clue what’s going on anyway. They’re just there enjoying the music and I think as dj’s, we become so critical that we forget how to just enjoy the music ourselves. Just sit back and shut the fuck up. If you want to have a big dj circle jerk about how great X and Y are and what dicks A and M are, do it at home. DJ sets are crowds, not one cynical or even a small klatsch of cynical, obsessive music junkies. Stop bitching and just try to have a good time (unless someone really trainwrecks; then…feel free).
In my studio, I play vinyl with mp3’s (this does require headphones). When I play out, I play mp3’s. Exclusively. Without bulky, obnoxious, neck bending headphones. And internally with Serato. Visually. I do it because I feel that since the program mimics turntables and since I adjust the speeds and still manually beatmatch and all of those critical dj skills that we’re supposed to have and be using (which, by the way, are dwarfed by the awesome fact that monkeys have been taught to fly space shuttles…this while we talk about how fucking great it is that we can count to 16 or 32), that I don’t need to add the additional measure of another pitch fader, be it on a cd deck or a turntable. I can deliver the same set to a crowd out of my little computer and we can all still have quite a time. And I tell you what…you want to complain about it? Fine. But you know what? Crowds like it. And regardless of what you think dj’ing is about – and the majority of what I see here is extremely dj-centric – the most important aspect of dj’ing is playing a set that you like and that the crowd responds positively to. And that’s it.
Fuck the medium. It doesn’t matter. At all. The only thing that matters is the interaction between the dj and the crowd.
Having said all that, I will admit that I’m biased against prerecorded sets and programs that beatmatch for you, but this only because I had to learn myself. Other than that, there isn’t really a proper reason so even this, I have to let go. If someone rocks a crowd with a cd, fuck it. The crowd got their jollies and that’s what a dj’s job is. Period.
There is a DJ out there for everyone. You never want to begrudge anyone making a living. If people go in for that kinda thing – let em, who cares. I personally don’t get why people would want to pay top dollar to go listen to music that is already on their Ipods. I think the most important thing that differs a good DJ from a great DJ are their crate-digging skills. When I go see a DJ, I want to hear music I’ve never heard before. Great DJs are taste-makers. I’d also like to add Coldcut, Gilles Peterson, Boca 45, Fred Deakin, DJ Dexter and Kid Koala to the list.
When I go to an Art gallery – I go because I wish to see ‘art’ – i don’t wish to see the guy who put it on the wall, nor do i wish to pat him on the back for arranging it on the wall in a certain manner.
I also would not expect him to be called an artist – for ‘showing’ other peoples work.
Their only job is to make us aware of new music on their $2000 record players which are designed to ‘beatmatch’ – again, not a skill, its a machine specifically designed for the job.
‘The Emperors New Clothes’ is what DJ’s are to me. The crowd like yourselves keep cheering and David Guetta keeps waving his arms and claiming to be a genius by pressing play.
Having someone start with nothing – and produce something that gives joy – That’s creative, That’s skill, thats art.
Traktor from Native Intruments at least bridges the gap between a recording and an instrument/sampler. The whole point of digital music is that its accessible to everyone – its not bloody rocket science.
Real premixed USB dj’s
Terminator X, boyee!
Post reposted from an original shout out as performed by Flavor Flav.
People are not fool as well, if you’re a real passionate fan of techno, house etc Djing you realize when someone is just faking over the decks, and to be honest is very unrespectable and unconfortable to the listener once you notice
Love the way you describe it, laughing at how old the list of artists is!
Who’s Sean Ray? He just called me a living jukebox! How rude. Being a commercial dj, choosing which requests to play, how to mould them into a set without losing your crowd require skill, knowledge and experience. It is also,traditionally what a Disc Jockey does. You’ll be surprised how many commercial jocks have comparable mixing skills to some of the proper Djs referenced, only we can apply it over a wider range of styles, genres and tempos as required. Generally then, a pointless, narrow minded article, creating negative stereotypes and an unnecessary hierarchy out of DJs, producers and audiences when really it didn’t need to be said.
The issue at hand is art, not talent or skill. You can be talented and hardworking and still not be an artist.
Further, the type of music you play or the venues you play at are not the issue. The point of this article is to show that DJs can be artists if they are actually doing things (other than just pressing play or taking on a role of a glorified jukebox). If you mix live, have a vision of where the music should go, are creating something new and not just playing other people’s music, or hit the other qualities outlined then what is the issue? Why be offended? If you are just performing tasks that can be automated and replicated via software or mechanization, well then… are you really an artist? Again, you can be a good, talented DJ and still not be an artist.
Jeff mills should definitely be on that list seeing as you used his photo in the comparison.
That is a silly oversight, added.
Reblogged this on The Afrosoul Chronicles and commented:
A little off the beaten path for some who follow my blog, but art is art and music, especially Electronic music, is an artfrom I take very seriously…
but really you pin-pointed some real facts especially with that “extended loop” producer ish# and mofos should not try to replace real djs with live jukebox
Armin van Buuren? Pendulum? Really? OMG… Don’t compare that enormous shit with Jeff Mills, Dj Shadow, Derrick May, Carl Cox… Please.
This is a very interesting read. I began as a “DJ” DISC JOCKEY playing vinyl in the early 80’s as a mobile DJ then worked my way up to Club / Festival DJ up until 2002. I retired until 2014 and have now started getting to grips with using both vinyl (Technics original 1200’s)and digital format ( N.I TRACTOR). I work as a resident DJ for a local FM Radio station’s Saturday night Techno show and have just returned from playing 2 arenas at a festival in portugal. I have never considered myself to be the best or even wanted to be the best DJ but have always had a passion for dance tunes whether it be disco/soul/house/hardhouse/trance/techno/techhouse. I play the whole spectrum and aim to please the crowd. This arguement about NEW digital equipment being a cheating source to what we had to do 20 years ago will never stop and all DJ’s should respect every DJ’s wish as to how they want to play. I was also playing boat parties in Southampton with James Zabeila warming up well before he entered a competition and won an aprentiship with Sasha in the 90’s. This guy was given a huge step up the ladder and was at the time 17-18 a great age to tutor. He is now a superstar Artiste DJ and i am so pleased he made it big.
Bottom line: there are lazy DJs and there are lazy producers, and that shit should be called out. As for vinyl vs digital, all I can say is the quality of the music trumps format every time.