2011 State Of The DJ Address

Three days ago my good friend Michael Serafini posted a self proclaimed “Rant” to Facebook. For those who don’t know, Michael is an amazing DJ, a resident of Boom Boom Room, proprietor of Gramaphone Records in Chicago and a strong proponent of vinyl and the classic DJ ethos. His post read…

“Most clubs do not pay their Djs anymore. We Djs have become promoters/party throwers and make our Living from the Door Charge. So is the $5 bucks at the door not worth Our talent?! Sick of people who make 5 times as much money as i do complaining about paying! You want to complain about it? Have the Club pay for you then!”

This post received 127 ‘Likes’ and 82 ‘Comments’ to date including supportive comments from people like Maurice Joshua, Boo Williams, Traxx and Glenn Underground as well as numerous other DJs, event producers and clubbers. While mostly touching on DJ income and the lack of interest audiences have in being a part of paying it, it really speaks to the many problems that are plaguing todays nightlife from modern technology to club management to mediocre sets. I started to write a comment in reply, but realized that it was far too in-depth for a Facebook post. Here is what it became…

TECHNOLOGY
The first step in the declining state of the underground music DJ in America deals with the changes in the DJs themselves. As I’ve said before just because a Graphic Designer can use the paintbrush tool in Photoshop or Illustrator it DOES NOT make them a painter. They can never know the fine nuances of mixing paint, the way the brush feels against a canvas or the way each stroke is final and important to the piece as a whole. The same can be said about DJs. If you don’t have what it takes to show up with a bag or two of varied records and CDs and improvise your way through an entire evening of unknown desires and energy levels without the aid of cue-points, loops and computerized-beat-matching than you are just not a DJ. A computer can aid you, but it shouldn’t do your job for you. If you already have your set planned out and you’re just pushing some buttons on your computer (Ableton, Traktor, etc.) you are a PERFORMER putting on a show of what you want to play, not what works based on timing and the mood in the room. Those that don’t take risks and who haven’t utilized the original medium can never truly know the fine nuances it takes to be a great DJ. Sure they may have people dancing, but does a print of a painting speak to the soul the way the original does?

****THE FOLLOWING WAS ADDED ON 02.23.11 TO CLARIFY MY POSITION. CONTENT IS TAKEN FROM MY VARIOUS REPLIES TO COMMENTS AND OTHER POSTS I’VE MADE CLARIFYING MY POSITION ON DJ DIGITAL DJ’ING. IT SEEMS MANY READERS ARE NOT FULLY UNDERSTANDING IT, OR I DID NOT MAKE IT CLEAR ENOUGH AND THE CONTENT OF THE ENTIRE PIECE IS NOT BEING LOOKED AT WITHOUT BIAS.****

“[I am not] slagging digital DJing. In the end, I don’t give a shit how you choose to play music for people, what I do care about is when you’re untrained, unseasoned and your set is boring, mixed badly, cliche, trite or overly mashup-ified and what you do gives what I do a bad name. I care about when untalented and even more so uncreative people get booked because they have a laptop, the Beatport top 40 downloaded tracks and they’ll play for cheap.

The fact is that it’s just plain harder to play vinyl than it is to DJ digitally, plus it was far more time consuming and expensive to build a collection and those that continue to do it deserve more respect. You can’t deny that. It is also a fact that if you show up to a gig with your whole set beatmatched, sequenced and planned out in your computer then it’s not really any different than just playing a CD you made and it’s not really DJing, it’s performing a previously choreographed routine. I mean what else are you really doing at that point? (Feel free to flame me in the comments by the way.)

Shit, I use a computer with vinyl controllers to DJ some of the time and so do a ton of DJs I love and respect. Its a tool we can use, but shouldn’t be a crutch we have to depend on.”

“In the 6th sentence of the ‘TECHNOLOGY’ section I stated “A computer can aid you, but it shouldn’t do your job for you.” I actually use control records and a computer running Serato at most of my gigs. Most of my sets are close to 50/50 vinyl and computer because there’s just some things I can’t get on wax, some records just don’t leave my house anymore and there are unreleased demos of mine I want to play. Had you read my other posts here, you would have read sentences that said “Sure, CJs [Computer Jockeys] can bring the house down and DJ’s can suck” or “After all, there is one thing that a computer, itunes, beatport or blogs can’t show you and that is how to express your soul and do it for a dance floor of sweaty bodies.” My statements had nothing to do with Computer=Bad, Vinyl=Good. My point was that there is a process to becoming good at an artistic discipline. If you want to be an architect you have to first learn basic drafting and physics, if you want to be a painter you have to learn color theory and light, if you want to be a designer you have to learn typography and layout, etc. You also have to put yourself out there, be critiqued and prove yourself amongst your peers and audience.

My problems with the current DJ scene are that people who never paid a dime for their music, never slaved away learning how to beat-match, never made mixtape after mixtape and gave them to every promoter in town, and who have never played a gig outside their bedroom calls themselves a DJ. And those “DJs” go out and undercut pay rates and clueless, dollar-obsessed club management takes them up on it. That’s why my piece was meant to be read as a whole, not just in parts, because one problem is creating another.”

“Computers have made good DJs better but have increased the number of bad DJs exponentially. For real DJ’s, the advent of computer DJing made life easier by no longer having to haul crates and crates of records to gigs. It has even made them better by giving them new options, such as cue points and loops, in order to better manipulate and utilize the tracks they play.

The problem is that this ease and convenience of the computer coupled with the availability of cheap (or free) digital music has also meant an influx of bad, untrained DJs. DJs who never had to dig for records in a record store, hone their ear/hand coordination on the decks and develop their own unique sound and style. This has created an over abundance of mediocre “DJs” and the average listener doesn’t know the difference between good and bad anymore, or care for that matter.

What matters most is the end product, a room full of people sweating and boogying, but the process is how you get there. True DJs can accomplish this by playing music, and playing it their way, regardless of whether or not the dancers know the tracks or not. It is truly an art form…”

MUSIC
Beyond technique, there is the way music is now acquired which contributes to the detriment of our scene. When I first began DJing in the early 90′s I used to spend $7-$10 on a 12″ single or EP containing 2-4 tracks, with most likely only 1 track being “my track.” This cost provided a necessary roadblock to the DJ. It forced a DJ to truly select only the best tracks they felt represented their sound and would work best for the dance floor. Then for every gig you could only bring what you could carry, so you’d again select the best of the best of the variety in your collection. This selective process provided a remarkable music experience for the audience, and a continuous challenge for the DJ to be inspiring, unique and keep people coming back to hear you. Today, tracks are $1 or $2 online, not to mention free for all the thieving blog downloaders, so the DJ has very little constraints. Plus a DJ with a computer can have 1,000s of tracks at the ready at anytime. The passion for music selection is no longer evident, and DJs have the ability to easily acquire the same tracks as one another. The first negative this has created is a fairly homogenized music scene. However, and more importantly, combined with current DJ and performance technology, anyone and everyone can do no more than sit at home on their computer and become a “DJ” without ever learning how to read a crowd, mix by ear or dig through a record shop for unique gems.

CLUBS
The result of these “advances” means the average club going audience has gotten used to mediocre DJs & Performances that don’t truly move them; both their body and their soul. So when music directors, general managers, owners, etc. line-up entertainment for their club, especially in the current economic situation, they go for the lowest common denominator. “Who can give me the most bang for my buck right now?” It is about immediacy of return, not about building a club that will reap dividends over time. However, this is just shortsightedness on the part of management as a club with a defined musical direction and a cohesive stable of 2-3 resident DJs versed in diversity and dance floor manipulation will do far better in the long run than a club that does something completely different every night and tries to follow every fad. This lack of know-how and faith combined with laziness and the ever present quest for the easy buck is why management now puts the full responsibilities on the entertainers (DJs & Event Producers) to promote and sell the event and then only offer what is made as a cover charge as compensation. It’s a no-lose situation for the venue because they have nothing invested, they keep the highly profitable bar sales and they receive tons of free advertising for the venue through the various “entertainers” they use to fill their clubs. However, what these people fail to see is that this system waters down the identity, and in turn, integrity of their establishment and does not foster an environment of partnership between the venue and the talent. For example look at the way Robert Williams supported Frankie Knuckles at The Warehouse and then later Ron Hardy at The Music Box. When Frankie Knuckles first began playing his New York styled disco sets at The Warehouse in Chicago (the venue where ‘House Music’ got its name) it was slow and Frankie was not well received, it has been described as luke-warm at best. However, given the unwavering support of owner Robert Williams based on his belief in the music and Frankie, Chicago became the birthplace of House Music. Imagine for a moment if after the first couple of slow nights Williams had cut Frankie and tried to get something more financially lucrative and successful? The same can also be said of Michael Brody and Larry Levan’s partnership which began at Reade Street and led to the legendary Paradise Garage, or Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton’s support of Mike Pickering and the Acid House sound at The Hacienda.

In short clubs truly are no longer clubs, but venues. They are a place for DJs and Event Producers to hold events, not a place for people to get together and unify over a common cause (which in this case is music and nightlife culture). This, combined with lackluster talent, has driven down the club-goer’s desire to attend events, especially when they have to pay a cover. The word that best describes the average American club goer is apathetic. It doesn’t matter to them who’s playing or what’s happening because they simply can’t tell the difference anymore. They are solely there to be seen and get laid. Times were a lot better when it was dance your ass off to amazing music, then be seen and then get laid. To all you club goers out there, times are hard and we’re all trying to save a buck, however that DJ is working hard for your $5, $10 or whatever cover may be, so stop asking to be on the guest list and stop complaining about cover charges. If you don’t have the money, don’t go out and if you just don’t like the cover complain to the venue’s management that they don’t compensate their Entertainment adequately in order to keep the cost down for their clientele.

UNDERGROUND
Many people have quoted this current club situation as a reasoning for a return to underground, warehouse, renegade, rave, loft, etc. parties like in the 90′s. However, I think people seem to remember those times with rose colored glasses. I remember the days of paying $20, $30 even $50 to get into a party only to have the party broken up by the cops shortly thereafter (in fact, just last month I paid $20 to get into a loft party in Chicago that was shut down not 5 minutes after I got in). I remember headlining DJs not showing up, sketchy promoters not paying DJs what they were promised, confiscated equipment and many more awesome times. While these parties, when they’ve gone off without a hitch, have been some of my most memorable times in music and DJ culture, they are also a huge gamble and one that the entire scene cannot depend on.

Younger people whose first experiences were at those parties seem to think that’s how this all got started but that’s not the truth. This culture could not have become what it is without nightclubs. In fact here’s a short list of very important ones in the evolution of our scene: Stonewall Inn (NYC), Salvation Too (NYC), The Sanctuary (NYC), Haven (NYC), The Loft (NYC), The Gallery (NYC), Reade Street (NYC), Galaxy 21 (NYC), Better Days (NYC), Ginza (NYC), The Roxy (NYC), The Paradise Garage (NYC), The Warehouse (Chicago), The Music Box (Chicago), Powerplant (Chicago), Heaven (Detroit), The Music Institute (Detroit), The Hacienda (Manchester), Shoom (London), The Shelter (Detroit). The problem is today’s clubs need to be something more than a space. We need more amazing sound systems, great lighting that elevates the energy and more community. I do not believe there is one world class nightclub in Chicago that has all of these elements, and I’d venture to say there is not one in the United States at all.

PEOPLE
Which brings us to the most important factor… We can complain about the technology, we can complain about mediocre sets, we can complain about club politics and beaurocracy, but at the end of the day what we truly need are dancers. There are simply too many wanna be DJs, celebutards, trainspotters, chin-scratchers, Jersey Shore fist-pumpers and fashionistas out there but just not enough dancers. When I say dancers, I don’t just mean people who want to dance to their favorite songs they hear fifteen times a day on the radio, I mean people who go out to be moved for a few hours. People who don’t make requests and trust that the DJ is going to move them. People who get lost in the sound and move to the beat with no other cares in the world. We need them, but most of all… WE NEED TO BE THEM! Never trust a DJ who doesn’t dance. Its an old saying, but a true one. If you want a revolution, you have to start one and the dance floor is the best place to begin.

So, my opinion on Michael’s post is that we all should be paying cover to get in to places, because that’s just the right thing to do. However, it is important to only pay to hear the best DJs, and the ones who move you and not supporting the events with lesser talent but more frills. The bottom line is if you want to dance to good music, played well, then there’s a price. If you think that price is too high then take it up with the club or go somewhere else. I personally wouldn’t pay cover because there’s a “photo booth” or someone taking photos because I really don’t give a shit about trying to have my picture looking all crazy ‘in da club’ on a website or as my profile picture. I pay for a good time dancing, socializing and hearing great DJs express the talents and collection of music they’ve worked for years to cultivate.

Chicago nightlife has an identity crisis going on because it is stuck between LA and NYC and it tries to be both at times, but Chicago is unique. It is the birthplace of house music and of the home studio DJ/Producer. There is amazing talent here that is actually so much better than the international headliners that people pay big bucks to see play the same songs. We don’t need headliners to have a great night, we just need to have an open mind and faith in our local DJs. So put on your dancing shoes, get that $5 out of the ATM and get out there! See you on the dance floor.

 

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55 Responses to 2011 State Of The DJ Address

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  2. dudemanbro says:

    Ableton was released in 2001. Serato was released in 2004. That’s how long we have been hearing this same complaint repeated over and over.

    Dj’s just need to suck it up and represent what they do and support others who do the same. I don’t believe old school heads ever stopped appreciating records/record digging culture and the artists that still represent that aspect of djing. It’s our roots. There is still support out there.

    This 7-10 year bitchfest needs a F#*$^ng break. How else are vinyl djs/digital djs/pirate djs/whatever going to attract these dancers we all need if all we do is present them with internal conflict? There is a bassnectar dubstep show coming to my city that has like 2,000 people “attending” with over 15k invited. My best guess is that they have this success because there is more acceptance in that scene. Acceptance mostly deriving from it being the newest flash in the pan trend. But hey, at least it’s not going to be a room full of people scratching their chins angry because a kid with a laptop is on stage and not them. Ew, now here I am defending dubstep fans when I am not one.

    I remember a time when the same local dj’s headlined every single event and it got boring as shit. I remember a scene full of cocky trendy kids trying to climb the social ladder. Now all of this was mid 90′s and the referenced nightclubs like paradise garage and music box no longer existed. Was it already all a copy of a copy at that point? Was it already on it’s death bed before computer djing became available? Not to mention the economy started tankin. Flash forward to now & so many of these old school local “celebrity” djs are just shit talkers & drug addicts that only go out when they can be the star. There were lot’s of whack people then who would dj for the attention as there are now. Only now digital makes it easier and DJ culture blew up with hip hop and again blew up when rave got commercialized to the masses. So yes, we got more people doing it. That’s why you gotta rep what you do and support the people you like. But damn build some bridges already!

    Shit man, anybody can grab a “hey laptop dj…” shirt, a crate of records (super cheap off discogs for real), & start waiving the flag claiming to be a true dj. If I go out and buy my Real DJ Starter Kit, does it make me better than everyone else?

    Being like that is still not bringing the truth of who you are to those turntables..or buttons. lol. Your just dollar bin shopping so you can ride this Real DJ trend because there is too much competition in the digital scene. I hate seeing comment bait stories and facebook rants like this. Seen 2-3 already in the past week on my facebook wall of only 400 friends. Im ready for some more positive messages and encouragements being echoed through dancefloors and fb walls.

    • dj25e says:

      you need to be the dj diplomat for the world. i am so tired of hearing people complain about the technology, because they had no competition 15 years ago and now there are more djs around and they blame it on technology. sound like an old man that used to play football in the 50′s and now saying these guys arent football players because they have helmets. quit crying

      • dmsuperman says:

        It’s like the amish way of DJing.

        (I hope no amish people are reading this they might be offended. Oh wait)

      • Das Disco says:

        Yes i totally agree. If you could travel 15 years back in time with the technology of today, every Dj would use it hands down.

        There is nothing wrong with using only vinyl, its all about preference… But dont think for a second that you can compare vinyl to the methods of today. You can be a purist but you still have to be practical.

      • WMTGW says:

        My complaints were not about “The Technology” itself. Simply put, my complaints were about technology making it easier to be bad. I just said a true DJ should be able to move a floor without a computer as well as with one.

        And FYI my dead mother was Amish you bastard. (j/k)

    • WMTGW says:

      dudemanbro and dj25e,
      First off, thanks for reading the post, however, I’m not sure you read the whole thing with an open mind. Only a small portion of it was about digital DJing and the rest dealt with issues that every underground music DJ deals with today. You obviously get very defensive about the technology issue, which is fair, but hear me out…

      In the 6th sentence of the ‘TECHNOLOGY’ section I stated “A computer can aid you, but it shouldn’t do your job for you.” I actually use control records and a computer running Serato at most of my gigs. Most of my sets are close to 50/50 vinyl and computer because there’s just some things I can’t get on wax, some records just don’t leave my house anymore and there are unreleased demos of mine I want to play. Had you read my other posts here, you would have read sentences that said “Sure, CJs [Computer Jockeys] can bring the house down and DJ’s can suck” or “After all, there is one thing that a computer, itunes, beatport or blogs can’t show you and that is how to express your soul and do it for a dance floor of sweaty bodies.” My statements had nothing to do with Computer=Bad, Vinyl=Good. My point was that there is a process to becoming good at an artistic discipline. If you want to be an architect you have to first learn basic drafting and physics, if you want to be a painter you have to learn color theory and light, if you want to be a designer you have to learn typography and layout, etc. You also have to put yourself out there, be critiqued and prove yourself amongst your peers and audience.

      My problems with the current DJ scene are that people who never paid a dime for their music, never slaved away learning how to beat-match, never made mixtape after mixtape and gave them to every promoter in town, and who have never played a gig outside their bedroom calls themselves a DJ. And those “DJs” go out and undercut pay rates and clueless, dollar-obsessed club management takes them up on it. That’s why my piece was meant to be read as a whole, not just in parts, because one problem is creating another.

      You can call me old (I am in my thirties) and jaded all you want, its fine. However, there has always been competition in the DJ scene and just cause there’s more now that there are computers doesn’t shake me at all. I’m happy with what my DJ career has been and what it will continue to be. What I’m unhappy about is so many shit “DJs” giving what I do a bad name.

      I think if you read my post with an open mind through it all I am optimistic that good things can happen for this scene. I think I made it clear that I believe if the music directors, general managers, owners, etc. stop grasping at straws and start to create working relationships with DJs they believe in and trust, good things can happen. I know you’re “ready for some more positive messages and encouragements” and when they are due I give them, however, without critical analysis and the occasional rant we’ll all just continue to ignore the problems we’re facing rather than working at fixing them.

      PS
      As a side note, Bassnectar’s fans extend far beyond dubstep fans and into the realm of hippies, stoners and jam-band crunchies. Comparing that event to a house music night is like comparing apples and oranges. Also look at those numbers… 2,000 out of 15,000 is only 7.5% of the people invited are answering attending and as all of us that promote events on FB know, only a fraction of your confirmed “Attending” actually show up. I wouldn’t concern yourself too much with those numbers.

      • dmsuperman says:

        In the 6th sentence of the ‘TECHNOLOGY’ section I stated “A computer can aid you, but it shouldn’t do your job for you.” I actually use control records and a computer running Serato at most of my gigs.

        The problem is you follow that up by talking down on button pushers (which I agree 100% are just performers, I don’t think anybody would disagree there), but you lump traktor in arbitrarily. Traktor is in no way a button masher’s application. It gives you some _OPTIONAL_ tools you could use to do part of your job for you, but just because those options exist doesn’t mean you have to use them.

        I agree that there are a lot of shitty DJs out there, and I’m not trying to defend the people who go up and autosync + crossfade their way through a playlist, but you also have to realize that there are a huge crowd of very talented digital DJs.

        Also, your logic for barrier entry is silly. By having a high price it forces everybody to be better? What? No, by having a high price, it just dissuades a lot of people from even trying (a large percentage of which could have turned out to be very good), while simultaneously stuffing record label’s pockets full of cash. I prefer today’s choices, where you can often buy the music direct from the artist (giving them a much larger cut than the past, directly supporting them), only buying the tracks you want (because let’s face it, there are a lot of releases with terrible B-sides). But since I can preview my b-sides before I decide to buy them, I can see if it’s even worth getting. This is even more true of albums, I wouldn’t want to pay $14 for an album full of tracks only to find out I only really liked 2 or 3. And it happens, people’s tastes are subject to a million factors.

        • dmsuperman says:

          Also I want to add that just because the world is swamped with a lot of shitty music (as it always has been and always will be, statistically) doesn’t mean you can’t find gems. I spend hours and hours scouring the internet for the tracks in my sets in the same way you search for records. I have to go to a huge variety of music stores, and then when I can’t find those I have to check a multitude of trackers and blogs, etc. To even find these tracks, I’m constantly scouring youtube uploads, soundcloud uploads, whatever it may be just to make sure to find every amazing track I can get my hands on. You have to sift through a LOOOOT of shitty music in the process, but you end up hearing such a huge variety that really it only serves to grow you musically.

        • WMTGW says:

          I lumped in Traktor because in the new version of Traktor one of the most talked about (and highly promoted by Native Instruments themselves) features is the auto beat matching ability. Its featured prominently in their literature and videos for Traktor 2.

          My argument was not that price kept people from becoming DJs, my argument was that the cost of records forced DJs to be more picky about what they bought and in turn about what they played. It kept the scene from getting musically stale and kept DJs on their toes more so than being able to buy 100 tracks for $100 or less.

      • Das Disco says:

        As ” dmsuperman ” stated… I agree that you are trying to address topics in one post but you have blended it all together. Although I enjoyed the read regarding the club scene of today vs past i really did not agree with the attitude expressed over Digital Dj’s.

    • DJTerryMoran says:

      This is a great article, written by someone who obviously has love for the game. For the haters that pic a line and critique it, GFY. The message as a whole is correct, insightful and should be an education for newbies.
      I have been a DJ since 1987, and I have gone through many technological changes. I started on turntables working top 40 clubs, where I had to love my job enough to make the personal and financial commitment to build my craft. I don’t hate on Djs that copy a hard drive, get a sweet website, and print out their own biz cards, and undercut jocks at clubs by working for $50, because they are bottom feeders. They have been around since the beginning of time in every industry, and they will never go away.
      I actually think these fools make my job easier. Sure I spent a kazillion dollars on records, worked with successful jocks, took in knowledge/culture/professionalism like a sponge, and were lucky to mentor with some great people. But I had to learn how to ROCK THE F^CKI%G HOUSE to get noticed. Now, everyone has the same equipment and music, so what you do with it separates you from the rest. Sure it is frustrating to see posers like Pauly D getting big gigs because skanks think they might be able to get a picture with him, but what are you gonna do? Keep working your craft, son.

      For the record, I guess I am considered a digital or lappy DJ because I rock Serato on 1200s now after using CD decks with CDs and Serato for a long time. I view it as a tool that helps me do my job, which is to rock the FU%K out of the crowd, every time. I love being on vinyl again, it reminds me of when I started out. I’m a top 40/old school/rock/mashup club jock that has taken my game to the corporate level, doing tours, concerts, big events, etc while keeping my party-rocker club jock flavor. This now enables me to work LESS, do only the events I want to do, playing the music I feel comfortable with. I still feel close to my roots, as I watch all the up-and-coming-wanna-be’s take the crappy club gigs described in the initial post. I utltilize the video plugin for serato to bring visual elements to my shows, and separate me again from the newbies that have mp3s, but not custom mp4s.

      I don’t think the initial post was whiny at all. I think that if you love what you do, you are critical of people that exploit your craft. You should be.
      I’ll give you an example. Last month, I rocked an old school party in Vegas where I was using 1200s with Serato, dropping music videos. I got into a routine that I wanted to do, but hadn’t really practiced at all, I figured I could pull it off. I was dealing with tracks that had a human drummer, acapella, hip hop and rock all put in my mix. I used my cue points to get where I wanted and took some chances and did it off the cuff. Towards the end of the routine, I got lost in the mix for 5 secs. I corrected it, but you could tell it was a little off. There were a lot of DJs there, some I knew, and some I didn’t. I thought I would get crucified after, but some peeps came up to me and appreciated the fact I tried something crazy on the fly, and some said, “Hey, at least I know you didn’t pre-bake your set!”
      After I read some stuff online that the set was whack, and that I train tracked.
      In a weird way, I felt proud about Fing that part of the set up.
      “Life is either a daring adventure, or it is nothing at all.” Helen Keller
      -T

  3. ammora says:

    “The problem is today’s clubs need to be something more than a space. We need more amazing sound systems, great lighting that elevates the energy and more community. I do not believe there is one world class nightclub in Chicago that has all of these elements, and I’d venture to say there is not one in the United States at all.”

    I encourage you to check out The Electric Pickle in Miami, which for those of us who are true believers really feel is the only place in America that combines the major elements you mention above. Granted you still need to go on a night when particular promoters are throwing the party, or you risk being subjected to the run of the mill “locals” night that is chock full of fist pumping drunkards who generally don’t care who’s playing…they just want to get f*cked up and party and it dilutes the lighting/sound/general atmosphere. But on a good night, and especially during March music weeks when the majority of us “believers” are in town, the Pickle is a magical place with an extremely warm atmosphere that seems to stop time while the artists dislodge the stress of normal life from your brain for a few hours and you can just BE WHO YOU ARE, get lost in the music, dance, socialize, and enjoy life.

  4. adelord says:

    I’m a dancer who only cares about the vibe in the room and the quality of what comes out of the speaker in front of me. Some thoughts:

    1. ” A computer can aid you, but it shouldn’t do your job for you. If you already have your set planned out and you’re just pushing some buttons on your computer (Ableton, Traktor, etc.) you are a PERFORMER putting on a show of what you want to play, not what works based on timing and the mood in the room. ”
    There is nothing sacred about the turntable as an instrument for manipulating the set of information known as a track. Even if the turntable had never been invented, dancing to electronic music would still be occurring. You’re better off staying away from the arguments that traditional musicians have long used against DJs. Drummers and other acoustic were interacting with the mood of the room long before DJs came along with new technology. It is the Artist not the Medium that is important. Each Artist should use the tools that let him produce the best work he can. Why should a photographer learn to mix pigments in linseed oil? Why should a person who arranges in Abelton learn how to beatmatch? Neither is relevant to the medium used. Did you have to learn to drum before your learned to DJ? Sing gospel before you could drop that anthem track?
    Trainwrecks and dusty needles and bouncing tables hurt my ears more often than cue-points, loops or computerized-beat-matching do.

    2. “When I first began DJing in the early 90′s I used to spend $7-$10 on a 12″ single or EP containing 2-4 tracks”
    You are claiming that economic barriers of entry are important for quality control. Lower barriers of entry let more people attempt the art and find out if they are any good at it. I want the person performing for me to have whatever tracks he needs in order to rock my world, and a disk drive is much smaller than a semi truck.
    Should only rich kids get a chance to try the DJ game? More than one kid went to jail back in the day trying to pull off something that would score him the money to buy the Real DJ Rig.
    Maybe it really isn’t necessary for the new generation to pay the dues that you paid.

    3. “We need more amazing sound systems, great lighting that elevates the energy and more community.”
    Lighting is debatable. Many of my “dance like nobody is watching” peeps prefer gentle, minimal lighting. When I lived in Chicago over a decade ago Red No. 5 and Crobar were dark and perfect. I recall plenty of elevated energy in those dim places, unparalleled anywhere I’ve lived or traveled since outside of underground venues.

    4. The Underground.
    Never went away. Still has the best vibe. Is where you go to learn how to DIY. Community is the result of participation in the underground. If you want the audience to take a sense of ownership they have to be active participants. Coughing up cash at the door and then at the bar to be amazed by lights and beats does not really count as participation.

    5. “This lack of know-how and faith combined with laziness and the ever present quest for the easy buck is why management now puts the full responsibilities on the entertainers (DJs & Event Producers) to promote and sell the event and then only offer what is made as a cover charge as compensation.”
    Each community that cares about the quality of their music needs to address the question of how many professional musicians they can support, and how they can best support their musicians. Some communities simply choose to partially compensate many hobbyists rather than have a few full time DJs.
    Club managers are quickly learned that social media is an effective means of promotion, and one trick for getting people in is to book a bunch of “almost ready for prime time” DJs with lots of social ties. Are you also seeing a lot of 1 hour DJ sets?

    6. The Outdoors
    Isn’t mentioned at all. EDM under the stars or sun is more likely to be a family affair where community is strong. Perhaps you are trying to impose on a club scene something that is more prevalent in different contexts. I don’t take issue with my butcher for not having a nice selection of ice cream, and I don’t complain to Baskin Robbins because they don’t serve wine.

    • utopiajj says:

      Yeah man, I Know exactly where WMTGW is coming from because I have carried that same viewpoint for years now since the first time I saw a big popular Club DJ spinning music off his computer and playing not a lick of vinyl. I felt robbed, cheated, furious since I spent 8+ years learning how to hot mix & beat match as fast as I could, but lo and behold he had the DJ spot and I didn’t so I had to learn to accept the fact that getting booked to spin is more than just being skilled at your craft, it’s about knowing the right people and getting yourself out there to be heard more as well.

      I’m posting my small rant in reply to your post adelord since you do have a well versed open minded viewpoint that seems to help balance everything out.

      I have the Pioneer CDJ 1000 MK3′s, Pioneer 600s mixer, 2 bookshelves plus countless crates of old house and club music piled up collecting dust now, as my Vestax vinyl turntables were smashed during a burglary, so all I have are the CDJ’s, mixer, small CD collection with some MP3 downloads and whatever tracks I produce myself.

      I can still get the fever and fall into the zone when I’m spinning with my CDJ’s in Vinyl Mode, I use the CD decks & the mixer as I did with vinyl turntables for the most part… Its close, but not the same vibe. I used to rock the box man, but now it just feels like CD’s don’t have that same touch of soul that vinyl did. I used to starve myself and buy Ramen noodles for groceries just so I could spend more money on Vinyl and get a few new tracks. It was just as WMTGW stated, by digging deep for those selective tracks, and digging even deeper when you try to limit yourself to only one crate. I usually went through at least 50 different tracks in an hour set so I really had to know my records and have a lot of them to match my mixing style. I either packed 2 crates minimum or an hour set of a sleeveless vinyl stack in my DJ bag. When I was trying to come up I was livin’ ghetto fabulous, and practiced spinning 6-12 hours a day for years on end just in the hopes I could rock the box like bad boy bill, get noticed, get booked, and see where the future and the underground would take me.

      Things happened, I got my heart broke too many times in a row, and decided to jump in a semi truck after energy 92.75fm in Chicago went out of business and I was out of an internship opportunity for a radio DJ job. That was over 7+ years ago… Now I’m getting ready to make a come back and getting ready to step up to the plate again one of these days. Learning to adapt from vinyl, accept the CDJ’s, and embrace the future of digital music that is no longer on vinyl was a bit of a pill to swallow, but as mentioned, musicians frowned upon the DJ at first, and now many DJ’s still frown down on the computer DJ. It’s the evolution of technology….BUT- It is all about the music after all, and Digital gives us the chance to play our own grooves we produce ourselves, making the DJ (especially the older vinyl cats) potential pioneers in the electronic music revolution by knowing just how to lay the grooves down right and bust it out in the mix at the right time, in the right way.

      Regards to dancing? In Chicago, I used to love goin to red no. 5 just because it was the closest to underground scene you could get in a club without having to worry too much about the typical status seekers and over priced beer crap. I also enjoyed the darker lighting scheme there since I sometimes would go there all by myself just to dance my ass off all night like I used to at the raves. I didn’t care about being seen or seeking status, I just came to dance and the more minimal the lights were the more comfortable I felt. Dress code was underground style, come as you are. No gang crap, shootings, or coke heads starting drama with people. Just good clean fun and all the house music you could shake a stick at. :P

      A DJ is really a Disk Jockey. One who mixes music and sets music levels. The disk could be vinyl, CD, even hard drive disks now-days. So it’s meaning still holds true for all intents and purposes, but the bottom line is arrangement of the music in such a way that many people will listen. Granted, live sets are awesome, especially if you know their spinning ad-lib, but even pre-practiced sets that rock hard as per the DJ’s vision of the journey he will be taking the listeners on is just as nice if not even better. As long as hes rockin the mix live, with risk of train wrecking then thats good enough for me. Not to hate but I loved to hear Big Name DJ’s train wreck, screw up on a backspin, or have a needle jump on them from the infamous dust bunnies during a live set. Not to laugh at them, but to feel relieved that what happens to me once in a while happens to even the greats once in a while. You can tell by how they recover just how much experience they have. I used to have needles that jumped so much I became very good at saving a potential train wreck, and even scratched my way out of it if need be or break the beat on the new offbeat skipped pattern. I guess the point I’m making here is the DJ is a mixer, an arranger, even a composer of music. The basics we learn as DJ’s rockin a crowd only helps increase your skill set if and when you start producing your own tracks in the studio.

      Back to records tho…

      Vinyl had its setbacks, like scratches, sound degradation after prolonged use or backspins in the same groove not to mention heavy as hell to lug all them crates! I remember a BadBoyBill / Doc B show in Milwaukee. They had to set up literally- I shit you not, at least 4 or more banquet tables just for all of Bill’s vinyl collection. He must have brought every crate and record in his arsenal, and I swear it must have been at LEAST 20-40 crates easy. He mixed it live and rocked it pulling a record outta this crate, having a guy pull a record for him out of that crate, etc. That night was when I officially ranked him as my #1 all time favorite DJ and still holds true to this day .

      It was ’95 or ’96 ish and that was then…

      I keep saying to my guys, we should throw an all Vinyl party like we used to in the old days. Not every DJ can meet that requirement, but you can bet we would get peoples respect if they are PC- DJ’s. The newer club kids would get to see live sets performed how they used to be back in the days. The underground scene would definitely give a nod. I dunno, I think WMTGW if you got all this much heart in your Vinyl then bring it! Shoot me an email, Id love to hear some of your sets, I’d send ya some of mine as well! Let’s throw a cool party man! Meet out for a pint or two at least! lol

      So to sum all this up here guys…

      I’m not hating on anyone here for posting their opinions, in fact this just might be the catalyst that our scene needs to get some DJ’s rockin the vinyl back in the rotation! I prefer to see DJs spinnin vinyl. Even the Serato connected to the turntables is just as good alternative. I bought the Pioneer CDJ’s rather then try Serato, The MK3′s are an industry standard in most clubs that I know of, Its less to carry, and you can still spin vinyl style with them. Problem is, I’d have a record cued up and in the mix already before that CD slides in and loads to the track. *SIGH lol

      Anyways, Thats all I have to speak upon at this point. I just wanted to throw all my thoughts opinions, and personal experience out there as well, since I can type up a tangent and it seems everyone else here doesn’t have a problem with reading or writing them either… lol :P

  5. Frankie Humus says:

    Preach on brotha-man!! Too often people don’t see the domino effect that goes on. They see the word ‘technology’ and instantly draw a line in the sand. At the end of the day, if the current trends continue, there will be no such thing as a homegrown DJ…vinyl, cdj, cj or otherwise. Maybe we can just program Watson (cyber-winner of Jeapordy!) to play parties.

  6. dudemanbro says:

    I think you are completely correct then WMTGW.

    I should have spoke my words more vaguely as I am venting my current frustrations with dj culture and the electronic music scene. My point on bassnectar was just to show how much buzz can be created when people are building bridges and the excitement is there for everyone. But, believe me I know you can’t really gauge results from fb events. Some people just click attending on everything. One of the main things I do not agree with is referring to people who “mix” with ableton or traktor as something other than dj’s. I believe they are. DJ is a blanket term. Some people love sub categories though, so toeachizown. We all have our preferences whether it be battle style djs, crate diggers, energetic dudes on laptops, etc. I would prefer to view them all as djs to avoid hyper sub categorizing which kinda breaks up the scene into small fragments that only support specific things. Quality over quantity though for real. My favorite parties in Detroit have not been demf. My favorite parties in detroit have been nights of great music with only 1-200 people and some detroit legends mixed into the crowd showing support.

  7. TwistedDUO says:

    I’ve been involved with dance music culture since the mid-80s and part of dj culture since the early 90s. Yes, things have changed drastically over the passing of nearly three decades. Some of which is good, other things that aren’t so good. And often enough, I get people asking me what the difference is. I’ve read blogs, posts, emails, newsgroups, and even articles regarding this subject over and over. I’ve bounced rent checks to cover a week’s worth of fresh wax from the store. Hell, I’ve even slept in the back room of the record store in exchange for being able to work (and shop) there. But when I’m asked about the most major difference I reply with this statement: “I got paid more as a shitty dj who doesn’t produce than I do as a dj who can mix and has production credits.”

    Technology
    In the 80s, it was auto-dubbing cassettes that were going to be the death of vinyl culture. In the 90s, it was compact discs. Now in the new millennium, it’s digital technology that is in question. If you’ve been around long enough, you know that this debate never dies and when a new form of technology comes out, it will be the vinylphiles that will cry the most about it. In 2001, Guitar Center reported that they sold more Technics SL-1200MK II turntables than actual guitars. In January of 2011, Technics announced that they will no longer produce the SL-1200 model. Trust fund kids and new graduates of the late 90s and Y2K era were asking for dj rigs instead of cars (or even computers).

    With this, I tend to have to disagree that the availability of dj equipment (digital or otherwise) is contributing factor of the number of quality of djs or not. Musically, you even stated that one of every three tracks put on vinyl were worth anything. That ratio hasn’t changed. There’s just alot more to choose from these days. Which, in my opinion means that a “good” dj has to do alot more searching and digging through virtual crates to find those gems.

    I’m a proponent of technology when used correctly. And that’s the heart of the situation. Most tech-djs simply “press play” and crossfade. No working the technology as it’s designed for. Just going through the motions. One of the arguements I hear alot are that laptop djs look like they’re always “checking their emails.” This is an arguement that I can counter on multiple levels, but staying in defense of the accusation, they’re correct. And most of these type of djs aren’t making the connection with the crowd. But I don’t blame this on the djs themselves. I blame the people resonsible for booking the dj and those who follow him/her.

    Clubs
    It’s a matter of the people attending. People blindly follow what they’re told to by the TV, radio, and the mainstream. I can’t help but be reminded of this year’s Super Bowl performance by the Black Eyed Peas. At one time, they were a great underground group. But all the hype and commercialism that surrounds them tainted their performance. I seriously had to walk out of the room for this performance, it hurt me so bad on levels that most couldn’t understand.

    I couldn’t agree more with the statements made on this. But we have to realize that we’re a society of fear these days. Promoters are afraid to book djs with talent but a smaller following because it may result in low attendance. This, in turn reflects on the attendees of the club. Club goers won’t attend a party with two or three no-name residents. They need all the “frills” to make it worth their while. This goes back to what WMTGW was saying.

    Also, take into consideration the cultural differences. I’ve been to and played parties at clubs in some middle-of-nowhere places here in the States as well as mega-clubs overseas. You’d be surprised with the energy of these places compared to major clubs locally. What I’ve noticed is attendees and promotion of these events are pure quality. These are people driven by the creativity and culture of dance music rather than the potential profit. Sure, they would like to make a buck doing what they love (as would I) but it’s not their ultimate reason. Places like Shoom, Paradise Garage, Hacienda, and The Warehouse didn’t make money to start. Hell, the Hacienda closed it’s doors twice before their successful run. They did it to celebrate the culture, music, and those who attended.

    Underground
    I’m an underground soldier ’til my death. But I acknowledge the importance and tandem nature of mainstream club culture. I was fortunate enough to experience the mainstream culture first and found myself in the underground and never left. But with the accessibility of mainstream culture, it makes it very difficult to compete. The days of having international headliners throw down in some warehouse we cut the lock to get into are gone. Mainstream culture killed that for us. So we have to dig deep to stick with our principles. Donation based covers and residents who play for beer/drugs/smoke is what we’ve got to work with. We stick with the philosophies and ideals of old and know that if it’s good, people will come.

    The underground scene is definitely alive and well. And this has everything to do with the great separation of “haves” and “have-nots”. The haves play regulated venues and regulated lineups with regulated crowds. It’s safe. It’s sane. And literally no risk involved. You show up, pay your cover, drink watered down drinks, listen to three mediocre djs for an hour and a well marketed headliner for two. Then you go home, sleep off the hangover, and Tweet about how it was “the best time ever” the next day.

    On the other hand, the “have-nots” have to find ride shares to some unknown location (usually just GPS coordinates) to hear great djs of whom they’ll likely never know their “stage” names play for hours on end. You go on a journey that doesn’t begin at the first drink inside the club but when you step out of your house. You leave the party with friends (new or established) when you’ve had your fill and embark on the return journey home. Sometimes, this includes hosting your own afterparty where everyone in your group socializes over coffee. Sometimes, you’re just so exhausted that you sleep the next day away. The memory of this journey sticks with you for months, even years versus the one night.

  8. sevillelilly says:

    Thanks for the thought-provoking blog. I appreciate that you have wider concerns for the underground, of which digital DJ’ing is just one puzzle piece.

    The underground is going through all the growing pains that clobbered the mainstream music industry the past 5-10 years I think. We didn’t quite think it would happen to us; our scene was too tight-knit, too loyal, too unique. But we’re suffering the same perfect storm as commercial rock did: 75% cheaper recordings and 600% more of them. Night-on-the-town entertainment quality in our homes, all our favorite music ever in our pockets. Skyrocketing costs for venues who now have to choose between taking a chance on an unproven act and closing for good. An exhausted, decades-old art form for which precious few permutations remain undiscovered. A new generation that deserves a culture of its own and to shape unique legacies instead of wringing one last psuedo-variant out of ours. And people just getting older, getting married, having kids, moving to the suburbs. The list goes on and on.

    I know you’re not trying to condemn all digital DJ’ing as cheating. But respectfully, can you see how it could almost come across that way? Your opening statement is essentially that if you can’t play live using records or CDs then you’re “just not a DJ.”

    Personally I disagree. I liken that argument to these blasts from the past (adelord also pointed these out):

    “DJ’s can’t possibly be artists like musicians are, because all they do is play other people’s music.”

    or:

    “Dance producers can’t possibly be artists like musicians are, because they get computers to play everything in perfect time instead of learning to play an instrument live.”

    My feeling is: garbage in, garbage out. Lazy DJ’s can be lazier (I can only imagine the atrocities happening at laptop-DJed college sports bars), boring DJ’s can be more predictable, and creative DJ’s can be more ambitious and inspired… all thanks to DJ software.

    Personally, I work hard at digital DJing. The hotcues, loops, beatjumps, etc. that I work on take almost as much out of me as vinyl used to. The difference is on software, I feel as though I’m rehearsing for performance, in real-time. On vinyl, I always felt like I was drilling and prepping for performance, and running out of time to actually try it before the gig. On turntables, I kept running out of practice time to get past the technique and get to the art.

    I still feel like i’m just scratching the tip of the iceberg on software. My cues, loops, beatjumps could be smoother… will be, with practice and experience. The mixes I’ve done on software so far are definitely the most ambitious of my career, but somehow they still feel primitive and rudimentary to me… in a good way. Like I’m still discovering all that’s possible with these new tools. DJ’ing on software, I find idea piling on top of idea so fast I can barely keep up. It’s an exciting feeling.

    I’m guessing you didn’t intend to, but you also imply pretty strongly that digital DJs’ tools are inherently less spontaneous than vinyl. I think what you meant to say (this is kind of a small difference, but bear with me) is that DJ software can encourage less spontaneity, that it inherently appeals more to the human ipod who just rehearses an exact set that’s perfect for him and him only instead of reading the crowd. But I think it’s a stretch to assume DJ software is always perceived that way… it’s certainly not marketed that way. And I see a lot of other factors.

    I think a much bigger culprit in this style of DJing is the guest slot. There are hardly any resident DJ’s now, not in the underground. Next to none of them play all night. All the gigs are 2-hour slots… or less! First, you need to put in your time live to learn to read the crowd… that’s a LOT of 2-hour guest slots down the road. So what may be missing from the modern DJ’s toolbox is not necessarily a crate of records but playing six hours straight, coaxing an empty dancefloor to life, pacing your biggest tracks, etc. Not to mention talking with the staff, manager and owner and getting their perspective from outside the DJ booth before the place is too busy and too loud to chat. Unfortunately I don’t see that kind of apprenticeship coming back.

    Another factor is the sheer glut of available tracks now. I totally agree with you, there’s way, WAY too much of it. So many narrow, narrow microgenres. So few shared tracks that all or most play. And consequently I feel your pain about bad digital DJ’ing. Because with so much music to choose from now, it’s easier than ever for DJ’s to convince themselves that the magic comes solely from which tracks they play, not how or when or why they play them. This has always been a problem in DJing, and I’ve been guilty for sure… who hasn’t? But now “selectitis” is an epidemic. Hence the glut of incredibly boring online mixes where every track has the exact same texture (which, to these DJs’ thinking, apparently renders substance unnecessary), played for the same length of time, introed and outroed in roughly the same spots… and so many modern, inexperienced DJ believes such a mix to be an expression of his personality.

    Very good point about venues rotating talent and becoming a sporadic destination instead of being communities anymore. But I have to disagree with all the responsibility you’re deflecting away from us, the DJs, to instead obligate the club, the audience, etc. I’m afraid I side with club owners that the DJ MUST also be the promoter nowadays. With the recession decimating his clientele, rising taxes and supply costs at every turn, theater-sized TVs and personal jukeboxes on people’s phones keeping them out of their club, etc., I honestly marvel at how many of them actually stay open. I mean think about it… they don’t work for the national chain of, you know, Boom Boom Room International Co. or Red No Five Inc. These are entrepreneurs with their own asses on the line. They don’t get a severance package and start checking monster.com for “club owner” vacancies if enough people don’t show up, they foreclose or liquidate and go bankrupt.

    As far as I’m concerned, local talent ALWAYS has an obligation to bring asses through the door. I’m also a musician, and I can tell you that believing otherwise (or simply believing it too little) will guarantee you *zero* second bookings as a band in Chicago. If I’m not a good enough DJ/ band to even get my friends to come, why do I deserve to play to strangers?

    I think it’s up to the DJ to strive to be so fucking good at this that first your friends, then your friends’ friends, then strangers come to consider you a can’t-miss night out. And in my travels, it’s occurred to me that no-one has to encourage artists to think this way about their craft. Artists seem to feel a vocation, an outright sense of duty towards their talent, even when they resent it as a burden. Entertainers and hobbyists come and go, and there’s always more of them to fill an off-night. But artists do what they do because they have to, because they wouldn’t really be alive or whole if they didn’t. There will always be people like that around, however few, and they are who club owners really want to book and audiences really want to hear and dance to. I think such artists will lead the way. It will only take one virtuoso digital DJ to put a lot of these semantics to rest for good.

    Every generation deserves its own culture that only it truly understands. We had ours… I think the next one belongs to the digital DJ.

    soundcloud.com/sevillelilly

    youtube.com/user/sevillelilly

    P.S. I love the point about dancing. If you want the scene to be better, participate in it… there’s a thought! I’m proud to be a dancing DJ. I used to dance so hard and so long that, no joke, my fucking tits would hurt the next day from rubbing against my t-shirt all night while i bounced around. And it was the nights I was booked that I always seemed to dance the most.

  9. Nugz says:

    Great post and comments! As a DJ and graphic designer coming up in the 90s, I witnessed first hand the influence of technology in the music and business.

    In the graphics world, photoshop was upgraded to a badass pixel manipulator. Prior to version 4 (or 5?), photoshop did not have drop shadows, bevels, embossing and host of other “cool” features to aid in graphic design. This enabled a host of rookies (myself included) to act like graphic designers, though I was not fully trained in the intricacies of good graphic design.

    What did this mean for graphic design? It suffered in the short term, but graphic design is alive and well with many kick ass designers.

    The same goes for DJ’ing. I agree that the writer is not bashing technology, just the abusers of it. When a tool comes along that makes your job easier, you use it to elevate your game. Like helmet analogy someone else posted about, helmets allow you to make harder hits not softer ones.

    Automatch and easy sync allow you to concentrate on other parts of the DJ experience, whether its samples, loops or acapellas, a good DJ should know how to use these new tools to elevate the DJ experience for all.

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  12. Frankie Humus says:

    ‎”In my era, people played reels, cassettes, records, whatever they had the hot shit on. I’m working from that point of view. The hot shit perspective.” – taken from Derrick Carter’s FB page.

  13. Das Disco says:

    Terrible read. The whole article is full of contradictions.

    The comaprisons are a joke… How can you compare something like painting on Canvas to producing Electronic Music? The only close comaprison would be if someone produced a track soley from hardware and not a computer (Synths, drum machines, external recording devices). You mock using laptops for Dj’ing but claim nothing is as good as the original… So if i produce a track using Ableton I should then play it through Ableton? But your points towards doing that are negative. What the hell are we then supposed to do? Makes no sense.

    “A computer can aid you, but it shouldn’t do your job for you”

    Thats like saying “You can put a record on a turntable, but it shouldnt have a motor… You need to turn it yourself”

    “Plus a DJ with a computer can have 1,000s of tracks at the ready at anytime. The passion for music selection is no longer evident”

    Hands down the most idiotic statement ever made in the industry. Selection only exists within Variety… The less you have the less selection you have. How does having little to no variety make you more passionate over the Dj that took the time to orginize is digital crate by Key, Tempo, Genre & Sub Genre?

    “They can never know the fine nuances of mixing paint”

    Seems redundant, without variety and broad selection how could the master painter create a masterpiece? Seems to me having a limited track list is like taking the easy way out. “I dont know how to blend music so I only bring enough music for a 1 hour set in constant play”

    My advice to the author and anyone else reading is you can embrace change like everyone else does in their respective art forms, or you can cry because you werent good enough to distinguish yourself from the rest of the world.

    No one cares how much of a purist you are and no, there really isnt any more room for pitty in the world of today. Move on.

    • Das Disco says:

      For the record, i agree with what the author had to say regarding the club scene but seriously change is something that we need to embrace and learn to accept.

      In the Dj world change will allow us to do a whole lot more with both producing, gigging and live performances. I mean look at people like Orbital, Deadmau5, Simian Mobile Disco, Etienne De Crecy… They are able to put on great performances and awsome shows.

      I know that everyone thinks that because of laptop based dj applications its now easier for anyone to be a Dj… But really its always been like that. Before people bought Serato kids would buy cheap turntables and .5 records. Its just now instead of Gemini turntables its Virtual Dj.

    • WMTGW says:

      I’m glad you hated the post so much you had to comment on it. You may also want to look up ANALOGY or METAPHOR in the dictionary. You obviously didn’t get the piece the first time and thats fine, maybe you should read it again but actually think about it this time.

      Also thanks for giving me the nod for “the most idiotic statement ever made in the industry”. I’ll cherish my award and keep it right next to my hard drive of Jonas Brothers MP3′s. I don’t want to respond to what you said but I’m gonna because I love a good argument. What I was saying is that when an underground music centic DJ used to roll into a party with a bag or two of records, he knew that those were his 75 hottest tracks, his weapons (I know I used an analogy there but hopefully it wont mess you up). What he did with them was create a mood using his limited resources. My point was that now, when DJs have 1,000s of songs all keyed and bpm’d and blah, blah, blah their sets are normally too broad, unfocused and downright boring. Its amazing what a skilled artist can do with just primary colors, but if they have every color of the rainbow at their fingerprints some of the magic is lost.

      Dammit, there I go again with the metaphors.

  14. adelord says:

    My take away from this and subsequent conversations is: Bring resident DJs back!

    There should be a professional class of DJs who have steady well paying jobs because they are on top of their game. I’m using the term DJ in the broadest sense, I don’t care which technology is deployed, just that I am hearing the best music possible from a responsive and aware performer.

    Point of fact: a dance community is often happy hearing the same DJs (almost) every Friday night… if those DJs are good and diverse and deep in their libraries. They can’t rest on their laurels our only have one sound. A deep toolbox is required.

    The language of dance requires repetition in order to develop grammars and complex structures that enable deep communal expression. Dancers and DJs can get to know each other with time, and the structure of their energetic exchange is the backbone of what is usually called “vibe” — the communal dance experience.

    Bring resident DJs back! There are those that are good enough to hold our attention for a few hours every single week without fail, adapting each week to changes in the scene and new releases, maintaining the dialogue with the dancers from the previous week. Identifying which DJs really are that good right now should be a judgement call that has high stakes. The success of the venue should depend upon it.

    • On the one hand, easier said than done. On the other… things are in such a rut now that the conditions may be rife for somebody to take a chance on it again. Let’s face it, nearly everyone is nostalgic for that lost sense of community.

      Want more residencies? Let’s support the ones we already have, for starters. Michael Serafini at Dollar Disco every week, for one.

      • WMTGW says:

        Seville Lilly,
        As much as I do support our local residencies (I am one of the most regular attendees of Dollar Disco by the way) I want to see music directors, and GMs do more. I want to see specific DJs creating sounds for clubs on all nights of the week, not just weeklies and monthlies. For example, Serafini is versatile enough and talented enough to warm up a room for any guest SmartBar has on Wed, Fri, Sat or Sun. Someone like him should be a resident and he should be playing there 3 nights a week crafting a SmartBar sound. Just having big guest DJs isn’t enough because people pick and choose which of those events they go to. But if they know a venue is always tight because their resident DJ (or couple of DJs) are always on point, they’ll go even if they don’t know the guest. That would double turnout and introduce people to some new music the guest will play. That’s really the way it should be done in my honest opinion.

        • Dude… again, why is everyone except vinyl DJ’s obligated to change their ways in your world? A resident DJ would double turnout? Where? The scenario you described sounds just like Boom Boom Room to me… same residents almost every week with rotating guests. Is Boom Boom Room a growing cultural phenomenon? No, it’s a refuge for the converted. It’s great at that, but the scales are not falling from the eyes of the benighted clubgoing public thanks to the residents at Boom.

          Owners need to commission six-figure sound systems so we can appreciate the difference between vinyl and WAVs? Digital DJ’s would be more accomplished and worthy of respect if they played next to nothing recorded after 2005, when most new tracks stopped getting pressed onto vinyl? (See northern soul.) And where is the vinyl DJ in all of this? He just shows up with a crate of records into this impeccable environment (without advertising out of his own pocket, flyering, DJing on non-commercial radio or promoting himself online) and not only tears the house down that night, but makes everybody there want, no, NEED to hear him again next week? Why? Because the crowd could hear the difference between vinyl and WAVs on that six-figure system? Because they got to hear pops and crackles during the set?

          Venues, talent bookers, audiences, and 99% of DJ’s in any medium can’t create the climate you are talking about. ARTISTS create that environment. They do it because they can’t help themselves… to make art is the same to them as eating or breathing. And because to make art is to live, they do it OUTSIDE of the mainstream, REGARDLESS of environment (or pay), and eventually get co-opted because demand by the public to hear them grows so large. Vinyl, the sound system, the crowd… none of those are going to create that kind of demand. Only ARTISTS can.

          The next virtuoso DJ will be digital. He (or she… who knows) will do things live no turntable can do. He will tease apart the individual instruments in existing tracks in Ableton, Adobe Audition and yes, Traktor and recontextualize them so that you associate them more strongly with that DJ than with the artists who made them… much like King Tubby did. They’ll play riffs on keyboards or drum machines live while mixing and loop them in perfect time with their set… much like Farley used to play the 909 live and Frankie Knuckles would record his own re-edits onto reel-to-reel. They’ll work a rackful of studio-quality effects live with just a computer… soon enough, DJs will have enough processing power to do it on the same computer as they’re running the DJ software on. Just like Nicky Siano thought up the crossover/ kill EQ and Nick Mancuso, the flying tweeter array. Ideas like these… new ideas… are all that can revive interest in this decades-old music. And who knows, maybe they won’t give a shit about sound quality and it will all be part of their charm, just like Ron Hardy and Larry Levan didn’t really concern themselves with perfect beat-mixing.

          The next virtuoso DJ will choose digital over vinyl because, as an artist, he’s interested in possibilities, introducing new ways of thinking about things and capturing the zeitgeist of his time. Not preserving the past.

          Staying stuck in the good old days isn’t going to revive the scene or generate new interest. The next generation deserves their own “good old days.” I wonder if it will sound anything like what we dance to now, but I’m confident of one thing… it won’t be on vinyl.

          • WMTGW says:

            Seville Lilly,
            I had to reply. This is my last reply on this post as I’m sick of everyone who uses a computer to DJ being so damn defensive and snarky and I’m ready to move on. But you get my last responses to your many statements, questions and accusations.

            “Dude… again, why is everyone except vinyl DJ’s obligated to change their ways in your world?”

            - Whoa man! I didn’t even use the words vinyl or digital in that reply and here we go again with the whole thing. I never said vinyl DJs don’t need to change or evolve and I never said anyone else had to change either. I simply said that in my opinion the ease and availability of Digital DJ software/gear and the ease and cheapness of Digital music has created a surplus of bad DJs that have flooded the market taking away gigs and tainting the title of disc jockey. I’ve said numerous times now that I use a computer as well as vinyl for a number of reasons and there are some great DJs that now use computers. I never said Digital DJing is no good, I just said there needs to be an appreciation of and a preservation of the classic methods and methodology including turntables, vinyl, mixing by ear, etc.

            “A resident DJ would double turnout? Where?”

            - I never said it was a guaranteed doubling of the crowds or that it would happen overnight, just that it was a possibility of what could happen. The fact is, clubs have very few regular patrons anymore who attend regularly because they know its always a good vibe and good music any night of the week. Its become a world of sporadic, inconsistent events and not a club atmosphere at all. Nightclubs in America (especially Chicago) are being run like concert venues for DJs, not nightclubs. My point was that if you promote your resident(s) and build up a regular following of people who come regularly for them then you’re making more profit because you have no flight costs, hotels, or inflated DJ fees. It also lowers cover prices and makes it easier for everyone to go out and dance to good music. Then when you do put on a special guest to play with your already successful resident(s) that draw will bring out additional attendees who also get an opportunity to check out the resident. This adds to your regular crowd with the guest DJ draw therefore increasing your attendance overall. It may not be double, but its better than if only the fans of the special guest turn out and you have no built in clientele, which is quite often the situation today. “Where?” is a good question, because this just doesn’t happen anymore much in the US, no one has the patience. That doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t though. It also doesn’t mean I can’t suggest it as an option.

            “The scenario you described sounds just like Boom Boom Room to me… same residents almost every week with rotating guests. Is Boom Boom Room a growing cultural phenomenon? No, it’s a refuge for the converted. It’s great at that, but the scales are not falling from the eyes of the benighted clubgoing public thanks to the residents at Boom.”

            - I don’t think BBR is a perfect example for a number of reasons. First off, for a few years now they’ve relied very heavily on big name guests to be their draw. It’s only been recently that they’ve reverted back to a more local based, non-big name format. Also, again remember that BBR is a weekly EVENT at Green Dolphin. If Green Dolphin decided to be an underground dance music venue exclusively and they had 3 DJs covering all the nights they were open those would be actual resident DJs. What im talking about is not about being residents of a night, or an event, but the resident of a club. Playing some party one night a week is not a residency. It is not what the role of the resident DJ was meant to be. The resident DJ of a club helped to shape a sound & give the club an identity of it’s own. In my humble opinion nightclubs were never meant to be run the same way concert venues are with new opening acts and headliners everynight. I think they need to have consistency to build reputation, vibe and community.

            “Owners need to commission six-figure sound systems so we can appreciate the difference between vinyl and WAVs?”

            - Let’s go to Guitar Center right now and play a record and an MP3 through a $1,000 sound system and you’ll hear the difference. I know you know that. You may be able to tell the difference between a CD & a record too. However, I never said WAVs were bad anywhere on this blog. WAVs aren’t the best thing ever but they’re way better than MP3′s. I said in my latest post that all Digital DJs who care anything about sound quality should be using CD quality files (WAV or AIFF) not MP3s. I haven’t done a post on sound systems yet, but I will now. A sound system doesn’t have to cost six-figures to be really, really good. It just has to be creatively assembled and meticulously monitored and tuned.

            “Digital DJ’s would be more accomplished and worthy of respect if they played next to nothing recorded after 2005, when most new tracks stopped getting pressed onto vinyl? (See northern soul.)”

            - I never said nor implied anything like this, and its just plain bullshit that most new tracks stopped being pressed onto vinyl around 2005. Sure many labels may have moved to digital only but there are still tons of records coming out every week and plenty of hot tracks out there that are exclusively ONLY pressed onto vinyl. I play tons of records that I’ve bought in the past year alone.

            “And where is the vinyl DJ in all of this? He just shows up with a crate of records into this impeccable environment (without advertising out of his own pocket, flyering, DJing on non-commercial radio or promoting himself online) and not only tears the house down that night, but makes everybody there want, no, NEED to hear him again next week? Why? Because the crowd could hear the difference between vinyl and WAVs on that six-figure system? Because they got to hear pops and crackles during the set?”

            - No. Not at all. First off, if you can find anywhere on this site that I said DJing with WAV files is a bad thing I’ll send you a box of cookies. Also if you can find anywhere I said all clubs need a six-figure sound system I’ll send you a carton of milk to go with those cookies. I could keep going like that with every word you just put into my mouth that I never said. I never said nor implied that any environment will ever be impeccable, or that anyone will ever NEED to hear a DJs set every week. DJs aren’t promoters theyre dorks obsessed with music, or at least I am. I never said anything about them not promoting their sets, or going on the radio, etc I have no idea where you’re getting that from. I do believe DJs shouldn’t HAVE to be promoters in any way other than doing what they do best and that’s playing music. There’s some bullshit ass djs out there who get gigs by doing anything and everything besides being good at playing music for a dance floor and that shit pisses me right off.

            “Venues, talent bookers, audiences, and 99% of DJ’s in any medium can’t create the climate you are talking about. ARTISTS create that environment. They do it because they can’t help themselves… to make art is the same to them as eating or breathing. And because to make art is to live, they do it OUTSIDE of the mainstream, REGARDLESS of environment (or pay), and eventually get co-opted because demand by the public to hear them grows so large. Vinyl, the sound system, the crowd… none of those are going to create that kind of demand. Only ARTISTS can.”

            - What’s wrong with striving for the best and wanting the best? Sure these may be unattainable goals, however I don’t have to settle for mediocrity do I? Youre right about them being artists, however artists need the right medium, places and environments to express themselves. For djs that’s equipment, sound systems, people and clubs. Why do you think lil’ louis brings his own sound system to every gig? They also need support from promoters, music directors and managers the same way that a visual artist needs support from gallery owners, art dealers, etc.

            “The next virtuoso DJ will be digital. He (or she… who knows) will do things live no turntable can do. He will tease apart the individual instruments in existing tracks in Ableton, Adobe Audition and yes, Traktor and recontextualize them so that you associate them more strongly with that DJ than with the artists who made them… much like King Tubby did. They’ll play riffs on keyboards or drum machines live while mixing and loop them in perfect time with their set… much like Farley used to play the 909 live and Frankie Knuckles would record his own re-edits onto reel-to-reel. They’ll work a rackful of studio-quality effects live with just a computer… soon enough, DJs will have enough processing power to do it on the same computer as they’re running the DJ software on.

            - First off, the top ranked DJ in the world according to Resident Advisor in 2010 was Ricardo Villalobos, a man who plays almost exclusively vinyl. Just sayin’. I don’t believe there will ever be another “virtuoso DJ” doing what you describe. Shit Richie Hawtin has been doing the same shit you just described for years now. At the point that it ALL becomes like that, then recorded original music will be obsolete and DJing won’t be DJing anymore. It will be a musical deconstruction performance. Knuckles made his edits to take tracks that weren’t necessarily made to be DJ friendly good for the floor. His edits were not major deconstructions of the music. Listen to them. The idea of djing is to play music other people made from their soul and play it for an audience to dance to. That is djing. Tearing apart a bunch of sounds and reconstructing and mashing up a bunch of stuff is cool and interesting, but at that point we’ve lost sight of what DJing was. At that point youre putting on a performance of original material (made up of pieces of other peoples material). By your account you basically just said GirlTalk is a “virtuoso DJ” and I beg to differ.

            “Just like Nicky Siano thought up the crossover/ kill EQ and Nick Mancuso, the flying tweeter array. Ideas like these… new ideas… are all that can revive interest in this decades-old music. And who knows, maybe they won’t give a shit about sound quality and it will all be part of their charm, just like Ron Hardy and Larry Levan didn’t really concern themselves with perfect beat-mixing.”

            - This is a good analysis. I like what you’re saying here. Those progressions helped to further the listening enjoyment of the audience. Shit dude (I believe you meant David) Mancuso won’t even mix a record because he feels the entire piece should be heard the way the artist intended it. He’s also a complete audiophile obsessed with sound quality. The loft was about the songs, sound quality and the energy in the room. It had nothing to do with how many tricks and deconstructions and edits of a song someone could do. There needs to be a balance in DJing, a give and take between the DJs ego and the music. Sometimes it’s the DJs job to just let the music play. I also completely disagree that new technological ideas are as you say “all that can revive interest in this decades-old music.” This music hasn’t gone anywhere over the past 40 years because there are people who are in love with it, they’re passionate about it and because it moves them. It has absolutely nothing to do with technology. If anything technology has only been a catalyst. You mentioned Levan and regardless of Larry’s beatmixing ability he was obsessed with the sound system at the paradise garage and making it sound perfect. It was all about getting the music to the people in the highest quality way possible, I don’t see how that’s any different from anything I’ve said here.

            “The next virtuoso DJ will choose digital over vinyl because, as an artist, he’s interested in possibilities, introducing new ways of thinking about things and capturing the zeitgeist of his time. Not preserving the past.”

            - dude, the digital djing revolution is here now. What more can they do? You’ve got 4 decks, hundreds of effects, tons of controllers, midi syncing to outboard gear, etc. There is no next virtuoso DJ because all the djs will all have the same digital toys. Besides, Richie Hawtin will continue to beat you all to it. What do you have against preserving the past by the way? Why is that a bad idea? Should we just get rid of all the old art to make way for the new? Should we stop learning how to paint and draw and just learn photoshop? I like the past, I like it a lot. I’m also not afraid to go into the future because Im armed with the abilities and lessons I’ve learned from the past.

            “Staying stuck in the good old days isn’t going to revive the scene or generate new interest. The next generation deserves their own “good old days.” I wonder if it will sound anything like what we dance to now, but I’m confident of one thing… it won’t be on vinyl.”

            - Again with the vinyl, Jesus dude, you talk about it more than I do. You may be right and playing vinyl will become an antiquated art form. However, I think DJing in general will become one too. It’s only a matter of time before the person picking the music becomes obsolete and the computer does that too. I see it now… an app for the iPhone 6 where the audience can make requests to iDJ running on a MacBook pro in an unmanned DJ booth. The software then selects the songs based on number of requests, the songs Billboard chart position, etc then skillfully creates an upcoming playlist mixed flawlessly with effects for a packed floor of dancers who go wild and throw there hands in the air. 

    • Das Disco says:

      I would think the promoters have some sort of feedback system so they know which Dj’s are doing their job. But at the same time it depends also on the promoters and if they are hiring their buddies or people that are actually good at mixing.

      • WMTGW says:

        Das Disco,
        Unfortunately the feedback system is the bottom line. It all depends on the numbers. A lot of GM’s and Music Directors don’t even go out to other bars to scout talent or even go to hear the openers sets in their own clubs. They just look at the numbers the next day and rely on turnout and bar ring, not the talent of the DJ to make their decisions. Oh yeah, that and how many Facebook friends they have to promote to.

    • WMTGW says:

      Adelord,
      I love it man, you totally got it. I want local resident DJs back more than anything. I want clubs to have a “sound” that they are identified with again. I want people to think of a club and instantly think of a specific DJ or a small group of DJs or vice-versa. That’s a SCENE not just a bunch of events.

  15. SethNichols says:

    the more that DJs and viewers accept technology, the less important a human becomes to the process.
    the DJ is becoming obsolete, and the pre-packaged ‘perfect’ set is taking the stage. no room for error, no room for performance.

    Highly agree that the revolution starts on the dancefloor. Music is music no matter the medium, yes. but there must still be room for error and performance.

  16. nax_acid says:

    first I have to say I agree almost with all written here in the article.. this digital word is something for me really problematic.. first I have to say the dgt dj that doesn’t have djs skills are not dj at all… easy to auto beat match a tune.. u just press a button… can u play a guitar, or a bass or violin just pressing a button???? I dont think so…. being a dj is about the passion and the research in music and about the skill of djing, like a musician.. basically this tools like ableton and trackor are video games for kids… the sound quality as well is the proof of it, it’s shit, no one can argue with this sorry (I’m trying to convince anyone, I’m just describing the reality)…..

    then.. one more point to support the article.. technology is definitely a good tool in production for people that doesnt have money and to let them “play” with electronic music.. since the digital era started with all the plug ins and software the music is double but is this really a good thing???????? producer are growing like mushrooms just because it’s easy now-a-days to do music you just need a laptop, in fact no one is using recording studios anymore.. but facing the truth how much quality music we have on the market?????? I would say that the 80% of the music in my opinion shouldnt even have been produced…. lot’s of people do it because is the fashion of the last years.. u are cool if u are a dj or a producer.. but are u really one?? believe u can recognize a really dj when it plays………. and there is few…………

  17. jaydi says:

    I’m nearly 30, started listening to house and the likes when I was 10 so I have seen the “scene” come and go.

    When we rethink the past we tend to embellish and forget.

    Many of the issues mentionned here aren’t new and in one form or another will always exist.

    The newbie clueless free dj will always be around. Stealing shows etc.
    Yet somehow, they’re never around for long or are they?
    I’ve heard this complaint so many times that I prefer to ignore it.
    Sure they might take a few bookings away from the good djs but I always felt this was dramatized way beyond the facts.

    Now clubs do pay poorly and that’s a bloody shame. Shaddy promoters, people fighting for guestlists etc

    The key issue which was partially adressed here is immediacy.
    People want everything right now!

    You can’t really warm up and often people want bangers after bangers after bangers…

    Personally I only play digital, I bless the day the sync button was invented, and use the ghettoest of all controllers a Korg Nanokontrol(this all due to the fact I recently got back into djing after having stopped for well over 5 years and not currently having my old vinyls or turntables).

    I don’t push Traktor all the way with the crazy looping and cues but I to use that every now and then.

    Even with Traktor I’ve seen some people getting all angry because they can’t understand everything in two seconds, yet they fail to even bother understanding basic concepts of bars and phrases… yeah go right ahead and drop that incoming tune in the middle of the main hook … yeaaah … wreck the whole mood why don’t you.

    Does that make me lazy compared to the software capacities? Am I less of a performer if I ain’t rocking every single feature in the software??

    The digital dj debate seriously needs to die.

    Djs relying exclusively on Charts, with no originality, have been around forever.
    Today it’s no different, except now there’s no need to go to a store.

    It’s all about selection, crowd reading, and bringing the party on a journey. Who cares how you do it.

    ps: I play warm up deep house tunes (don’t want to headline cause I can’t deal with peoples attitude, I’m not playing in the most respective of contexts) and have found it extremely difficult at times regarding the immediacy issue yet even if some people complain saying I’m playing the most boring stuff and that I suck as a dj, many people are still happy because I brought the mood in, slowly, but surely.

    ps2: I’ll be back to vinyl soon enough, if not for playing out, for nostalgia and at home listening.

  18. akdj says:

    Preach on. Everything you said is so true that it hurts to even read some of these comments.

    DJ’ing with a computer is as boring to watch as it is to do. Every time I play a set with vinyl, several people always take the time to thank me for it, and many mention how much better it sounds. I want to strangle every person who uses a computer and doesn’t have a QUALITY sound card. My god, if I hear one more POS built-in soundcard amplified to club levels I’ll kill somebody. While I will eventually hook up timecodes for the stuff I just can’t get on vinyl, I’ll do it with much reluctance. I’ll admit, I learned to “DJ” on a computer, and then got turntables. Once I learned on decks, I truly learned the art, the feel, the skill. Digging through record stores is where it’s at. Even if I take my PC with me to a gig, it’s to shut people up if they demand to hear something I don’t have on vinyl.

    Like you said, when you’re paying ~$10 a track, your collection of music is of far better quality, and far more individualized than someone who just downloads a shitload of torrents of mp3′s. Having 1000′s of songs at your disposal can kill the creativity and individuality in an instant. There are a couple folks I know who actually are really good digital “DJ’s”, but they either used to spin vinyl, or spend countless hours filtering their collections of bullshit.

    Why should digital DJ’s learn to beat match? I don’t know, why should math majors know how to add when they can just use a calculator? It’s called a basic fundamental understanding of what the fuck you’re doing, that’s why.

  19. DJ Sean Mac says:

    DJing is all about connecting with the crowd through music manipulation. I don’t care how you do it as long as you do it well. Any fight over formats, methods, or instruments is missing the point.

    Before I get slammed: I learned on vinyl and CD concurrently back in the mid-90s – two Geminis with loose belt-drives and a super-sensitive Denon dual-deck CD player, paired with an old Numark mixer. I currently spin on Pioneer CDJs and a Rane or Pioneer mixer (in my rider), depending on the club. I haven’t used Traktor yet, but I’ve seen a friend blow up a dancefloor with a series of well timed, intricately layered sample mixing made possible by the technology. And it was awesome.

    I want to be like the old guy in that youtube video playing David Guetta, dancing merrily behind his laptop. Even though he wasn’t really mixing by our definition, he was obviously having a lot of fun making track selections. And, despite not seeing the audience he was playing for, I’m willing to bet his joy translated very well to those dancing. Think about that. Menawhile, I’m going to go looking for more videos of Asian DJs mixing using Wii controllers.

  20. Seanskee says:

    1. Thank you for posting this.
    2. Thank you Michael Serafini for writing it.
    3. Having been a DJ for a year or two, I’ve weathered vinyl, CDs and now technology with the digital age. All are useful tools – it’s up to the person behind the decks – whatever the decks may be – to create the vibe so people stay in the room and dance longer, come back often and tell friends about it. You have to learn/know your crowd, find the best music that you think will work for that crowd and be imaginative enough to make it all work together with your skills. It can/does/will feel like you’re on a mission – because you are. If you’re just playing pre-programmed sets with stuff that only you like – you’re just playing with yourself and should stay in the bedroom with that. Just my humble opinion. I will crawl back under my rock now. Cheers!

  21. jesseam says:

    Um, try being in a band, then complain about something. Remember the days when you showed up with a bag of records and got paid lots of money to spin other people’s music? Yeah, sounds pretty sweet when you are loading up gear into a mini-van, driving around the country with 4-6 other dudes and sleeping on people’s floors.

    Everyone agrees that playing vinyl is more difficult and note worthy, but for better or worse – only a few people care. I’m a vinyl head myself, I play in a band, I occasionally DJ – on vinyl or using computer or both – but this complaint just sounds old and tired.

    • WMTGW says:

      I played in bands for most of my teenage years and beyond. I know the rigors of that life, but I also know the rewards.

      However, In many ways certain Digital DJing can be the same as a band getting on stage and lipsynching to a DAT and none of us like that now do we?

  22. protocollie says:

    Sorry, dude. You’re missing the point entirely and I hate to say it but I see a lot more spite in here than I do valid insight.

    I started over 10 years ago on vinyl. I started way back when battling the bad torque of my shitty numark belt-drives, worked my way up to 1200s, and had to go through the pain of playing a genre so under-represented (I’m not going to say what, because those were embarassing days I’d rather forget now) that I had to import all my records from overseas, costing me a good $15-20 per single track I wanted to drop and sometimes even then finding myself disappointed because the short preview was pretty much all the substance the track had to offer me when I was buying obscure cuts I hadn’t heard played out before. I remember the CDJs rising to prominence while I was still vinyl only and being pretty pissed off. I remember Traktor’s release, I remember when software like PCDJ and Virtual DJ started hitting the internet and suddenly every kid with a downloaded collection of trance or prog house music was TOTALLY A DJ because they played on shoutcast once for their friends on the internet. I’ve been through what you’re going through.

    The problem is, your argument is inconsistent. This argument, period, is inconsistent. You say it yourself, even, in a roundabout way: what makes a DJ is not what they use, it’s what they play. A good DJ is nothing more than a person with a vision, a good connection to the crowd, a badass taste in music, and a desire to share an experience over the course of a night. A good DJ is not beatmatching, is not vinyl, is not a midi controller. You can give a bad DJ Traktor and they’re still going to have crunchy mixes, they’re still going to pick the same top 10 songs that every other shitty DJ is dropping, they’re still going to fumble their way through awkward transitions and most importantly they’re not going to be distinguishable from any other crappy DJ who builds their sets around the beatport top 10 or pre-plans to hell and back and comes to the club with a list of 8 tracks they’re going to play intro-to-outro. You give a good DJ traktor and you can automate out the pain points of DJing and boil it down to what it really is – someone talented, with a specific, refined musical taste, getting up on stage and working with the crowd to build an experience.

    You talk about things like traktor sync like they’re somehow taking the challenge out of DJing but that’s not the case – first, automated beatmatching isn’t foolproof. Even if cue points and grids are saved with your tracks, they’re never quite right. They need tweaking. You still need that skill to match them initially by ear, even if the software takes over after the fact. Second, it doesn’t automate a good mix. Sync won’t mix with the EQ for you, sync won’t teach you that if you’re playing a set, you should probably lay off the crossfader and start micromanaging your levels with the level faders. At the same time, mixing tracks competently is one thing, but should you really be wasting time matching gains on tracks? Probably not.

    What makes a good DJ, and I’ll stand behind this 100%, is how you get into it. There’s two kinds of DJs – there’s people who do it because they want to be a DJ, and there’s people who love the music for whom it’s a logical progression. No amount of turntablism will teach you to crate-dig online or off, but if you really love your music, you’ll do it anyway. For you. Because you want to hear the best stuff for yourself. That sort of drive will naturally improve your sets. A good DJ’s not going to dig into a pool of 1000 tracks, even if they’re there, because a good DJ’s got enough new material they’re excited about to fill a few shows back to back because they’ve been actively seeking it out. When a good DJ dusts off an old track to drop, they’re playing that track because they’re pretty sure they’re not the only ones in the room who are going to enjoy the nostalgia, or because it matches with the mood of the night.

    Vinyl has nothing to do with this, attitude has everything to do with it. Your love for your music will show if you have it. You’re not going to disrespect a track you love by dropping it when people don’t want to hear it. You’re not going to disrespect it by trainwrecking the mix in and ruining the first drop. You won’t because you love the music, and no matter how you play your set, no matter how you learned, when someone loves the music they play it shows in their performance. If you really think any of the extraneous crap besides that matters, you’re wrong. You’re just dead wrong, and I can’t say it any more emphatically than that.

    It’s not like there isn’t something to be said for vinyl. Carl cox playing on six decks is an awesome thing to behold, and when I hear people pulling off really impressive stuff on vinyl alone, I respect that. Vinyl’s its own monster, it’s unruly and complex and requires a lot of love and care to maintain and play properly. Even so, my turntables are safely packed away in their flight cases in a cool closet with most of my older vinyl, and while I still break them out from time to time for fun, I prefer playing all digital now. I even let go of my prejudice against the sync tool and now use it nearly exclusively, and I feel like I have more fun now. To me, what sounds good sounds good. When I get tunnel vision while I’m playing, forget where I am, start dancing and having a great time along with the crowd, I know I’m doing well, and there’s not a person out there besides folks who can’t let go of tradition who are going to be picking on me for how I’m doing what I’m doing, because if they’re really there for the music, they’re dancing. Plain and simple.

    You can justify it all you want but when you boil it down to choice of hardware and not the emotion, sweat, talent and love that goes into a good set, YOU are cheapening DJ culture. I look forward to more pioneering by kids with controllers who no longer think about DJing with the constraints of vinyl in mind because they’ve never felt that ball and chain around their ankle. I know I still feel attached to the vinyl mindset, and I think in the end all that’s doing is hurting me as a performer because I sometimes don’t even consider the fact that now I can jump back 32 bars in a track seamlessly. Music’s not linear anymore. Tracks are no longer atomic units that have to be played in a specific direction. Any DJ who laments this new freedom, or thinks that it’s responsible for the current wave of sub-par DJs is just not looking at the big picture. You’re part of dance culture, you should understand that innovation and change have always been a part of what we do. Drummers hated drum machines because of their lack of soul, but they’ve been proven wrong time and time again by talented producers. The 303 was a mess of a box that was supposed to emulate a bass guitar and sucked ass at it, but dance music pioneers made it into an icon. The spirit of DJs and EDM has always been about going against the grain, trying new things, experimenting, branching out, and just plain using things wrong for the fun of it (i.e. scratch culture, the most iconic form of turntablism out there.) DJs have always had a precarious job – we’re not musicians, really – we’re playing other people’s music! How many times have you heard people say “you’re not a musician” when you tell them you’re a DJ? You know that’s not true – you know there’s an artistry to DJing that can’t be described in comparison of drumming, or playing the guitar, but that runs deep in what we do, a process for which each DJ has their own unique style.

    To say “____ defines the difference between a fake DJ and a real one” is the exact same thing – a closed-minded view that’s only going to marginalize you and leave you behind in a scene that’s constantly moving forward.

    • protocollie says:

      Just to tack on here, something I meant to address but did not when I finished – I understand that your overarching statement is not against digital DJing as whole, but it’s hard to look past that and see the validity of the rest of your argument when you start off on that foot.

      Statements like ‘you can’t really understand DJing having not touched vinyl’ are patently untrue. My point above was not to counter your entire post, but to say that the digital vs. vinyl argument is completely detached from the current clusterfuck of bad DJs, bad music and unpleasant clubgoers. Vinyl as a restriction isn’t really a great idea, it’s essentially setting a way to ‘buy your way in’ to the scene. The cost of DJing is not a proper barrier to entry; that’s on the promoters. The seven thousand DJ Venoms out there shouldn’t be kept from trying – the problem is with promoters valuing who can bring the most heads in the door versus who’s the most talented. Generally, the fratboy D-bag who loves tiesto kisses enough ass and has little enough shame to self promote to the point of filling a room with uninterested attendees. Most GOOD DJs I’ve met are down to earth – they’re not that kind of person.

      While many of your other points are valid, the digital argument is tired and irrelevant and softens the impact of the rest of what you say. Bad DJs will always find their way in, demanding higher expectations from promoters is the way to go, though – not building artificial walls around methodology. Vinyl is not the only gateway to a good DJ, I really think you overstated that point a lot.

  23. Pingback: This is not about Digital DJing its about Digital Files, I Swear. | While My Turntables Gently Weep

  24. lchaim says:

    As a nightclub owner, I find it amusing that we often pay djs as much as real musicians for what seems to require a fraction of the skill, and yet you all still do nothing but complain. Additionally, they more often than not destroy equipment, blow out speakers, burn out amplifiers, and we always end up eating the cost. I’ve created an online petition for the rest of the industry requesting that djs provide their own equipment, just as real musicians bring their own guitars, drums, etc, and sign liability forms pertaining to the welfare of our sound systems. You can read and sign it here: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43942.html

  25. akdj says:

    I hate to say it, but you’re clearly dealing with amateurs. A real DJ knows damn well not to clip their output and will have their own CD Players, Turntables, etc. I even own my own multi-amp PA setup; In a town over-run with “DJ’s,” I’m pretty much the only one who owns his/her own sound equipment. I have potential to make a lot of money loaning it out, but I only loan it out to one or two individuals who I know damn well won’t damage it.

    The thing is, amatuers who use a laptop and don’t monitor peak output from their mixer (or often don’t even own a fucking mixer) will fuck your shit up, as you’ve discovered. REAL, experienced DJ’s, know damn well not to clip/peak their output. I leave my gain knobs 10 or 20% less than “nominal,” so that I’m not risking clipping and damaging anyone’s equipment (including my own). I monitor the output level before I even raise the fader for that channel.

    Having done sound for many parties, and even bars, using my own PA, my one rule is “if you run into the red on your mixer, I’ll slap your bitch ass if you break any of my equipment.” Yet, even with this made clear, many “DJ’s” still clip into my shit, causing me to walk up and turn their mixer down personally. They give those of us who know what we’re doing a bad name. My advice is not to make these people sign anything; stop hiring the idiots! Find DJ’s who’ve been at it more than 6 months and who bought their own shit!

    Also, regarding the “pay” issue: As a DJ who purchases my music, most of the money I make from gigs goes into either purchasing new records, or maintaining my own equipment such as needles, etc. I re-invest almost everything I make from DJ’ing right back into it. You may not realize it as a club owner/listener, but that hour set I just played probably cost me over $200 in vinyl purchases.

  26. Pingback: » Blog Archive » 2011 State Of The DJ Address from WMTGW.com…Great read on how things have changed for DJs over the last few years…

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