By Gamal Hennessy
There is a direct relationship between modern nightlife culture and the rise of the live DJ. The dominance of live music in bars and clubs ended when performers connected two turntables with a mixer. Suddenly, almost any song could be played, manipulated or combined with any other song. DJ's helped to create completely new genres of music like hip hop and house that currently dominate nightlife culture, popular music and pop culture as a whole.
But the definition of the DJ is constantly being argued and altered.
- As the prestige and income of some DJs rise (see Forbes 2013 List of Richest DJ’s) more and more people want to be considered DJs.
- As DJ technology becomes more automated (See The Surface DJ Tool Announcement) more people can claim the title of DJ without the time, effort and expense of earlier artists.
- As DJ skills moved from word of mouth apprenticeships and trial and error to formalized education and Youtube videos, the earlier barriers to entry have been eroded. Now even toddlers are being celebrated as DJ’s (See Baby DJ Classes)
Angry debates constantly rage about who is really a DJ in 2013.
Are you a DJ if you only play vinyl on Technics, or can you use Serato with your CDJ? What about an iPad or an iPhone?
Is it acceptable to beat match automatically, or do you have to do it by ear?
Do you have to harmonize the mix too? Do the songs have to be the same pitch and the same key?
Can you pre-mix before the party or does it have to be done live?
Are you really a DJ if your music is dictated to you by the club owner, the promoter or random requests that come to the booth?
Do you need to have your own style?
Are you legitimate if you only play what is currently popular or do you have to play rare unreleased tracks that no one else knows about?
Do you have to have knowledge about classics in every genre or just your favorite? Are you supposed to be producing your own music too?
Are you a real DJ if you play to an empty room, or do you need a packed house every night?
Do you need to be a celebrity DJ or a DJ celebrity? What's the difference?
Do you need a loyal following or just random listeners?
Are you supposed to be your own promoter?
Do you have to have people dancing all the time or can you just play in the background?
What if you're playing and people don't even realize you're there?
Many of these questions are subjective. A few of them are ridiculous. But the number of open questions offers a hint at the number of viewpoints out there and the fractured nature of the art form. Your answers to these questions probably says more about you and your nightlife sub-culture than they do about legitimate DJs.
Of course this debate can't be resolved in a single blog post. An entire book on the subject might not settle things. But DJ culture helps define nightlife culture. As one grows and evolves, the other will follow. The more we recognize and support the art of being a DJ, the better our nightlife experience will be.