How Do You Think Digital Has Changed DJing?

Old record decks

OK, so truth is this pic this is going back a bit further than we’re about to talk about – but you get the message. Things have changed. A lot.

Just the quickest of glances at the posts around this one here on Digital DJ Tips will show you just how advanced DJ technology is nowadays. But it didn’t always used to be like that – and because of this fact, DJs 20 years ago were very different people to DJs today. As someone who’s still DJing today with all the new technology to draw on, but who has also DJed professionally for all that time, I thought it’d be fun (and useful) to rewind for a snapshot of how it was back then, so together we can maybe think about how the changes that have happened affect DJs in 2013.

Can I get a rewind?

So let’s jump in the time machine to a very different age…

When I started DJing, the choice was simple: play vinyl records or vinyl records! The CD was only just invented and wasn’t in DJ booths, there was no such thing as a Pioneer CDJ (pioneer was best known for making car stereos), hardly anyone had a computer, you could not burn a CD, mobile phones were massive things that only a few businessmen had, nobody yet had satellite or cable TV, no internet, no Xbox. On the TV here in the UK, you had a choice of, wait for it, four channels (or was it three…?).

So you wanted to be a DJ. It really was not something you could dabble in; you had to make a decision. Maybe you already had some records, but still, to be able to play out required some serious investment. The easiest way to get started was to buy a collection from a retiring DJ then continue to add to this collection to make it unique to you. I carried around a box of 400 7-inch singles, which contained all the classic and party tunes covering all bases. Plus, I carried three boxes containing 100 12-inch singles in each. If you had the right tunes, a collection of this size would work for many different types of gig.

To get new music you made your weekly trip to the record shop, and once you’d made friends with the guy in charge of looking after the DJs, you had a definite headstart. (After a while at my local record shop the guy just used to give me a pile of 20 or 30 12 inch records and let me take them home with me, the following week I would go in and pay for the ones I was keeping and take back the ones I didn’t want and the cycle would then be repeated.)

Having the big tunes was important, and if you had them it would make all the difference; you could have the busiest night in town just because you had those two or three hard-to-find new tunes that some of the other guys could not get or would have to wait a couple of weeks to get; by then, we were onto the next thing…

Old DJ console

It was perfectly normal for DJs to spend time and money building their own custom DJ equipment from separate components back in the 1980s, as this elaborate mobile DJ console, lifted from the pages of The DJ’s Handbook (1986), demonstrates.

As far as the technical side of DJing went, the equipment was virtually the same across all clubs: two Technics 1200s/1210s and a mixer that very often didn’t have individual tone controls or a crossfader.

As a result, in order to stand out you had to be good, because really the equipment was the same for everyone. In this respect I’d compare it to football / soccer; everyone uses more or less the same equipment and so it was usually obvious who the best players were. It was a world that didn’t really change massively for a long time. But as with so many areas of live, digital blew all of that out of the water…

Fast-forward to now…

Now we have CD players and all manner of DJ software, we have the internet, MP3s so anyone can get hold of any song, smart phones with loads of music on them, games consoles, 1000 channels on the TV, the list goes on and on. Obviously, personally I have had to “adapt to survive”, like anyone who’s in any game for a long time. For me, some of the changes have been very positive and some have made the job of the DJ harder.

One of the main ways I’ve found that all of this has impacted the way lots of DJs play is that nowadays people have very short attention spans. It’s a bit like with the TV; it loses your interest so you end up flicking channel after channel with the remote control and watching nothing.

Digital DJ Jukebox

Digital DJing didn’t always look the way it does now. Here’s an early incarnation of a laptop DJ set-up.

So while lots of DJs used to do long running mixes, I find the crowd lose interest in this now and need to be stimulated by a much quicker turnover of music – next tune into next big tune, without the patience to stay with a tune like they did in the past. Of course, with the new technology we have loads of cue points and loops and the sync button, and I’m not against any of these – they are just the new tools of the job. But I think they do need to be used properly – and I also think it’s important that the DJ can put together a good show without relying too much on the technology.

The purpose of this article really, though, is to ask you about all of this. If you have been a DJ for a few years, how has the game changed for you? Do you find people have a shorter attention span and how do you deal with this?

And if you’re a newer DJ, how do you think this massive change has changed the DJing world you’re now entering? Do you think it’s better now, or worse? What do you feel about pre-digital DJs and DJing? And in an age when all music is available to all DJs, how do you stand out from the crowd?

• Tony Corless is a professional club and bar DJ who you can find playing throughout the north west of England.

Please contribute by giving your thoughts and answering from your point of view some of the questions Tony has posed in this article. Use the comments below…

Comments

  1. How do you stand out? As always, knowing what to play and when to play it.
    What’s changed?
    Bad: A perception amongst public that anyone can do it once they can click synch.

    Good: loads but Ill just give one point, if I’m doing a wedding and finished at 2am and at 1:57am the bride remembes her favourite song I can have it locked and loaded in sub 5-6 seconds.

    • Good points. We’re going to be exploring this idea of how to stand out using digital gear a LOT more over the coming weeks. Getting past what I’ve started calling the “select-sync” style of DJing…

      • I think people seem to forget djing is not about the art of syncing records… rather, it is the art of mixing compatible tunes together and creating a journey of music that is awsome to the listener, beatmatching is easy, anyone can do it, i really dont see what the fuss is about, i for one welcome the sync button, it allows me to focus on other things whislt still maintaining smooth synchronisation.
        Beatmatching is overated.

  2. I think peoples attention spans have def changed, I jumped into DJn during the early years of the digital era, and back then people def listened to songs alot longer than they seem to now, back then I remember I would play at least 2 verses in most songs, now I barely play 1 verse, and depending on what kind of set Im playing, sometimes it will just be jumping from Hook to Hook. I can visually see people getting bored if I play a song longer than a verse and hook (which can make it hard working in ‘rest’ periods in the night cause playing at full speed for a whole night isnt the most practical of things to do) But I def enjoy the digital era, it has allowed me to get much more creative with my sets and no more lugging around heavy ass DJ bags!! However, the downside is it has created alot of lazy DJs who just rely on the new software to do the work for them and not utlising it to its full potential

  3. I would consider myself a newer DJ. I started with a M-AUDIO exponent and moved to a Numark NS7, then I learned actual tables. I pay huge respects to those before me. They are the reason for why I DJ now. They are the reason I do my research on the culture and the history of DJing. Why I strive to stay up-to-date yet keeping with the art of Organic DJing. Now I have some bad habits that I need to break but I know my faults. DJs now, I believe, just play music. The might blend, they might have a bootleg they created but for the most part they are going track to track with no connection to the set they create. I have learned to take what is current, and remind people of where it came from. For example, 50 Cent’s “I Get Money” came from Audio Two’s “Top Billin'” and “Baby By Me” sampled “I Get Money” You have to know your history to be able to put those track together. You can’t just play them track by track though, you have to do it right sample for sample. I think that’s where the difference is from today’s DJs to the REAL DJ’s. There’s no study or creativity. Just a bunch of fans of music that want to hear there favorite songs and get free drinks.

    It needs to change.
    ~DJ BIG RED-1

  4. I think it makes the job of a DJ way more fun. It’s more able for the DJ to do what he hears in his head and share that with the crowd. This way you can give yourself more of a different style than other DJs.

  5. Digital DJing is like Vincent Van Gogh using Photoshop to create his paintings.

  6. i started djing about 15 years ago, didn’t get into digital/dvs until ~2010, and one thing i can say for sure my back and wallet really benefitted from that decision. no more lugging up the stairs of 100s of records early in the morning, no more having to spend 20€ for that one track on an import 12″ because you ‘had’ to have that – soon to be forgotten but right now the biggest hit – track…

    the big advantage for me is the chance to stand out even more via track selection. with billions of great tunes available via soundcloud and the chance to make a track/mashup in the afternoon and play it out at night it’s even more what you play that seperates the men from the boys. everyone ‘can’ indeed play a set of beatport top 10 or top chart tunes, but as in the old days, it’s still all about digging, even if fleamarkets and junk shops have been replaced by blogs and soundcloud…

    for vintage 60s soul/funk/reggae sets i still prefer to back to the basics and pack a few hundred 45s. some music just doesn’t feel right coming from a laptop and needs that bit of crackle and vinyl hiss…

  7. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    I just celebrated my 35th anniversary DJ-ing this year. CD’s were nowhere in sight. Computer? What computer?

    As a young kid there was (obviously) no way we could afford SL1200s, so we made do with a rickety mixer (thought it was the hottest thing on earth then lol) and two DIFFERENT turntables.

    But we managed to rock many a school party.

    A few years later at age 19 I got my first paid gig. A small dance bar with maybe 25 people. All from a certain ethnic background and requiring music I had hardly ever heard of.

    Not too long after that I got a contract with Juliana’s of London and got my first taste of really professional DJ-ing. 6 nights a week 6 hours a night at 5-star hotels all around the world (Germany, UK, Kuwait, Iraq).

    And still going (sorta strong :-) today. Just upgraded my set-up from MC6000 to SC2900 with X1600 (what can I say, been using Denon since forever). In a sense back to basic. I found I like the big machine with big platters and buttons better than the fiddly stuff on the controller. The mixer is midi so I can still get a lot of tricks done there. But I can also just go out with an engine prepaired usb stick and an iPad and have a really nice collection of easily searchable music with me that fits in my wallet.

    It is amazing to see what a few hundred (fill in your favorite currency) will buy you these days and what software can do. Thanks to this place it is relatively easy to keep up with all the new developments. Some are in the toy department, others specifically for starters and some are right there in the heart of professional DJ-ing.

    In the old days there were one-hit-wonders and you had to play those while they were hot, some even went on to become classics. But generally artist would be around for a long time and albums would generate several hit singles.

    As mentioned the attention span has shortened perceptably. Even at 80s parties, people want a faster succession of songs. Anything over 2-3 minutes is way too long. Something else I noticed is that the BPM range has changed too. There is lots of quality dance music from the 80s in the 100-115 BPM range available, but these days if it isn’t 120+ (and preferably 130+ high energy) stuff, it doesn’t seem to get the crowd moving.

    Which is sometimes an odd thing to see if you realise that the crowd consists of exactly those people that used to be on the dance floor back then.

    I am glad I am around to actively experience all the technological improvements and the new challenges it brings for us old hands. Trying to keep on top of my game keeps me young at heart.

    And I don’t mind not having to lug around (like Phil did) 600 7″s and about 200 12″s to every gig nor the big ass gear that came with it. SL1200s weren’t exactly lightweight. Nor do I mind not having needles breaking, people bumping into the dj stand and sending the needle jumping, records gettings stretched or warped (ever leave records on the window sill on a sunny day?).

    So apart from nostalgia, I have welcomed digital dj-ing with open arms and I am curious to see what, if any, major leaps are still ahead of us.

    Greetinx,
    C.

  8. Back in the day when I started it was all about talent. Now anyone can pick up a cheap controller and sound halfway deceint which is causing pay to come down. Any club can have DJ nights now because everyone has some sort of gear. Gear is coming out so quick that Im afraid to buy anything anymore. I actually seeing the trend top out in less then two years. People will feed their own request through cell phones. I started 25 years ago and I am having incredible success and I am signed but I don’t think the market will last to make a great living at it. Some kid with a controller will always spin for free.

    • Quality gets cheaper with time.

      For the value of today’s 1000 (enter your currency) you get better speakers today than 10 years ago.

      The same applies to technology features: Today, you need less skills to produce the same quality than 10 years ago (with less helpful tools around then).

      I surely remember crap DJs ten/twenty/thirty years ago. It also seems that over all these years the portion of good DJs stayed the same (about 1 out of 10 I listen to). Tech doesn’t seem to change that.

      Something that Madeon did a few years ago wasn’t possible at all ten years ago. Soemthing that Imogen Heap is doing with her magic gloves today wasn’t possible two years ago.

      Cool times to be around!

  9. JonnyFlash says:

    I started off with a lovely all in one cd mixing console from Vestax (CDX-12 I believe) with no features (no jogs or effects) and learned to beat match manually with a single cue point and pitch bend. It was awesome back then dropping a track then spending the next minute searching for the next track and getting it cued up. It was like magic to those that don’t know what is going on. Now A days I will admit it I have become a slave to the sync button. I rarely beat match unless the beat gridding does not seem to get it right. This is a horrible habit but also a great one. It is horrible as it forces me to rely too much on technology. It is great a it allows me to interact with the crowd, play with effects, play new not so familiar track, and enjoy myself more at a party. So as always technology is a double edged sword that we need to learn to use and not abuse.

  10. As a traditional vinyl dj who has moved into digital i must say that the transition has been really hard, however overall i prefer digital even though i still collect vinyl. The great change has been creative extras put in front of you and deciding whether to use them or not. İ think there is more pressure to perform as peoples attention spans have shortened greatly. İ think technology has caused this in general and ive even had punters pressure me to play tracks off youtube for example during the night!!!! İn general its created a level playing field but also made it harder for djs to do the basics.

  11. I only got into to DJ’ing because it can be done digitally. I’m into the whole paradigm shift. I love this new way of doing things; I buy one box now I can dj, vj, edit movies and pictures (that I shot digitally) make music etc. Any sources I need can be downloaded, location is irrelevant. The process of becoming artistic is the same though, nothing will change that

    • Wise words. We were looking at buying an autocue machine to help with making the scratch tuition videos we’re about to release; they were priced at around $1000. Then we found an iPad app that does EXACTLY the same thing, for $10. Neither would make what we were saying any better though :)

      • we live in magical times, it seems anything is possible, for cheap or even free. Right now I’m googling “how to stream pc games to tablet”. Lo and behold, the oracle says it can be done!
        ;)

  12. I started Dj-ing about 10 years ago. I Albania the club standart was a pair of pioneer CDJ 100s and a 2 channel mixer. FX on it just eq line fade and vu meters. I think i was the first introducing digital on a club. I bought a Hercules midi Controller and an soundblaster 4.1 Audio card. And i have to move my Desk Top computer with me at every gig. And i was judged by my friends about this type of set up. But i decided this kind of set up because it was easy to find fast a tune. easy to find the cue points. And it was something that i can practice at home. it had it sync button but i was embarrassed and i never used on that time. After that i bought i xponent midi controller. It was good. Big jogs, and nice fx (not the best)it was cool. At first i tried using xponent with traktor. it was cool. good FX better than DJM 600. 4 decks. At first i was using it on a cracked version and i learned it. A felt in love with the software and decided to finally purchase it. (it is a good but not legal idea to use a cracked software to practice before you decide to purchase it). 4 decks engaged me a lot on the mix. So sync button it was a must and i am glad to have it. it just like the ESC button on your computer keyboard. In conclusion Digital changed the game. It rises the number of the Dj is true but it made it more competitive. You have to work a lot to be the best. A midi controller with is more creative than every CDJ on the market.

  13. I’m new to djing and i feel the spectrum has been blended into production to the point that its almost impossible to be noticed unless you are physically performing. The tools available are so great that a new level of specialty is necessary to gain acknowledgment, its not about having those few songs that the other guy doesn’t, its about rocking the crowd, and they want more, and they want it now.

  14. The entry level to production has changed dramatically as well, the ease with which people can make the latest hot genre (looking at you trap) is helping fuel what gets played in venues; whereas before you might have a crowd digging a new style of sound that the DJ brought, now you have a style that the crowd is familiar with and desires.

    Obviously going digital has huge benefits when it comes to innovation, but that in itself is a double edged sword; the entry level to a lot of new hardware is low, so you might have two DJs using the same equipment with drastically different results (one wanting to push the gear to the max, the other just desiring to get in on the latest thing).

    • Interesting that you bring in production here, and how that’s affecting what crowds want.

      • I saw it happen at a gig earlier this week; it was a lineup of four DJs of various bass-oriented styles.

        The crowd was the most wild for the one playing trap; from the moment he started the first track people just rushed to the floor. That’s not to say that the other sets were bad or tired and contrite, far from it actually (and people complimented all of us quite a bit on them afterwards), but the instantaneous floor filling that the trap jockey had was unreal.

        He couldn’t keep them there for long however, as easy as it is to fill the floor trap also can kill it with too much repetition; but I can easily see why people are jumping at producing something that, for now, produces such quick results in club goers.

  15. +: moving from beatmatching to life-production
    ~: I miss the chats/time at the record store (I have no shop within 300 km)
    -: you’re supposed to have every song, to have it now and to play it now

  16. It’s opened it up to the masses which is great because it allows the ones with that little bit extra shine through (Sometimes)

  17. I grew up in the 80s. Wanted to learn to dj then, but it was too expensive. too expensive to do even as a hobby, you had to be dedicated. so although i had a dj friend show me a few things i decided to waste my money elsewhere rather than “invest” in gear and LPs

    Now it’s definitely more affordable. the programs have matured, although still not perfect. the controllers have still a bit of a way to go. Learning now, was much easier than then. but because the software and hardware are so powerfull, more is required from the performance. playing from tune to tune while beatmatching was more or less enough then. now, you need effects, samples, loops, pads, etc etc. Using all these tools right and creative is something that i find challenging.

    One thing is the same though. Song selection. It is the alpha and the omega of a set. the importance of it has remained the same. doesn’t matter if you can have all the songs (now), or having to hunt them down in fleamarkets and recordshops (then).

    A few have mentioned that you need to change songs faster now. I have a theory about this:
    songs now have become longer and more repeatitive in their content compared to the past.
    also maybe djs spend less time because they sync and dont beatmatch? cues can be preset? Dance songs are made in a way so that the dj has potential entry/mix in and exit/mix out points on more areas in the song?

  18. I’ve been djing off and on for over 20 years, mostly weddings and some parties and events. I’ve done some club gigs but not many. I remember my first gig which was a wedding for one of my co-workers. All I had at the time was a pioneer belt drive turntable and a cassttte player, no mixer and a whole bunch of vinyl records, about like 4 large crates. It was a bit ghetto but I made it work and everyone had a great time and the wedding party was a success. Later on I was able to get a mixer from radio shack and another turntable. Ikept that at set-up for quite some time. After some stole my equipment I moved to cd’s then after that got into digital djing with mp3s.This is much better that carrying around 8 large crates of vinyl.

  19. MappingGuru says:

    One optional skill the I think emerged from digital djing and that i think deserves credit is learning to map functions or mapping a set of controls to a knob, fader, or button. Because with this, digital djs can design a new-unique mixer or emulate another mixer onto their controller or have a knob do 10 different things at once; emulating a djm-900 can be really cost effective.

  20. Started with vinyl 45’s and LP’s, no mixing or mixer for that matter, all monies went to buying music so I couldn’t afford “real” gear. Always made cassette tapes for my boom box and realized that I could mix/extend tunes using the dual well (Panasonic’s seemed to work best) cassette decks. I would extend the break downs from seconds to minutes and hard slam songs together. We had a reel to reel and recorded music on one track, and then we recorded Richard Pryor on another track in various areas of songs where it fit, lol. Needless to say, it was a one time attempt at having a prerecorded party reel and was a failure because it eventually falls out of sync with the mood of the party lol… back to the vinyl!

    Eventually moved from vinyl to CD’s (wasn’t part of the “vinyl purist” argument) because I could see that’s where the technology was headed. Plus it was far easier to lug my whole CD collection around! At the time, the internet wasn’t as accessible for me and there wasn’t a pressing need to have dial-up at home (since I could access it faster at work). When Traktor dropped, I jumped on it and immediately started ripping my CD’s! It was the first piece of audio/music software I purchased online (at work of course lol) and I haven’t looked back! Although I don’t DJ many events anymore (my roadies have all grown up), I still keep up with where technology is heading, and purchase stuff now because I want to!

    I’ve always embraced change in the industry and don’t spend time worrying about how these changes may make it easier for those who haven’t “payed their dues” to be involved in the art-form. The more people show interest, the more manufacturers see opportunity and hopefully that means more technology! Just because these current tools weren’t around when I started, doesn’t mean someone today should have to start out using cassettes, reel to reels or vinyl to somehow “pay their dues” or validate themselves… they’ll have to invest time in themselves and stand on their own abilities and creativity or lack thereof.

    In the industry change is inevitable, embrace it or become… Extinct!

  21. As a forty-something newbie,I think digital made DJing more accessible. In many places, you can get by with just a lsptop. Plus instead of having to buy DJ equipment to start, you probably already own a laptop.

    Still, does this make better DJs? Not really. Technology may have made the job easier. Yet,it never creates better artists.

  22. DJ Forced Hand says:

    Geez, I hope so, but a lot of “Where we’ve come from” has been forgotten (or people simply don’t care about their roots).

    This website does a pretty good job of summing up DJ history http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/fall09/bein_k/history.html

    I think what a lot of people calling themselves “DJ” miss out on some are very subtle things that this “over compartmentalized world” seems to ingraining into people. Many people think that “being a DJ” means simply playing songs they like to hear and if people are cool, they’ll like the songs too. You and a lot of other seasoned DJs have been trying to show (and tell) new DJs that “DJs are entertainers” and entertainment comes in many forms. When you can actually see the DJ, that DJ is expected to perform something with their body, if the DJ is working an event, people want the special touch of having the DJ as a “Master of Ceremonies (MC)”… i.e. Strip Club or Corporate Event DJs. For the same reason people like bands that interact with their audiences, club goers like DJs that make the special effort to make their evening a one-time, special occurrence.

    In summation, I think that Digital has freed up the cost to entry for people wanting to be entertainers, but many people do not understand what it takes to be a performer.

  23. As with all technological advances, it is easy to say that digital has ruined DJing, but at some point this will become the standard and we will all accept it as reality. This is exactly what happened once CDJs hit the market and look where we are now. Digital DJing is a good thing. It can be a benefit to every DJ, literally. It just needs to be embraced. The people that are against it are only holding themselves back.

    The most common reason why people are against digital DJing is that now anybody can be a DJ because of autosync. Big woop. What I have to say to that is that if you think just because some n00b next door doesn’t have to beatmatch, that now they can all of a sudden DJ like you, what does that have to say about you? I’ve heard this from guys that have been DJing for 10+ years. It’s ridiculous. Some people think that beatmatching is everything. “If I didn’t have to beatmatch, I’d be bored out of my mind.” I’ve literally heard people say that.

    What makes us all awesome DJs is how we read crowds and decide what to play next. This is what people pay for. Party goers aren’t paying to see us beatmatch. They’re paying to have an amazing night and it’s our job to make that happen for them. There will NEVER be software that can emulate this.

    Digital has made DJing easier, in general, and I don’t mean that you can press a button and instantly play a wicked set. I mean that now, I don’t have to carry 40-50lbs of records with me. I can instantly do mixes that I normally wouldn’t be able to do because of the 2-3 seconds it takes to beatmatch a song. All of my songs are organized and stay organized over time without having to reburn CDs. This, among many other things, makes DJ life so much better.

    Where programs like Traktor and Serato really excel, is taking DJing to the next level. I’ve seen someone beatjuggle on one turntable in Serato. Yeah, wrap your head around that one. For DJs that play in the traditional way, they won’t see much improvement here but for those into turntablism, live remixing, trick DJing, or just thinking outside the box, this is their target market. Have you ever had 2 songs that mixed together perfectly up until that last second where was another word or sound that was just starting? Do a delay freeze. Enable beat repeat for a second. Or heck, trigger a cue point to a different 1-bar fill. Ever liked a song except for one part of it? Use cue points to “edit” it out. Ever wanted one part to play a little longer? Loop it! Recent advances in CDJ technology are allowing for this, but in general this is not possible with traditional DJing.

    The possibilities are endless and I’m so happy to be part of this new era.

    • NLT is 100% right, and he actually gave me some pointed on my first Mix, and it still sounds like a n00b did it compared to NLT.
      Even if you use sync, you are only reducing one skill needed to play a good or great set. Knowing your music, knowing how a good transition sounds and being able to reproduce it every time, knowing when not to use filters/effects, know how to build up a crowd with music; these are all skills a sync button will never do.

  24. I started in the mid 90’s on vinyl and transitioned to CDs and Traktor/Serato as they took hold. Digital has definitely provided some great perks but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the vinyl days. Like it’s been said, the barrier to entry was much higher back then. It took a VERY passionate person spending countless hours in record shops searching for gems to even begin to call yourself a DJ. On top of that, you could easily spend hundreds of dollars a month on records. I rarely even spend $50 a month for the same number of tunes now.

    That huge sacrifice and commitment that it took to be DJ back then is the kind of passion that is missing from a lot of “DJs” today, in my opinion. That’s not to say there aren’t some passionate newbies. An individual cant control the time they are born in, or perhaps when they discover something like DJing. Also, some guys have really taken off with the creative use of software and controllers and I applaud them. That’s what people should be doing with all this new tech. But there are also a lot DJs just mailing it in and having the software synch up for them, then mixing track A to track B during their 90 minute time slot only have to the next DJ come on and play the same exact tunes from whatever Top 100 list their club crowd follows. While I feel a little for the new guy who might just happen to be an awesome and interesting tune selector and just wants to relatively simply mix some tunes together, that unfortunately is the type of DJ where I think there would be a lot less noise out there if those higher entry barriers were still in place.

    The attention span thing irks me to no end. And not just with music but with everything in life it seems these days. I miss brilliantly produced 10 minute disco or 90’s progressive house monsters (some not all, ha) Luckily, I feel like I’m more involved in music niches and crowds that generally still appreciate more nuances in the music they want to hear. Then again, I’d probably get a lot more gigs if I took gigs that catered to more mainstream crowds with the shorter attention spans.

  25. Digital has definitely changed the DJ game.

    Whether it’s for better or for worse, there is no answer. It is purely opinion.

    Personally I liked that club equipment was basically standard (apart from condition) as the article points out, it forced the DJ to really work to stand out which I think was a good thing. Not too mention the fact that you really needed to put in the hours practicing and building your record collection before you could even pull off an average DJ set let alone a great one. Of course you still need to practice and collect tunes, but nowhere near to the extent of a vinyl DJ.

    I think it was also great that not everyone could get the big tunes. You’s hear something different out all the time.

  26. SpecializED says:

    I started back in 1985! At age 12! Yes 12! My cousin was in college and brought me along to help carry gear. I was hooked! I started w/all realistic gear. I remember the days of driving to hartford and ny to pick records out every other week. Made hundreds of mixtapes thru high school.

    One thing that cracks me up is when the cdjs came out the purist w the tt’s talked shit, now w the pc djs the cdj users talk down/shit. Its funny how that works! Me i love the sync button, i have nothing to prove. I paid my dues! Im just happy i dont need to carry 3 amps, 3 tt’s, crates of records,etc….

  27. I started DJing in the early 2000’s. Underground hip hop was the bomb and I ordered my records online from ughh.com almost weekly. Spent a lot of money on classic hip hop tunes, rhymesayers, def jux, rawkus, fat beats etc. It wasn’t more than 2 years later some fellow DJ’s were walking in the clubs and bars with their laptops equipped with serato and 1000’s of songs. I quickly converted and because of it I was able to take on more gigs like weddings and private parties which I would have never dreamed of doing. I’d say the worst part of being a digital DJ is that you are expected to have all requests at a gig. I can’t stand when people request a song I dont have and they say “well just download it!” or “here I have it on my phone”. I try to aim to please but it seems the appreciation of a DJ’s music collection has gone down hill. I miss seeing DJ’s play their records, that’s all.

  28. Pretty much everyone has covered it all.

    The + of the digital era is portability and accessibility.

    Back in the day, as a young buck the equipment was massive and heavy, 1200s, mixer with flight cases, + milk and recycling crates with records.
    You needed a crew to help carry the stuff around, get a ride from your buddy with the van or truck. It was a work out before our sets.

    *just thought of Bilal (Martin Lawrence) in “House Party”…lol

    Most of us started to carry records for our older brother or some other Dj

    Now it’s 1 man show, USB keys and/or laptops. U can take the subway or bus to your gig no problem.

    Also love how we don’t have to spend $11.99 on a 12inch single, and you can get any song you want for $2.00 max.

    And with the production being so accessible as well, you can find all types of remixes, not limited to what Record label wants to press and release.

    These do it for me!

  29. I started mixing age 7 in 1980 on C90s using a tascam portastudio 04 which was a 4 track machine with no pitch control at all. I just used to overdub tracks to get playlists in the order I wanted them.

    When I first saw people on T.V. mixing on two turntables I got my mum and brothers stack systems next to each other and wired up a fader from Tandy (a long bankrupt electrical retailer in the U.K.) I never looked back.

    I don’t want to repeat all the knowledge above but +1 to most of you.

    I think the scene and market has know evolved to a point where, like in most established industries, you can finally choose the right tool for the right job.

    If i’m doing a wedding I take my NS6 and huge organised library of itunes playlists so I can respond to any request quickly but still cut, scratch, beatmatch, effect, or just fade between songs as suits the music.

    If i’m doing a club I take 2 USBs to use their CDJs so their soundman doesn’t need to worry if my controller is PAT tested and I don’t have to burn CDs every week, or carry boxes of vinyl.

    If i’m at my crews venue or my house where I know the rig well and can be sure the technics are well setup I use vinyl (not DVS) because I know it does really sound warmer and gets a better response from smaller rooms of audiophiles.

    I also run a school teaching private clients and special needs/community groups and we make sure to show them all the options a modern DJ has.

    I love the fact it’s come so far to give us all these possibilities.

  30. dj mike ohm says:

    excellent topic,
    digital has really changed the world of the dj some good some bad depending on the way you look at it.for me the transition from vinyl to digital was difficult.fewer tracks were available on vinyl,more mp3 and cd’s and equipment started getting very expensive although alot cheaper today.todays tracks sound all sampled and seem to have lost that organic earthy feel and sound of the past.yes software is there for everyone today,but less creativity is required to produce a track today.for me the best part of this digital era was the launch of the SC3900 i am back with my roots only digital style and it is fantastic just like spinning vinyl again.

  31. I have been DJ:ing on and off for 15 years now. I started with CDs, did that for years and got accustomed to logging 2-3 cases with me. I was in the very first wave of digital when it started gaining ground. I chose the EKS XP-10s back then. It was a nightmare… The things had some sort of a problem with the USB so you had to put them in in a specific order and still they wouldn’t work half the time. Soon after that the music went all R&B in nightclubs (here in Finland) so I just decided to focus on bartending as I felt it stupid to play music for people to stand to. Seriously, on my last two gigs of that era I played top of the pops stuff for people and generated some really creative standing on the floors.

    But now I’m back. Got myself a S4, love that thing, done 50 or so gigs with it without a glitch. Now I finally got all the things I wanted when I first started to get interested with digital. It’s great, record costs are down, you can use the public transits to get to places and as a definite bonus you can get oldies really easily cos’ iTunes, for one, runs a really good back log on older tunes also.

    +Now I’m working on developing a DJ solution for bartenders. There are bars where people just use Spotify, or similar, to play music. It’s good as you get a huge selection of tunes but that “tune, pause, tune, pause”-thing is not the best for parties. I was thinking something in the lines of Traktor on cruise mode + iPad for wireless control. It’s not as good as a real DJ playing but beats Spotify on any given day. You can’t do that with out digital, no way.

    So all and all, digital is a good thing. I don’t know about that ADHD trend of playing only parts of tunes as the club culture here is so radio oriented that it’s good that you can get away with remixes these days, maybe we’ll get there, maybe we wont, maybe there will be something completely different. All I know is that DJ:ing is not a finished product and what ever the final version will be digital will have some kind of a role to play in it.

  32. Oh What A Joy
    To hear others have the same opions, problems and gripes that I have. Pro DJ (means its my main and only source of income)for 37 years now, and amazingly at 52 and a head of grey hair im still working regularly. I work on the scandinavian overnight ferries and could not agree more with attention span deficiency ! People no longer ask for a tune just thrust a mobile at me with the song they REQUIRE, cant say request anymore as its been said before here saying you dont have a reack is met with incredulation, a point at my laptop, and the comment mget it on spotify. Another one is the play it on my i phone, I have given up explaining that I need to listen to it first and dont know what the qualiry is, much easier to shake the head and say no leads ! Like all the other older jocks on here I do overuse sync buttton, but with the purchase of a new Denon 3000 promised myself I would be more inventive. Same conclusions as the others re weight of records and cds, and as I fly in from Ireland to work this would be impossible to do with airline baggage rates. I miss the excitement of having something before everyone else, and meeting with other DJs in record shops and listning to tunes. Still its always been the way, theres always someone in the crowd who is a DJ (but incredibly has the weekend off) its still looked upon as a hobby by most of the crowd and very few appreciate what we do. Love Digital DJing more money in m y pocket and with a dwindling memory ability to find tracks quickly is a god send !

  33. Honestly, as a newer young DJ taught how to properly spin by older, very experienced DJs, the bigest change is how people see a DJ, specifically how we’re more like niosy ipods, not musicians.
    I’ve heard tales, from my mentors, of people being hired for their expertise in spinning certain genres of music, and of people specializing in, for example, house music. These DJs were hired because they had their own sound and style, but nowadays, and I can personally attest to this, club and bar managers only want to hear what THEY want, not what the people want.
    I was personally told off for playing too much remixed top 40 and house. Mind you, the floors were filled to capacity when I was playing, they were all dancing, and I wasn’t a “dubstep dj that only plays Skrillex”, but the bar manager insisted that “no one” liked the music. Guess he didn’t look at the dance floor.
    Let the DJs play what the DJs want. Theres a reason you pay us good money to play music. We know from experience what gets people moving and what gets people in the mood to dance. Last time I checked, club managers were MANAGERS, not DJs.

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