Friday Roundup: Is EDM Killing The Art Of DJing?

Sean P.Diddy Combs

Sean "P.Diddy" Combs earns way more than EDM's #1, Calvin Harris - see the full hip hop top earners in one of our stories this week.

Firstly, apologies if you're still awaiting the Reader Survey 2013 results. We haven't forgotten: We'll be publishing them next week. So this week a huge debate about whether EDM is killing the art of DJing (we'll be publishing our take on this on Monday). Also, why you shouldn't trust iCloud with your music, and why hip hop still eclipses DJing for big earners...

  1. Is EDM Killing The Art Of DJing? - Writing in Mixmag, Tim Sheridan argues that "plastic DJs" are at the heart of the supposed demise in the art of DJing Read more
  2. The Case Of The Disappearing Tracks: Your Music Is Not Safe On Apple's iCloud - We're all for cloud storage of music and we've heralded iCloud before - but this is an eye-opening article from Hypebot about an apparent downside of the service Read more
  3. The Forbes Hip-Hop Rich List Leaves DJs In The Dust - So you thought the DJ earnings story we covered a few weeks ago was an eye-opener? Wait till you've seen this one (from Forbes via In The Mix) Read more

Please feel free to comment on any of this week's articles in the comments below.

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  1. John Bigboote says:

    Are this week's links working for anyone?

  2. Killing the art of DJing

    - lazy prep work
    - overly played tunes
    - monotonous sets
    - no diversity
    - sync/no sync = doesn't matter. Selection matters more than this
    - vinyls/mp3/cds = still doesn't matter. Making people bop their heads and swing their hips is more important
    - scratching isn't what DJing is all about; and so as playing top 100 EDM

    I rest my case.

    • +1

      Honestly, I think there is nothing ruining DJing. Everything that improves the art of entertainment is good for DJing. If anyone is saying that technology is ruining DJing, they're lazy... they want things to remain the same while letting technology do everything for them and then wanting all the Superstar credit for doing so (because the technology is supposed to be their special secret).

      Everything in this modern era is having obstacles removed by technology. If you choose not to do something special, that's YOUR FAULT not the fault of someone else giving people new options. If you approach something with a half-hearted attempt, your results will be half-hearted. Technology merely raises the ceiling of what is possible to a level not before known.

  3. Re: EDM killing the Art of DJing.

    As someone who came into the game quite recently, and so have only learned on the digital form of it, I have to agree with this article wholeheartedly.

    After having learned the digital way of doing things and having experienced the benefits to the digital format, I find myself at a point in my DJ career arc and point of exploration where I yearn to learn the old ways. Kind of like Skywalker seeking Yoda to teach him the ways of the Force. I want to learn the tables and I realize that DJing is about the live, human aspect of performance. I would never criticize the turntablist for a mix that's off just a bit, but I've recently witnessed some digital DJs absolutely trainwrecking at peak hours at a major club in a major US city, not knowing how to simply bounce back to where you left off instead of letting 30 secs of dead air go by...

    While I've only been DJing for a few years, I've always loved music and have appreciated all kinds and genres. It's only recently where I've found that DJing could be a way for me to share my taste and my knowledge with others less knowledgeable. I do see myself as an authority. People come to me with questions not necessarily about DJing but about music. When people come to me, the emphasis has always been about that and not necessarily technique, which I have down pat anyway.

    Lately, I've actually been wrestling with this idea of authority, after having met some new DJs and seeing some EDM performances that were utterly disappointing. I've heard some ridiculous statements like "I only listen to EDM" coming out of the mouths of kids paying money to learn to DJ.

    (As an aside, another issue for another thread, but if you seek the knowledge of the art in the right way, then you come to realize that learning to DJ is not about paying someone to teach you techniques, which of course you need, but my point is that is a journey. The pioneers had no one to teach them the techniques. They paved the way for the collective journey.)

    When I hear things like "I only listen to EDM", I completely disregard that DJ as an authority on music. After all, as the article states, this is about Music--capital "M". Sure , a lot of us cater to certain scenes, genres, or crowds, but artists always draw their inspiration from a variety of sources, even life in general. When this new generation of DJs comes in and think they can just buy a controller and hop on Beatport once every few weeks or even months--well, they've basically killed the Art.

  4. A few weeks ago we had this article about the 'end of DJing'

    And now again this week we have another article about the end of something else. Im getting a little tired of this theme but not because its coming from Phil but because I've been reading such articles since th eearly 1980's. I distinctly recall a Keyboard magazine cover story about how synthesizers were going to be the 'end of orchestras'. Later there were stories about how drum machines would be the end of real drummers. On and on it went until finally how Grunge would be the end of guitar solos. Well, yeah they got that one right, sadly.

    To quote a line from a great song; every generation has its own disease and I've got mine. ( The point is, every 10 years or so someone from the previous decade will bitch and moan about how the new generation doesnt understand this or that, how they dont respect one thing or another. You all know how this goes. Dont fall for it, ok.

    Be careful of taking advice from people who have a vested interest in your decision. If some world-class DJ is saying that DJing is dead to disuade you from taking up the hobby or profession, as he waits for the next flight to Whatever-Fest, then you really need to question the validity of his/her claim.

    Music is THOUSANDS OF YEARS OLD. Music is NEVER GOING TO DIE. Only the delivery system will evolve for every generation. You cannot stop the progress of mankind; you can only attempt to slow it down with all futility. LPs gave way to 45s. Vinyl gave way to CDs. CDs gave way to digital MP3s and with each new advancement in technology, the delivery system (turntables, CDs, controllers, iPads) evolves as well.

    You need to embrace change. It is going to happen.

    DJing is not dead. Chicks have not suddenly stopped going out to get drunk. Dudes around the world have not over night gotten their acts together and stopped being douche bags. These people need a place to coagulate into the social gel we call a scene. Silence is golden at the movies but no one wants to walk into a bar and hear the sound of peanut shells cracking on a beer stained bar. People need music. Are you going to give it to them or are you going to sit at home crying about how no one respects your Technics 1200's?

    Learn. Adapt. Overcome. And most importantly, please stop bitching. Life's too short.

  5. The mixmag article is flagrantly ridiculous and clearly devised as an opinionated clickthrough magnet as opposed to an actual piece of worthwhile journalism.

    Tim Sheridan, frankly, just seems to be tarrible at arguing his own points. He comments in hs own article:
    "Thanks for the comments. when I was given the title from Mixmag to write this piece I immediately started to write that this is NOT an issue of EDM, Synch, tech or the oh so tired discussion of CD/Mp3 vs Vinyl. I seem to have totally failed. That or people aren't reading anything further than the title. Within the first few paragraphs it's a heartfelt plea to put aside the daft arguments about buttons and bells and think about what goes into the thinking and attitude behind playing other people's music for other people to enjoy. The same love, thought and attitude can be applied to any technology. It's about laziness and fear replacing effort and love."

    He's defending controllers and synch? In the article he writes:
    "anyone who uses a sync button anywhere in public should lose that finger and each subsequent appendage thereafter in Sharia Disco Law. I’d like that twat-caveat to be taken into the most stringent consideration. Just as it’s not the finger that commits the crime, it’s the person, it’s not the hands doing the mixing that make the DJ – it’s the lifetime lived, forever married to music. "

    In this article he is literally arguning that manually beatmatching creates some kind of inexonerable link to the music that only a DJ can experience. I recommend he, frankly, get a grip on reality. This means ONLY DJ's can truly experience the music. ONLY DJ's can truly love it or experience it. Does anyone really think that's the case?

    Let's continue with another example from the mixmag article:
    "Again, like sync it’s a tool – and a tool in the hands of a master makes beauty and truth. But when you rely on the tool without thinking, the hand that wields it is just a hand. How can you possibly love and grow with anything if you avoid all contact with it?"

    Thought experiment time. If you go to a metal show and there's a guy who has been rocking out every weekend for 10+ years, has a closet full of hundreds of tour t-shirts but doesn't actualy play the guitar, do we say he's not 'married to the music' because he can't play the guitar? Do we say he can't POSSIBLY "love and grow" with metal because he hasn't touched a drumset? It's hogwash. It's complete and utter nonsense. It's arguing not beatmatching manually means you don't love or respect the music somehow. The side effect to this is that only a DJ can experience a deep connection with the music. I'm relatively certai we all started DJing AFTER we fell in love with whatever our preferred music of choice is.

    With things like this:
    "Being a DJ is about being an authority. Authority comes through contact and immersion, not prancing about catching MP3 butterflies with a digital net. In a nutshell, the true hazard of our times is that information should never be confused with knowledge."

    The whole article is near incomprehensible to me. His paragraphs tackle several ideas at the same time while incoherently rambling about what are, more or less, metaphysical concepts. This is what I like to call "content free language". What, if anything, is he actually saying? He has paragraphs full of words and high sounding concepts that have no actual meaning to them. If they were supposed to mean something, he conveyed it poorly.

    I DO think if you're a DJ you should know, for purely practical reasons, how to beatmatch manually. If the software makes mistakes, you sould know how to correct them.

    Getting back to the mixmag article: Is the crux of his argument, basically, "Modern DJ's should learn how to beatmatch and just pulling the top 50 off Beatport and mixing them is bad"? Fine, I don't disagree at all. But why did we need thousands of words to just put forward what I can condense into one sentence?

    I believe a good DJ is always open to new music, and must love the music they play. If you're one of those DJ's, why are you so worried about the ones who aren't? If you truly believe passion drives your craft and makes you better for it, why worry? You're better.

  6. I agree with DJ Possess. Lets stop talking about a industry that is pumping out new controllers likes its their job.. Wait a minute it is! It is their job. They make a new controller then the Dj plays electronic music to demonstrate it. This is not buy accident? There is one big point nobody is talking about. Many EDM care more about producing/seamless transition then actually scathing, live blending, and Dj on the fly. I get scared of disappointing the crowd sometimes when I dj but I made a packed with myself that I would always play 3-10 songs throughout the night that are obscure or most people have not heard of. Yes controllers make Dj easy but guess what. I don’t go to EDM shows. I go to hip hop shows where Dj are always playing live sets. When I hear glitch or timing off. I know I’m listening to a real live Dj and I appreciate it more. It’s the journey not the playlist I care about.
    So let them have thier playlist Dj. I just stick to what I am doing. Can't spend time worrying out them. Our grandparents said the same thing about rock&roll/hip-hop/70's music/Disco. And we all still listen to it and if you are good you can mix it in. Peace

  7. I fail to see why people blow things like this^ out of proportion.So some people are saying EDM is killing the art of DJing.Do i give a sh*t about what they think?No,i just continue DJing and let them lose their sh*t all they want.Thus i advise everyone who reads this and gets all uppity,calm your boobs,tits,breasts and implants and just keep on DJing.

  8. I'll think about this while I'm playing my breaks set tonight :)

    Yes, I use a controller. No, I don't use the sync button. Please stop hyperventilating.

  9. It's funny to me to hear peoples opinion of what a DJ is. Frankly they just don't have the appreciation for it.....yet.
    I do feel this is rapidly changing and these changes are really a positive thing long term for the DJ community, but I do see some short term negative effects. Let me explain my observations and point of view. EDM in the past has been mostly underground with a small very dedicated following that truly appreciated the art form. A small following means not a lot of revenue to be made, not like A P. Diddy following that's for sure. But they were dedicated and really understood and could pick out a good DJ from a bad one.
    Today EDM is making its way onto the radio in the form of collaborations. This gets EDM artists in front of the masses, and this means exposure for DJ's and EDM in general. The problem I see is that the people they are collaborating with are still getting the credit. I see requests for things like "Sia's titanium" or Trevor Guthrie's this is what it feels like. In time I think this will change and that's when the real DJ growth will start to take place. When people start to realize its the "music" they are digging just as much as the vocals, when this happens the masses will be more in tune with what makes a good DJ a good DJ. ... but this is not going to happen overnight. In the mean time, the DJ community will have a uphill battle of keeping EDM true to its core and not get pushed into a top 40 "playlist" environment. This is a tough thing to do because as DJ's we are suppose to read the crowd and adapt to what they want, problem is they want that top 40 song, or so they think. I have had success mashing up new fresh "music" with the relatable lyrics everyone is familiar with. this gets the creativity of EDM out there while not sounding foreign to the masses of new EDM followers that are developing from top 40 radio.

    • Let's be real, no one used to call it "EDM" until this new wave of electronic music started coming out. At least, not around here (southern Ontario).

      I hate it, personally. As a raver of 10+ years and a DJ of 6, I hate everything "EDM" stands for. It turned music I love into a pop sounding mutant of its former self.

      "EDM" is the worst thing to happen to electronic dance music.

      Really, I've managed to stay in the underground despite all of this. I guess I just never listened to anything that got popular :P.

    • djfatbastard says:

      you nailed it, bro. I use a controller, too. And
      i never use the sync button unless spending so much time searching for.a tune made me mix too late into the first tune.

  10. One more thing. Funny story. I use Traktor and know about the S and Q buttons at the top of the mixer. I did a gig one night w/ a guy and he's playing hip-hop and every song was at the same tempo and his cues were on spot but he wasnt adjusting his tempo faders at all. I couldnt understand what he was doing and didnt want to ask. After that night I got home and went over all my settings trying to figure out what the hell he was up to and JUST BY ACCIDENT hit the FX button to reveal the metronome function. I had no freakin' idea you could set a tempo and everything would match that setting. All this time I thought everyone was griping about Sync and that S button on the mixer. I had been manually using my X1 to increase/decrease the tempo to match songs never knowing what the REAL sync issue was all about. Imagine my surprise. But no, I still dont use it. Just thought that was kinda funny.

  11. I am a guitarist, drummer and a dj. The whole debate over sunc button is just hilarious. People tend to emphasise how they are capable of manual beatmatch like it is something special. Well, it isn't. Out of curiosity I taught my 11 year old son and his best friend to do it and they both got it spot on in under 5 mins of explanation. Yet, I still advise them to use sync button because it's easier. To me that would be like if you are forcing yourself to multiply numbers on a sheet of paper instead of using the calculator. We are living in a digital era and things are just going to get easier and easier. To be perfectly frank, as a dj I wouldn't give a rats ass if I am in a club listening to someone who doesn't know how to beatmatch as long as he/she has a nice selection of songs in that set.

  12. Regarding the earnings topic. From what I've read P.Diddy is a vodka seller. Not that I care much about that but if they want to do it properly than have money earned per hour of performance list as it puts more relevant data to the table.

  13. This line stood out the most in the Mixmag article:

    "To say a DJ is only as good as what occurs in the minutes he blends the tracks together is basically saying that we are some kind of flesh jukebox."

    I still believe the problem isn't so much the HOW, but the WHAT. I think it's ridiculous the amount of people who think that somehow a 60-120 minute torture of the typical EDM smash hits all manually beatmatched is somehow better than the same set in sync.

    I often wonder if what the anti-sync/anti-technology people really want is less competition. I wonder if they want to believe that an investment of money into turntables and vinyl is "paying your dues".

    Does anyone really believe if we somehow vanquished the "EDM" thing, that all those festival goers will "give underground a chance"? No...they'll head off to rock concerts, glam clubs, and anywhere that sells them the LIFESTYLE they want.

    Plus...if those folks still "gave underground a chance", would the complainers then say the music is cheapened or "sold out"?

    What boggles my mind is how little the complainers are willing to push the tech to the next level (and make the push-button guys look like amateurs) or how many more complainers still won't attempt to BUILD A SCENE, but instead hope they can force a current scene to bow to them.

    Sync is a tool. I've admitted I use it now when I used to manually beatmatch. I don't really care who knows or what they think. My focus has been more on WHAT I PLAY and how I make a set fluid with a good flow and the journey.

    Can I manually beatmatch? Of course. But why reject the added functions and benefits? If it's so evil then why isn't Serato, Traktor, VDJ, or some other company making the "100% non-sync software"?

    Electronic musicians have used sequencers for years. Should we tell them to manually match? You ever see Orbital perform? All just them firing off loops in sync with sequencers. Their whole setup was really what you get in the Remix decks now. All that gear to do in the past with what we can do now in one laptop.

    • Well said.
      Eddie Murphy was criticised once by Bill Cosby for using inapropriate language in his standups. So he called Richard Pryor..."I don't give a fu*k. Whatever the fu*k make the people laugh, say that shit. Do the people laugh when you say what you say?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Do you get paid?" I said, "Yes." He said, "Well, tell Bill I said have a Coke and a smile and shut the fu*k up. Jello pudding-eating motherfu*ker."
      Our job is to keep audience happy, whatever way suits us best.

    • Word.

      I would add though that with the arrival of more affordable digital technology there's a mass of really bad to mediocre dance music not only at the mainstream level but also from unknown DJ/producer wannabes. There is so much music now a days that I find it a monumental task to find those killer tracks without going to the top ten list on Beatport, iTunes or some DJ pool. Fortunately I love music discovery, so I'll do the work. :) But I can't say that for many DJs I hear in local bars or events.

      • So true. Finding a gem among this much "spam" is becoming incredibly time consuming. Personally, I don't care much about top-lists as I've realised that people that come to my gigs share the same taste for music and everytime ask for the names of the songs that I've played and they never heard before. Point is, if we want to stand out and improve ourselves then stay away from what everybody else is doing. Not saying that we should completely disregard what's hot, just use it as a pinch of salt in your delicious meal.

  14. Mista Cleen says:

    1st article: Another article were another pre-digital age DJ complains about the advancement of technology and how its killing the craft etc. It's like your grandmother complain about how everyone just stares at their phones and no on has a conversation anymore. People still do but they just do it in a way that old timers aren't used to. And about the music selection, blame the crowd. DJing is about playing to the listeners. If they didn't want to listen to chart music the djs that play it wouldn't have any success. As awesome as that 80's acid house record you discovered at a garage sale in some obscure places and how awesome the story behind it is, what good is it if the crowd doesn't respond to it?

  15. Mista Cleen says:

    Article #2 That's the danger of cloud services, why they won't allow you to download your own stuff back is strange.

    Article #3 Congrats to Nicki Minaj for being the 4th highest paid person in hip hop. Women's rights etc.

  16. Josh Essman says:

    I am a relatively young 14 year old DJ. Now you might expect me to play only Top40 and maybe some mainstream "EDM" (I dislike the term). But in reality I play all kinds of music, and though I prefer hard electro house, trap, and real dubstep and DnB (not Skrillex), I have listened to almost all genres and like many of them. I have listed to thousands of hours of music, and that is why I DJ. I love the music. I do, however, use the sync button, but I always verify the beatgrids through manual beatmatching when doing so, like I did on vinyl. Now this article on EDM killing DJing is simply another DJ apocalypse article, much like DJ Zimmie's article Phil featured a few weeks back. We need to look on the positive side. Although EDM at this point often incorporates elements of mainstream pop, which I dislike, it also includes elements of the music that we all love, like acid, trance, and house. And maybe some of those people will look into these kinds of music in the underground dance scene, which is one of the goals of DJ'ing : to expose your audience to different kinds of music while keeping them on their feet. And it's certainly better than the current pop out there. And as for the prerecorded mixes, regardless of what you are DJ'ing on, you should never use them. So it's not about the sync/no sync debate. It's not even about vinyl/CD/laptop/iPad. It's about the music, and it's about your audience.

  17. While the Forbes hip hop rich list does make some djs' income look like pocket change, let's not forget that Calvin Harris made 46 million dollars in the past year, more than every rapper on the list other than Diddy

  18. To those who think that using the sync button is a crime against humanity, then if you drive an automatic transmission car, then shut up. Or is you use express cook on your microwave keep quiet. I fully agree that all djs should at least know how to manually beat match, even if they might have to to do once in a blue moon or never, but to say that there is something wrong with using the sync button is ridiculous.

    If something was wrong with it then why does ever controller, from entry level ones to multi thousand dollar ones come with it? It frees up the dj to get more creative instead of using valuable time matching two or more tunes up when it is not necessary to do so. With 4 decks it becomes a hassle to try and manually beat match 4 tracks at once. So get over it and accept that the sync button and it's usage are here to stay.

    I do agree however with the point about pre recording a set and then faux djing. If I come to hear a dj, I want to see him or her playing for real. IF they make a mistake...oops, maybe this might be a radical thought. They're human!

  19. The short answer is: "No."

    The long answer is: No because "EDM" is a label slapped on bunch of music that sounds like it should be a genre (on paper) exactly the same way Disco was co-opted. The major selling-points of electronic controllers and computer DJing have become a magnet for people who have no business becoming DJs. Simply having a bunch of songs you like and a means to play them doesn't make a person a DJ, just as having brushes, paint and a canvas doesn't make someone an artist.

    Inexperienced venue representatives are placing "popular people" because (much like young, pretty girls never having to pay to get into clubs or for their drinks) they have something a lot of other people want to be close to. Very often, what makes a person popular does not make them good at playing music. So if anything, venue reps, placing popular people who are no darn good at mixing, is killing THEIR business. There will always be room at the top for excellence but right now, people are discovering "it's not so easy to play a mind-blowing set"... partly because it takes a person tapping into their soul, going for broke, and exposing who they are inside, to play that "mind-blowing set."

  20. Why even judge who is a good or bad DJ, everyone has different tastes, its all subjective, I would blame the internet for this so called demise if there is actually one, most music is available to all unless you produce your own tracks of course no more sense of anticipation/surprise like there was before when you went to go see your fav DJ, this a COPYCAT world and everyone wants a piece of it.

  21. Agree with @DigitalTiger..

    "Honestly, I think there is nothing ruining DJing. Everything that improves the art of entertainment is good for DJing. If anyone is saying that technology is ruining DJing, they’re lazy…"

    I'm still trying to understand how to learn djing. :)

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