DJ Sneak: “If you never touched a piece of vinyl in your life, you’re not a DJ”

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Last updated 6 April, 2018

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DJ Sneak has nothing to prove, but we think his latest rant misses the point entirely, and is actually potentially quite damaging to many young DJs’ hopes and dreams.

Oh my, oh my, why do people say things like this? It’s so closed-minded. This stuff is really unhelpful – and it’s also demonstrably untrue. Sure, grabbing some software and the top 100 EDM tunes and learning to hit “sync” doesn’t make you a good DJ, but neither necessarily does playing vinyl. Earning your dues is what makes you a good DJ. And it has absolutely nothing to do with what you use when you play.

Before I explain why, let’s catch up on what Sneak said, exactly:

“If you’re a DJ you learn how to mix with decks first… I don’t care how big you are, in front of a million people, if you never touched a piece of vinyl and actually mixed that and created something with that, you’re not a DJ in my eyes. I look down on people like that,” the veteran US jock said in a Pioneer Radio interview, as reported by Mixmag.

He also said: “In the last 20 years, there was a gap where kids just didn’t care about the craft any more. They just wanted to be famous, they wanted to be popular, they wanted to do whatever they could to be in front of all those people. They skipped things to get to that level.”

“The popularity means nothing. I’d give the local kid more love because he’s hustling and DJing [with vinyl] and putting his heart into it every day… You’ve got people who do it for love and you’ve got people who do it for other reasons.”

Why he’s wrong… and why this is damaging to DJing

Sneak is a good DJ. I remember buying his records and dancing to his sets “back in the day”. I have respect for him, but he’s mistaken here… and this is actually really unhelpful stuff he’s saying. Here’s why:

Firstly, the ability to do a good job of playing music for people to dance to is not intrinsically linked to 12″ vinyl. Turntables are just a tool, like all the other tools DJs can use to play music – CDJs, DVS, software, phone apps, production hardware, whatever. Why oh why can’t people get over this “if it ain’t vinyl, it ain’t real” dogma? It’s 2015, not 1985!

Secondly, I think it’s an untruth to brand a whole generation as not caring about music, and only wanting to become famous. Sure people like that exist (just as they always have), but there are also loads of people with a passion for music and a desire to share that music with other people who become DJs for those reasons – and they absolutely deserve to!

Thirdly, not everyone lives in the first world, or in big cities with great music scenes. Not everyone has access to record stores (those that still exist) and the funds to buy vinyl. Not everyone can afford the equipment needed, or have a room to keep it all in. Does this majority of the world’s population therefore not deserve the right to learn to DJ?

Digital DJing means that if you can get online, and get a smartphone or tablet and a cheap DJ app, you can at least get started (I even wrote a book about it). If you can also afford a $10 a month subscription to a streaming music service, you get pretty much all the world’s music to choose from too. From there on, it’s about passion, hard work, and hope.

The rest may or may not come (better technical skills pro gear, club gigs, production smarts, opportunities to play abroad, etc)… but I think anybody who isn’t excited by the immense potential of DJing being opened up to everyone who wants to have a go is either jaded, scared of the competition, or just hasn’t thought it all through.

As I say, if you want to master DJing, sure there’s lots to learn! But it’s a lifetime of loving music that underpins it all, not the ability to manually beatmatch on two turntables. I’ve seen many, many terrible vinyl DJs in my day, and conversely, many amazing digital DJs (and vice versa, of course).

At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. Whatever you’re using to DJ with, enjoy and keep improving. We at Digital DJ Tips are right behind you.

What do you think? Is this a tired old argument? Is it all rosy out there, or is DJing rapidly disappearing up its own bottom? does he have a point? Please share your thoughts below.

Mixing Mastery