Reader DJ BDK writes: “I’m rather new to this DJ thing. I’ve spent numerous years in pro audio-visual for bands and conferences, but am just now trying out DJing, more for fun and a little side cash than anything else. I’m curious if you know the legal/customary rules for playing other DJ mixes when you’re DJing. Obviously, playing someone else’s hour plus mix while you pretend to move the knobs is bad, but what about a mash-up somebody else did – like the DJ Earworm United State of Pop? Is that illegal? More importantly, am I going to offend every professional DJ I meet? Some etiquette would be helpful here.”
Digital DJ Tips says:
Some unscrupulous DJs have been known to literally fake it and mime to other people’s music! Obviously like you say that’s wrong, but apart from that? It’s certainly not illegal, and our opinion is that it’s all fair game. Remember that a DJ’s role is to play the best music at the best time, and if that means mixes of songs produced by other DJs, then so be it.
Wedding DJs have taken this to extremes for years with “megamixes” of hits professionally produced by other DJs. I’m not necessarily advocating going that far if you want to be seen as a serious artist in your own right, but using mash-ups, remixes, reworks, bootlegs and so on produced by other DJs can be a great way to give your sets a bit of sparkle.
Remember, the audience is always right, and the audience doesn’t care where the music comes from. The most important thing to remember is that a good DJ will always play sets that are more than the sum of their parts. If a mash-up suits the exact moment and you’re a good enough DJ to realise that fact – play it!
If you react to the crowd, play a good mix of music that suits what they want (while maybe giving them a few things they didn’t know they’d love), if you have a great time doing it, and make sure that your crowd does too, then frankly whether some (or all) of your set consists of mash-ups done by other DJs doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. Indeed, there are mash-up nights that only play such music.
Don’t give it another thought and get on with learning all the other skills of DJing.
What do you think? Have you ever seen a DJ faking it? Do you play mash-ups and remixes? Have you ever pretended to turn a knob when the effect was really on the recording? Let us know in the comments!