Should DJs share the titles and sources of their music with other DJs or with clubbers? Is it a surefire way to make other DJs hate you if you choose to cover your laptop screen or take other measures so other people can’t see the titles of your tunes when you’re DJing?
I’ve always been more than happy to let people see the titles of my music (in the “old days”, I’d often pass a record sleeve across the booth to show people what I was spinning), but I recently had a conversation with a DJ who’s the opposite, and who takes steps to stop this happening. This got me thinking not only about exactly why I am so enthusiastic about sharing the titles of my tracks, but also about why others don’t.
How he does it
This particular DJ told me about how in a venue where he plays, there are stairs behind the DJ booth, and people can peer in easily and see the DJ’s laptop screen – and that they often did when he was playing, for long periods of time and intrusively.
His solution was to use a 3M privacy filter on the laptop, that makes the screen impossible to view unless you’re looking at it straight on (businessmen use these so they can work on confidential matters on their laptops when, for instance, sat next to a stranger on a plane). He also mentioned “solutions” like the Serato DJ-AM Easter Egg, the modern equivalent of using blank paper cutouts over the labels in the centre of your records – something I occasionally observed DJs doing all those years ago.
Why I don’t do this
Personally I’ve never done this kind of thing, for lots of reasons. I think sharing your music with people who ask is friendly and helps you to build a fan base, which ultimately furthers your DJing career. But also I think that – on a deeper level – we ought to share song titles so other people can also own copies of tracks they love. Also, as I often ask DJs the titles of tracks myself, I feel it’s the least I can do in return.
Of course, nowadays people can just Shazam the more popular stuff, and at the other end of the spectrum, the stuff you really don’t want to share – for instance, your own unreleased mashups or productions – won’t be “Shazamable” anyway. But everything else? I am happy to make it easy for people to grab titles from me.
His argument, and my take on it
However, the DJ I was discussing this with said he worked in a very competitive scene, and had had people photographing his open library on the screen, and even had a CD wallet stolen once only to hear his own mashups played back at him at a later date!
His argument against sharing was that “in the age of instant gratification fewer people want to want to invest the time to discover new music themselves”.
He told me that while he doesn’t take an unfriendly attitude (“if people were to ask I’d happily discuss it with them and point them in the right direction to find more”), he gets increasingly frustrated with people behaving this way having spent years of time and money building up his collection.
“DJing is as much about song selection as it is about beat matching and other technical elements,” he explained. “I do think the amount of time one takes to research and build their library is an important resource and if you’re dedicated to it then you deserve the competitive edge it might afford you. It should at least be up to you whether to share or not.
“I’d happily share one or two tracks with people who ask, but when someone essentially just wants the fruits of your labour without putting the time in themselves and is just train-spotting constantly that’s not on.”
I think he’s right there: Letting someone take all the details of big chunks of – or even your entire – library is not on. But for me, the biggest skills of a DJ is knowing how often and when to play tracks, and the magic of being led by, as well as leading, your crowd. These skills can’t be “given” to someone when you give them the titles of some of the music you choose to play – which is ultimately why I’m happy to do it.
What do you think?
I’m interested to know what you think. Have you ever hidden track titles or refused to tell someone the name of a tune? Do you get constantly hassled for the names of your tracks? Or have you asked a DJ the title of something only to be refused an answer? Overall, should DJs share details about their music with anyone who’s interested?
Please add your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.