“DJs Now Deliberately Making Mistakes To Prove They Are Real DJs…” That’s the title of a spoof article on “miss-mixing” from the reliably funny Wunderground website last week. And while the article is meant to be just a bit of fun, there is actually a deadly serious point here – and it’s a phenomenon that pre-dated digital, too.
Thing is, there’s an utterly misguided belief among some DJs that says nobody must notice what you’re doing. Deathly boring vinyl DJs playing the same tedious sound hour-after-hour were getting away with this way back in the 90s (I remember loads of them, unfortunately). They used to destroy any sense of music, drama or journey in their DJ sets by recycling, Groundhog Day-like, the same technically-perfect-but-emotionally-dead beatmixes, tune after near-identical tune, thinking they’d cracked “this DJing thing”.
Fast forward to the 21st century, enter stage left digital DJing! Nowadays, that type of DJ – the one who misreads what DJs do in the first place, and thinks seamless beatmixing is what DJing is all about – has got life even easier. Why? Because getting a pile of “let’s play it safe” tunes is simpler than ever it was (Beatport Top 100), and the sync button makes mixing the last eight bars of the outgoing song with the first eight bars of the incoming song a no brainer: Even easier than the equally dull (but slightly more skilled) vinyl beatmatching technique mastered by also-ran vinyl DJs “back in the day”, who’d honestly convinced themselves that was “all there is to this DJ lark”.
It isn’t, and it never was.
The serious point the Wunderground article stumbles upon is this: If nobody knows you’re actually doing anything, why the hell are you up there? Your job isn’t to beatmatch (everyone knows sync does that for you. Next!). It isn’t to play the Beatport 100 (Spotify can do that. Next!). And it’s not to look pretty (Paris Hilton got there before you, sorry. And you’re fat. And going bald.) No, your job is to curate a party that nobody in the room will forget in a hurry! So the question is: How are you going to do that?
That’s the dilemma of the modern DJ – but the comforting thing is, it’s always been the DJ’s dilemma. Don’t let anyone tell you it has anything to do with digital. At the same time though, more than ever in a world of wannabe DJs, you really do have to work out what it is that’ll show people that you are a real DJ. Making mistakes, to be honest, will happen naturally once you start taking risks and putting the enjoyment of the audience before any desire to not be caught out actually doing something. The truth is: Mistakes don’t just show you’re doing something: they actually show you’re doing something right.
What do you do (or want to learn to do) to stand out from other DJs? What skills are you working on to show the audience you’re doing something up there? We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below.