Over To You: Is There Discrimination Against Disabled DJs?

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 2 mins
Last updated 30 August, 2017

UK DJ Matt Howes has made a success of his DJing despite only having one arm. Our reader today is worried about the chance of discrimination against disability in the EDM scene.

Digital DJ Tips member Saumya writes: “I know that EDM scene is huge and the people there all appear ‘ordinary’ including the DJs and the producers. Do you think there’s a chance of discrimination if a DJ or a producer is notably physically disabled? Will people accept them into the scene? Will they have the usual welcome as others do?”

Digital DJ Tips says:

Hunter S Thompson once said: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

This humorous quote nonetheless just about sums it up. For instance, you say people appear ‘ordinary’, but you really mean men – right? A major discrimination is against women, whether meant or not, and the number of female DJs is actually tiny. Here’s a good example of the culture that breeds this.

A more general way the DJ scene discriminates is against anyone who’s perceived to be not “doing it right”. This one often shows in the vinyl vs digital, CDJs vs vinyl, sync vs no sync, laptop vs tablet, etc. etc. debate. It also shows in music genre snobbery and general “DJs not supporting other DJs” (check out Kilma’s recent article for more on this). And yes, more than ever, looks are important in the commercial, market/money driven EDM world, and I’d say discrimination against disability is therefore to a certain extent inevitable.

And yet… as Hunter S Thompson points, out, this is how it is. We aren’t going to change it by moaning or worrying. We just have to get in there, do our positive bit, and enjoy ourselves with faith that good things will come out of it for us. It’s still an awesome thing to be involved in!

For disabled DJs, one of the amazing things about digital technology is that it allows DJing in so many different ways, opening up the game to people who maybe would struggle to use “normal” (whatever that means!) DJ gear or play normal gigs (or even leave the house). Web radio. Online mix services. Producing music on a laptop. All of these allow creative expression away from fist-pumping in the clubs, if alternatives are needed. Also, check out this article on Do Androids Dance? titled DJs Who Kill It On The Decks Despite Disability for inspiration.

Truth is, it’s hard out there at times for pretty much everyone, from the 12-year old kid DJing with cheap DJ software and a mouse who can’t get taken seriously, to – yes- the veterans who are bitter that the new generation are “stealing our gigs” (for their pain is real too)… and many in-between! And while I wouldn’t ever claim to be able to remotely begin to understand living with a disability, I’d wager that it’s determination, attitude and passion that’ll light the way for you, just as it is for every other DJ struggling to make a success of their hobby or career. I sincerely wish you all the luck in the world.

Do you notice discrimination (of any kind) in your local scene? Have you been a victim of it? Do you know DJs who despite disability are forging ahead? We’d love to hear your thoughts and stories below.

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