Is Digital DJing The Real Deal?

Phil Morse | Founder & Tutor
Read time: 3 mins
Last updated 26 November, 2017

François Kevorkian: ‘After playing with Traktor for almost nine years it felt really strange not having access to all of the features I take for granted…’
Pic: Herald Sun

Often, new DJs get in touch with us with a story that goes something like this: “Yes, I’ve downloaded Virtual DJ Home, and I’m doing some great mixes on my laptop. I want to get a cheap controller next, then when I’ve got the money trade up to CDJs and a mixer, then finally I want to move to real record decks. Then I’ll be a ‘proper’ DJ!” While we are the first to underline the importance of being able to DJ on CDJs and ideally, over time, on all types of gear, we also believe that digital is the most exciting format out there. Trading “up” to CDJs or record decks just doesn’t make any sense at all to us.

Turns out we’re not alone in that sentiment. We thought today we’d reprint in its entirety the following self-confessed Facebook Page “rant” by New York veteran DJ and Paradise Garage / Studio 54 legend, François Kevorkian aka François K. In it, he rallies against digital DJ haters, and speaks of how boring he found it when he decided to use CDJs a recent Deep Space event in NYC. Here’s what he said:

“One thing I noticed the other day. Because we had two guests the same night at Deep Space, the first using Serato, the other Ableton Live, I did not see it as possible to additionally ALSO have my Traktor set-up in there. So I played from CDs that night. Which was OK, but in my case a bit of a let-down. I will be the first to admit that after playing with Traktor for almost nine years it felt really strange not having access to all of the features I take for granted when using my S4 controller, as it has so profoundly changed me and the way I think of doing things which previously couldn’t easily be done with either vinyl or CD.”

Traktor Kontrol S4
The Traktor Kontrol S4: Is this kind of DJing the pinnacle of the art nowadays?

“Creatively speaking, not having that S4 was as if a whole bunch of colours were removed from my palette, and prevented me from doing the usual ‘spur-of-the-moment’ improvisational thing where I can search for – and find! – any song I want, and have it cued up ready to play in less than three seconds.”

“So when people slag ‘Digital DJs’, i.e. those who uses computers to play, I can only wonder why they are getting so upset about it. If you don’t like something, just ignore it, treat it like it doesn’t exist. As Malcom McLaren so astutely pointed out about hateful Sex Pistols reviews, any press is not only pretty good, but a fairly obvious acknowledgement that people do care very much, even if it’s hating it. Indifference is arguably a lot scarier.”

“Obviously were are still coming to grips with a very disruptive technology here, and just as when live drummers started getting replaced by drum machines, it gives people with much less training, experience and expertise the ability to do basic things pretty well. Well enough to, in fact, sometimes replace DJs who had years of experience and a bit of an exclusive on it.”

“Dunno, that’s the price we pay for technology I guess. Dumbed-down mass market version of something that previously was only available to the few skilled professionals. Something does give in the process if you haven’t learned the ropes and somehow paid your dues, I won’t disagree with that.”

Save The Vinyl
Those who support this message, support it loud: But how many of them put their money where their mouths are, wonders François Kevorkian?

“But for that matter, let’s stop being disingenuous here: if you look under the hood, Pioneer’s new CDJ-2000 decks are really a full computer inside a black box instead of inside a laptop (albeit with a much smaller screen and no keyboard, but other sophisticated controller input devices), but otherwise for all intents and purposes a CPU that boots up, has USB and ethernet ports, and the ability to network just as any other computer does. So what is it that those ‘digital DJ’ haters fixate on? The appearance, the shape of the box? WTF?”

“Now on the topic of analogue, it also cracks me up a bit when I see all of these people up in arms about supporting vinyl, yet when anyone looks at average sales figures for most recent vinyl releases, they are usually around 500 units per pressing worldwide (dubstep a little more).”

“How can thousands of people loudly complain about something that only sells five hundred copies? I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being upset about certain DJs not playing vinyl, I am totally OK with that sentiment, yet I find it peculiar that those who do the complaining sure aren’t doing an equivalent effort to support those vinyl releases themselves, or going to buy them at the store, or ordering them online. Do you really think that record labels wouldn’t like to press up more units if there was a demand?”

“So I am sorry to express it like this, but it feels somewhat disingenuous for all of those complainers to not even support the format they are championing so hard.”

Are you a brand new DJ wondering whether you should go down the CDJ or digital route? Are you scared there’s something you’ll somehow fail to learn if you go straight to digital? We’d love to know your feelings in the comments.

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