Laptops In DJ Booths: Yes Or No?

Phil Morse | Read time: 3 mins
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Last updated 28 March, 2018


Richie Hawtin, Zedd, Paul Van Dyk… gee, guess they aren’t “showcasing their creativity” since they’ve got laptops in the booth while they DJ… oh, and they’re not using “industry standard” CDJs, too!

Got a laptop? You’re not welcome as a DJ in one of LA’s clubs, something the owner has made very clear in a Facebook rant that has triggered a fierce debate over on social media around whether he’s right or not. The owner is veteran DJ/producer Kenny Summit, and the club is Cure & The Cause. Read on for his full rant and our opinion…

The statement from Kenny Summit

No more laptops in the DJ booth. Unless you’re using it to control vinyl to do a turntablist type of set, a la Jazzy Jeff type shit, or if you’re doing a live thing where you’re actually programming shit on the fly. Keep your controller in your crib, don’t come to work with training wheels. Learn the tools of the trade already. Pioneer isn’t going anywhere any time soon, they are the industry standard, so brush up on how to use the CDJs already, get Rekordbox (it’s free) and buy a good USB stick for $40 that will store thousands of hours of music on it. We opened this place to showcase talent. So, show us your talent.

What we think

Jeez, I really don’t know where to start with this kind of lazy ignorance. (It’s not like we haven’t been here before.)

So Jazzy Jeff is OK using what he wants, but you, lesser DJ, aren’t. (And by the way, just for the record timecode vinyl controls software, not the other way around). So if you’re “actually programming shit on the fly”, you can bring your laptop and controller, but if you’re not, you can’t. Oh, and if you’re too stupid to realise a USB stick will hold thousands of tracks, then it’s your fault for wanting to bring those tracks on your laptop instead. And didn’t you know Rekordbox is free anyway? Sheesh, kids today!

Come and showcase your talent, sure, we love talent here. Just do it on exactly the gear we put in front of you, no exceptions. Except Jazzy Jeff. Erm, and programmers.

OK. One rant frankly deserved another. Let’s step back for a second. Of course, it’s not hard to see where Kenny’s coming from. He presumably doesn’t like people rearranging his DJ booth, plugging stuff in and unplugging other stuff, making a mess of things. He doesn’t like people who are incompetent controlling the music in his club. He dreams of the day when everyone he books is super-experienced, super-talented, the finished article, and they all rock up to play from USB on a pair of CDJs. Wouldn’t life be so simple then?

Wake up fella! Quite apart from the fact that (I would humbly suggest) his budget probably doesn’t doesn’t stretch to exclusively booking DJs who have all been playing on CDJs since year zero and have no special gear requests or complications, the fact is that while “tools of the trade” work for plumbing, they don’t work for music. Everyone doing the same stuff on the same type of kit leads to boring DJ sets – doesn’t matter in the slightest whether that kit is controllers or CDJs, of course. Surely the truth is that creatively, it’s absolutely not the gear the DJ uses, but what they do with it?

Richie Hawtin responds on Twitter to this.

Imagine telling musicians they could only use certain types of instruments? It’s clearly ridiculous. And anyway, as far as competency goes, it’s not the gear you choose to play on that makes you competent or not, it’s the effort you put in to learning your craft, hence of course why we put such a huge emphasis on teaching people to be better DJs.

So come on Mr Club Owner, do a couple of simple things. Employ a knowledgeable sound engineer, who can help DJs set up, break down, and switch between each other, and maybe educate them in areas they’re not sure about. But more than that, why not simply vet anyone who plays in your club carefully, or work with reputable promoters who do that for you – not based on what gear they use, but on their dedication to the art of DJing, and to the music we all love, that got us all into this in the first place.

Why not take a leaf out of the book of Ministry of Sound, Kenny, a club which has been doing this stuff for long enough to know a thing or two about it? “We don’t mind what equipment DJs use,” they told us in a video interview as part of our Digital DJ Masterclass course. “We just want them to be comfortable. We’ll happily help them set up whatever they want to play on.”

Are you offended by being told you can’t use your laptop and controller in a club? Should DJs only play on what’s provided, and not be given the chance to add extra gear, or bring some of their own set-up with them? Or does the guy have a point? Let us know in the comments below.

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