Welcome back to Performer Life. Today we are talking about the question I hear a lot ‘Is DJing Dead?’. DJing has grown so much as a profession and turned into a respected skill. It is a great way to win over crowds and get people moving, but with the advent of modern technology, are DJs obsolete? This what we will look into today.
How Has Djing Changed?
The DJ landscape has changed immensely over the past ten years or so. Back in the day, people had to manually sync up vinyl records by hand to get the music to play along and in sync with each other. This was all done by hand and man power. Now, a DJ would take a USB cable and plug it into his laptop and have instant access to all of his music on any device he chooses.
This totally changes the way that a modern DJ mixes tracks compared to the old school vinyl DJ. With the old school method, a DJ would have to pan the track to either side of the mix in order to mix. Today, all a DJ needs to do is move the wave forms around on his computer screen and it’s as if he is holding two records in his hands.
These computer generated mixes can then be saved as a playlist and replayed at any point. This has led to some controversy around famous DJs choosing to play a pre-recorded set and simply ‘pretending’ to mix manually.
This is not real DJing. If you are a DJ, you have to play live. You can’t just play a DJ mix that you recorded earlier. All the greatest DJs have played live. It’s a shame that DJs today feel the need to resort to these kinds of practices. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of this kind of DJing. I think these DJs are just trying to hide their lack of talent with some smoke and mirrors. The fact that they are using pre-recorded sets in my opinion makes them less talented (or maybe just lazy!)
And it doesn’t end there? Modern technology even allows for such a thing as auto djing! Auto DJ software allows making a playlist and then automating those songs right from the software and plug-ins. The software will manage the mixing instead of the human.
There is at least a halfway house between the digital DJ and the old school vinyl DJ, the CD mixer DJs!! A CD mixer DJ will essentially do the same as a vinyl DJ, but using CDs instead of vinyl. The CDs are usually mixed and played using a controller, which usually has a crossfader, and is able to control the mixing of the CDs.
What Does This Mean for the Current State of Djing?
Although we have a problem brewing, the technology is not yet good enough to get rid of the expert DJ and for us to proclaim that DJing is in fact dead!
Of course, it depends on the situation. If you are in a low end bar or at a wedding party, where many people are not that bothered by the quality of the DJing on offer, you will probably find more of these people opting for auto DJ software of DJ’s that clearly just replay a playlist rather than do it live.
However, there is still a great market for a real live skillful disc jockey! There are hardcore fans out there that know how to spot a ‘real’ and highly skilled DJ and are willing to pay more money to see a live DJ as opposed to a DJ playing pre-recorded music. This is what is saving DJing as a profession right now, in my opinion.
What Does this Mean for the Young and Upcoming DJ?
Again, this is all my own opinion (for what it’s worth), but I feel there are some problems that arise for anyone thinking about getting serious about being a DJ in this increasingly more digital world.
DJing as an Art Form
Firstly, I can remember first trying to DJ with vinyl back in the day. It was a hard and gruelling skill to master, with many hours of practice needed over at extended period to get good at. However, these days pretty much anyone with a little bit of tech knowledge can start DJing and mixing using software applications. Trust me, this is a much easier skill to learn that old school vinyl DJing.
What this means is that the barrier to entry for new DJs is getting lower all the time, meaning that if you want to stand out it’s going to be harder and harder.
However, the one bright light is that in a sea of digital DJ’s, you could really stand out if you can highlight top quality skill at manual vinyl mixing.
As there are more and more digital DJs out there, I feel that the average pay you can expect as a DJ might start to come down.
Yes, those super high quality DJ clubs will always pay top dollar for skilled DJs, but more of the venues underneath will see hiring a digital DJ as a way to cut costs.
As there are so many digital DJs out there, it will be easier for venues to find them. The increase in DJ supply will probably bring the fees paid down.
Is There Any Hope for the Digital DJ Future?
As you can probably tell from this article, I feel that there will be a shift in the mainstream DJ world towards digital, leaving a hardcore group of vinyl (and maybe CD based) skilled DJs for those that still value such things!
So is there any hope for us in the future if DJing becomes more and more digital? I still think there is! The DJing craft will simply change at the high end. Of course, you will still get a lot of ‘braindead’ digital DJs, but those that truly want to push the boundaries will do so in other ways.
I think we will see a bigger emphasis on layering up of the tracks being mixed together. With traditional DJ techniques you are often just able to mix one track into another, but with digital DJing you can set up several tracks layered over each other at different points. I believe this layering is where the new DJ skill set will be, and we will end up with songs that are much more complex and inter-twined.
What Do You Think?
Of course this whole article is highly speculative on my part and is totally just my opinion. What do you think the future of DJing holds? Instead of enjoying watching people spin discs in the club, maybe we will be wowed by spinning playlists and complex mixes instead 🙂
Technology often forces industries to change and move on, and the world of DJing is clearly no different! I hope I have opened your mind to this today!