long as a laptop DJ is keeping it legal (not just stealing his/her
music library online)... that's cool by me, and if he/she can show
skills on the laptop, then the label of "DJ" will apply
just fine. I don't like the thought of people being able to
automatically set their tunes to beatmatch - I think that
is kind of "cheating" to an extent - but, to be honest,
if I'm in a club, I'm going to be spending time with my friends and
listening to the music, not hovering over the DJ to see which buttons
he's pushing to gauge his legitimacy. If a DJ has skill with
the tools he/she has, then that is impressive, no matter what.
coming from someone who has been around for a while... there is a
certain amount of pain that goes along with seeing the direction the
music industry is heading. I can chalk part of that
feeling up to very basic jealousy. Younger DJs have it a lot
easier than I did. I used to have to pay $5 for most domestic
12" singles or $6 for most CD singles back in the early days
of my first company, and in the case of some of the "rare"
mixes, I had to pay a whoooole lot more than that. So, it does
ruffle my feathers a bit to see that someone can get the same tracks
for a buck or two these days from Amazon or iTunes. It's aggravating
to see a kid walking around with a laptop that potentially has more
music on it than four or five of my record crates. I have no
problem admitting that.
the "pain" that I feel is also based on nostalgia and sorrow.
I grew up loving music; I can still remember putting records
on my parents' turntable ("record player") back when I was
3-4 years old. I started in the DJ industry over two decades
ago, at the age of 16. When new music came out, I would continually
run down to the local record shoppes (mainly Buttons, Mohawk, and
Starship) and await the new shipments, often calling the owner of
Mohawk ahead of time so that he could put the good ones back for me.
When I went out of state - usually to Texas or to Missouri - I would
hit the record stores and go digging, not in the sense of collecting
rare beats, but more along the lines of seeking rare remixes.
Sometimes I would come up empty-handed, but occasionally I would stumble
onto something amazing, and the whole thing would be well worth it.
As I got older, I also started using my resources to acquire vinyl
via mail-order, but it was still an adventure of sorts because I got
to track it down (either by phone calls or online), wait for it to
arrive, and feel that bit of euphoria from opening a newly-arrived
box of wax.
days, more and more "DJs" don't even know how to operate
a real turntable. Some of them still do great work with the
tools they have, but they don't know what it's like to go out and
spend significant effort tracking down something beautiful.
It is sad to think of a young DJ, just starting out, who has already
acquired a collection of 300-400 decent tracks without ever having
to leave his/her bedroom. He/she will most likely never know
what it's like to take a trip to Vintage Vinyl in St. Louis' University
City or Bill's Records down in Dallas and really scour through boxes
upon boxes of vinyl to find that near-perfect "gem" for
the collection... then move on to hunting down another one.
click, click, download. Click, click, click, download.
Take bite of pizza. Click, click, click, download. There
can be no real "history" of how such a DJ finds his/her
music; there will never be stories told about how hard it was or how
long it took to finally snag a particularly tough-to-find remix.
There will never be any fond recollections about exactly how such
a DJ's heart surged when he/she pulled a near-mint 12" of some
classic old-school jam out of a flea market crate.
that there are some records (and even a few CDs) with which I have
felt a genuine emotional bond, because obtaining them was historic
for me. I remember with great pride the day in 1992 that I
discovered the Vince Clarke remix of Nitzer Ebb's "Ascend"
in Bill's Records. A few years later, I remember bouncing back
and forth between Mohawk Music and Thing One (a local skating-and-vinyl
shoppe) to obtain all three of the rare die-cut-sleeved vinyl editions
of Garbage's "Milk." I remember, in the fall of 1988,
happily shelling out $8 for the white-and-blue-streaked vinyl edition
of Depeche Mode's "Stripped," and just dying to hear what
the remix would sound like as I traveled home... and then, in 2003-2004,
sending about $120 to a collector in Belgium for one particularly
rare French 12" promo of Depeche Mode's "I Feel Loved."
I could go on and on and on... but I think I've made at least somewhat
of a point. These are memories that one just can't get when
they go online and snag the tracks here-and-there over the course
of only a few minutes.
down the music was part of the glorious experience of being an experienced
DJ. When someone had been a DJ for a few years, and they had a good-sized
stack of vinyl... You knew that person probably had spent some
time tracking those down, probably accompanied by a few good stories
to tell. The experience and the accompanying memories fed the
DJ culture - a culture that wasn't strictly focused on playing tracks,
looking good, and getting laid, but a culture that also had this fantastic
foundation of hunting, collecting, and digging for the next big treasure.
it depresses me that by downloading everything and playing it all
digitally, modern DJs are depriving themselves of that culture, that
history, and that experience. That sorrow is a lot more palpable
than my simple jealousy, because as time goes by, that old-school
culture is just going to die more and more, and tomorrow's DJs won't
even realize what they're missing.
day, I'd love to start up a second mobile DJ company - a follow-up
to my old company, EKG Pro Mobile Music. If I ever do, we're
going to be, quite possibly, the only commerical mobile DJ company
in our market that still focuses on playing the music from real vinyl
records on real turntables. There will be some tracks that I
will have to play on CD, and I'm okay with that... but for the most
part, the crowds will see a genuine old-school DJ pulling real vinyl
from the crates, flipping it around, cueing it up, and playing it.
It won't just be a music experience; it will be a visual performance
as well. There will be no laptops used for those performances.
might last 20 years, or it might last a year. I'm not getting
any younger, and all the rhetoric in the world isn't going to make
the vinyl (or the equipment) weigh any less. But, if I'm ever
able to start up such a company, it'll be fun while it lasts.
As long as everyone keeps it legal, there is a place in the
industry for every type of DJ - vinyl, CD, and digital. I can
see the value and the advantages of the digital format. However,
that being said, I also don't think it's wrong to feel and express
pride in doing it the old-school vinyl way and appreciating the history
and culture of the vinyl method.