Are traditional DJs a dying breed?

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A very common topic that has surfaced a lot recently – not only in my office, but also with other promoters – is who to book talent wise. I’ve put myself in a unique position as I’m promoting my own events with my J00F Editions concept. When I program an event, I choose talent who can actually DJ. I want a DJ who I can trust to read the crowd and change accordingly. This keeps my vision intact of how the event unfolds musically and how and when it will reach its crescendo, thus keeping the dancefloor interesting throughout the whole evening. It’s unfortunate that we have all come to the same conclusion that this list of true DJs is now becoming very, very short.

Over the past decade the scene seems to have split in two: in one camp we see ‘entertainment/producer DJs’ and in the other we find the ‘traditional DJs’. From my first-hand experience of playing alongside entertainment/producer DJs, I’ve had to rescue many nights as they didn’t have the skill nor the tools of a DJ to read the crowd and change to the circumstances presented to them.

Producers/entertainment DJs are the equivalent of bands touring. When you go to see Muse, U2 and so on, you expect them to play all their hits you’ve heard on their albums. It’s part of the experience seeing them in the flesh playing the songs you truly love. Producers fit firmly in this camp. They have massive followings and fans go crazy seeing them play live. They replace keyboards with decks, as it’s much easier for them to tour this way, so they become DJs.

I’ve had to rescue many nights from entertainment DJs who didn’t have the skills to read the crowd and change with the circumstances.

They are performing mini-concerts to concert-esque crowds, to fans constantly holding cameras, singing songs. Producers will play just one style of music, mainly their own ‘hit’ productions and music from their own label groups. They are marketing machines pushing their own brand. Their own sound. The focus is on genre branding. They are there to outshine any other act around them and become man of the match. This is the exact same way bands and the pop world work, but also what makes them great entertainers on stage due to the ever increasing pressure of competition around them.

Entertainment DJs are a million miles away from the regular world of traditional DJs. I personally don’t know one traditional DJ who just plays one sound; they have a record bag full of all styles of music in order to be able to deal with any situation presented to them. Our audiences are completely different too. They want to get on the dancefloor with their heads down and dance. They want to be stimulated by new music that’s cleverly programmed. Good DJs get a natural ‘feeling’ of when to make energy shifts on the dance floor ensuring that we keep the floor busy and interesting. We spend hours searching for music. These are our tools for the job of making these energy shifts.

When I play a DJ set, I’ll go through all styles of music; deep, dark, hard, uplifting, classics, and so on. These are my tools to give you an emotional ride. My sets are like an audio version of a thriller movie, with twists and turns. You never quite know what the ending is, so it keeps you on the edge of your seat all through the ride. We’re storytellers.

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Comments

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angy

angy said on the 9th Jul, 2012

Some really on point analysis from J00F, I've thought this for a while, that producers van make weak DJs. Though it's kinda also a reality of being able to make a living as a dance music producer, DJing and touring income can often be the most important revenue stream for them.

I'd also say it's more true for the trance and mainstream house scenes though, completely different on underground house and techno where plenty of "traditional" DJs have broken through in recent years, maybe he should be booking some of them?

Digitalgrub

Digitalgrub said on the 9th Jul, 2012

Some great points - lots of this is a result of the whole festival thing too. You really need regular club nights to be able to be able to build that scene as well. In many ways you can tell this by mentioning a clubnight/gig/festival - is it by the brand of the night or the actual acts?

I.e. mention 'Godskitchen', 'Gatecrasher', 'Subsonic', 'Rainbow Serpent' and you instantly create a mind of a certain atmosphere and type of party, not just a DJ.

Be4tFre4k

Be4tFre4k said on the 9th Jul, 2012

I'll agree with angy on this one. It is mainly the trancy and electro-housy DJs who tend to play some songs almost again and again and that is due to their audience being more "commercial" listeners.

I like to believe that Techno and Progressive DJs (e.g. Christian Smith, King Unique, Luis Junior etc.) tend to play a much larger variety of tracks and have a way better feel of what the crowd wants. There are some exceptions to the rule such as Robert Babicz or Max Cooper who play more or less the same songs in every single set, but then again they make probably 10 times more tracks than the average producer and also have a sound so different from everyone else's that it is really hard to mix in tracks from other artists.

In regards to producers not necessarily making good DJs I can agree 100%, but unfortunately nowadays you have to be good at both to make it in the business, cause people who only DJ (although in most cases are not good at it) are thousands.

Finally I would like to add that yes it is a shame "branding" a DJ with a certain genre, especially now that genres have been mashed up with one another. Unfortunately though tastes vary greatly in EDM and if someone wants to listen to a new DJ, by knowing roughly the type of music he plays he can save himself the disappointment.

cizza

cizza said on the 9th Jul, 2012

I feel he came across as a guy with his head up his arse - but i also think that this comes through complete frustration with these scene and a longing to see a return to how things used to be.

I have the utmost respect for how outspoken J00f is and cant wait to see him later on in the year. Someone who actually WANTS to be in a dark, sweaty underground club where people come to be taken on a journey. Something that can be hard to find these days.

angy

angy said on the 10th Jul, 2012

On reflection, J00F's comments seem a little redundant when you add the house and techno scenes into the equation. Clearly he's got plenty to offer, but he's always annoyed me with sweeping statements like, "this list of true DJs is now becoming very, very short." If you look beyond some of he muppets in the trance scene, it's clearly not true.

donniebuoy

donniebuoy said on the 10th Jul, 2012

I agree completely with what J00F is saying, however my experience at one of his own gigs down on the Gold Coast last year, is that he is not playing like a traditional DJ himself. The sound was dark and depressing with very little change in BPM (low BPM). Hardly anyone was on the dance floor as a result, and after an hour of this our friends gave up and left, and we followed them shortly afterwards. It's the only time I have seen him play, so maybe it was a one off, but I'm not keen to waste my time and money again on one of his gigs again. Whereas I saw Gareth Emery in the same club, and he was awesome - read the crowd perfectly, and had the dance floor packed during his entire set.

polite_society

polite_society said on the 10th Jul, 2012

Sad i'm missing him again.

prawn_86

prawn_86 said on the 10th Jul, 2012

So what clubs in Melbourne allow dj's to do their thing as opposed to labelling them? Serious question as i have just moved here

ToyBox

ToyBox said on the 10th Jul, 2012

it also depends on the club... with reference to the show at the gold coast... it was at a venue not known for an audience with a large music knowledge nor was is the club known for presenting '' underground'' shows..
If anyone was at the Brisbane gig at barsoma, they will know how amazing it was.... sunday afternoon 4 hour set and a sell out event. By far one of the best in Brisbane for 2011

Achal

Achal said on the 11th Jul, 2012

Gotta agree with j00f, but unfortunately it's all about getting your sound out there. A good exmaple is when I went to Dennis Sheperd and Menno de Jong. I think with Dennis Sheperd being newer in the scene his set was filled with his own tracks and tracks from the same label. Now obviously we go to see Dennis sheperd to hear dennis sheperd but the set wasn't great.

However, Menno de Jong maybe because he's been on the scene longer or whatever he didn't seem to have the same need to spam his own tracks into his set. His set was awesome, changing styles throughout the set, at first it might have been considered random but thoroughly enjoyed his set.

p.s. those complaints about playing the same set every time, i think most dj's would play similar tracks for a while. They wouldn't expect the same people to be at all their gigs and it's just to impractical to play a different set EVERY SINGLE gig.

Shall

Shall said on the 11th Jul, 2012

Firstly, I have a great amount of respect for J00F. He definitely is one of the most entertaining DJ's in the industry. His ability to read the crowd and to take the crowd on a journey is definitely a highlight and a real talent.

I agree that these days some 'producer' DJs out there are definitely not technically as strong as some 'traditional djs', but these producer djs are still able to entertain the crowd with their self-produced tracks. The tracks that people love and admire and scream "Love this track!", "Hope they play their track " "Cant wait until gets played!". That's the passionate music follower speaking and of course any producer will already know that's the reason why the crowd has paid good money to see them - the example of Dennis Shepherd below is right. Dennis Shepherd's biggest track "Fallen Angel", one of the biggest trance tracks of the year along with his catalogue of other self-produced tracks/remixes would of been one of the biggest marketing points for that artist - If he didn't play it that would mean a lot of dissatisfaction from his most passionate fans who paid the money to come see him. On the other hand, Menno De Jong didn't need to play his own tracks in the whole. Yes, he played a handful of his own self-produced tracks but he has been able to gain enough credence and respect over the years though through being able to nurture the crowd into enjoying his entertaining/yet very technical set. But this I don't think would of been originally been able to be done unless he did play out his big tracks when he was first touring. But yes to be fair, Menno's set to me was a lot more entertaining due to track diversity and set progression (and yes Menno is really a great technical DJ as well).

The push for more producers to tour more is something that has became more prevalent in the last decade or so. The masses of signed records being released it's easy for your release to be lost out in 'Beatport' world at times. Touring provides producers a chance to promote their productions and unfortunately for some of these great music producers sometimes sadly is the only sustainable source of income in the present world. I say at least give Producer DJs a chance to prove themselves by touring. If a producer seriously can't DJ, I'm sure that will get noticed quickly and simply wont be booked as often or not at all.

But maybe J00F is right, the days of the entertaining DJ, the DJ who takes the crowd on a journey, who doesn't have to rely on their own productions or just simply plays 'anthems' is disappearing.

However the best examples I love to give of DJs who no longer need to be producer DJs are John Digweed, Carl Cox and Sven Vath - but again they only were able to achieve such credence and respect as DJ's due to their longitivity and popularity of their own production releases all those many years ago. Maybe it's actually part of the "DJ Life cycle?". J00F seemed to get really popular as a DJ during 2004 for particular reasons. Discogs would be able to answer that question for you. Maybe there's just a strong correlation between success as a producer and as a long time performing DJ?

But there definitely is some really amazing, technically sound DJ performers out there as well, who also have some of the best production releases.

Also as Angy mentioned as well, there still are plenty of "traditional DJs" out there as well who don't produce and are amazing in front of crowds.... The unfortunate thing is for these guys to get noticed, they often feel that they have to produce great tracks as well.

Oli-G

Oli-G said on the 12th Jul, 2012

I am available to smash parties whenever, wherever. Hit me up John ;P

zachraw

zachraw said on the 12th Jul, 2012

I'm sorry to break it to you JOOF but here is the reality of the situation: You have made a living out of playing other people's music, yes that's right! You are not in anyway creatively responsible for anything you have ever played, therefore you are not an Artist. You are not a storyteller, an Artist is a storyteller, you are merely a human jukebox. I am not saying there isn't a place for DJs in society, people like to enjoy themselves and hear music they love, this is where you come in pal-play them the songs that they love to hear. I think you and everyone who's ever spun a record and thought that they are some sort of creative genius, needs to wake the f##k up. Here's an idea, why don't you try and create something from scratch? Sit down and formulate a creation. Until then, do your job (that you are extremely overpaid to do) play your records, help the people dance and have an opinion when you've earned the right.

ether1988

ether1988 said on the 12th Jul, 2012

^

Zachraw.. please tell me you are joking?
If not then i suggest you go get yourself a clue and have a look at J00F's back catalouge and understand the real 'reality of the situation'. He has been making his own music for years and continues to do so...amazing music as well. In a 4 hour set he may only play a few of his own tracks as he likes to showcase other artists creations.

Sheer ignorance...or just a good troll...?

lawlietskyy

lawlietskyy said on the 12th Jul, 2012

Im 100% confident that zachraw is under the age of 21, and belongs to #trancefamily where they play avicii and say OMG I LOVE TRANCE BANGER BANGER BANGER and raise their hands to create a love heart .... if i am wrong and you're a mature aged adult ... then please do yourself a favour and jump into a pool of acid... your comment is one of THE most stupidest comments i've ever read in my life.

mr flauge

mr flauge said on the 12th Jul, 2012

HAHA.. zachraw is more than likely one of those meatheads from the aesthetics kr3w.
hence why he has produced possibly the dumbest post ever on inthemix.
well done you peckerhead go jump off north head

informed

informed said on the 13th Jul, 2012

hahaha, zachraw, you are an absolute moron. you are probably best to stay out of this discussions as clearly you have no f**kin idea.

DANCINGDI

DANCINGDI said on the 13th Jul, 2012

I'm just sick of his whinging. It's all about how great he is and how everyone doesn't get it !! He has some points but it's lost in all the negativity fo me.

djpractice

djpractice said on the 13th Jul, 2012

While this might offend a lot of you that agree with JOOF, one could argue that in the current EDM market he is falling behind by not becoming an 'entertainment DJ' which is what punters like these days.....maybe?? I don't agree with that idea of course, but it's worth thinking about......

ether1988

ether1988 said on the 13th Jul, 2012

What is classed as falling behind?

I get the feeling he is content with what he as at the moment. He pushes a sound that he loves without the commercial bells and whistles.

djpractice

djpractice said on the 13th Jul, 2012

your guess is as good as mine Ether ;)

If he is content with what he is and is happy to push whatever sound feels like at the present time, why does he need to give two shits about anything else? It just seems like an unnecessary distraction

Not trying to start arguments here, just thinking out loud ;)

ether1988

ether1988 said on the 13th Jul, 2012

All good. Valid points!

I guess he is just passionate about the music scene and isn't that stoked about (what he sees) as the degeneration of the dance music industry.

He can be a negative nelly but he has his best intentions at heart. He makes a serious effort to communicate/educate fans about a bunch of edm topics, beyond the topic he discusses above.

He has done his time as a young up an comer and you get the feeling he is just happy doing his own thing, playing the parties that he wants to and promoting the traditional style of clubbing.

angy

angy said on the 14th Jul, 2012

Dancing Di, I'd tend to agree with you, felt that way for a while - all his valid points are lost amongst the pissing and moaning, and blanket generalisations, some of which are utter BS. Just book a deep techno act to warm you up, you big sook...

Funkedub

Funkedub said on the 16th Jul, 2012

The advent of the instant DJ has changed the playing field.

Good DJs will shine through in the end ... scenesters will fade in to the tedium they sprang from.

Bruno from Burwood

Bruno from Burwood said on the 17th Jul, 2012

JOOF, you're part of the trance scene buddy.

WTF do you expect?

ianwil1976

ianwil1976 said on the 18th Jul, 2012

What the fuck is trance?

justeNyc

justeNyc said on the 18th Jul, 2012

j00F, Mr. C, and DJ Sneak take the award for whiniest DJ of the year.

DJ_Break

DJ_Break said on the 28th Jul, 2012

When I play a DJ set, I%u2019ll go through all styles of music; deep, dark, hard, uplifting, classics, and so on. These are my tools to give you an emotional ride. My sets are like an audio version of a thriller movie, with twists and turns. You never quite know what the ending is, so it keeps you on the edge of your seat all through the ride. We%u2019re storytellers.