François K gets deep about ‘digital DJs’ backlash

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We know from experience that New York club icon Francois K is a man of strong opinions and a fine way of expressing them. Today, the seasoned pro has published what he calls “another rant” on “being a ‘digital DJ’ and all of the emotions it seems to bring out in a small minority of club-goers”, and it’s well worth a read. As for whether digital DJing has served him well, our reviewer certainly thought so at the Space Ibiza Festival in early 2011: “Francois K threw down one of the finest festival DJ sets I’ve ever witnessed, and his set alone was worth the price of admission.”

The inspiration for François’s musings – or ranting, as he puts it – came from this week’s edition of Deep Space, the Monday night institution he runs at Cielo New York. You can read the full commentary below – or here – and let us know what you think in the comments field.

“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 setup 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.

Creatively speaking, not having that S4 was as if a whole bunch of colors 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 acknowledgment 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.

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 analog, 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.”


Comments arrow left

pomrocks said on the 16th Feb, 2012

remember those days when vinyl dj's complained about people playing off cds and they they werent "real" dj's?


DJGREMMIS said on the 16th Feb, 2012

No one slags true talented and creative people who use digitial technology, the hate is towards the hoards of people that claim to have those assets from digital tools yet play a normal boring set, merely using the technology as they cant or are too lazy to beatmatch and mix properly.

special ed

special ed said on the 16th Feb, 2012

digital djing requires far less 'skill', thats for sure. but really, like FK said, the end result is all that should matter. I dj'd for 15 or so years on vinyl (digital didn't even exist in my day), but have since moved onto traktor in the last few years. For me its like discovering a whole new way to dj.
Techno isn't taken from the word 'technology' for nothing

art vandelay121

art vandelay121 said on the 16th Feb, 2012

RE: Vinyl. I will buy a new release vinyl if i really like the song/album but I much prefer to go through record stores coming across gems i otherwise wouldn't have heard.


newitt said on the 16th Feb, 2012

He's exactly right....I cant wait till all the vinyl purists have died out. Sure ye'olde 12" are fun to play with, sound great (mostly) and you get to hold a piece of music in your hand but, most Dance music These days is produced almost completely ITB so what's the benefit of pressing music to big clunky pieces of plastic when it cant possibly sound any better than if it were kept as lossless digital file?


newitt said on the 16th Feb, 2012

He's exactly right....I cant wait till all the vinyl purists have died out. Sure ye'olde 12" are fun to play with, sound great (mostly) and you get to hold a piece of music in your hand but most Dance music These days is produced almost completely ITB so what's the benefit of pressing music to big clunky pieces of plastic when it cant possibly sound any better than if it were kept as lossless digital file?


Pdzy said on the 16th Feb, 2012

something something i just want to hear the music something


tropicalgrid said on the 16th Feb, 2012

the biggest "vinyl purists" are regular know-not-much punters, who simply luuuurve seeing the mechanical movement of the turntable.


TJAY said on the 16th Feb, 2012

Don't think even vinyl purists would disagree with his comments. The issue is with the number of people considering themselves great DJs.

I can google symptoms, doesn't mean I'm a doctor. Great DJs, whilst playing someone else's music are musicians; they understand rhythm, timing, keys. The read the crowd, try new things, blah blah.

I love vinyl, love collecting it (only just started) but I appreciate just how good having digital music is (even if I still mix it using DVS.

Digital ain't the issue. I think most people's issue is unqualified people playing on autopilot.


annajay said on the 16th Feb, 2012

Totally agree. Technology is by definition disruptive. Let's get over the "how" and focus more on the "what" i.e. the music!


muse said on the 16th Feb, 2012

Francois K - sponsored by the S4? Sounds like promo to me.

I need to stop reading FK articles, each new one makes me like him a little less...


Oli-G said on the 16th Feb, 2012

Exactly. This is what bothers me. That and unless the soundcard is an absolute beast, digital just doesnt sound as good as a burnt wav file to audio format being played out a cdj1000/2000. Its good enough though, but I am a tad fussy in that regard.


simc said on the 16th Feb, 2012

I would say I lean further towards vinyl in preference but what others play is their business. My main gripe is the amount of work gone into (or lack there of) creating your own sound; playing tunes that actually mean something to you, not just 'Beatports Top 10 Techno Tracks' or a famous deejays playlist or something of that sort, if popularity is your thing then sure, do whatever you must. Just don't try and pretend you are something you are most certainly not.


TimmyB01 said on the 16th Feb, 2012

I believe the increase in digital djing is more simply that it is easier and far more affordable to start, to try out to see if djing is something that you enjoy enough to make it a hobby. Then once you get confidence you may seek gigs and then gain popularity and so forth. By this stage you are happy with where your are at and what you are doing so why change?
At the end of the day it is all about the music. If you can make me dance i really dont care how you do it.


AfroWhitie said on the 16th Feb, 2012

That statement speaks volumes


Oli-G said on the 16th Feb, 2012

"At the end of the day it is all about the music. If you can make me dance i really dont care how you do it."

Hypothetical question* here.. What if the dj was just getting up and putting a pre recorded mix cd on, you were getting down and not realising it, then someone told you mid set... Or afterwards...

Would you care?



matzta73 said on the 17th Feb, 2012

Beatmixing is a disability, thank god for technology advancements, this debate was won years ago when the likes of Serato, Traktor and Ableton came into the mainstream.

And lets face it, for most people who want to start out mixing as a hobby, a set of CDj's, mixer and space to put your gear, far out way the costs of a computer based program.

What ever tickles your fancy I say :-)


Oli-G said on the 17th Feb, 2012

"Beat mixing is a disability".. I think I get what you mean but I am not sure..

This will piss some off, but I believe all it did was make it easier for those who lacked the passion and the drive to learn how to dj initially.. leading to a mass downgrade of the overall quality of djs.

What I want to know, what no one answers and keeps ignoring...



I want this to move forward, using the technology, thats why I want dvs djs to stop being so lazy and take things FORWARD. Im sick of seeing someone set up a mountain of controllers only to just mix track to track. Id prefer then they just use controller cds or vinyl..

fuck it. someone give me a cracked copy of any modern digi set up..I think I could give it a shake


fenuger said on the 17th Feb, 2012

I agree with Francois K all the way. Djing with CDs/Vinyl is equivalent to rubbing two sticks together to make a fire. Get with it! There are so many tools to improve how well you can play! Utilize them! let's be honest if you're still just using 2 CDj's or 2 Tables with only vinyl, then what are you really doing? You're playing 2 songs at the same speed. Utilize the technology given to you and improve your life. No scurrying through CDs, all of your music is right there, if you come up with an idea on the fly that will work with the energy of the crowd, you can do it. There's no end to it. I feel like the DJs who believe that using a laptop isn't real djing are just lazy asses who don't want to learn new things. Francois K is awesome BTW, if you're ever in the NY area, his sets are a lot of fun to catch.


Oli-G said on the 17th Feb, 2012

True, less beatmatching means you can never stop working the flange, roll, white noise & other ear 'stimulating' efx.

Digital djing really has changed things for the better. I welcome the day I will have a white noise effect & horn blasts on my tv, so I can hype the fuck out of the commercials. I can also add it to songs I watch on video hits to improve them, because you know, white noise makes everything sound better.


lawlietskyy said on the 20th Feb, 2012

If you needed to go digital because you lacked passion, you really need to re-evaluate whether DJing is for you


patrickbateman said on the 21st Feb, 2012

good article. more of this kind of thing and less skrillex articles thanks!