“Back in my day, it was all about…”
If I may, I'd like to stop you right there. Yes, I realize that EDM is bigger than life right now. And I realize that we've seen a slew of alleged overnight successes and one-hit wonders. And I realize that we are inundated with DJs who “press play” and “sync” and don't do justice to what was once an art form.
I'm fully aware that a majority of DJs out there can't beatmatch to save their own life, and that they don't want to “dig” for new music to share to an audience. I know that most DJs are interested in one thing: notoriety… and most of them want to do the least amount of work it takes to get them there.
I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying that we've heard it all before.
And It's Not Just DJing…
Technology has always had a tendency to democratize the things we consider art or craft. Here are just a few things that have been ruined over the years:
- Photography – ruined by smartphones and Instagram
- Books – devalued by the introduction of eBooks
- Blogging – dumbed down by Twitter and other social media outlets
- (Thoughtful) Word Processing – made insignificant by bloggers
- The Typewriter – made obsolete by cheating with word processors
- Handwritten Literature – destroyed by the introduction of the typewriter
I could do this all day. Youtube ruined quality video, which ruined the essence of film… yadda yadda.
By definition, technology gives us tools and shortcuts to more quickly and easily reach our goals. Technology gives us a HUGE shortcut to mediocrity.
It's way easier to become a seamstress after the development of the sewing machine, the invention of the cotton gin, the introduction of Pinterest, and the expansion of Wal-Mart or JoAnn Fabric.
Just like it's way easier to become a DJ after the development of controllers, software, online music piracy and…. pitch controls on turntables.
Effort Often Trumps Output
“If it was easy, everyone would do it”
It is, and they do.
The quest for the easy route, like a get-rich-quick scheme, is ultimately self-defeating. And the path of least resistance in the DJing world is to find songs you like, throw them on your laptop/player of choice, hit sync, and play for free (“exposure”) without putting any thought or effort into what could make you a better DJ. A better artist. Not different… better.
It's not that we, as humans, aren't capable of tackling larger problems like “how can I build an audience?”, “how can I better entertain and read my crowd?”, or “how can I find and build my niche in the music market?”
It's that we're afraid to try…. or we don't think that it's necessary, because we have a lottery mindset. Most people in this industry think it's about doing the same thing everyone else is doing, over and over again, until they finally get lucky or discovered.
Ironically, you could probably save a lot of time and effort by doing things the hard way, as opposed to trying and discarding all the shortcuts.
“Slow down and go faster.”
– my grandfather, years ago, teaching me how to autocross/road race
Isn't that what we're actually looking at, here? It's not ruined, it's merely different. At least, as far as how to play and present the music is concerned.
When the evil Dr. Technology shows up, it doesn't feel like a stretch to assume both that the old-schoolers will become obsolete, and the up-and-coming generation is a big pile of cheaters and posers.
And obviously, it doesn't help to have all of the unplugged CDJ images, cake-throwing videos, and allegations of purchased social media “follows” thrown up in front of our faces on a weekly basis (minimum).
But, the best audience for the passionate DJ has always been a small, tightly knit group of supportive cohorts. An enthused tribe works together to build long-term value, in order to create work that matters and stands the test of time. Some might call it the underground.
It's time to stop blaming DJs for using technology that it only makes sense to utilize. There's nothing wrong with knowing your roots (in fact, the older I get, the further back in time I explore). But, guess what? That sucky DJ would still suck if you taught them how to play on whatever equipment/format/technology you personally consider to be “legitimate”.
The problem only comes in when people think that the existence of affordable high-res cameras makes them a world-class photographer.
There's much more to a good picture than resolution.
Some people will never get that, and that's nothing new either.