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 The prejudice of DJs....

Sat 07 Jan 12 @ 2:14 pm

For a group of forward thinking, envelope pushing, new ground breaking individuals such as Djs claim to be, there is an amazing amount of ignorance displayed from time to time. Sadly, I’m not talking about racial ignorance (although I have witnessed that too) I’m talking about a lack of tolerance for what another DJ might choose to use for equipment.

When I started mixing, turntables were the only option. Cds had yet to be invented. MP3s, not even imagined. Midi controllers were something out of science fiction. However, there was always someone breaking new ground in their technique of mixing. Most of us embraced the idea of, gasp, scratching. 8 beat, 16 beat, 32 beat breaks, everything was acceptable. Turning the tables, cool! Both tables on one side, fascinating! No headphones, You’re THE MAN!

That is why I’m saddened and appalled by the attitude displayed by some Djs towards what another DJ uses to entertain the crowd. When I started there was only one choice for direct drive turntables. Techniques. A couple of years later, Numark released their first direct drive turntables. I remember hearing other Djs say things like, “They’ll never last” or, “not enough torque”. A good friend of mine purchased a couple of Numark tables (after a small bank loan). I used them all the time. Would I prefer a pair of 1200s? Yes! But, I wanted to mix more than I wanted to be a snob. Ironically, Techniques has stopped production of turntables, and Numark is still working on improving them.

Then Cds came into being. WOW! All that from something a little bigger than a drink coaster. Impressive. Great sound quality, in a small format. I was sold! But, most of my DJ brethren weren’t. “You can’t scratch with those” or “What if the player stops?” were whispered between Djs of the time. I know more than one DJ that carried several hundred Cds and a six foot coffin for their turntables for years. “Just in case” was the logic behind that action.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw a pair of mixing CD players. It was at a club in north west Indiana. Below these beautiful stream lined CD players. Two Tech 1200s. Very few Djs used the CD players. They all carried crate after crate of vinyl.

On the nights I wasn’t driving into the suburbs of Chicago to mix, I was working local watering holes. All of them had Cds. Lots and lots of Cds. But, not the slick mixing CD players. First generation, home use CD players. Two of them, yes. But, simple home players.

I learned a great deal then. Song selection was more important than beat matching to most crowds. But, not to other Djs. They would talk about how they “wouldn’t be caught dead working a place like this”. Really? You’re pride was more important than entertaining dancers? Or eating? That was about the time I realized, there is a lot of prejudice Djs in the world.

I’m not above it. We’ve all been hard at work, everything is going right. You’re thinking to yourself “If I could fart in 4x4 time I could still pack the dance floor and, be NAILING IT TONIGHT!” Then, out of the blue, the manager comes over puts his arm around you. “You’re doing GREAT!! Listen, an old buddy of mine is here. If you can, play some Glenn Miller, would ya?” and walks out of your booth. And you think to yourself, WTF?? Can’t you see I’m in the ZONE?!? Not realizing A.) you could use a bathroom break and B.) a wedding party just came in and they would dig the fact that you are flexible. Oh no! I’m mixing! No way! That is that prejudice I’ve experienced in my own heart.

Admittedly, after a couple of years I rose above it. But, not after a whole pant load of painful learning to put my ego aside. It is not about you, the DJ. It is about the atmosphere the establishment delivers. Here is a little hint. 35 minutes before the club closes. No one really cares if your beat matching. Alcohol has a way of turning off those receptors in our ears. They just want to hear their favorite song of the moment. Now, please. If you already played it, they weren’t there. Can you play it again?

Djs that say things like, “I will not cheapen my show by using a midi controller” are the modern day version of “if God had meant for Man to fly, he would have given us wings”. Or, “If you use software and a computer you’re not a ’real’ DJ”. What are they really saying? The same thing I said when the manager asked me to play Glenn Miller. “I am THE ONLY PERSON QUALIFIED TO PLAY MUSIC!” Sadly, however, both of us are/were wrong.

There is a little more to that now than there was 25 years ago. Software makes beat matching faster but, not easier. Learning key progression and genre still takes time. Not to mention learning to wait for the break. Those old prejudices are still there though. Which is sad. No one wants to admit they can be replaced within 48 hours of leaving a successful venue. Some other DJ is already talking to your boss though.

“The new Djs can not be as good as me!” But, they are. Or, they soon will be. And, they’ll do it for half the price. So, you are replaceable. Very replaceable

The next time you hear, or say, “That’s cheating” remember this one lesson. Technology advances, and you’re getting older. Don’t be prejudice. It only darkens the soul. Try and help the new guy. There is a very old saying in Hollywood. “Be nice to everyone you meet on the way up. Because, you’ll see them again on your way down.”