I’ve been doing this since 1995. I’ve seen a lot of things come and go in my time. I witnessed the revival of dance music, shunned into musical purgatory after Disco died in the early 1980’s. I saw Technotronic, Snap!, Black Box and C&C Music Factory dominate the charts. I saw the rise and fall of Big Beat. I remember Pirate Raving, candy kids, cyber style, Rave Skank, JNCO jeans, vapo rub, pacifiers, ‘bishis, double stacks, wafers and REAL molly. I remember how we collectively laughed as a generation when at the end of the Mitsubishi commercial featuring “Days Go By” by Dirty Vegas, Pete Tong said “Contact your dealer today.”
In other words, I’ve been exposed to a lot in this scene. I’m not a grumbling old wanker longing for the “Old Skool.” In fact, anyone who really knows me knows that I get sick of hearing about “The Old Skool.” Vinyl wanks are one of my greatest annoyances. I believe that if you don’t evolve, you die.
That being said, I also believe I have an obligation to share my knowledge and experience with the youngsters. As I have said in previous articles, I believe my generation has dropped the ball big time when it comes to those behind us. We have a duty to share with those getting into the scene. A history not shared is a history not worth having. This piece isn’t as much about sharing history as it is sharing experience.
DJs, for the most part, have turned into self important douche bags.
Steve Porter made a video several years ago featuring a clip from a Henry Rollins performance. For those of you not familiar with him, Henry Rollins was the lead singer of the Punk Rock group Black Flag. In the clip Porter sampled, Rollins spoke of meeting DJs at European music festivals, and how they seemed to be self important merchandising machines focused on nothing but collecting their paychecks while possessing no real musical ability or aptitude. Of course he was embellishing a bit, but the point of the message remains.
I see it as well.
When local DJs are more concerned with image, branding and merchandising than playing a good set or producing a good track, it’s a sad reflection on the state of affairs in EDM. It’s putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. I understand having a T-Shirt is an alternative source of revenue, but is the effort worth the return? As for the image thing, is the image you’ve created turning people away from working with you? Has your own sense of ego inflated so much it drives people away?
I’d like to think we’ve simply become insular as a culture these days, and that social media has resulted in diminished face-to-face communication skills, but I’m not sure that’s the case. DJing tends to bring in either those with big, bold personalities, or those who are incredibly introverted and find DJing as an alternative source of self expression. I’d like to think the shameless self promotion tactics used today are simply an anomaly and didn’t really exist back in the day, so to speak. The mediums have changed though. Used to, being a dealer was a form of self promotion. People came to parties because the DJ happened to be their best dealer. With the decline of MDMA influenced culture and the rise of social media, the avenues for self promotion are far easier (and more legal) to access. Simply put, those who are social media savvy can use those skills to make themselves appear much more influential than they actually are.
Yep, it’s this. People can now take to social media and hornswaggle the masses into thinking that someone who is really no more than a local is the next coming of Paul Oakenfold. As I’ve said before, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a local. Most of us will ALWAYS be a local. By using socially influential marketing tactics, they can give the appearance of being the next big thing. They are truly the success story of marketing and today’s viral campaigns. It’s certainly not because of talent. Granted, there are folks out there who have paid their dues, had success, developed a sound strategy for expanding their profit base by developing some clever merch. These folks are seriously few and far between.
When you’re looking at these folks, strip back the facade. Ignore the fancy logo. Forget about the T-Shirts. Don’t consider anything you’ve ever said to them or vice versa. Let the mix do the talking. Are you enjoying the music? Are you having a good time? Would you consider this memorable? Those are the real things to pay attention to. In this day and age where I can go to Target and buy a Deadmau5 hat, it’s easy to get swept up in the peripherals.
This is where curation and education come back into play. One thing I find these days is people don’t know as much about music in general. They know a ton about their little subgenre, but they’re pretty clueless outside their little world. We have to do better as curators of our music to make sure we develop love for the music, and not just love for the rush.
Some friends of mine were having a conversation on Facebook the other day about how we used to go to shows that featured all sorts of different genres in one night, and how that doesn’t really happen anymore. I attribute this to EDM becoming pop music, and the EDM show now taking the place of the rap show or the coffeehouse. It’s simply the thing to do. Trap and Dubstep are the hot sound. As EDM goes back underground, multi-genre shows should start to reappear. That is, if some of the more unscrupulous promoters aren’t afraid to book people better than they are.
Henry, even though I think you really are a curmugeonly, cranky fussbag (much like myself) I think you happen to be spot on this time. DJs have become self important, and do need to realize what they really are.