“You’re a DJ too? Cool story, bro.”

By Evangelos Lambrinoudis

It’s a bit after midnight — peak time in any Canadian club environment — and the dance floor is packed with sweaty and cliquey teens-to-twentysomethings. I scan the crowd and see an ocean of rave-hoods with little fuzzy ears, dreads on white people and dress shirts with ties hanging loose and carefree. I bend over to pick up a Serato record and set my laptop up when suddenly it hits me: everyone here is a dj.

I’ve been playing records in the club circuit now for five years, and in that time I’ve seen the gradual fading of vinyl and cd culture in the dj world. Each year ushers in a warehouse worth of new ways to alchemize and mix music. Long-past are the days when you showed up to the club with a bag of records or cds and hoped to last the entire night without any needle-skips or disk-errors. Today’s tech-savvy electronic producers are able to emulate many of the performance parts characteristic of the disk jockey past with ease and little to no work in honing the craft. With the mainstream usage of programs such as Tracktor, Serato, Native Instruments Maschine and Ableton, the laptop/iPad/portable performance is here to to stay. In 2012 it seems obvious that there are more jockeys than disks.

One of the problems with djing is that it’s too easy. It’s too easy for anyone to pick up a few items at their local Future Shop and convince all their friends or some club that they are the next Tiesto or Skrillex — and even worse, with the amount of websites that are promoting and selling artist-made music charts, the science of making people move is becoming ever more formulaic and static. Walk into a party, pull out your iPod and a midi controller and you’re officially the coolest person in the room.

To some readers, it might sound appealing to think you could make this overnight transformation from “average human being” to “average student who is also a dj,” but heed my following caution. dj culture throughout the late ’80s and ’90s was a beautiful amalgamation between ravers and Golden era hip hop heads. People flocked endlessly to these all-night raves and cramped basement hip hop shows to see something that was both artistic and fun. With today’s soulless digital world the parties are now more then ever about ego than expression. It takes years of listening and crafting to learn crowd psychology and to truly control the vibes of a room, something that bandwagon djs will never understand. Rather than going to a club to have a good time and see some artful masters at work, many djs come to blast their minds out with drugs and aggressive dubstep — they crave for a piece of the dj notoriety pie, standing around, arms folded, thinking “I wouldn’t have played that track.”

The problem isn’t just the technology. On the other side of the argument you have the smaller and even more annoying group of vinyl purists, representing pretentious and elitist spin on record culture that only serves to further alienate the hoards of newcomers from getting into turntables. In dj circles we call them “vinyl snobs,” but even these basement bedroom bottom-duellers are only another piece of a larger picture of why the disk jockey is dead.

It isn’t necessarily the fault of the young computer kids or the aging record snobs, rather they are like gooey discharge of a much larger cultural failure that has been happening since the social media era began. The greater global values of capitalism in tandem with unbridled ‘individualism’ have spread like wildfire over the last decade. This “look-at-me” vision of our planet has led so many to become so self-obsessed that we have largely abandoned our connection to the deep spiritual need to create and connect. The truth is everybody wants to have their two seconds of fame, and in 2012 this may be the only cultural driving motivation for personal progress.

Multi-media projects like Amon Tobin’s “Live” set and Richie Hawtin’s live renditions of Plastikman are a heralding signal that djs are dropping the handle and the real ones are starting to call themselves artists.

Whether djing continues to be relevant in our culture remains to be seen. Things are only going to get worse as technology moves in exponential fashion — however, artful creation and the deep human tendency towards artful expression will move on and grow into new ways of exploring the culture that lived and died through the years of the dj.

rip the dj circa 1930-2011.

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