Recently I wrote a post for BlogCampaigning on my experience transitioning from a vinyl DJ to a laptop DJ, which, from personal comments, appears to have been generally well received. But the only comment anyone actually posted on the blog was quite negative and passively critical. Initially, I wanted to tell the semi-anonymous commenter where to go, but I decided to take the high road, thanking the fellow for his post and offering a very brief apologetic response.
I was wrong. I've thought about it, and I now recognize that that person's comment was uninformed and thoughtless, and I had no reason to apologize. I don't want to insult him, and I hope this response doesn't simply come off as petty. I have a far more appropriate response in mind, and it is basically a brief description of the nature of entertainment media today.
In his passive-aggressive note, the commenter appears to make three points:
1. DJs who use iTunes (or similar software) don't deserve to entertain club or bar crowds.
2. Whatever happened to DJs who can match beats by simply listening to songs (as opposed to using software to digitally and automatically beat-match)?
3. DJs today suck.
Where to begin?
First, the nature of DJing has changed completely in recent years, and "disc jockeying" is basically an anachronism in the same way as "film processing" or "going to print". With digital music collections advancing far faster than physical collections, and the ease of collecting and transporting digital music, it should be no surprise that DJs are turning to software solutions. And now, there are hardware solutions, as well, to replace bulky turntables and CD players. Everyone who wants to be a DJ has already got a laptop. A DJ starting out now would almost be a fool to choose physical media over virtual. As for iTunes, well, as I said in my original post, it's not good for DJing, and it's not appropriate for DJing, but in a pinch, which is where I found myself on that night, it will perform the required function.
What software or hardware one chooses to use, however, is basically irrelevanta simple matter of pleasure or circumstance. I started DJing on a kit hobbled together from whatever bits of stereo equipment my friends, Josh and James, and I had at homeand later some rented gear. Even when MP3s came around, I only used them to create mixes that I could play on CD decks. But if the software existed at the time, I almost certainly would have chosen to use a laptop over CDs. (Vinyl is always a special case.) The only relevant question is: how well does the DJ entertain the crowd?
So, complain all you want, but this mode of DJing is just the way it is and will be. Frankly, these days I'd be more surprised to see a DJ using turntables at a club than using a laptopwith or without some extra hardware.
(I'm not saying I fully approve of the rise of the laptop DJ. As with photography, and journalism, and any other medium that has found itself in a similar situation, not everyone who performs as a DJ deserves to call themselves a DJ. There is a core skill set that one must develop, and no software or hardware can allow a person to bypass that process. No doubt many DJs today never bother to acquire those skills; but this has ever been the case.)
The other thing is that the digital revolution has caused a tsunami of DJs, just as it has turned everyone into a photographer, and a web designer, and an illustrator, and a journalist, and a media expert, and so on. There's more to this: I don't want to get into the details, but the expanding middle class has somehow achieved a sort of critical nexus of leisure time and disposable income that practically compels their young to go to bars and clubs and dance. In Toronto, at least, new bars, clubs, and restaurants open all the time and everywhere. Each one of them needs to entertain their clienteleideally at a low costand more than ever now the common factor is the DJ.
More venues + more leisure time and money = more DJs
Unfortunately, as I touched on aboveand in this I agree with the commentermore DJs doesn't mean more quality. In fact, it almost definitely means lower quality overall; but it doesn't simply mean that all laptop DJs are awful or that the club owner has hired his inexperienced cousin who just downloaded some trial software and wants to give it a go. There are certainly many experienced and skilled DJs who use (and choose) computers over traditional DJ gear.
You know what, I'm not even ashamed to say that I have played a song here and there from YouTube when I haven't found it in my collection. I would never do this in a club or bar with a high-quality sound system, but for a private party or a standard bar night, why not? If you can mix it and make it fit, and it sounds good, that is really the only issue.
You'll probably be better off paying attention to what music the DJ is playing and how well she does it, rather than the gear she is using. If you find it still doesn't live up to your standards, you can always try your hand at DJing yourself.
Thanks for your comment.