Are traditional DJs a dying breed?

A very common topic that has surfaced a lot recently – not only in my office, but also with other promoters – is who to book talent wise. I’ve put myself in a unique position as I’m promoting my own events with my J00F Editions concept. When I program an event, I choose talent who can actually DJ. I want a DJ who I can trust to read the crowd and change accordingly. This keeps my vision intact of how the event unfolds musically and how and when it will reach its crescendo, thus keeping the dancefloor interesting throughout the whole evening. It’s unfortunate that we have all come to the same conclusion that this list of true DJs is now becoming very, very short.

Over the past decade the scene seems to have split in two: in one camp we see ‘entertainment/producer DJs’ and in the other we find the ‘traditional DJs’. From my first-hand experience of playing alongside entertainment/producer DJs, I’ve had to rescue many nights as they didn’t have the skill nor the tools of a DJ to read the crowd and change to the circumstances presented to them.

Producers/entertainment DJs are the equivalent of bands touring. When you go to see Muse, U2 and so on, you expect them to play all their hits you’ve heard on their albums. It’s part of the experience seeing them in the flesh playing the songs you truly love. Producers fit firmly in this camp. They have massive followings and fans go crazy seeing them play live. They replace keyboards with decks, as it’s much easier for them to tour this way, so they become DJs.

I’ve had to rescue many nights from entertainment DJs who didn’t have the skills to read the crowd and change with the circumstances.

They are performing mini-concerts to concert-esque crowds, to fans constantly holding cameras, singing songs. Producers will play just one style of music, mainly their own ‘hit’ productions and music from their own label groups. They are marketing machines pushing their own brand. Their own sound. The focus is on genre branding. They are there to outshine any other act around them and become man of the match. This is the exact same way bands and the pop world work, but also what makes them great entertainers on stage due to the ever increasing pressure of competition around them.

Entertainment DJs are a million miles away from the regular world of traditional DJs. I personally don’t know one traditional DJ who just plays one sound; they have a record bag full of all styles of music in order to be able to deal with any situation presented to them. Our audiences are completely different too. They want to get on the dancefloor with their heads down and dance. They want to be stimulated by new music that’s cleverly programmed. Good DJs get a natural ‘feeling’ of when to make energy shifts on the dance floor ensuring that we keep the floor busy and interesting. We spend hours searching for music. These are our tools for the job of making these energy shifts.

When I play a DJ set, I’ll go through all styles of music; deep, dark, hard, uplifting, classics, and so on. These are my tools to give you an emotional ride. My sets are like an audio version of a thriller movie, with twists and turns. You never quite know what the ending is, so it keeps you on the edge of your seat all through the ride. We’re storytellers.

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