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DJs Are Not Their Format

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I remember when DJing was about sharing music you loved with other people. I probably missed the real heyday of “freeform radio,” but I did manage to catch some folks whose shows seemed to come from their personality, not merely the work of some jockey riding the horse of the current hits. Although a good segue between tracks was something special, nothing more than expert sequencing was expected—nor was it part of my criteria, initially. I’m not sure that even when I first became exposed to club DJs that I really expected them to do more than the radio DJ, save keep me dancing.

Years later when I began to DJ, the bar had been raised from playing good tunes, to needing to match song tempos (in an effort to make transitions more seamless and keep the dancefloor going) and possibly some scratching to make the music even more exciting. This was on vinyl, later transposed to CDJs (DJ CD players,) and now laptops and hybrids such as Serato Scratch Live are all the rage. Though all of the “DJ requirements” can be met with any format, there are still arguments of “real” vs. “poser” DJs based purely on the format used for playback. It is important for all parties to remember what a DJ is really there for—playing great music well, period.

It’s about what it has always been about, sharing music you love with people—be it vinyl, cd, mp3, wav/aiff or whatever. Often people like to quote Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase “The medium is the message,” defining “medium” as the format the music is in (analog, digital, etc.).  I contend the “medium” is the music itself and the way it is presented. If the format is the message, then does my message change when I change formats, even if I play the same set? How about two DJs who play the same format but sound completely different?  Clearly, it’s the music, man…

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About T-Bird

  • Brian, I forgot to say “Thanks for reading.”

  • In 4+ years of spinning digitally in the USA, UK & Europe, I have yet to have someone complain about the sound of the tracks. That said, I generally tend to use 256 or 320k mp3s. CDs are my first choice to rip from, but some music was never available on CD (or the CD mastering was terrible) so I have had to convert from vinyl as well. As far as music styles, I’ve played deep funk to deep house, jazz to acid-jazz, reggae to ragga breaks, progressive/stoner rock to various types of world music and other sounds that don’t even have names…

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    *Oops*… “Spend”

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I guess it depends on who you’re spinning for and what it is you’re spinning. If you’re mostly pumping out the current Top 40 garbage then you could get away with Mp3s because that stuff has no dynamics to it. But, if you’re trying to pump, say, Sleep of Old Dominion using Mp3s & those bargain basement JBLs that people try to pass off as quality gear, well then you are going to hear just how crappy your system really is.

    My suggestion is that no matter the type of music, you should always, at least, try to use CD. Even it means storing .wav tracks on a HDD. This way, there is never a real concern about the source (considering hard drives are pretty dirt cheap nowadays)and it will sound good to 90% of your clientele. Now, regarding your equipment… You need to send your own cash on that my friend:)