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If god is a DJ (then that’s really fucking depressing)

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DJs, the glorified button monkeys of the local music scene. Everyone hates them, but would still love to be one, labouring under the illusion that they would do a way better job than that misinformed hack.

Let’s break it down. You go out to a club evening (rather than a gig) to imbibe alcohol, and listen to music and perhaps have a bit of a dance. Most importantly, you want to listen to music that you like, and what would be better than a night of music that you yourself crafted, hence every person’s desire to indulge in this unimpressive job (in the barest sense of the word). As such, seeing as you probably don’t know all the music a DJ does (and vice versa) there is going to be some music that you don’t know/like.

The question that has come up for me a few times recently, in my role both as a humanoid jukebox and as one that appreciates others attempts is this. What should a DJ be playing to their audience?

On one hand is the obscure route. Going into your first DJ gig you have this mentality that you’re going to educate the masses with your divine and vastly superior taste. You get on the decks you had to get one of the bar staff to teach you how to use, and you play an hour of obscure side projects, b-sides and tracks from your friend’s band’s poorly-mastered debut EP. No one dances, everyone evacuates to the smoking area and a sense of self-loathing descends. The realisation dawns on you that people don’t like not knowing the music in their club. It makes them feel stupid.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the anthem players. These are probably the guys that have been doing it for a while and given up on teaching anyone in lieu of being a loved and maybe even profitable cross-fader. If you’re at a hipster club they’ll play Radiohead, Deftones, Tame Impala, The Verve and the Pixies. At a metal club you’ll be likely to hear Burzum, Dimmu Borgir, Megadeth, Slayer, and Korn. Some of these are respectable artists, some are not (I shall leave that up to you) but regardless of that, they will get a room pumping. With a few sullen faces sitting in the corner pissing and moaning because their request for Trollfest or Bal-Sagoth went woefully unplayed.

A perfect example of this is as follows. At a recent gig I had at the Vinyl Bar I had a conversation with one of the guest DJs, who was quite an old hand in the international punk rock scene. He espoused militantly the prior ideal that a DJ should ONLY be playing what people should be listening to, rather than what they wanted to. He also played a set full of Queen, Talking Heads and David Bowie. Great artists, but not exactly what the punters were expecting from a Mexican punk-themed night. Meanwhile, I played a predictable set including Refused, The Saints, The Bouncing Souls, Operation Ivy and the Dropkick Murphys. Who did the right thing? Who knows.

The common idea is that a DJ can only be as good as their audience, and that (from a business point of view) they should accommodate the majority and keep the crazy club rats heading to the bar. The question I pose to you is this. Is this reasonable? What should us button monkeys’ priority be, good music or beloved anthems?

2 Responses to If god is a DJ (then that’s really fucking depressing)

  1. Pingback: Vitaminic – What should a DJ be playing to their audience?

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