Every DJ has their perspectives on why the art form is on life support. I think I’ve heard them all. DVS systems allowed ANYBODY to be a DJ, or “The art form isn’t respected by the audience”…etc. I think “The Booth” was the single most damning event as far as DJ Culture, and the decline of the Club DJ.
On stage, the Club DJ was a star. He was flipping records, with some headphones on, operating 2 Turntables and a mixer, and he was exalted in the party. You saw him, you saw him DJing. He was sweating and it was a show that accompanied the nightlife. “The Booth” took all that away. The Club DJ was hidden, and we had no idea what he looked like, let alone on what he was doing. We don’t see him DJing, he’s a figment of our imagination and an afterthought in the club. His presence in the party is gone, and other than his occasional voice on the microphone, and what music we presume he’s playing through the speakers, he isn’t an element of the club. He’s just the name on a flyer, and the (alleged) orchestrator of the music we hear bellowing out of speakers in a club.
Before the Booth, Club DJs were on stage, and they were stars in the club. We saw the clothes they wore, and we saw them revolving over DJ equipment, and we had a certain reverence for the DJ. You didn’t often find a Novice DJ behind 2 Turntables “attempting” to mix, or pretending to Club DJ. It was kind of hard to fool the crowd when you’re on stage and looking like you didn’t belong. He was fly, because he was seen. He had the latest fashions on, or he was rocking the latest Tee with his name on it, and we identified with him. He WAS the party, and an integral part of the reason why we paid admission to be there. The Club DJ acknowledging you in the club was almost enough to gain the affections of the female partygoers. The Club DJ’s job was marginalized, and the night club experience was changed, and not for the better.
With the advent of “The Booth” came the existence of the Fake Club DJ who didn’t have to do much more than operate his CD players. He wasn’t “DJing”, he was playing songs. He could’ve just been playing a pre-recorded mix for all we knew. The Fake Club DJ was akin to the Wizard of Oz, who was operating some equipment and deceiving the audience with what sounded like a DJ, but it wasn’t the experience of being in a club with a DJ’s presence as part of the atmosphere. The craziest part of this whole dilemma, the audience bought it.
Hook, line, and sinker…with no protest, the club goer had no response. This was a plus for the greedy club owners and jenki promoters who could now skimp on the quality of the Club DJ, and the club owner could still sell drinks, and the promoter would still make his door. The lack of response almost galvanized the notion that the Club DJ wasn’t as important a part of the club experience as initially perceived. People would still patronize the venue without visually seeing a Club DJ, and the cost of actually having a Club DJ would decline significantly, because the club owner would supply a pair of CDJs, and a ragtag mixer, and could hire any schmo off the street to operate said equipment, and the party still happened. The audience eventually became less and less savvy to what was…and accepted what is.
However, (rant) If I’m going to pay to get dressed in the latest fashion, and I’m going to pay for parking, and I’m going to pay for admission, and I’m going to pay for drinks/food…can YOU the club owner PAY for a reputable Club DJ to perform?!? (end rant)
I think the Club DJ has conformed fluidly to the confines of what became common practice. Even to his ultimate demise. There was very little response from Club DJs who were in a position to erect change (famous, affluent DJs), and so the problem grew. To blame a DVS system, controllers, laptops, or .mp3 files is simple misdirection. The tools of the trade evolving didn’t make the fake DJ, it’s the absence of the REAL DJ that is the problem. Going forward the strongest advocate of the art form ultimately HAS to be us. Without our input into popular music, without at the least disdain for fake mixtapes and fraud DJs, without at least wincing at the fallacy of what’s considered the norm, none of it will change.