A DJ’s job is to look beyond. Further. Deeper. Wider. To find music that others will like if only they get to hear it. To put that music in a context that helps people to enjoy it. To try hard to present tunes people already know in surprising new ways that adds to their enjoyment of them. To look forwards, backwards, to take risks, to do whatever it takes to say something new with the music at their fingertips. Because good DJs know this truth: Music is emotion. It’s our language. It’s important.
Which is why this website has always warned against buying all your music from the same place – and worse, buying the most popular music from that place. Understand, the particular “place” could be anywhere, and varies by scene and by country. But it just so happens that globally in 2013, in the age of “EDM”, it is Beatport. And the villain of this particular piece is the Beatport Top 100.
I’d like you to listen to the below. Young Swedish House music producers Daleri made the following mix, sampling the drops from 16 of the Beatport Top 100 to prove a point: They all sound the same.
Now, this mix is tongue in cheek, but it does illustrate a point. And when DJs ask me questions like these:
- Why does nobody want to book me?
- How do I stand out from other DJs?
- How do I make my own sound?
- Why do people not dance to my carefully planned mixes?
- Why can’t I find anything good to play?
- Do DJs have to play the same sound to get successful?
…my answer will at least in part come back to one thing: How do you search for your tunes? Where do you look? What process do you follow in order to decide whether or not you buy a particular tune or not? Do you actually, genuinely like all the tunes you buy and play? What is it about your choices that makes you different?
It’s a big topic (and a lesson we cover over several hours of training in our forthcoming Digital DJ Masterclass). But while the above clip is certainly mischievous and maybe not 100% the truth – after all, you can find some amazing music on Beatport if you take off your blinkers and follow your heart – it does illustrate a point: Where there’s money, there are a lot of people trying to copy the formula.
But a DJ’s job is not to follow, but to lead. It’s the only way you’ll stand out and start finding your own voice. Of course, it’s easier to fall into the trap of trying to sound like other DJs. But the real path to success is to be bold. To take risks. To look further. Good DJs obsess over finding ways to make those bold moves work without losing their dancefloors.
It’s a hard lesson, and it’s never done – but it’s what marks good DJs out from those who are just joining the dots.