I often fear we’re going to lose a generation of DJs. In today’s world a producer makes a few popular tracks, gets signed to a management company then heads on the road touring having the ‘DJ’ tag slapped on them. As with most musical genres, the DJ tag and meaning is now blurred. Playing a load of your own tracks crammed into an hour set is now classed as a DJ? But a DJ is a lot more than that, authentic DJs never had the need to produce music as they were too busy doing something a lot more important.
DJs have always been the lead figures in creating new scenes, investing into a foundation for the future, finding new exciting music, exposing and supporting new music / producers and creating underground parties rebelling against the mainstream. I remember watching a documentary about a new style of music called ‘Northern Soul’ in the UK in the late 1960s. The pivotal driving force leading this scene were DJs who traveled to the US to discover obscure offshoots of Motown, they put their own high energy twist on it and created an underground dance movement that in return became a commercial success that boomed in the UK.
It’s no different as we move forward through the decades. I was part of a 1990s rave culture and many DJs worked tirelessly against the mainstream machines to create new musical experiences. DJs were the foundation that created many scenes on a local level that in return built actual musical movements such as Chicago House, Detroit Techno, Spanish Balearic, Belgium Nu-Beat and more. DJs worked hard getting this music onto radio to give more exposure thus helping these scenes grow and flourish. Eventually when a certain scene got embraced by the commercial masses, DJs were already two steps ahead creating the next scene.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a DJ. Many of the most powerful figures in the music industry started their careers as DJs due to their knowledge in music, first hand historic experience in music culture along with being a human musical encyclopaedia.
Myself being an authentic DJ, I get extremely worried what the future holds as I don’t see too many other authentic DJs breaking through and fear for the future of whom will move things forward. I see light in the Techno and Progressive House worlds as they have a lot more DJs involved in that scene and their boom and growth is testament to this. When I look at the Trance world, I worry it’s predominately producer driven, heavily weighed around self promotion, as a result things are going stale musically not moving forward and the next generation are heading to other places to experience forward thinking music. Again looking back, the most successful Trance brands were run and programmed by authentic DJs, today the musical curve and set time is dictated by an artist’s manager, then hijacked into it being their ‘mini concert’ focused around them. There’s no collective input, no union focussed on investing back into the Trance scene as a team. Self promotion is the theme.
This is by no means a dig at producers, its highlighting a change in the business model. For years DJs have always worked closely with producers (and promoters) as we need each other and seen the rewards. Thousands of producers have been discovered and exposed by DJs, but DJ’s are nothing without the music. We’re a team that need each other whom collectively create musical history.
Today the important role of a DJ is completely overlooked. A DJ can’t sustain a career without music production as promoters look at Beatport’s Top 10 as a benchmark. In many cases, some DJs don’t want to produce music, they want to move forward and create the next musical cycle and be a part of a movement offering something new. Authentic DJs like stepping into the musical future, to experiment with you on the dance floor and to push new boundaries testing those obscure finds, and that’s a big part of what clubbers want too, being stimulated on the dance floor. A concert is a place to hear your all your favourite radio tracks performed live. Two very different things.
I’m always thankful to those forefathers in the 1960s-70s whom created Motown, Northern Soul then Disco that in return created House music and all it’s many offshoots. They provided the platform for my career that I’m enjoying today, something I’ll forever be in their debt for. I also understand, respect and can relate to the dedication, the uphill struggle, financial sacrifices and fight against the mainstream they had to endear, as without them we wouldn’t be enjoying the scenes that we have today. Without my generation and our battles we wouldn’t be were we are today and enjoying this huge electronic scene. I’ll always continue that same ethos as they did. I don’t care about fame, glory and domination, I care about the next generation and want to continue to lay these foundations knowing the baton will be passed on so that they can move things forward.
Take a moment to discover your local DJs. Take a moment to look around at the DJs whom run labels and offering a different take on the masses. Take a moment to discover those local parties and support them. Go get involved and support and enjoy what they bring musically.
You are the reason that I do this.
– John ’00’ Fleming