In Praise of the DJ

If you’ve ever found yourself losing your mind in a dance club or at a festival, you may have glanced over to the DJ booth and uttered a little prayer for the guy or girl with the skillz to take the crowd to the heights of ecstasy.

This article from the New York Times praises the life-saving properties of the DJ.

On New Year’s Eve, you’ll be dancing, one hopes. If you’re lucky you’ll be dancing to an honest-to-God disc jockey — not to someone’s Spotify playlist or the musings of the latest demi-celebrities to fancy themselves party conductors. A real D.J. is part shaman, part tech-wizard, part crowd psychologist, all artist. Many people claim the title but far fewer embody it.

That’s because, for the art of D.J.ing, technology has been as much of a disrupter as it has been a boon. New software and hardware tools allow the neophyte to deploy a base version of skills that take decades to perfect. We’ve also seen the nurturing of an entire generation for whom music is an à la carte experience. Add to that the skepticism, if not outright hostility, much of our society shows toward the notions of expertise and hard-won knowledge.

What this means is that people treat D.J.s as if they’re disposable. Like the entitled partygoer who demands Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” when the D.J. is on an entirely different musical planet, as if a D.J. were merely a flesh-and-blood iPod to poke and prod. Or the promoters who figure that, if you can get any old robot with an iTunes account to play whatever’s charting on the radio, why pay for specialness?

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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