DJs Are Artists! Or Are They?
From time to time, I stumble upon people who may not be familiar with EDM music or those who simply just do not like it. While everyone is definitely entitled to their own musical opinions, it has baffled me when I hear “I just don’t get it, DJs are not real artists.”
I disagree and here’s why.
In the modern world of EDM, each successful DJ has had to overcome challenges and master a number of complicated technological and creative things. And when I say master, I mean MASTER, not just be the proverbial jack of all trades and a master of none.
Nowadays, electronic music is mostly created using computers, fancy software and a plethora of hardware. While picking out, purchasing and learning to use all the equipment is a mountain to master in itself, it can be achieved by lots of research, money and practice. Heck, there are even online courses for that. But don’t discount their talent by how easy this part sounds. Trust me, it’s not.
“Did you know that some DJs spend their lives riding around on subways, at a skate park or posted up at a bar just to record sounds that they can utilize in their songs?”
Now let’s say you’ve mastered the equipment. Let’s talk about composition. DJs must learn how to mix beats, sounds, and verses of songs together while making them sound pleasing to the ear instead of sounding like screeching cats running through a herd of elephants. DJs must have a healthy knowledge of music theory, the history of EDM and an enormous library of all different types of songs and sounds. Did you know that some DJs spend their lives riding around on subways, at a skate park or posted up at a bar just to record sounds that they can utilize in their songs? Now take a beat, a verse from a song, the sound of a siren echoing through the streets of NYC and try to make it all sounds good just by utilizing the technological skills you’ve learned through that online course. I bet it doesn’t sound too good the first go around.
Wait! We’re not done. So you’ve mastered the computer stuff and your songs are starting to sound more like a bird chirping at the herd of elephants rather than the screeching cat, oh and this time, there are lyrics too. A slight improvement; keep practicing while we discuss the next obstacle.
Image. Successful DJs must have a look, a certain persona that distinguishes them from the average everyday person and the other run of the mill DJs. But that’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes quite a bit of creative juices to come up with what your signature image is going to be. Then you have to pull it off and commit to it. Let’s take a look at Deadmau5 and Marshmello. While these are two extreme examples of image or branding, they are highly successful DJs in today’s EDM world and both are super artistic and creative. Each DJ wears an extravagant head covering, a mouse head and a gigantic marshmallow respectively. This look, quickly has become a symbol and brand for these DJ’s. Because of this, they’re rarely seen without these iconic symbols. It is their persona, their style and everything about who they are as a DJ. Present day, while Deadmau5 is known to occasionally DJ without his headpiece, Marshmello remains never to have been seen without it. No one truly knows who he is officially, which, per its intention, has caused a constant aura of curiosity and drama within the industry.
“You see a girl behind the DJ booth barely moving, just enough to work the turntables. Booooooooorrrrrrring”
Lastly, there’s the performance. Picture this. You’re at an EDM show. You’re excited to see the newest DJ you’ve been following for months and when you get to the stage, you hear great music but you see a girl behind the DJ booth barely moving, just enough to work the turntables. Booooooooorrrrrrring.
There’s an art to DJing live that not everyone can master. Playing the music while dancing, jumping up and down and engaging the crowd may seem easy, but have you tried it? In today’s world, DJs have to do so much more artistically when it comes to their audiences’ experience. DJs often come up with their own graphics to put on screens behind them that flow to their music. They hire dancers and flame throwers, fireworks, throw birthday cakes, jump on floats, and the list goes on endlessly. Not to mention the lasers. Oh how they amaze us with lasers, which even at times, are coordinated and synced flawlessly, creating a sensory experience like no other. They do this, not because they get a good workout from throwing cakes or because fireworks make them smile; but instead, to ensure that you, the audience, are captivated beyond just the music being played, but by the experience overall.
So with all that said, I challenge you. If you are one that doesn’t think DJs are artists, go borrow a friend’s equipment, come up with a DJ name and image, make a song and perform it live in front of 50 of your closest friends and relatives. If you haven’t quit and cried 9 times before any of those steps and actually perform, I bet you’ll start calling your “twisting of the knobs” quite the art form as well.
Knowledge – Music Theory and and electronic music (udemy.blog.com) https://blog.udemy.com/dj-equipment-for-beginners/