A recent rant on Facebook
“It’s old school, it’s just RnB”. “No-one cares”. “I’m a selector”. These are just a few things I’ve heard over the years. If you can’t mix one song into another YOU ARE NOT A DJ! If you get paid money for your job but you’re on the phone the whole time YOU ARE NOT A DJ! I’m sick of excuses, do your f*****g job or stop taking money for it!!!”
Whilst this post seems like it was made in the heat of the moment after a bad gig it still makes some interesting points. The main point we want to tackle is what actually constitutes a DJ – specifically the argument that “I’m just a selector”, and, “If you can’t mix one song into another you’re not a DJ”. But before we do that, let’s define the different types of DJ’s that exist.
Types of DJ’s and the Differences Between Them
The Radio DJ is perhaps the first type of DJ most people are exposed to from listening to the radio. Radio DJ’s generally have two roles: 1. To play selected songs one after the other, and, 2. To make announcements, introduce commercial breaks, and provide light banter.
A Selector DJ is exactly that – they select records and play them one after the other, usually from beginning to end without any announcement. The Selector is most associated with Reggae music and Northern Soul. It’s about championing the songs and letting them take centre stage.
Perhaps the most prevalent of DJ’s, the Mobile DJ is the mainstay of weddings, house parties, 18th and 21st birthdays, and many other events.
In most cases the Mobile DJ will provide their own audio and lighting equipment for the function, and for most of the night act as the MC (Master of Ceremonies) making announcements throughout the night. Some DJ’s have also branched out into providing complimentary services such as digital photo booths to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Most Mobile DJ’s today will mix songs from a multitude of genres seamlessly to keep people dancing, progressively increasing the tempo to build energy and in a way, control the crowd. There are some Mobile DJ’s that prefer the Selector style of DJ’ing, as described previously.
Of all the DJ’s, the Mobile DJ consistently has the most work to do, from lugging their equipment into and out of the venue, then playing a set regularly up to 6+ hours – sometimes three or four times a week depending on bookings.
Bar/Small Venue DJ
Being a Bar/Small Venue DJ is pretty challenging. Most of the time your job is to play songs to set a vibe that suits the venue rather than to get people dancing. You may be asked to play a specific genre, but in most cases you have some leeway to transition into different styles. Some small venues will have a dancefloor and at some point, they do expect that you can get people up and dancing…which in turn leads them to buying more drinks.
The Club DJ is what most young DJ’s aspire to become when they begin their careers. Club DJ’s generally play a specific style or genre of music depending on what the Club night is advertised as. Club DJ sets generally run for a minimum of 1 hour, up to two hours max. Of course there are exceptions – headline/international DJ’s can play up to three or even four hour sets.
The Turntablist concentrates more on the technical and performance aspects of DJ’ing, looking at the turntable from the perspective of an experimental or Jazz musician.
In the mid to late 1990’s there was an explosion in the popularity of Turntablism, thanks to competitions like the DMC and ITF Championships and to innovators like DJ Q-Bert, MixMaster Mike, Shortkut, DJ Babu, Roc Raida, Mista Sinista, and many more.
The aim of the Turntablist is to create a musical performance whilst showing off their technical prowess. It could be argued that it is the DJ equivalent of Musique Concrete – creating music out of disparate sounds which in this case, is records.
Turntablists are also part and parcel of Hip-Hop culture, with scratching being a huge part of Rap music since its inception. Turntablists are also often called upon to provide cuts and scratches for studio work – much like a session musician.
Hybrid DJ/Live Act
Since the 1970’s, the link between DJ’s and Music Producers has been strong, with many DJ’s being brought in to remix popular songs for more impact in the clubs, which led to DJ’s writing their own tracks for release on vinyl.
Fast forward to the mid-2000’s and the Hybrid DJ/Live act started to become more prevalent thanks to the following factors:
The Democratisation of Music Software
In the late 1990’s to mid-2000’s there was a boom in software that not only became more affordable, but more powerful. This of course was spurred on by the increasing power, lowering costs, and the shrinking size of computers.
Of these software programs, perhaps most notable were Rebirth RB-338 and Reason from Propellerhead, Fruity Loops (now FL Studio), and Ableton Live. Alongside these programs was the increasing availability and quality of VST instruments and effects and suddenly, you were able to have a virtual recording studio on your computer with instruments and effects at the fraction of the cost and space required for a hardware based system.
It is this democratisation of music software that helped many DJ’s crossover into music production and to live performance.
Computers Replacing Hardware
Like the democratisation of music software, the declining cost and increasing power of computers made them a viable alternative to dedicated music production hardware. A complete studio in a computer became a reality where multitrack recording, virtual instruments and effects would all come together in the one piece of equipment.
And with laptops also decreasing in price and concurrently increasing in power and stability, the laptop musician was born.
MIDI controllers also followed this trend, increasing in quality and features whilst coming down in price, making it easier and cheaper for electronic artists to tour interstate and internationally.
The Movement of EDM into the Mainstream
Electronic Dance Music, and more specifically the sounds of Dubstep, and Trap Music after it, exploded onto the scene and eventually made its way to popular music.
This has always happened. It happened with Rock and Roll, Hip Hop, House, and Drum and Bass music. But the sounds and stylings of Dubstep and Trap had a massive influence on the sound of pop music.
E.g. Katy Perry E.T. Noisia Remix, the rise of EDM Festivals, Social Media and the explosion of Independent Labels.
So there you have it, that our view on the Multiple Facets and Styles Of DJ’ing, the types of DJ’s and the differences between them. If you have any comments or opinions on this on this article, we would love to here it…..drop us a line Here:
Thanks to the much loved Arsenio Fabay for his contribution to this article