Saturday, November 28, 2009

Further notes on DJ technology

After the interview with Richie Hawtin, it seems worthwhile to jot down a series of points missing from the article that should be made on the impact technology is having on dance music.

1) Anyone can be a DJ: This is a good thing. The technology available these days means that it is possible for most people to blend tracks together without too much equipment. At its most basic, people can use iTunes or a program like GarageBand to fade out one track as another is coming in. Improvements in beat matching technology mean that more complex mixes will over time become easier to do for even absolute beginners.

2) Most people don't notice what DJs like Hawtin are doing: As anybody that has DJed in a club will know, sometimes mistakes go unnoticed. On top of this, away from the dance music otaku, few want more than a good tune to dance to - playing the latest records is often less popular than playing popular tunes by bands such as Underworld. Hawtin presents a multilayered sounscape combining a great deal of songs, but most of them are unknown to the general public. Most people attend Hawtin's events because they know his music is good to dance to, and would see little difference between the sets he plays now and a set performed on records a few years ago. One notable act using new technology to create sets that have popular appeal is the Streetlife DJs, who combine pop music with techno and house. Their podcast can be downloaded here.

3) Diverse technology brings difficulties: In the old days, everybody used vinyl, a mixer and records. Things were much simpler. Today, a DJ at the top of her trade needs to know how to mix with vinyl, CDs and MP3s, and needs to have a knowledge of a series of computer programs, know where to go to get tracks on the net and has to accept that a lot of places will only allow for performances in one format. For instance, a vinyl-only DJ will not be able to play at venues that only have CDJs. On top of this, releases on record are often not available on MP3, while many new artists cannot afford to press vinyl, and so their tracks are only available through download. Far from increasing the scope of what a DJ can do, this can limit performances.

4) Focal points for dance music will change: As more and more record shops close their doors, DJs, clubbers and music enthusiasts will have to find new places to gather and share ideas. This seems simple, as all will just move to the Internet to shop, discuss etc. But there are problems with this. For one, the Internet is massive. How do you know you are looking in the right places? You can't. Promotion is also likely to be more challenging, as finding the right songs to buy or the right club to go to will mean going through a lot of information (bullshit) before finding what you want. Currently, record store recommendations are much more trustworthy.

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