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March 30, 2005

QUESTIONS

Can anybody explain why disc jockeys are considered to be musical artists? I mean, aren't they basically playing records? Why does that require more artistic skill than, say, operating a toaster? I can understand why the people who make recordings are considered musical artists. But why does the DJ get credit for playing them? Isn't that kind of like making photocopies of the Mona Lisa and claiming you're an artist? I honestly would appreciate an answer. Although I suspect the answer is: "Dave, you are 275 years old."

Update: After reading the comments -- some of which are quite thoughtful, for this blog, anyway -- I think I need to clarify something. I'm not talking about radio DJs, who are unpretentious about what they do (at least the ones I know are). I'm talking about people like this. And I admit I may be totally wrong, and they may be terrific musical artists. I just don't get why. (I know, I know: Because I am 275 years old.)

Comments

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No, I think it's only in the league of Dog's Playing Poker.

The Three Stooges were artists in one episode.
"add a little annacanna panazan".
I know this does not answer the question Dave, but you already know the answer. DJ is to Artist, as Wing is to human singer.

My favorite local DJ is a musical artist.

www.twistedtunes.com

He makes great songs that I'm sure you'd love, Dave.

As for the ones that just play music? No clue. Remember the movie High Fidelity? The main character seemed to think that being a DJ was artistic and required great talent, as did his fans.

I dunno. We got a guy out here that paints in the artistic realm known as "realism". He takes a photograph and paints it exactly like it appears and he's called an artist. Somebody clue me in to THAT. We got a xerox copier that could do a better job.

DJs are basically failed musicians. I suspect they wanted some recognition in the muscial field in spite of their inability to sing and/or play instruments. Kinda like congress being unable to hold a real job so instead they spend all of our money on ideas like "A History of Millipeeds in Milwaukee Museum".

I suspect they are unionized.

*waits for djtonyb to chime in*

Mr. Barry, you don't look a day past 192.

Having been a DJ, I guess my take on it is that since some of the better DJs put a lot of work into mixing songs together into a continous stream of music, they feel like they are adding to the artistry. Not that I feel that way. To me, a DJ mixing music together makes him an "artist" the way mixing pre-packaged cake mix makes a person a "chef." But then, I also fancy myself a chef...

You know how carefully chosen tunes played in a precise order can build upon one another, so that an almost palpable sense of scooby-snackalicious grooviness permeates the dance floor and the crescendos at just the right moment, leaving everyone in a state of harmonic bliss?

Well, me neither.

My point is, when you discount the "artistic" value of crappy Monalisa knock offs, you weren't talking about this one though, right? (scroll down a little)

in my day [oh what a geezer] dj's werent musicians, but they made the musicians happen: Murray the K, et, al....they hosted the stars, were on stage with them, but, never were performers. and dave, you are not 274. only your kids think of you that way. you're still cool, far out, groovey.....

So does that mean that if I select a bunch of songs on a jukebox, I'm an "artist" just like a DJ? Cool.

Seriously, though . . . if Ashly Simpson gets to be called an "artist" for being a singer, then DJs most certainly should be called "artists". I mean, Ashley & the DJs have at least the same amount of talent, right?

I presume it's like pottery artists versus those plate-spinning jugglers. One creates the art and one makes a career of balancing it.

Ever wonder why newspaper columnists are considered artists? Don't they just arrange already existing words on a page?

:-)

Sorry, couldn't resist.

JoAnn

Dave, you look great for 275! For 57? Ummm...you're still a nice guy.

Using that standard of measurement, because I type on my computer, I am a computer technician.

Cool. I'm smarter than I thought. So are the rest of you then.

I suspect horses are involved.

I didn't even realize newspaper artists are considered artists.

I know a person who claims to be 'published' because she wrote a letter to the editor.

Wow.
I was on a flight the other day and I was very attendant of what was going on.
Now I can consider myself a flight attendant!
Thanks, and fasten your seatbelt!

DJs are artists for the same reason that news anchors are journalists. They both take other people's work and spin it.

Dave,
I've got a thoery on DJs:

What do you call the guy hanging out with the band?
The drummer.

What do you call the guy hanging out with the drummer?
The DJ.

You see, Dave, DJs are a rare breed. They lack the talent possessed by the likes of such brilliant musical masterminds Tommy Lee, Steve Perry and Andy Griffith, yet they have 10 times as much motivation, leaving them in a "purgatory," if you will, of the music business. Which means they don't have the talent or the brain power to know to give up, so they work for $20/week at a local radio station deciding which new Britney Spears song should be played on the radio 10 times an hour, still hopelessly looking for their BIG BREAK.
Or I this could just be my story and others are different.

So just because I enjoy so much porn that makes me...

oh man, was I thinking out loud again?

Some musicians call themselves DJ So-and-so. I think it springs from the practice of remixing other people's music into new compositions. I suppose it takes a certain amount of artistic skill to make such a thing sound good, plus they usually compose new music as well. Are you talking about that kind of DJ?

Phil, DJ's have more talent, they know where the "off" button's located.

Hey Bryce! How's Algona? (why doesn't he ever answer me?)

Dave, You're 275.

DJ's are artists because they say such things as "phat getto track that melts 'em down
wit dope-ass bass" and of course "Dis what you do when you an yo peeps be G'en out - wit ya hands in da aya like ya juss don't caya - REPRESENTIN!"

I don't either.

Not much. Just chillin at the YMCA, eating Cheetos.

You're on to something Doug. Maybe they are considered artists because noone understands them. Literally.

DON'T EAT THE BIG ONE, BRYCE!

I think by pointing this out, that alone makes you more of a musician than the average DJ.

Don't worry, it's safe. As long as no one shows up with a big can of Mountain Dew.

On a somewhat serious note, DJs originally were in charge of the music they played entirely. (Nowadays, if they have any input at all, it's usually just order.) They had to be able to recognize greatness when they heard it.

Also somewhat seriously, the recording industry has a hit analysis program that looks for mathematical clusters (and has a thirty-year base of hits to draw from.) What is interesting is that specific groups of mathematical clusters may cross genres— your Van Halen tune might have more in common with Beethoven than with Metallica, for example. There are some folk who want to develop stations around those clusters rather than around genres.

This is interesting because it suggests that some DJs— the ones who used to come up with bizarre combinations of music from all styles, but still had suprememly listenable (and popular) shows— *were* in fact talented, in the unique way that they were able to know that those songs went together even though everyone else said they did not.

But in general, I think that DJs, both disc spinners and mixers, are "artists" because they say they are. No doubt some of them are, in fact, artistic musicians, but as a whole, most of them are on a level with casual painters: good enough, but few will be remembered in a century's time.

*goes in search of World's Largest Mountain Dew*

This may take awhile....

The difference is, a truck has actual value.

DJs are considered artists because modern society, and modern American society in particular, is set up to reward mediocrity and bestow plaudits on the undeserving.

Sorry I've got no punch line for you on this.

Wow!
I wonder how much a Dave Barry bugger in the shape of the virgin mary would fetch on ebay?

(Dave, we may be on to something BIG, REALLY BIG!!)

Bugger > see also BOOGER>

Probably for the same reason that pundits are considered intelligent human beings, despite the fact that they (like DJs) tend to recycle each others work.

In all seriousness though, as in most fields, it comes down to quality. I can personally attest to seeing some amazingly talented DJs who can create music (by mixing records) that a live band would never be able to recreate. A good DJ can combine music from multiple albums without creating a hideous sonic mess (Hideous Sonic Mess? Do I hear a band name suggestion?). Again, this doesn't apply to all DJs, but many of the good ones are trained in more traditional music styles (frequently jazz or blues).

Coming up with a G?NFARB, now that's an Art . . .

Normally, it is just someone playing records ... if they are doing it naked, then it's art.

Well, then, I must be an artist. I'm always naked at work.

You just can't see it cause the naked part is under my clothes.

Dave B. asks :Do DJs make art?
I think yes, but only in part
Is spinning out tunes
worse than playing the spoons
Or spray painting walls a la Bart?

*Simpson, that is*

Alrighty then...I'll prepare for the firestorm when I'm done typing.

I was an afternoon drive DJ in Kansas City for over five years. I had the number one rated show in KC for my timeslot and programmed my own "metal" show on the weekends (also, #1). Now, in no way did I consider myself an artist nor a "failed musician." Actually, I considered myself lucky. It was a great job, except for an amazing lack of pay. You really have no idea how long DJs actually work and how little they are compensated. It's completely ridiculous. As I said, I considered myself fortunate because I looked forward to going to work...seven days a week with a newborn at home (quite a strain on the fam). I can understand why some folk hated us. Some can be quite cocky or stupid, many both. I tried to have enough self-awareness to be neither. The only thing I could think of that would make me any better than the artists I played was that, everyday, I had to come up something new to say, Something quasi-fresh, quasi-funny, quasi-controversial (it was an alternative radio station) whenever possible. While artists had months, sometime years, to conjure up orginal musings or lyrics, what have you. But, that's it. To everything else, I bowed to the artists. I payed my dues just like everyone else and tried to keep a level head while ignorant, passionate young ones screamed either insults or lustful yearnings my way. It was a weird time, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Now, I am a lowly programmer staring at a monitor nine hours a day...nice.

But, come to think of it...I only listen to CDs now cuz I can't stand all the radio babblers.

Brad - (don't look, Dave) - NO BIDS...

ANY edition of the gift guide book is a first edition, i think, and dave'll sign 'em if you send a SASE... so why would anyone pay that much?

We also have DJtonyB. And a fellow Floridian too!

Dave, Susan does a daily Request Lunch Hour and many of us make requests. If you get to their web site early enough you could listen in. There seems to be a server limit.

I know she'd be extremely honored to do a request for you. I'm in the Czech Republic and she's featured something for me - I was extremely honored.

Yea, jamester. I noticed that too.

I'd hate to have to auction a bugger (or booger) from Dave. One would probably take a loss.

Now, I bet a Michael Jackson bugger could be worth money--probably a book deal or a made for TV movie. But no amount of money would make it worth it, so I guess it'd be a push.

*can't wait until they install a web camara at WCRE*

THAT's WCRE, 1420 or www.wcreradio.com on your Internet dial!

Come listen to Susan Gilmore, a Dave Barry fan, fellow blogger and all around nice gal!

Deon, I'm proud to know you. Someone who is willing to take a stand against, well, whatever it is we'd be taking a stand against (starting with the very existance of Michael jackson, I guess).
How could you take a loss on Dave's booger, though, unless, that is, he (gasp) charges for them.
Judi - my SASE is not in the mail...

My brother-in-law has been a DJ for more than 30 years. He doesn't consider himself an artist and doesn't know any DJ's who consider themselves artists. I guess we're out of the loop. Thank God.

Susan so rocks.

And the website is very intuitive, just click on "Listen to Braves Football" to hear music. See? Football, rock-n-roll, rock-n-roll, football.

(just teasing you, Susan!)

Antiroach, long hours and low pay? Exactly.

Oddly enough, I got into this not so much for the music, but I took a class offered with a local radio station and was offered a job. Seems they liked my voice and reading ability.

My teachers in school must have noticed that way way back when, since I was always the one called on to read out loud. Never dreaming I would do it for a living.

Not a glamourous job, especially at the small stations, what with the fact that I am much more than a DJ, handling all the news, scheduling of commercials, producing said commercials (sometimes with very little information), and oh yes playing music.

Why keep doing it? As insane as it can get, it does have a lot of fun moments. Being able to play something that someone wanted to hear is good...especially when you just decide to play something, just because, and someone says oh I really wanted to hear that.

*Being extremely glad there is no webcam here...*

Yep, the site needs some updating...expanded capability for people to listen in online...

Dear Dave,

Will you sign my truck?

Jamester, I'll stand with you against MJ buggery. We've all seen the scarring it has caused in Christobol.

MJK, doesn't ebay charge something for auctions? In that case even a free booger from Dave Barry might put "BarryBooger Industries Intnl" in the red within one quarter.

Now, if we could make artistic pressings of Barry Boogers in Barry books and sell them to the government art snobs, why we might have the makings of a lucrative venture!

I suppose we'd have to cut dave in for some of the profits though. Probably have to invest in ragweed.

*doesn't mention the ads for, well, male enhancement products, that can run near the Badcock ads...*

If Dave's allergic to cats I can make us rich in one vacuum cleaner bag...

Nothing interesting or funny to say.

Oh c'mon, Opiesgirl...tell the one about the actor, the airline pilot, and the jar of beets.

Can anybody explain why disc jockeys are considered to be musical artists?

Funny, is the same question that I have every time the "Best Dj's of the world" come to Miami.

So this year I decided to check myself and went to 2 of the major events.

It was just a party with good dance music.

I like electronic music ( From Tangerine Dream to Fennez, Loscil or squarepusher) .

But all this DJ stuff, sorry I don't get it. I think one day people will get bored and they will need to learn to play real instruments.

Gabriel: Yeah. It was the big DJ thing in Miami, and the semi-worshipful coverage of it in the media, that got me thinking about this. But I plan to stop soon.

I think one day people will get bored and they will need to learn to play real instruments.

Welcome to tonight's quarterly DJ recital, brought to you by Verizon Wireless. On the program tonight we have Brahms' Adagio Ma Non Tutto No. 3 for turntable and strings, followed by Mozart's Partita in F Major for chamber spinnin' quartet. Enjoy the show.

Dave, SUSAN ROCKS!!!!

You have to give them something (the radio kind) poor guys. Haven't you ever heard "He has a face for radio"

by the way, how do I submit an article about a big duck penis?

If you're talking about scratch DJs, it's because they manipulate the sound of the needle moving back and forth across the record to create new sounds, melodies, beat structures, etc... If you can play Mary Had A Little Lamb with a piece of vinyl and a turntable, you might actually be an artist.

"Rave" and club DJs and radio DJs only call themselves "artists" if they're complete wankers.

by the way, how do I submit an article about a big duck penis?

Sharron: I could tell you but then I'd have to kill you.

No really, just email it to Dave. You know he'll be thrilled. Or email me and I'll tell you the secret.

Ok, I'm going to reply to a post waaaay up at the top, by hayduke lives. He said that realism is not a real form of art, because realist artists just take other pictures and redo them. I'm a realist artist-I've done a lot of portraits for my teachers-and I've got to tell you, the fact that you are working to copy another picture or piece of art does not mean you don't have talent. It actually means you have a lot of talent, if you can pull it off. It is very difficult to match every line, shade, and value. Realist artists are different than DJs, though, because the DJs aren't taking the time to carefully copy every detail of the song...no, they're just adding scrapes here and there when they think it sounds good.

Basically, realist artists aren't like DJs at all, at least to me.

I have in my possession two CDs produced by the master artist blogger extrodinaire DJTonyB. I will start the bidding at $5....

JM - (Caption: The male Argentine Lake Duck and his 42.5 cm penis) who wouldn't be thrilled? I sent it again. We'll see.

DJ's rock!

Sharron

On a more serious note, this discussion seems to go along the lines of something like, "Is cheerleading a sport?" Some consider their presence at other athletic events, while others comment on the amount of actual physical work and talent a cheerleader must have, and we get nowhere.

All I know is that no matter how much talent it takes, someone's got to do it, and it ain't me, so I can't complain. :-)

My boyfriend loves DJs and electronic music. He says they put a new twist on new music. And some make their own music. However, I think it just sounds like a skipping CD. I guess art is in the eye of the beholder? After all, some people consider Miming an artform... who are we to judge *coughcough* =)

btw dave, I loved Big Trouble. You were an amazing lawyer in that movie ;)

There are certainly days I feel quite sure I have a face for radio.

Especially the 5am start, no makeup and not enough coffee days that go on til 10 at night.

I am a jazz flutist. I think there are dj's who just spin records. these dj's are talented producers in a sense, creating an ambience by how they mix the music.
then there are scratch artists who are a kind of percussionist creating rhythmic patterns with their scratch this is a more musical talent.
then there are remixers. a great example of this is the dj who took suzanne vega's acappello version of Tom's diner and mixed it with house music. this is definitely falling into the composer/musician and takes real talent as both a musician and producer.
then there are electronica artists like amon tobin
(one of the best of the genre) who actually create music with found sounds (in the heyday of the avant garde when people like pierre henry were doing it, it was called musique concret) in the 40's and up they were actually recording sounds on tape and then editing the tape to create new sounds and entirely new forms of music. the movie with robbie the robot (name escapes me at the moment) from the 50's is a great example of this combining found sounds with oscillators in the earliest percursor to the modern day synthesizer.
in the modern day these artists who often use the dj in the name though may or may not be spinning records, use samplers to manipulate the found sounds to create the new music. moby is one of the most popular forms this. many of them are dj's because they combine this increcible talent for sampling with drum boxes and record spinning to create an entirely new (well not so new anymore) art form. these guys a real musicians but they aren't as common as the type of dj's most people recognize.
more music history then anyone ever wanted to know...
ps... tangerine dream is boring compared to some of the modern day sampling divas.

I am a jazz flutist. I think there are dj's who just spin records. these dj's are talented producers in a sense, creating an ambience by how they mix the music.
then there are scratch artists who are a kind of percussionist creating rhythmic patterns with their scratch this is a more musical talent.
then there are remixers. a great example of this is the dj who took suzanne vega's acappello version of Tom's diner and mixed it with house music. this is definitely falling into the composer/musician and takes real talent as both a musician and producer.
then there are electronica artists like amon tobin
(one of the best of the genre) who actually create music with found sounds (in the heyday of the avant garde when people like pierre henry were doing it, it was called musique concret) in the 40's and up they were actually recording sounds on tape and then editing the tape to create new sounds and entirely new forms of music. the movie with robbie the robot (name escapes me at the moment) from the 50's is a great example of this combining found sounds with oscillators in the earliest percursor to the modern day synthesizer.
in the modern day these artists who often use the dj in the name though may or may not be spinning records, use samplers to manipulate the found sounds to create the new music. moby is one of the most popular forms this. many of them are dj's because they combine this increcible talent for sampling with drum boxes and record spinning to create an entirely new (well not so new anymore) art form. these guys a real musicians but they aren't as common as the type of dj's most people recognize.
more music history then anyone ever wanted to know...
ps... tangerine dream is boring compared to some of the modern day sampling divas.

movie with Robbie the robot = 'Forbidden Planet'?

Great question.

I make electronic music, and when I started out I struggled with the topic at hand. When I make a song, how 'original' should I be? Should I play a snare drum, record the sample and then rearrange other drum bits into a beat loop? Or use a 4-second drum loop from someone else's song and layer my own bassline on top? Then I realized that all music has at its core very recognizable patterns (otherwise we call it 'ambient' or 'crap'). As soon as you base your song in 4/4 time you are jacking someone's style. 90% of music has a snare on the 2nd and 4th beat. So the idea behind a DJ or any other artist is to take these musical patterns (longer in the DJs case) and create something not wholly original, but wholly unique. As more and more ideas in music and writing and movies and games are put out there, the chance to make something completely original diminishes and the emphasis shifts to personal recombinations. If you learn to notice the patterns in music, you can begin to discern the good from the bad.

I'm guessing Dave was listening to Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR today. It was a classic show, with Terry trying to throw questions that would stick on a truly awful-sounding character who apparently is a major part of the hip-hop movement (and a DJ).

Hip-hop has blurred the line between DJ and recording artist-- sometimes even legitimately. But mostly not.

The great movie "High Fidelity" has useful commentary on this debate.

He means the ones who spend their days spinning records so they make those screeching noises. In which case, I, a 20-year-old, agree with Dave.

Well Dave, here's the thing, with DJ music: you get some really lousy ones who aren't artists, but there is some great stuff out there. I'm not sure if you seen any DJs perform but for the better ones the level of dexterity that they exhibit is stunning.

Now yes, most of them are just replaying other people's music (however there are those who record custom vinylls. However, with that in mind, shouldn't a cover not be considered artists since they aren't playing their own music. The talented DJs out there (check out groups such as the Invisibl Skratch Piklz for examples of DJS who are talented, generally don't look on a hip hop albumns for good DJs)play the music in such a way that it completely re-designs the original piece. Saying that re-creating a piece of music to the point that it doesn't even sound like the original is like saying that someone who copies and individual guitar rift isn't an artist, even if they use it in a different way.

That said, you get some real crap out there too and you have to be into electronic music to really find it interesting. DJs do however, create wild music with truly addictive beats.

As with most things, it's a matter of preference. However, I think it's important to discern the difference between the DJs who make albums, the DJs who work at parties, and the DJs who are on the radio.

Oh, and Sam? Don't get me started on the realist art topic. If you paint from pictures, fine. But if you're using it as a crutch...

P.S. Dave, if I send you my truck with a self-addressed stamped envelope, will you sign it?

The envelope, I mean, obviously not the truck.

0 bids for a signed Dave book? What's wrong with people?

Okay, so we don't become confused about which Doug is which Doug, I, Doug Brockmeier, not to be confused with any of the other imp Dougs floating around the internet, will hereinforetoafter now use, on this blog only, the code name "King Wingbipeekaboofeet."

Furthermore, DJ Skribble was on the Cindy Margolis show, so he can't be ALL bad.

The way I see it, these DJs are collagists, but with sound. Sometimes collages look like a miserable yak heaved its last meal onto a canvas, a meal consisting of back issues of Entertainment Weekly and Motorcycle Digest and glitter just for some added pop, but sometimes, they transcend the parts and create a cohesive unit that makes the observer say, "Huh. Cool."

darn...a discussion about deejays, and I got here so late no one will probably read this little rant: I was so puzzled as a kid in the late 50's when rock music was getting its start, to have all but a few of the guys on radio, show obvious DISDAIN for the songs they played. I mean, I'm only like TEN or something, and I'm shaking my head wondering WHY the dude would TAKE the job (probably not a high paying one) and HAVE to listen to "Purple People Eater" twice an hour, if he hated it so much. Must have been agonizing. I kept thinking ONE day the people doing that job would have to first convince the station manager they LOVED rock'n'roll...and would shut UP when they played a record. To this DAY, I'll occasionally hear an oldie, and think: "OH, WOW, man! I've never heard the first 30 seconds of that before! Or the last 30 seconds! And the whole SONG is only a minute, forty!"

No, Jameli, I'm not using it as a crutch. I mean, I'm fifteen, I'm just doing it for fun, and a little extra cash. I can't really live off of any job yet, anyways.

Doug Brockmeier,
I am a Doug imp, but will forever more id myself here as "DougBo", to lessen any confusion folks may have about which Doug is posting.

Roggie, That is one thing that always bothered me...talking over the beginning of the song. Although I certainly have done my share, I have gotten away from that. (an advantage in working in small markets)

Although there are some songs, that are just embedded in my brain so hard, that even without a clock or timer, I could at any time talk right up to the start of the vocal without giving it any thought at all.

Unless, of course, I was on the air trying to do it and a co-worker decided it was time to try to make me laugh on air. That can really through your timing off...although not as much as it used to.

That would be "throw" your timing off.

Another nice thing about radio is not worrying too much about spelling, just the pronounciation.

yeah forbidden planet that's the one. I heard an interview about a month ago on npr with the female of the team that created the soundtrack. she still does electronic music the old fashioned presynth way.. what a great character.

Go watch DJs Richie Hawtin and John Aquaviva loop and remix music live. They are creating new music right in front of you with the aid of 2 turntables, a notebook computer and a mixer. There is no question, they are artists.

I went to high-school with a DJ. He performed at our talent show senior year. Until that performance, I thought DJs were just playing other people's music.

This guy was an artist. He mixed the music together while he spun around, flipped records, balanced records, and worked the turntables while facing away from them. The visual component of his performance was astounding -- particularly since the audio component was perfectly synchronized. It was really neat since all of his physical performance fed into the creation of the sounds. Flipping a record around while turning and moving with the beat wasn't just some kind of funky dance. He was actually getting that record ready to mix in and he dropped it onto the turntable with perfect timing. The sounds he created while doing this were based on the work of others, but then again the sound someone gets out of a synthesizer is based on the work of an engineer.

Watching him perform was more like watching the chefs at Benihana than the burger flippers at McDonalds. Are all DJs artists? Nope. Some are, and they are worth listening to and watching.

Dave, I have a suggestion. Go find 2 turn tables.

1) Try to take two records and while one is playing at full blast, change the speed of the other, playing in one ear via headphones, to match.

2) Attempt to seemlessly switch the outputs so that the second record is the one playing at full blast in a way that it's not noticeable to anyone listening that the record changed.

3) Using 2 records, switch back and forth between them on the fly in a way that the two completely different tracks complement each other.

Let me know how that works out for you.

Some DJs suck and aren't artists. Anyone who knows what they're listening for can instantly tell the difference between someone throwing records on a player and someone who actually posesses the musical, technical, and artistic talent necessary to do it well.

I can make a piano make lots of notes. I can even put those notes together in a fairly pleasing manner. But I'm really quite talentless and you can tell the difference between me, and a true artist on the piano, even though I'm quite capable of the technical side of playing the piano. Same thing. It's about HOW they put the records together, in what order, and with how much artistic skill and nuance.

Ooh, Dave, all I have to say is one thing.

LET ME SHOW YOU.

(And yes, this is the same Shane who posts on the 24 write-ups from time to time.)

My day job is writing a column and working in advertising at my local newspaper.

My weekend job is TO DJ IN A DANCE CLUB.

What countless people above have been saying is TRUE. DJing IS far and away an artistry that's seldom appreciated outside of the mixing booth... but it IS an artistry.

I personally invite you to the Illinois/Iowa border, Dave. You can come to my apt. on a Friday and we'll watch "Scratch," the documentary that other people have mentioned above.

Then you and I can go down to my club, and I'll show you how to work the turntables, CD players, and mixer. Then I'll turn you loose to DJ to a dancefloor with 100+ kids on it for 30 minutes. I'll even tell you what songs to play. Your job can be simply to mix the records together.

I GUARANTEE that within 10 minutes you'll realize the musicality and creativity that it takes to be a DJ.

I think that you're just thinking that a DJ sits in a box for hours on end, pressing "play" and "stop" buttons. There's SOOOOO much more to that. There's set planning... there's timing... there's learning how to pitch bend... there's knowing how to read a floor...

You link to DJ Skribble's website. Just so you get a feel of how much DJ's are worth, I tried to book Skribble for a party we did about 2 years ago. Two years ago, he charged roughly $1000 AN HOUR. Plus airfare, hotel, etc. Good DJ's are worth that kind of money.

I double dog dare you to take the challenge, Mr. Barry. I'll even pay for your dinner & hotel room.

OOh, he double dog dared you! Dave, are you taking him up on it?

Enquiring minds want to know...

Shane is right about all that's involved in the DJ's booth. But it doesn't require an artist's talent, it requires an engineers precision. Two Very Different Things.

Man funny that the only guy on here who knows what a DJ is (NOT a disc jockey...a DJ!) is also named Greg. I wonder if I'm pulling some weird Fight Club split personality thing.

I'm a DJ. I spin clubs and make mixes for my buddies. I work very very hard at it and I'm not that good compared to what is out there. DJ's do many different things to work their craft. Some tear songs completely apart and put themn back together, others create new beats and tracks just like any 'traditional' musician would, but often using sampled music, often so obscure and distorted you would never recognize it from the original.

What the other Greg is talking about is the most basic form of DJing...seamlessly blending songs so that you create a continuous song and the energy flows. This requires a few different skills.

Beatmatching: All songs are at different tempos. Most hip-hop ranges from 80 beats per minute (BPM) to 110 BPM but some can be much slower (60) or much faster (Outkast's crossover hit 'Hey Ya' is like 140 BPM). A DJ's job is to play one song and then play another song while the first is still playing, but so that they mix in a way that it sounds good, and the beats are equal. A DJ's turntables (or cd decks) have pitch controls that adjust how fast or slow a turntable rotates (typically +/-8%).

It is our job to listen to the new song in our headphones with one ear (cueing) and the song that everyone else is hearing with the other ear and get them to be the exact same speed so that all the beats happen at the same time. At the proper moment we drop the new song on the beat and play them both at the same time for a few bars (sometimes longer...house/techno DJ's mix songs for a long, long time). All the while we have to be making adjustments to the speed of the records to keep those beats matched so we are constantly touching and moving the records WHILE everyone is listening. This means if we screw up it sounds like crap and everyone gets pissed.

Just because 2 songs are the same tempo does not mean that they will mix well together. Other songs were practically made to go together and you'll hear DJs all over the country play them together simply because they are known and go well. The number of times that Usher's popular song 'Yeah' has been mixed with Petey Pablo 'Freak-a-leak' are too numerous to count.

You also don't play entire songs. If your DJ plays a whole song they are not doing their job. A good DJ will cut in and out of songs where it will sound the best and where it will take the energy where they want it to go. Remember a DJ playing for 3 hours is essentially playing a 3 hour song mixed up from dozens of other songs.

Song selection: Music is basically energy and the DJ controls the flow of the evening. A good Dj knows how to play to the crowd and knows what will get people out there and what won't. They also know its not just about getting people out there...its about controlling the flow of the evening. Is everyone really drunk and getting rowdy tonight? Could very well be because your DJ is keeping the energy high. He would do well to play some more low-key tracks to cool everyone off before fights break out.


Blending: The art of taking the lyrics from one song and mixing them over the instrumental of another song. I realize that most of you folks don't know that virtually everything is still printed on vinyl these days but it is. A typical 12" single intended for Dj use has a dirty version, a clean version, an instrumental and an acapella. This means that we can take songs you know and mess around with them to make essentially new songs. This require more beatmatching as described above.

A good way to tell if someone is a good DJ or not is to listen to them without knowing any of the music they are playing. If you can't tell where one song ends and the next begins then they are a good DJ. I was at the bar a few weeks ago listening to a DJ spin and a couple of middle-agers were yapping and one said 'that DJ's been up there messing around for 15 minutes and he ain't done crap. He's played one song the whole time.' Well..he had actually played about 6 songs. That DJ was doing his job.


As both guys before me mentioned the movie 'Scratch' is an EXCELLENT tutorial on the world of the hip-hop DJ. Go rent it tonight and THEN talk smack about how DJ's aren't musicians.

And as for DJ's photocopying the Mona Lisa...those people are called 'college students' and they grab copies of songs off the internet. An artist would make high quality copies of the Mona Lisa and meld them into some sort of collage. And then I guess we'd all drink beer and party around it.

Well its just that DJs can make a song sound totally different - they sort of provide an extension of the original song - sometimes even an improvement - they add extra dimension to a song that could be old, new or previously deemed unreleasable.
and it does take talent to make a mix sound good, you need good timing, the ability to mix, to know what sounds good, and above all a lot of patience to get it right

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