Death of the DJ Superstar

What you have currently,  is a culture of people thinking clubs and raves are rock venues cause the cultural delivery of rock music is familiar to people who have been alienated by the majors and indie culture; looking for a new alternative.  The DJs at the Hacienda in the late 80s/early 90s found out they didn’t need the band to be there in order for the audience to enjoy the tracks, they start giving props to the DJ instead of the artists they play. This eventually leaves the DJ as a rockstar.
It was all well and good for many a year. Nobody knew what the DJ did (I heard many people say they thought a mixer was some kind of sampler when I was a wee young raver) and at the time, they were superstar gods.  But, after a fashion,  that wore off  because everyone knew the secret,  the door to the DJ booth was somehow left wide open, instructional videos and every company in the world trying to cash in on, “You too, can be a DJ!”
For awhile this worked and the companies raked in the cash, then bought and sold the mysterious allure of the DJ cult to the masses.  Now everyone who wanted to be one, was a DJ. There were so many “DJs” flooding the dancefloor and trying to crowd out and play for any promoter for free, that after awhile really good DJ’s couldn’t get booked because the audience was expecting a rock star. -Someone who had that allure that not just anyone could obtain.
The promoters knew this, so they stopped going after just DJs alone. All the while, the agents were saying to the DJs who had actually made their mark on the scene earliest on,
“Hey buddy, nobody’s going to throw down airfare for you to play 24 records and leave unless you produced some tracks of your own.”
So this leaves poor Mr./Miss DJ with no other recourse than to pirate a copy of Ableton and get cracking. For a time it worked as well. People were looking at these really interesting new producers coming on the scene,  flying them out to do tours.  These new producer’s new perspective was great and a breath of fresh air to the music scene as a whole. Then suddenly it hit, more and more people jumped on and saturation began to set in.  Great producers that have been around since the beginning of this still produced great tracks, but it was harder for younger people to find them under the mountains of newbie trash flooding Beatport in a vain attempt to rape the top ten popularity contest. There are so many tracks on digital download sites and torrents, the tracks themselves become worthless. Good producers have to work doubly hard to even get a bit of recognition or even a paycheck.
As a result, the only way to be a recording artist is to ironically play other people’s tracks as a DJ. but there’s so little time to produce that what get’s produced becomes a quick throwaway promotion in order to get back on tour. Since if nobody’s heard of you and you’re not in people’s faces with new music, you don’t get to DJ/ perform. But if you DJ all the time, you don’t produce. That’s an EDM catch 22. There’s no room to produce and obsess over a track for a month for your album, because when its done, the genre has changed ever so slightly and your lovingly crafted track might even sound dated even half a year from the time of release.
Then the popularity of the laptop DJ made it easy to play other people’s tracks in a rapid succession with much less skill, and, should you choose to do so, mutilate the tracks beyond recognition through controllerism. But, if you look at the whole concept of being a controllerist, it’s just a bunch of wankery when the audience really just wants to hear some good music. Not some glitchy ego trip through your record collection that was never designed for such fuckery. So then there’s people who turn those tracks into a live PA version of other people’s tracks.. that’s cool, but then again, why not just play your own stuff? That’s who the audience came to see (amirite?).  So where does that leave people who just want to DJ, I mean, just put 2 records into each other and share a splee with their friends?  In that regard we’re now left only with vinyl, cds or the newcomer, the thumb drive. Which is great cause nobody wants to see the DJ’s dumpy butt setting up their Serato-Ableton-Traktor while the last guy is still rockin’ solid. The heralded thumb drive also eliminates that whole CD DJ thing where the DJ just is totally dissing the vinyl tone arm with their beer soaked CD case. It seems as though a happy medium may be in sight, but that sort of goes back to the idea that,
“Hell, anybody can play thumb drives.”
So we’re now back at: saturation in the market, touring is the only way to make a living as a producer, people still want rockstars, promoters still think they can only book rockstar talent and the state of djing is in chaos.

What’s next? Well, let’s not count out playing live. The machines for producing good electronic music are coming back to their 1980s equivalent in sales, more and more producers are tiring of the laptop as their sole source of production. It seems that maybe the only solution for wannabe rock stars is to pick up a synth and actually become good at it; maybe taking a few music lessons and learning how to make your own damn tracks to play them live on your kit. Since everyone’s idea on how to perform a live PA is different, an increasing number of sounds and styles will be different. The music coming out will be more interesting and unique. Since touring with kit is hard to do, and it often breaks down, people might start playing more locally or regionally. People who collaborate with each other in their own home towns will start to develop their own sounds, -maybe even whole cities will start to develop their own sound.  Cities start making their own styles like they once did in the early 90s, the Sheffield style, the London, the Rotterdam, the Chicago, the Detroit, Japan etc.. more people might try to be weirder than the next guy or try to do something more outlandish than the next. The live pa experiments played out could become more solid and polished ideas in the bedroom studio at home. Maybe people would eventually start making full albums for heads to just hang out at home like people used to?

Maybe even right now, that one totally nuts producer from Kansas City is probably tearing it up with some as yet unknown form of electronic music.  In the future, people might bring him or her out to Shanghai where there’s a whole scene based on the Kansas style, where they love Kansas _insert weird genre here_.  A whole slew of Kansas heads will be bitching in interviews about how they don’t get recognition at home but people in Kuala Lumpur fly them out for excruciatingly long flights every weekend for vast sums of money (you poor bastard).

This I feel is possibly here it could go, I have some great hopes that with so many people making music, that maybe good music will eventually win out over the rock star mentality and people will just make music for the hell of it, or for the love of it as many people do now. Heads would get paid for their live pa work much as bands do out of the bar. And as with so many people making music, there will of course be superstars and great new swaths of interesting genres that will crop up to inspire new ideas and people to come up with something radically different in opposition.

It’s an interesting future and totally hypothetical, but it’s kind of one where there was only one person to blame.. the audience that sees the performer up there as some god. But with everyone making the music, the playing field might be leveled, or if there are better musicians than others, they will advance, and some company will try to market their music to a larger audience. I wonder what, then?

In my mind I thought that we turned away from bands to electronic music because we’d had enough. There was too much emphasis on the whole rock’n’roll ego trip, instead of the faceless lone producers who we’d probably never ever get to meet that were locked in the grooves of some mystical ancient medium. Those anonymous heroes possessed the uncanny ability to make you lust after tons of their tracks on vinyl no matter what the cost. Maybe that’s a decrepit indie 90s fantasy where the rock star mythos should be scorned in favor of music with heart and artistry, but it’s still a romantic notion I hold dear. DJing to me, was my way of saying “These are my heroes and let me show you how much I love them. Here, let me be still and speak with these records that hold onto my emotions. They say more than I ever could.”
Whatever happened to that, I may never know, but maybe a healthy dose of that with the coming tide could be something that we really need to see.  I welcome the change I see as inevitable, but I sincerely hope we don’t repeat anything if time has made us blind to it.