Now that practically anyone can DJ on just their Mac with a home trial version of mixing software it seems that there has been a major paradigm shift in the way people perceive DJ’s.

A couple interesting things I noticed while observing the nightlife scene recently:

First, I couldn’t help but notice that just about every venue downtown had a DJ last Friday. It was almost as if the bands in town all took a night off! Then a few weeks back I witnessed a party with a crazy amount of sorority girls that were dancing to music from some girl’s iPod jacked straight into the mixer. That blew my mind. Me:$4000 in equipment. Girl: A $129 MP3 player.

I know, I know. It’s all about our “trained experience”, but does anyone really care anymore?! Even when downtown was full of great DJs and a girl with an iPod was totally rocking a party, no one seemed to care about who was playing the music. I remember when everyone would literally crowd around the decks and watch our every move, now it seems that we fade into the background in most places.

I think we as DJ’s have run ourselves into a corner, and now coupled with the mass competition, it makes me want to eagerly find the next level to blow minds again. But how? We (I) need to think of a new game plan that resonates with the new generation. Again, but HOW?

Rather than ask DJ’s that have gone through the same struggle, I instead networked with other like-minded mix masters outside of our region to get their reaction, and hopefully some advice:

A Missoula DJ spins some tracks.

DJ Kadkliffe says:

“The club I used to work in went the same way. We used to get hired early for private functions but now people plug their iPhones in to the mixer, play their own tunes then get hacked off when we turn up at 10 and change the music.

“People used to ride horses everywhere and start fires with sticks and stones. It’s evolution and as you say we need to come up with something fresh again. Whether this will happen only time will tell.”

DJ Charlie Wilson says:

“As a once-successful DJ it saddens me a great deal, you can’t make money like you used to. Obviously it differs depending on your location, but the digital age hasn’t come without challenges! I have gone into a new industry now and am now successful in that, I found it far easier to go in a new direction than to try make it happen as a top DJ.

“I wish you luck, but take my advice: Don’t beat yourself up for the rest of your life over a golden age that has now past, go elsewhere as I did. If you were a good DJ chances are you’ll be good in your new profession too.”

DJ Dre 99 says:

“Yes DJs have faded to the back room of the clubs. Kids seeing Tiesto and Guetta think that is where they have to go, only to realize they need to climb the ladder, and as they are ‘climbing’, they also realize that no one really cares they are “DJ X” or “DJ Y”. Reason? Someone will replace you, be better than you, or they will want something different and fresh. Young kids nowadays (myself included) have this ADD thing going where I don’t want to see the same DJ everywhere I go.

“I think only when you realize that your doing this for the music and to make the people happy, that you will really find yourself.

“You see many DJ’s become “famous,” but reality is, most of those are producers who produce music for various other artists. A typical “DJ” doesn’t become famous for spinning other people’s music.

“It is the sign of the times. It’s so easy to press play on an iPOD or anything else out there and make the crowd go crazy.”

DJ Ca-Kid

“If I hire a DJ, I want them to entertain. Otherwise, if I own a club with a DJ booth in the back corner, I might as well just play a premixed set and save myself some money.

“I do play in a band, and noticed in the past ten years, bands themselves have been fading in quality and innovation. With online music, the world is so much smaller, that you don’t go to a venue to see this amazing band anymore. You just sit at home on your PC and enjoy it from the comfort of your own home. Radio stations in my area rarely play rock music. It’s not what kids are into anymore.

“The music industry is quickly changing. Good luck.”

Conclusion

After digesting these very jagged pills of wisdom, it’s occurred to me that innovation is a double-edged sword.

Yes, technology has made it easier for anyone to become what I am. But it also gives people who’ve embraced this style of music delivery long before others a bigger advantage to stay relevant by having a much longer track record of playing music out. That doesn’t mean that all of us will still have a job in five years, but if we continue to play what the people want and don’t get stuck in a creative rut like it feels we have been lately, then we still may have a fighting chance.

My advice: Soak up any kind of knowledge you can from DJ’s all around the globe. Don’t just settle for any DJ to inspire you at this moment because, frankly, it feels like we are all just biting off each others ideas. One may have a great theme party or mixing style and the others will soon copy it because they saw it work for their competition.

Watch YouTube videos of other performers, read DJ-themed blogs, and forums daily. Ask questions and apply the newly-learned skill fast. But don’t get comfortable for too long!

The silver lining is that there will ALWAYS be a need for music. Jukeboxes don’t and will never take away our jobs because they can’t serve the dance party like we can. It’s how you deliver it, what you deliver, and your personality along with a willingness to adapt that will set us apart from the growing younger generation of passionate up and coming DJ’s.