Ladies and gentlemen, my thesis for the following document is as followed:
Amateur DJing is the art of convincing club promoters and other people of authority that you can do something everyone else can’t.
Two widely regarded events on the Australian DJ calender have just passed: the 2013 InTheMix Top 50 Awards, and the 2013 Your Shot DJ competition. The two seemingly unrelated entities – run by separate corporations with different ethos and unique operating structures – share one common theme: they both ignore what really matters. Your Shot allows DJs with absolutely no experience to break into the industry and land a slot at the supposedly prestigious Stereosonic, while the ITM Top 50 ranks our very best artists on popularity rather than skill. This skewed take on nurturing talent is exactly why Australia is full of promoters moonlighting as mediocre DJs and just another reason we need to take a step back if we ever want to raise the bar of what we as a nation consider a talented artist. But wait! Before you screw up your nose and start farting forth your rebuttals, hear me out.
The reality is, anyone with an inkling of musical knowledge and a bit of spare time on their hands can learn to mix on CDJ’s. They won’t necessarily be able to do it well, but they’ll be able to artificially inflate their Facebook friend count just enough to convince the local promoter they’ve earned the right to a debut club gig. The majority of the time, said DJ will wind up playing to people so wasted they’ll unquestionably assume whatever he or she is doing couldn’t be done by a highly trained ape. This favourable crowd response pretty much guarantees another set for said average DJ. That’s exactly why amateur DJs are now a dime a dozen; you can literally fart in a public place and nine times out of ten a DJ will be standing close enough to smell what you had for breakfast. That very DJ, with his slicked back hair and obnoxiously large headphones, genuinely believes his ability to hobble between Aphex Twin and The Prodigy means he poops pure brilliance.
But he’s wrong.
You see, there’s a proverbial ceiling in the DJ realm, one that 99% of DJs will never make it past. It’s kind of like a human filter, only allowing those destined for greatness to wander up the stairs and confront the notion of music becoming their full time job. This blockade is the separator between the people happy to play other people’s music and the people who one day want to play their own. As the former of these two groups rises to the top, the hoards of amateur DJs who find solace in mediocrity remain trapped in a completely non-exclusive realm; there they will stay, swapping tales with the billion other people on this planet who can look at two small LCD screens, match the numbers and transition between songs drunk people like. It’s sweaty and crowded beneath that proverbial ceiling; the place smells like feet and Ricky from Club 784 keeps playing his bootleg (mashup) of Warp. It fucking sucks, but people seem to enjoy it. Why? Because irrespective of how replaceable they are, they go to sleep at night happy that the little tiny ‘job description’ box on their Facebook page says ‘DJ’. Because, you know, it’s ‘cool’ and all.
These average DJs are in a creative deficit. They’re unable to process the notion that more must be done if they actually want to consider what they do a talent. Though who can blame them. They’ve been witness to competitions where some bloke who can play a trumpet used his Facebook fan page to secure the #3 ranking in the Australian DJ scene, not to mention competitions that allow a person who’s never played a club gig in their life to waltz into Stereosonic and bang out a festival set. They’re Gen Y’s, notoriously lazy but amazingly opportunistic, so if they can sit around and sink a fuck tonne of piss while waiting for a chance to have fame shoveled down their gullets, they’re going to take it.
But this isn’t all bad. The truth is, wandering into one of the many competitions around Australia and suddenly winning your way to perceived greatness isn’t the least bit sustainable. You’re not suddenly given talent or ability or diversity, but rather opportunity. If you couldn’t make your own way there, that opportunity is going back in the hole it came from quicker than you can say ‘I can’t mix for shit’. Want proof? Have a look just how much the national ITM rankings differ from year to year; a fad culture is exactly that, a fad culture. A number on a board might mean you can charge a little extra and play a few more shows, but it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll be shielded from the scorn of Australia’s increasingly educated late night crowd. If you’ve ranked highly based on anything other than an insurmountable lump of talent, you’re pretty much fated to be hated.
Despite my incessant ramblings, I have faith in the land down under. I truly believe, now more than ever, that the Australian dance community are rallying against popularity contests and helping nurture real talent. I truly believe the number of punters attending shows to see talented artists is rapidly increasing, while the morons stumbling around in search of a hot DJ with side boob are crawling back to their holes. I truly believe that crowds are becoming more educated on what constitutes talent, and as this mentality siphons into the narrow-minded, money focused perspective of club promoters, DJs will be booked based on their skill rather than on ‘crowd presence’ (a euphemism for how many people you had on your guest list). Call me optimistic, but Tommy Trumpet (is that his name?) being ranked #3 this year might just be a good thing. I know plenty of people who use that as their fuel to work twice as hard, twice as late and twice as often; perhaps Terry Trumpet was just a means to an end.
So here we stand. Everyone is a DJ, but very few are good DJs. The bad DJs complain about the industry rather than finding their point of difference, the good DJs refuse to bow down to an inherently maligned competition, and the terrible DJs reign supreme in the polls because their publicists taught them how to use Facebook. Alas, this is trivial. The bottom line is, all the contrived piece-of-shit competitions in the world won’t stop beautiful audio emanating from the speakers of talented musicians. Perhaps we as a nation just need to look a little harder to find it; after all, when it comes down to it, we – the consumers, the people, the masses – choose what gets played.
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