Q u a r t e r l y - T i p

 

Winter 2011

[Editor's Note: This is Part II of II of the last Quarterly Tip on Disc Jockey 101. In the future, industry updates will be provided by DJ Times Magazine to current Quarterly Tip subscribers (at no cost via e-mail) via the DJ Times Magazine Insider]

Continued from last Quarter:

The Challenges to DJ Education

I see three reasons why formalized DJ education has not materialized sooner -- and why it faces obstacles going into the future:

1. Are music colleges/conservatories behind the times when it comes to DJ education?

From what I can tell, the answer is yes -- with exceptions (like SCC and Berklee College of Music).

There appears to be a business as usual atmosphere in music education at the collegiate level. The knowledge of previous generations appears to get handed down to students, who become teachers, who pass the same education to students -- and so on. In general, there doesn't appear to be any challenge to introduce new concepts -- to change the old order.

Why take the risk of introducing a new program, such as DJ education, when there's no pressure to evolve? As long as the full time faculty paychecks still clear, there's no need to take a chance.

There are exceptions, such as those in the audio technology and music business fields. Like the DJ profession, instructors in these areas must stay on top of technological advances and industry trends. To some extent, there are changes in rock and jazz history, but how much, lately? In contrast, changes occur in the DJ profession almost by the year -- new gear, new genres, new techniques. A professional DJ instructor would be expected to stay on top of industry developments. Compare this to the person teaching cello in the room next door, who is most likely teaching it the way it was done tens of years ago. This is not to imply that I don't have tremendous respect for people that play the cello.

2. Are Musicians hostile to DJ's?

Perhaps the reason music colleges have been so slow to recognize DJ education is a latent hostility that some musicians have towards DJ's. It may have something to do with the notion that some musicians fail to understand that DJ's can create original notes and drum beats, and perform live remixes. They can also execute video editing on the fly. It may also have something to do with the fact that some DJ's produce and sell music made on computers and synthesizers -- meaning no job opportunities for drummers, guitarists, etc. -- an economic threat. On that note, some bands lose gigs to DJ's -- often because the DJ is more cost effective to the customer. This can't put a good taste in the mouths of musicians.

DJ's are not only at the forefront of introducing new songs created by these musicians, but a DJ -- with some music training -- is less likely to impair these songs during a performance. You would think that the creators of original songs would want their songs performed professionally -- even when it's done by a DJ.

3. Are DJ's hostile to DJ education?: Ten reasons why DJ's should support DJ education:

While I've noticed that the vast majority of DJ's appear to support DJ education, I am aware of a faction of DJ's that don't like formalized DJ education -- the so-called "haters." The hostility is partially economic -- the notion that we're teaching people how to take their jobs. As one DJ put it to my class, "Rob's teaching you in one semester what some DJ's take ten years to learn." As a response, I have ten reasons why every DJ should support formalized DJ education:

First, formalized DJ education is inevitable. I truly believe that DJ Babu is correct when he states that "the future of musicians are DJ's." In this view, you need to step back and look at the big picture -- that the evolution of the music industry (going back roughly 130 years) has led to the DJ becoming a meta-musician -- and that music colleges/conservatories will eventually have to respond to that.

Second, because DJ's are perceived as "the new rock stars," these critics don't realize that our profession is facing a wave of "wanna-be-DJ's."

As the message in this video shows, we either train these DJ's how to do it right, or we let them poorly represent the DJ profession in public, which could lead to getting "grouped-in" with unprofessional DJ's and any negative stereotypes that they could potential bring to our industry.

Third, the hostility is also partially ego. The notion that a DJ thinks s/he is too good to learn anything from a DJ class. Even experienced DJ's could benefit from enrolling in classes. Because this is a profession that is constantly evolving -- from new technology to new genres -- the classroom setting helps working DJ's stay on top of their craft.

Fourth, the current system of DJ training means that new DJ's are not only learning the good things from senior DJ's, but -- in some cases -- bad habits from some of these DJ's -- such as licking the cartridge ends (which leads to tone-arm corrosion), arriving late to work, excessive drinking on the job, inflated ego, etc. In addition, as DJ Shortee put it to me, "the advantages of a structured DJ program means that there won't be any holes in the student's knowledge."

Fifth, the current crony-based/know the right people system is not very inclusive, which may explain the lower percentage of female DJ's in our industry. In my opinion, formalized DJ education will democratize the DJ profession.

Sixth, some DJ's that are against formalized DJ education may have little or no familiarity with the college/university experience. As a result, they may not understand that colleges provide a great opportunity to exchange ideas and innovate. When a software engineering student took my class several years ago, he became inspired to design cutting-edge DJ software. This is the kind of innovation that could help our industry to evolve.

Seventh, as Stacy Zemon helped me to point out in a DJ Times interview, the idea is to "elevate our profession, and gain some well-deserved respect for DJ's in the academic world as well as among clients and club owners." In this sense, some DJ's need to put aside their insecurities and see the big picture -- elevating the art form of the DJ. Improved respect could (ideally) lead to better pay and better working conditions.

Eighth, older DJ's will have job opportunities teaching new DJ's. College faculty earn impressive incomes. Are younger DJ's thinking about their careers when they reach middle age?

Ninth, DJ students in a college music department will have opportunities to network -- not only with one another -- but with bands, remixers, vocalists, producers, and more. In this sense, DJ students will become ambassadors/quasi-lobbyists for our profession and will hopefully open doors for other DJ's.

Tenth, helping others. When you hear stories about people struggling to pay their bills, do you really want to deny them the opportunity to learn a trade that could improve their livelihood? It's called karma.

Disc Jockey 101 In Review

Since its start in October 2000, I would estimate that approximately one million people have visited Disc Jockey 101. Yahoo reports that 1, 246 sites link into Disc Jockey 101. Most visitors are college educated males between 25 and 34 years of age. In addition, 80% of visitors are from the United States (particularly New York and California), while other visitors are from India, England, Canada, and many other English speaking countries.

Many interviews and guest articles appeared on Disc Jockey 101. Most notable are interviews by DMA writer Steven Ratz Jr. of global artists DJ Encore, DJ Rap, and DJ Radar. This is in addition to interviews of Eddie Amador, DJ Ruthless Ramsey, Eddy Temple-Morris, DJ Graham Funke, DJ Funsko, DJ Maji, Harry Frank Towers, Chris "The Greek" Panaghi, Mark Vidler, and Jeff Blackman. There were guest articles by DJ Rap, Stephen Webber of Berklee Music College, Larry Mundy, Marcus McBride, and DJ Sterling. The most popular article/tip (based on tracking) is Stephen Webber's "Beat Matching Tips" article that appeared in December 2001.

Final Thoughts

Disc Jockey 101 will become "frozen" in time. In other words, it will remain online, but no further updates or changes will be made. However, I have plans to edit a few tips that I authored in the past, such as "DJ History: The Fourth-Wave of Club DJ Growth, 2003-2009," and "BPM and Genres: From Hip Hop to Break-Beat, Techno to Trip Hop."

I want to sincerely thank everyone that has supported this site over the last ten years. The DJ profession is very rewarding -- both intellectually and financially. If you're like me, you love music and the opportunity to share music with others is the greatest feeling in the world.

I wish you a happy and prosperous future!

DJ Rob Wegner


Industry News

* The SCC DJ and Turntablism Classes has a new Facebook fan page.

* Legendary DJ Kool Herc is suffering from a treatable medical condition, but is in need of financial help/donations due to lack of medical insurance. See: MTV.com

* A must-see movie entitled "RIP: A Remix Manifesto" addresses many of the issues affecting musicians and DJ's with regards to copyright law and music creativity. The movie is free to download, although donations are encouraged.

* Rane has released Serato Scratch Live SL 4, which has two USB ports for seamless DJ changeover.

* Retail clothing store DJ trend. Many clothing retailers such as Guess, Bebe, Puma, Skechers, Nordstrom, H&M, JC Penny, Dillard's, and many others, are hiring DJ's to provide a hip atmosphere for their customers. While some stores are known to provide steady and good paying DJ work (Nordstrom), other stores provide infrequent work and in some cases pay DJ's with free clothing/shoes instead of cash.

* An article in AZCentral.com points-out that the NBA has started a trend to hire DJ's. The article states that one-third of NBA teams use DJ's to hype the crowd.

* The Oakland Museum of California has launched an exhibit that includes live DJ's called the Oakland Standard. See: SFGate.com

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