How To Handle Dead Air: The Sign of a True Entertainer
Recently at the Stereosonic Festival in Sydney, EDM megastar Zedd found himself in a situation that all DJs have found themselves in at one point (or will eventually find themselves in). For some technical reason he was unable to play music leaving a crowd of thousands to “dead air.” So he did what any true entertainer would do… improvise. Watch below.
Us DJ’s are always getting caught up in the “Back in my day” discussion. You know, when that one veteran DJ who’s been at it for a while conveniently starts to vent about how much more difficult he had it coming up than the kids in the game do now? It’s typically this same DJ who is the poster child for the “Anti-Sync Button” campaign. I actually tend to agree with this person to an extent, not 100% but I agree. However I think this veteran DJ and others like him who share their disgust for new technology responsible for flooding the DJ market misunderstand what they are truly upset about. Let me explain.
I’m personally a fan of Zedd. He is a well rounded musician, excellent producer and has now proven his ability to entertain. DJ’s have been and always will be entertainers. I think most people, especially the iPod DJ’s, do not understand this. Here is an example. A few summers ago my partner and I were DJ’ing an outdoor music festival. About an hour before the end of the night, the elevated stage setup that everyone was dancing on started to collapse. So the powers that be instructed us to turn off the music and get everyone off the stage immediately. This obviously was going to kill the vibe and end the night, but my partner and I improvised. We slowly lowered the music, got on the MIC and said something to the effect that “the stage can’t hold the epic that is going down right now. So we need everyone to move to the grass so we could continue the party there. ” The powers-that-be looked at us like we had two heads as we moved hundreds of kids to the grass, re-aimed the speakers and got them to sing along to a clap-apella to We Found Love right before we turned back up and finished the night. The vibe was not killed, simply put on pause for a few minutes, then taken right back to peak energy.
How would you expect an inexperienced DJ to handle that situation? Doesn’t matter if he’s on CDJ’s, a controller or his Uncle Jim’s iPad, chances are that night is over…. probably with some boo’s aimed his way. It’s not because he is playing the wrong music, or doesn’t know how to talk on the mic. It’s because this DJ does not appreciate the time and effort invested to become a real entertainer. Up until that moment, this DJ’s idea of his job description involves gathering music online, setting up live PA and beat matching the songs that he thinks his client’s want to hear. He likely has no desire to evolve himself as an entertainer and learn a scratch routine. This same DJ probably has no interest in rehearing a few sets that could awe the crowd. Perhaps dig for a few exclusive edits (or even make a few himself) that could make is set unpredictable, yet really entertaining. Why is this?
It’s not his fault. In fact the majority of DJ’s this new eager button pusher has seen perform have set this same example to follow. So it’s no surprise that every aspiring DJ finds the least expensive route to play music and then mimics the DJ’s he looks up to. This will always be the case. Just like death and taxes, you can bet on this same scenario repeating itself with every generation of DJ’s. Herein lies the real problem that gets all experienced DJ’s upset…. ready?
The Microwave Generation of DJ’s do not require any discipline to attain the status of a DJ. In other words, they never had to pay their dues. I could write another 5 pages about everything that the veteran DJ’s hate this new generation for. From not knowing how to open a room to undercutting, not putting the cables back after they plug in their controller etc… But that’s not what upsets us. It’s the new generation’s lack of respect for those before them as well as the craft. Whether we consciously know it or not, this is the real reason the Vet’s take to Facebook to vent. Had these DJ’s invested the time and money that the previous generation needed to in order to play a big room, they would ask the resident what not to play… They wouldn’t be working for less than half the normal price, and you best believe when that night’s over those fucking RCA cables they moved around are getting plugged back in where they came from…. and it would all be out of simple genuine respect.
Moving on, there’s no going back. The damage to the DJ market has been done and we’ll at least have to wait for another generation to go by if we ever want to see a DJ’s value go back to what it used to be. So my veteran DJ’s, don’t waste anymore energy hating on these kids. It’s pointless. Get on your own hustle. Invest in yourself not as a DJ, but as an entertainer. You’ve got bills to pay (and probably child support ). For the new comers, take a page out of Zedd’s book and aspire to be more than a beat matching monkey.