Ice cubes tinkle inside half-consumed cocktail glasses; cigarette smoke drifts languidly throughout the spacious nightclub. The well dressed men and women talk, smoke, drink and wait – in anticipation. The mingled conversation travels through the room with an undertone like an electric current.
They are waiting for the show to start. The rumor is that he is pretty good at what he does. The much anticipated DJ walks into the booth; slips on the headphones. The atmosphere electrifies another notch. He previews the first dance track; he smiles. The tension mounts as the first beats pound through the speakers. The room crackles with excitement as the second wave of beats washes over the crowd. The house lights slowly fade; the disco lights pulsate on the dance floor. The third set begins; they were right. Oh, yes, he is good. The fourth set of beats pulses; he has them now. The tension breaks; they flock to the dance floor. He is very good indeed. Tonight, the DJ will rock the house.
There are three different formats that can be classified and attributed to different DJs when they are working. Each format depends on the style and taste of the DJ, and how they were trained in their craft.
The current question facing most DJs today is this: How do I keep up with current technology while remaining true to my position?
The three formats are vinyl (record albums), digital (Cds), and computerization (programs). Each format will be discussed, focusing on their usage by different DJs in the industry, and the ways that those DJs see the future with regard to new technologies in the business.
The first, and pretty much the original, format that some DJs still prefer working with are record albums. When a DJ works with records albums, it is referred to in the industry as ‘spinning vinyl.’ There are many DJs in the industry that prefer to remain loyal to what is often referred to as the ‘old school’ way of doing things. This means that those
DJs have a preference for using their turntables to spin their records, while trying to avoid technology as long as they are able to.
DJ Chad Fischer, an art design senior, hosts a Monday night hip-hop show titled “Table Manners” on KCPR. He remains loyal to his roots by collecting all his music on vinyl, including 12-inch maxies and 45’s, as well as LP’s. Fischer estimates his vinyl collection at 19 milk crates full of records or 760 albums. (One milk crate can hold approximately 40 records.)
A vinyl loyalist at heart, Fischer also believes that when it comes to the integration of new technology, there really is no getting around it.
“I think that vinyl will always be a staple or backbone of the DJ culture, but especially with technology these days, the lines are getting a little blurred.”
Glenn O’Hagen, the owner of Green Edge Media Group, headquartered in Los Osos, is active in a current merger with a karaoke company called Karaoke Zone. O’Hagen said the merging of the two companies will blend the usage of three convergent sources.
“We have actually integrated all of the technologies; music, video and karaoke. This is nothing short of a windfall, when it comes to saving money for the clients and the owners,” said O’Hagen.
Now here is the crux of the DJ dilemma: The DJ who spins “fat beats” while working with a vinyl format; he has spun his last record. Vinyl records today, while a rare but respected art form among the DJ community, are obsolete enough to be considered the proverbial dinosaur. The DJ who mixes his beats by using an all CD format; he has pitch controlled his way right off the dance floor with that final dance mix. Cassette tapes are plainly and simply an archaic joke. DJs don’t even bother to insert the topic into any decent and civilized form of conversation. That leaves the DJ who utilizes the all computerized format.
DJ Sean Holland, with Green Edge Media Group, utilizes purely computer-based technology. “We run Winamp and Windows Media Player,” he said. “We do all video and MP3 based technology, so everything is computer based.”
“It’s all pretty much automated, so it’s basically just point and click. We’ve got it to the point where really anyone can do it.”
As for the future of DJ’s and technology, Holland said that of the two, he thinks only one will survive the battle.
“The way that things are going right now, inevitably we won’t even require a DJ. There’s no need to put someone in the booth. There’s no need to regulate the sound. Everything will be A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) based,” Holland said.
Patrick Liesch is a DJ who primarily uses CDs when he works. However, he believes in alternate technology in terms of convergence. He advocates advertising his business through the popular Internet site MySpace.
“It’s the most popular way to get your information out there. If I want to throw a party, I put it on the MySpace page. If I want my company to throw a party, then that’s where it’ll go too,” Liesch said.
Liesch is transitioning from his current CD based business to all computer based technology. He talked about the difference using the computer program made in one working night.
“Going digital made it to where I didn’t have to drag around the two- or three-hundred CDs up and down the stairs of the clubs. Now that we’re digital, on an external hard drive, I can carry everything in my back pocket basically,” said Liesch.
In the current world of constantly changing technology, as well as the rapidly expanding trend toward convergence, many DJ’s no longer perform just one function.
Liesch spoke about what the future holds for DJ’s, and where the industry is headed – in terms of multi-tasking and media convergence.
“I think where it’s heading is you’ll be able to digitally mix DVD’s, videos, play ’em in the clubs, on TV screens,” said Liesch.
“DJ’s have now turned into VJ’s, doing video mixing,” he said.
Offering a final thought, Liesch said that, overall, it is not just about the industry being an aural medium. Today, as well as for the future, DJ’s will continue to incorporate the visual element also, he said, making it a more complete package.
“It’s just as much visual as it is music now. It’s all about the show. I think that’s where we’re going with it.”