The Professional DJ: Overlooked and Under Appreciated
The music industry as a whole has overlooked the DJ year after year, denying these artists the recognition they deserve for the musical abilities they possess. There is no greater evidence of this than the Grammy Awards, which aired last night. How many awards were presented to DJ's during the event? Zero. How many DJ's were invited to present the Grammy Awards? Zero.
Every musical talent is honored at the Grammy Awards, the music industries most prestigious awards ceremony, except for the DJ. Why is this? I asked myself a series of questions to try and determine their logic behind the problem.
- Are DJ's not musicians?
- Are they looked down upon because their music is compiled from the music of others?
- Are the DJ's instruments not as complex as the guitar, piano or saxophone?
Are DJ's not musicians? To answer this we first need to look at the definition of a musician. According to Wikipedia, "A musician is a person who writes, performs, or makes music. Musicians can be classified by their roles in creating or performing music." Wouldn't you agree that a DJ makes music? Wouldn't you also agree that a DJ performs music? Every single night across the country there are thousands of DJ's performing in clubs, bars and special events, customizing music for their respective audiences. Based on the definition of what a musician is, there is no question that a DJ is definitely a musician.
Are they looked down upon because their music is compiled from the music of others? When answering this question, think about how many of todays most popular musicians take the work of others and make it their own. Just about every band or artist on the Top 40 today has a "cover" song (someone else's song that they remade as their own) on their album, some with entire cover albums. Next, think about how many of those same bands and artists produce songs written by others. That just about covers all of them. So the DJ should not be classified any differently based on originality.
Are the DJ's instruments not as complex as others? This misconception is the most common amongst the general public. Many people assume that anyone can be a DJ, "all they do is play cd's...." In some cases this is very true, but it is unfair to generalize the entire profession by it's weakest members. The professional DJ has the most complex instrument package of any musician, hands down. What other musician mixes his own live sound in real time? None of them. Every musician you see perform live at a concert or events such as the Grammy Awards has a team of highly skilled Sound Engineers behind the scenes mixing their sound to perfection before it exits the speaker system. Sometimes as many as 10 sound engineers on one performer. The DJ does this himself, while perfectly matching his music, live on stage in front of his audience. As for complexity, the professional DJ has quite a bit more on his plate than simply remembering the lyrics and maintaining the right pitch. DJ's have a complex set of tools that all work together to produce the final product. Many times the DJ will have a high powered laptop computer along with several MP3/CD media players routed through a main mixing console.
Below is a picture of my personal setup minus the laptop. The media players are the outside devices, both capable of playing MP3 files and CD's, the mixing console in the center is where the sound is blended together and exported to the main speaker system. This setup as it is pictured carries a price tag of $4,500.
My setup was the top of the line several years ago, however it is somewhat outdated today. A top of the line setup for the professional DJ of today would look more like the one pictured below, and would cost you around $7,500.
These are complex, digital instruments that require a very specific set of skills to operate. I think it would be fair to say that to master the use of these devices could be as challenging as learning to play to guitar. Take a look at this video of one of the most talented professional DJ's of our time (DJ AM, Los Angeles), and you decide if this person has a complex musical ability or not.
You see it now, right? I wouldn't think that just anyone could perform music in this way. This requires hard work, practice and an extreme knowledge of music from all genres.
The professional DJ continues to thrive in nightclubs and bars around the world, entertaining millions of people on any given night, and will continue to do so on into the next generation. The DJ is a talented musician who may never receive the public recognition they deserve, but will push forward anyway because of their love of music.
Next time you come in contact with a DJ at work, stop by and let them know you appreciate their music.