Have a gig and find yourself rushing to download the latest tunes? Stop!
This is why going down that route might not bring you to where you want to be.
This is a personal reflection on my own DJ journey and finding my methods of working and also, identity.
Some time ago, I gave up being the DJ playing the latest, hottest tunes. It is an illusion. I simply do not belong to or have access to the top-tier league where producers swop hands. No record store friend who reserves all the gems that never make it to shelf. No yellow padlock cred on slsk. And nope, no elite promo pool, where I get to download free new music in exchange for a “not my cup of tea” comment.
You can see where this is going.
It is actually more the case that by the time the music goes down the line to reach my ears, it has already passed through hundreds of discerning others. From other producers to label owners, engineers, distributors, PR specialists and journalists to the interns uploading music to the store from the backend. That is, if the music even gets that far.
Some producers have been known to keep music within their inner circle for years, staying unreleased and unknown to many a frustrated shazamer. Such tracks are like a digger’s holy grail. So much so that they even dream about finding such tracks in their sleep. True story.
It is rather more so that once the music makes it to store, it is to me — as a common pleb — arguably already dated, passed around. Over.
That is why rushing to an online store to download the latest Top 10 chart in hopes of sounding hot or fresh is a fruitless exercise. In my opinion, the time and effort is much better spent digging for under-the-radar tunes from the past on YouTube, Bandcamp, Discogs or at a flea market for example.
Because when it comes to DJing, you still want to be playing tunes that nobody else has. It’s a simple way to not sound like anybody else. You can make your own music, and also your own private edits. You can also play a hot tune in a way that nobody else has before. I am not discounting those as other options.
For me, I realised that it was a better path and less of a struggle to keep it personal — playing tunes that come to my hands through a personal connection or that I have personally dug out during my time. I trainspot tunes anywhere and everywhere. I browse my friends’ stuff, and always check out a second-hand bin and the promos put in my palm. It makes the whole endeavour more meaningful and the music I play something I can always relate to. Authentic. And I cut out the noise on what’s hot — an empty endeavour because very few of us are actually close enough to that heat.
This way also helps me to detach from music labelling and to truly hear my collection beyond the obvious signifiers. It’s a bit of old, a bit of new, something gold, something blue. Because music can and should be timeless, no matter who made it, who played it or when.
There are DJs and selectors who go through the weekly due diligence of trawling through the latest releases and adding them to their bag, rarely missing a cycle. Props to the hard work that you do to stay on the tip. You are the hunters in life. I am more a gatherer.