DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs – Why The Controversy? Part 1

Disclaimer: I voted this year online and viewed the results online.  If anything I say in this post is inaccurate, as I do not have access to the print version of DJ Mag, PLEASE bring it to my attention.  Thank you.

Few things cause more controversy in DJ land as DJ Mag‘s Top 100 DJs list that comes out every year.  Based on an open ballot system where people actually write in their favorite DJs it is constructed in a way to try to accurately determine who are the world’s top DJs.   What I find fascinating is the things we can actually learn just by looking at the list in an analytical way.  Because the votes are write in only it could be suggested that DJ Mag’s Top 100 reflects truly the pulse of what people like.  However, being someone who likes to analyze this kind of information I can’t help but offer my opinion on what is going on and how it can be done better.

If you are a DJ and you haven’t voted in DJ Mag’s Top 100 vote I highly encourage you to do so.  Without input from us what you end up getting is mostly results of the current fanbase which is fine and we might need to look at the results in that way.  I’m curious as to the percentage of DJs vs. fans that actually vote – a metric that I think is important for DJs to understand when looking critically at the results.  As we all know there are DJ’s DJs and there are fans DJs.  What is most important to understand from the results is that the methodology in collecting them is as fair and open as it gets. So it’s kind of like, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about the results.

I do not question DJ Mag’s purpose or hands off involvement.  I do not think it’s rigged (maybe I’m being naive), I think it’s an accurate summary of what’s going on.  However, I contend that some underlying truths have not been revealed because they’re actually not being captured. There is a bigger story here that I think is missing in the discussion and the controversy this list causes.  First, it’s context.  I do not claim to know DJ Mag’s exact demographic – some say it’s a mainstream magazine that caters to more commercial tastes in DJs, others feel it’s the best publication out there covering everything there is in DJ land above ground and underground, I think it’s a little bit of both – serving DJs and fans.  So we must understand the audience and the context of DJ Mag as a publication before we can really analyze the results for what they are.  Since we don’t really know that information to be sure, arguing about the results is a little misdirected.  Secondly, the list is just a list.  The only information that is captured is name, email address, location, gender and your votes.  There’s no information presented as to percentage of people from certain locations or gender breakdowns on voters, which could be presented but isn’t.  So we don’t really learn anything more than a vote tally ( which is a missed opportunity on DJ Mag’s part in my opinion ).

There’s two crucial things we as DJs need to know about this list before we can make any judgement on the results.  First, what is the DJ vs. Fan breakdown in voters and secondly, what is the criteria people use to decide to vote for a DJ.  If DJ Mag could ask a simple question such as “Why are you choosing this DJ for your vote?” there would be a big learning here – basically why people choose who they choose. This is an oversimplified method to be sure, but I’m just putting it out there that this is information that can be shared. It could quell a lot of the controversy or at least open up an honest and informed conversation about DJ’ing – from what is expected of us to what is considered a measure of success.  If we do not know exactly what is going on, we can’t address it or change it.

My opinion is when people get upset or there’s controversy over something like this it’s because they’re not getting the full story – the WHY.  If all that is being offered is the WHO then it’s no surprise that people ( DJs and Fans alike ) get upset about this list.  It’s simply, they want to learn more about WHAT this information means ( to them and the culture at large ) and they are left with too many open questions about it.

On October 27th DJ Mag came out with two points of order on their Facebook wall:

Two points of order.

1. DJ mag is merely the guardian of the poll. It does not reflect our taste in music.

2. The poll is not solely an EDM poll – it is open to every DJ – from Chinese Hip Hop artists to scratch DJ’s

As to there being no female DJ’s on the list we are as surprised as you are, as there are a number of 1st class female DJ’s across various genres.

However the vote is an open and public vote and the Top 100 reflects the choice of you the voter.

I intend to address these points in future posts but I want to put it out there that we as DJs need to pay attention not only to what these results are telling us but also that there’s more that needs to be learned before we make assumptions as to what it all means.  We need to be fair about it – even if we’re unhappy with it – there’s a lot to learn from something like this, even more than we’d like to admit.

For my DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs Part 2 – It’s Not DJ Mag’s Fault There Are No Women – It’s Ours go here: http://behindthedecks.org/2011/11/23/dj-mag-top-100-its-not-dj-mags-fault-there-are-no-women-its-ours/

UPDATE 11/25/11: DJ Tech Tools has done a very interesting analysis on the list “using stats from social media websites, to see who has the biggest following”.  To check out their findings and illuminating insights ( the math is sound in my opinion ) go here: http://www.djtechtools.com/2011/11/18/the-dj-techtools-top-100-dj-list/

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