Archive for the ‘ DJ News ’ Category

The Metropolitan Museum of Art – DJ Spooky

DJ Spooky courtesy of The Met

DJ Spooky courtesy of The Met

I am absolutely thrilled about DJ Spooky’s artist residency at The Met.  This is PROOF that if you channel your creativity as a DJ, have an open mind when it comes to being influenced, play with different mediums and genres, you can do powerful things!  It makes me so happy that an established artistic institution is recognizing DJing as an art form.  This has made my year!

Here is more information about the residency:

As part of The Met Reframed, Paul D. Miller, a.k.a., DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid (www.djspooky.com), engages Museum visitors through performances, panel discussions, conversations, workshops, and gallery tours. Highlights include a newly commissioned work inspired by the upcoming exhibition Photography and the American Civil War, a gallery talk led by DJ Spooky in the Oceanic Galleries, and a participatory concert using DJ Spooky’s iPhone/iPad app.

DJ Spooky’s recorded output includes remixes of music ranging from Wu-Tang Clan, Metallica, and Bob Marley to classical/new music legends Steve Reich and the Kronos Quartet, and he has performed as a DJ at major festivals, including Bonnaroo and Power to the Peaceful. His work as a media artist has been featured at the Whitney Biennial, Venice Biennial, and Miami/Art Basel; and his first collection of essays, Rhythm Science, was released by MIT Press in 2004, followed by Sound Unbound, an anthology of writings on electronic music and digital media (MIT Press, 2008).

The Met Reframed is made possible by Marianna Sackler.

DJ STEREOTYPES

DJ Pauly D For SK Energy Shots

<begin rant/>

I’m heading into very controversial waters here but something has been nagging me for a long time.  In the past few years I have noticed an increase in the use of the DJ image as a prop or selling tool.  Far be it from me to stop the machine from promoting what we do but the executions are such trainwrecks it begs the question of what’s the point?  Brands, typically, like to target a certain demographic of people – usually young usually hip.  So if the current zeitgeist is DJ friendly you will see DJing everywhere – in commercials, in print, in movies, on billboards, in advertising in general.  My issue with this is that brands and their marketers really aren’t very savvy when it comes to profiling DJing in the work.  Have you ever noticed a commercial where you can just tell the person is not a real DJ and just an actor.  That burns.  There are so many DJs out there, why not use a real one!  Or how about the major screw up in the Smirnoff campaign where there is a dude hunched down in an exaggerated DJ pose (of course there’s a gorgeous lady looking intently at him) and there are NO slipmats or needles on the decks.  Google it, trust me, MAJOR screw up.

When I see these things I think of that scene in Goodfellas where Joe Pesce keeps saying to Ray Liotta, “What am I fucking clown? Am I here to amuse you?”  I really feel we are here to amuse people sometimes.  There is stereotyping going on and whether it’s a caricature or not it gives people a really mixed message about what DJs are and what they do – which is a HUGE complaint in DJ culture – the lack of understanding from mass audiences about what we do.  So in essence, these messages are perpetuating an idea that we are props and in some cases the clown or party jester.  It’s nice to know that we are considered the embodiment of cool in a social setting, but do it right!

I will say there are some instances where it is done right.  Case in point, is the Blackberry campaign that profiled The Martinez Brothers in quite a thoughtful and sweet way.  They showed them playing their own music and just talking about what they do.  Sure were they shilling for a gadget, of course, but I don’t think it’s wrong for a DJ to endorse a tool that makes their lives easier (whether it’s for real or not).  The point is that it felt authentic, not a send up, no hype, real artists.

I was lucky enough to consult on a video shoot that had a party scene for a popular website.  The producer, Maryann Rounseville, took great pains in wanting a real DJ not only to capture in the video but also to play real music during a full day shoot because she knew the value of a real DJ and keeping the energy of all the actors and crew up and happy.  That’s rare and I applaud her for that approach and sensitivity.

Finally I just to want leave you with the image above of Pauly D.  I was walking in Times Square and this huge billboard was up.  I have mixed feelings about it.  Again, I do not want to fault a DJ for endorsing a product but is this the best way to show who we are with illustrated decks, cutesy musical notes, hands in the air with no crowd and just product product product?  I’m thinking no.

Pay attention to what’s going on if you aren’t already.  You’re going to start noticing it and the next time you ask yourself why don’t people get it, you may want to consider stereotyping as a possibility.
</end rant>

TO 1000 AND BEYOND!

Dearest DJs!  I have a wonderful announcement to make.  Behind The Decks: Establishing the DJ’s Creative Understanding has broken 1000 reads. In honor of this incredible milestone and validation I’m offering one free hour of DJ creative coaching through the end of April.  Feeling stuck? Want to change direction? Having a hard time managing your priorities? Feeling overwhelmed? Excited and terrified about your success?

Read what DJs have to say about my work here.

Contact me if you’re interested.

As some of you know my journey started writing this work as a masters thesis back in May 2011.  It then became a platform and voice for support and education for DJs to help you further your work as artists.  The whole purpose of it is to give you a new way to think about how you do what you do.  It’s no question that technique is important – but what about all that other stuff that makes you unique as a DJ? If you haven’t read it here it is: Behind The Decks: Establishing the DJ’s Creative Understanding

HAPPY DJ’ING!

DJ Mag Top 100 – It’s Not DJ Mag’s Fault There Are No Women, It’s Ours.

Source: Spinoff Comics

In Part 2 of my review of the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs controversy ( for Part 1 go here: Why The Controversy? ) I’m tackling the issue of why there aren’t any women on the list.  In years past there used to be women in the top 100 but this year there aren’t any – not one.  And people are really pissed off about it.  However, I think the public statements about this only hit the tip of the iceberg.  Peaches told DJ mag to go eat a dick – which I think is placing blame in the wrong place, although personally I appreciate her hutzpah. Hanna Hanra from The Guardian goes into how tough it is for women today and the overall general disrespect women face when playing out ( Why are there no female DJs on DJ Mag’s top 100 list? ) – an important topic but not the core reason.

If we are to assume the list is generated by mainstream tastes – who are the most recognizable DJs – and assuming DJ Mag’s main demographic is male, the lack of women DJs on the list can be due to the fact that we are not mainstream or male.  Sorry to say, but there are no women selling out stadiums or working with top 40 artists in the way that David Guetta is for example.  Fiona Walsh, founder of Clubber’s Guide NY, offers this opinion: “The followers of DJs like David Guetta and Armin Van Buren, while both men and women, tend to skew towards young men. I think the DJs we know and like who are women are not necessarily making the kind of ‘popular’ music like Guetta and AVB! We need a female DJ version of someone like Lady Gaga or Madonna!” I’m not going to get into a who’s who of the best female artists – for that check out SheJay’s Top 100 Female DJ list (thank goodness someone did it!) because I want to address the question of why women are not top of mind in this vote.  First – there aren’t that many of us, and second, culturally, we are not considered authority figures.

There Aren’t That Many Of Us:

I’m trying to find a statistic on the percentage of female DJs versus male DJs and it’s tough because no one is really calculating these kind of things but if I could take a wild guess I would say that female DJs account for maybe 10% of the global population of DJs. Now, one of the reasons why there aren’t many of us isn’t just the barriers that are presented to us when we enter DJing or are active with it – it starts much earlier than that.  There have been studies done on how girls and boys are socialized in this world.  While boys are taught and encouraged to understand mechanics at a young age, girls are taught to be more conceptual or focus on dolls and being pretty.  Boys = told they are smart and encouraged be individualistic (you are alpha).  Girls = told they are pretty and to think of others before themselves (you are beta).  I had to fight for my right to be a tomboy when I was a kid.  While playing with my Matchbox cars and Legos asserting my dominance with the boys in my neighborhood because I was the only girl and didn’t have a choice, my mother was trying to ease Barbies into my play and telling me that when I say something I should say it in the form of a question so as not to offend people.  Girls are not socialized to understand how things work from an engineering standpoint and therefor we grow up a little bit behind the curve on that.  It takes a special kind of woman to unlearn that socialization and go against that DNA.  For women in general, the idea of circuitry, gear, individualism, and being Alpha is a side of our minds we need to tap into, and it’s not something that is nurtured in our culture.  Hence a possible reason why more women aren’t getting into DJing.

We Aren’t Viewed As Authorities

There’s something that is already inherent in male privilege and that is that men are automatically considered a leader or an authority.  It is our culture basically to give men that level of respect without question.  Women are generally not considered born leaders – we have to earn it and in some cases fight for it.  We have to work twice as hard to be thought of as half as good – with anything.  Now, what is a DJ?  A DJ is considered an authority in music, the leader of the experience, the architect of the journey.  That understanding and energy is automatically attributed to a male perspective and for women it’s not an attribute automatically given to us.   So it should be no surprise that men are generally more respected and known in the DJ community – it’s human nature to think of them first when considering who is best in a given domain, especially one that is as male dominated as DJ’ing.  Also, fans and DJs who revere another DJ is in a lot of cases because they want to BE that DJ – it’s an emulative feeling.  So, if the voters are mostly male they will probably vote for men as that is who they want to emulate ( the authority, the skill, the talent, etc. ) This is why when the DJ Mag Top 100 list comes out there are hardly any women on it – because when people vote in an open ballot system without prompting (as in “hey, don’t forget to think of women in your votes”), they think of the men first, and the rest of us, not at all.

Now, I know what I’m saying is disappointing and difficult to hear because we all want to believe that DJ’ing is a fair and equitable art to pursue, but it’s not sometimes.  Once we understand the essence of why women are not in the same position as men in DJ’ing we can do something about it.  The  main insight for women here is that we can use our socialization to our advantage – we are brought up to be nurturers, caretakers, artistic and conceptual.  Well, that’s what a DJ is as well!  The DJ is a caretaker and nurturer of a good time, a therapist catering to the many emotions experienced on a dance floor.  Women are goddesses of establishing purpose in art and instilling self-worth in people.  We are highly musical because we are emotional and empathic beings.  We can also channel our frustration and anger in being discounted back into our DJing and fight to change things: through music, collaboration, and support. We are going to understand why things are the way they are, and we’re going to do something about it.  It is our collective responsibility to ensure that women’s contribution in DJing is recognized and honored.  DJ culture is asking us to do that – the proof is in the list.

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/