Is DJ a real musician?

On a nice April’s evening, my boyfriend and I went out for a pint at our local bar. We were listening to a chill-out set while digesting the sad news of Prince’s death. Also present at the bar was our friend, attempting to drink away his sorrows due to a recent breakup with his girlfriend. He was entertaining himself by bugging other guests especially the ‘girl with the white hat’ who was conveniently close and fairly attractive.

"Hey you with the white hat, I like you’" he spews out loud which turned out to be an awkward icebreaker. The girl despicably said she has ‘listened him play a couple of times at the club and there weren’t that many people on the dance floor’ which apparently explained his current sad and drunken appearance. But it was not the response that triggered me, it was something her ‘’highly educated’’ friend obliviously stated that »at the Academy, he wouldn’t even be treated as a real musician«.

Wow…I dedicated years of my life playing the violin and I never evolved such prejudice about music. So when I came home, I started to think;

What's all the fuss about being a musician or being a DJ?

Soon, there are going to be Vege-DJs only, you’ll see,” predicted my friend with this new vegetarian trend now out there. I actually typed this made up the word into Google and found out that a certain DJ Vegetable, who is playing underground music in Southern England, already exists, but never mind. Amusingly enough our society has somehow invented sub-categories for DJ’s: underground DJ, mainstream DJ, a DJ with tracks no one else has, rich people’s DJ, a DJ who is so cool and only plays at the after parties, etc.

I understand that in this day and age if a form is overstretched, a new one takes place. But so many forms just because people can’t share the meaning of music anymore? If you look at the structure, it’s the same. Classical musicians can’t bear that DJ’s play a different kind of music they do. Underground DJ’s can’t stand the fact that the mainstream DJ’s play the same kind of music as they but are achieving better results just because they share it with more people. I’m not talking about EDM and IDM music here, I’m just talking about the phenomenon that I’m currently experiencing in this culture.

People don't want to share their music anymore.

Once and for all, let us please get over this stupid question if the DJ is a real musician. I don’t want to get into history because people on the internet already did that and it got them nowhere. The fact that the word ‘’disc jockey’’ appeared in my search is the evidence, that a new form of musical performance was established, with scratching records against the gramophone’s needle and therefore manipulating with sound. And what does a musician? He creates sound. Stop with the dictionary bullshit, put the matter into context and you’ll understand it.

Still not convinced? How about if we go through all this musician-creating-sound meaning; Ever heard of Arnold Schönberg? He was an Austrian composer and theoretic, that composed a song called A Survivor from Warsaw, in the late 50s. This was a new style back then. Arnold was the one who set the ground for atonal music, manipulating with the ordered series of the twelve notes in the chromatic scale. His theory is now the basis for analytical music conception, but in his era, he was pointed out as a degenerate, due to the fact of his way of thinking and also due to the fact that he was a Jew.

Do you see the word that I’m using – composer? Arnold was one even if the conservative thinkers still want to strap him down with different labels. He created a new sound, just like those ‘disc jockeys’ and new era DJ’s; whether it’s producing new music or mixing a set.

"The quality of a good and a bad DJ has nothing to do here."

One thing is left to be said. Deadmau5’s phrase “we all hit play” is only relevant if we talk about the quality of one being a DJ, otherwise, it has no value. We all know that those who do that, reflect badly on others who are trying to tell something with their music. But if ignorant people wouldn’t pay for people who ‘sold their soul to the devil’, then this thoughtless industry of posers with selfie careers wouldn’t even exist. Technically they are musicians, but if you believe in the true meaning of being one by “creating your sound, telling a story and awake emotions” they really aren’t.

And as far it concerns those new “vege-underground” DJ’s, who want to hide their music from the world, what’s with all that? I mean your passion for digging the forgotten ones is in the right place but for god’s sake play it to the people, don’t just kiss your ass on Facebook. If the two of you have the same vinyl, don’t think it’s worthless. Share it, so it’ll bring people with the same tastes together. Where’s the fun, if you can’t Shazam a good track you’re so excited to hear for the first time at a party?

There’s no negative tone with the word ‘commercial’, as long as it’s good because it means it has reached people. Luciano, Steve Lawler, Jackmaster, Black Coffee,… were once underground, right? And who dares to say they’re not good now, just because they’re hitting it big. ‘Once an underground, always an underground’ is not a good thing here. There’re a lot of stereotypes like this in the world. About the fact, that people once looked down on rock’n’roll, the fact that later on disco music was discriminated due to the race of most of its listeners no one thinks about when things like this are said.

The aspiration to decline novelties always appears in society, when things change. Politicians once claimed that workers and women don’t have anything to do in the parliament. Painters claimed that impressionism isn’t really much different from what a six-year-old could draw. And the church claimed that the Sun circles around the Earth.

That’s our human reaction to changes, therefore, we can’t take such comments or remarks seriously. After all, our world doesn’t run on those who want to control it in the way it already is, but on those who want to change it for the better.

Common Stereotypes is a series of articles written by author Severin Hutinski where she expresses her thoughts on different topics related to the music w0rld.
By Severin, edited on 13 June 2018