The more people get into DJing, the more we seem to forget what DJing is about. I’ve already shared my thoughts on whether DJing is about the technical performance (it’s NOT), whether the DJ should be the center of attention (they shouldn’t, more on that in a future post) but now another crucial aspect of DJing is falling by the wayside: Selection.
Algoriddim announced today version 2.5 of its flagship DJay software with the ability to play any track from Spotify’s 20 million+ music collection. Already, everyone is gushing over it as if this is a major advancement. Unfortunately, it’s another huge step backwards for the craft.
Don’t get me wrong, from a technical point of view as well as a business point of view, the move makes total sense. It’s kinda cool. But that’s what it is, a business move. None of this is driven, influenced or based on a love or understanding of DJing and music. It’s just business.
I was having this conversation with a lot of people during WMC in March while demoing Rekord Buddy 2. There was a day when, while playing a set, you could map 4-5 songs deep in your head ahead of the current track. And not just one option, but many different variation of how you could use your track collection at this moment in time to go from the track you’re playing to where you want to take the night. This was before the internet downloads took over.
Nowadays, there is just so much music available from stores, promos, illegal downloads that there is no way you can have that intimate connection with your collection anymore. You need innovative ideas like the ones I’m working on for the next Rekord Buddy build to keep your collection organized and easily browse-able. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
DJing is not a dick-contest on who’s got the biggest collection. It’s about selection. I’ve said before that it’s about playing the right track at the right time and the only way you can do that effectively is to know your collection inside and out. Play with it often, don’t buy or download everything you can. Be picky. You’re not a rock star putting on a show for people in the audience, you’re a taste-maker selecting things for them to listen to, dance to and enjoy.
I, personally, buy all my music. No exception. This already allows me to limit the amount of new tracks I have to deal with. But even that wasn’t enough, I could still buy a lot of music and end up with too much to take in. So I’ve started limiting myself there to. I only buy 2-3 tracks a week. Tops. I play with the tracks I have, rediscover old ones, and since I mostly do openings when I play out, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have the Beatport Top 100 at all times in my playlists.
Forget trying to play with 20 million tracks. That’s not what DJing is about. Build a collection of tracks, get to know it intimately and add to it a little bit at a time. DJing is about a love of music and there is definitely an element of collector-ship there. But you have to care about the music you own and play. You have to have made a conscious decision to pick that track over others and made a space for it in your collection. You have to PLAY it, often, reminding you why you chose it in the first place or how it fits into different sets or moods.
Love your music. Treasure your tracks. If you’re only playing the numbers game, you’re not a collecting. You’re hoarding.