Unless you have been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you have no doubt realized the huge, unexpected boom that EDM has imposed in today’s musical scene. With our increasing appetite for new content to vie our attention (with our withering attention span), the ever increasing complexity that is the EDM construct has garnered the attention of fans everywhere. It is fantastic that EDM has taken such a surge in popularity and finally gives recognition to these talented artists that work to the bone, but it has had some drawbacks; most notably the commercialization of American EDM. It is no secret that American corporations are trying to grab a piece of the mystical EDM market and this in turn, has drastically affected the scene. With the constant bombardment of mainstream radio music in the new millennium, there is also a spillover; creating a constant onslaught of ‘mainstream EDM’ that permeates through our speakers.
We have already seen examples of this with many DJ’s having the same, bland sets over and over again without much variety and risk taking. And much of what we hear often sound the same, from tired, big room anthems to overplayed Electro/Dubstep tracks. This has been due to the solidifying notion of the ‘Rockstar DJ‘, the overseeing notion where the person spinning the tunes is more important than God himself and all of the fans are under his or her’s hypnotic spell. The DJ has to be shown as larger in life and is seen ‘commanding his armies’ as they dance to his or her’s specific tunes. DJ’s were not regarded as such in its humble beginnings. They were considered lower than the bartender and were obscure shadows belting out track after track of unknown origin, utilizing pure skill and quality tunes that they hunted to aquire.
Richie Hawtin, in an interview with Las Vegas Weekly, had this to say: “It’s not a rock concert where you just make a bunch of visuals and have a bunch of people onstage and project to the audience, doing your songs. Electronic music, and clubbing, is about an energy transfer. You send some frequencies and energy to the people, they send it back to you, and then you actually change and modify. That’s why a great DJ can play totally different every night. It’s not a setlist. It’s a feeling.” This concept of the ‘Rockstar DJ‘ has painted a false representation into what a DJ truly is and has been permeating into the mainstream of America (more about this topic can be found in our editorial, Deification of the DJ: Is It Too Much For EDM?: http://www.youredm.com/2012/07/05/deification-of-the-dj-is-it-too-much-for-edm/).
An extreme example of these ‘Rockstar DJ’s‘ is DJ Pauly D, who was thrust into the limelight with his star role in the Jersey Shore. Because of his show, his DJ life has flourished from the kickback and now he is seemingly everywhere (even on a billboard in Times Square). Many people see him and how ‘successful’ his life is and yet, he was a personality born completely by MTV and his attitude on life is not the way that most DJ’s entail their existence. This notion of success has been cemented by his new show called The Pauly D Project, where it “[follows] him from gig to gig, confetti and champagne flying everywhere [sic].” With companies cashing in on this success in the wrong ways and the EVER increasing notion of EDM becoming too mainstream it was not before long until a new reality show pushed it’s way onto the EDM spectrum. (Deadmau5 even stated: “i saw this shit coming a mile away… was just a matter of time really [sic]”).
Toolroom TV Ep. 1
There are many good series that actively showcase the actual world of the DJ, such as Armin van Buuren‘s documentary, A Year With Armin van Buuren, or the fantastic Toolroom TV series. But they focus on the world of DJ’s who mainly do this for the love of the music and for sharing the wealth of their own musical tastes and happiness onto others. This new show is called, (tentatively), ‘Superstar DJ‘, or ‘The Project‘ and it is being produced by Doron Ofir Productions, the MTV superstar company that has created such high quality shows such as Jersey Shore, A Shot of Love with Tila Tequila and Paris Hilton’s My New B.F.F. (I hope you caught that thinly-veiled sarcasm). They have listed an open, online casting call that asks all eligible participants to sign up to be a part of their show. This show is designed to give maximum exposure to wannabe DJ’s wanting to get noticed in a studio setting that is strictly monitored by the television company.
Many DJ’s have already voiced their opinions, some even harshly upon the matter. Deadmau5 personally posted on his Twitter this back lashed, brash message: “YAYAYAYYYYYY!!! I CAN HARDLY WAIT FOR NEW TV MADE EDM SUPERSTARS!! thanks [The Project], eat a dick [sic].” Ibiza Club News also chimed in, with saying, “haha Oh God, Fu*k no [sic]!!!” While these responses are humorous to say the least, there are factors that press onto our scene that are more serious than our DJ personalities give it credit for.
Now, we here at YourEDM would usually just state the news and be done with it, but for me personally, this affects all of us SO much more than people are realizing. In fact, many other DJ blogs and news sites are not putting their own input into the situation; and if so, than only at the most non-negative and non-threatening way possible.The worst that Spin Magazine had to say about it was, “But DJs who are hoping for a Project Runway-style emphasis on craft may want to think twice about applying.” And nowhere did Mixmag have anything remotely bad to say about it, other than, “Is the world quite ready for an EDM Reality Show?!”. But it is surely on everyone’s minds, the notion that this TV show has the potential (and the influence) to change everything that scene has worked for and destroy the progress that it has made. For years, the scene was branded with the negative ‘rave’ buzzword and has been associated that to rampant drugs and wicked mischief among fellow ‘ravers’. And while drugs still permeate the scene today, the scene has effectively brushed the negative connotations of the word away. The scene is in a fragile and delicate space right now (with its explosion to success, its negative connotations pushed aside and its general appeal not wearing off at the moment) and the last thing it needs is an X Factor to change the entire game for the worse.
Faint traces of Simon Cowell‘s failed DJ Superstar show still leaves a bad taste in our mouths and us not realizing the potential warning signs could irreparably damage the EDM scene and affect producers, artists and fans worldwide, especially in America. Let’s take a look back towards the Jersey Shore for comparison. Established in late 2009, it has since been one of the most popular shows to date and has been MTV‘s most financially successful show. It firmly established the ‘guido’ lifestyle onto American youth and created a new set of rules in which society mainly had to follow. The nature of the show was for people needing their fix of drama, whether it was at their house, on the boardwalk or in a club. It was highly influential and that lifestyle has not only damaged the reputation of the actual shore (as only people from the shore have stated, not statistically), but has also effected our core behaviors and actions within the EDM scene. More and more, I am seeing the most over-the-top a**holes infesting clubs and even to the point where they completely ruin the experience (with festivals being worse).
Case in point.
With the green light on this show, it will make this aspect worse. It will promote a bad vibe towards the industry, now that anyone would be able to try out for a spot. The lifestyle of ‘douchiness’ has already infected the crowds and it will now harass the DJ’s who play for a living. Not just anybody can be a DJ. People who listen and dance to this music don’t realize just how hard each of these successful producers have had to work to get where they are now. Pete Tong didn’t just magically have his wildly successful Radio 1 program; he was an underground guy that showed tracks he wanted to share with the world (possibly illegally in that regard). Nicky Romero didn’t get to where he was today by magically producing the music that he does; he started out in tribal house for years before he built himself up. The point is that becoming a DJ takes time, passion and dedication, not a desire to be on TV. Many of these people will try and do this for the wrong reasons (even those who manage to get on the show) and will, in comparison, water down the entire meaning of the word, ‘DJ’.
There is so much to know than just the crossfader and turntables, such as equipment knowledge, track selection, reading the crowd, dealings with promoters and club owners, production skills, social networking, working with your fan base, musicality; the list goes on and on. Most of these wannabes would probably not know the extensive, rich history that DJ’s entail and many are primarily using this as a chance to make it big and get noticed by everyone on television, (not to say that there won’t be some people in it to become a DJ, mind you). Quite frankly, the people who try out for this show won’t have all of these aspects in mind and will really have no idea what being a real DJ entails.
Richie Hawtin, and his incredibly complex setup.
It is clear what their expectations and qualities their ‘own’ DJ should have. On their own website, they ask questions such as, “Describe your personality, both good and bad (which is primarily asked to exploit the bad, in order to get ratings); What are your best assets (physical & material: hopefully they mean DJ technical skills and a good music collection, not a strong attractive figure and some nice clothes); What is the largest crowd you have performed for, (which does not pertain to musical and technical skill at all, rather to see if you can look good while DJing on stage, ie: charisma); Describe your performance, visually, (again, completely irrelevant to success; many DJ’s ‘interact’ with a crowd, but not to the point where it is part of their act [most of them, anyway]); and Would you consider yourself a ‘technical expert’ or a creative performer?” (which is essentially saying Eric Prydz vs. Steve Aoki and let’s be honest, Steve Aoki is only known as a performer and is not known for his skills on the turntables).
And if someone does get into the series without reading the contract, then they are in a whole mess of trouble. For those of you who never read the Terms & Conditions (on in this case, the Appearance Release), the Popular Productions essentially own you from the start, from the tapes you send in to your physical self as a DJ, as they are able to morph you into whatever they want IF you are able to win. And with clever legalese, they give you a particularly harsh punishment if you violate this application (it’s essentially a contract). “I acknowledge that such [violations] may expose me, my family, and/or others to public ridicule or embarrassment, and may contain information, statements, or representations relating to me of a personal, private, disparaging, embarrassing and/or unfavorable nature, all of which may be summarized, edited, or modified in a manner that may be misleading or untrue.”
In case that was hard to keep up, they are essentially saying that if you mess up once with them, they will completely and utterly ruin your life in the sleaziest ways possible. On a personal/private matter means that they will attack you with your families, your personal life and completely slander you, even going so far as to make up stories and rumors about you in order to discredit and publicly humiliate you in whatever way that they can. Being a regular DJ doesn’t come with this extreme of penalties and this is unacceptable even on a basic human rights level (not to mention illegal sounding). And if you sign the application form, you agree to it! Essentially becoming their puppet; their tool to use however they see fit, even if you don’t agree on it. Small price to pay for becoming that ‘Rockstar DJ‘ that they are trying to sell to you.
There is no quick fix for loyal fans, aspiring DJ’s
This set of rules completely takes advantage of the artist, wrongfully showcases how the industry is run to the mainstream America and paints EDM in a superficial and fake sort of way. This is not the way to go people. Everyone needs to wake up and realize how bad this will be for everyone. At the end of the day, it IS a business and they will exploit the bad sides of their DJ personae to get ratings. Because in this day in age, ironically, reality television is anything but reality and that will show with the type of people that will be on ‘The Project‘. As if the quality of EDM wasn’t saturating already, the show will churn out a ‘winning’ DJ that will become the ‘golden standard’ in DJing to the American public and it will just be wrong in how a true DJ showcases their skills. DJing is an art form, one that cannot be mastered in a lifetime and is truly shown time and time again by such DJ’s like Laidback Luke, Chris Liebing, A-Trak and Sasha.
While ‘The Project‘ is influentially pushing the ‘Rockstar Mentality‘ that the American public has taken accustomed to, I need to ask the true DJ’s about how their shows are participating into this mentality. For YourEDM‘s sake, I won’t name individual names, but there are a lot of ‘crowd pleasers’ and ‘a**-kissers’ that are huge in EDM right now that play the same damn productions over and over again on the Beatport Top 20 that focus on giving a good show (not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you). Many of these people have an inflated ego and think they are ‘THE DJ’ without being humble towards it. And since we have this increasing importance towards ‘Rockstar-ness’ and less on the quality of shows and productions that these DJ’s churn out, it itself is watering down the industry to a Mainstream Pop 2.0 storm of mediocrity. And it is this evolving trend that is causing me fear.
Because of this constant, over-saturation of EDM and with the advent of this new show speeding up the process exponentially, I am afraid that the entire scene is going to become so fake and shallow that it will ruin EDM’s core identity and eventually implode on itself. And when ‘The Project‘ becomes too old and stale, like what Jersey Shore did after 6 seasons, people will move onto something else and forget about it. We are talking about a HUGE chuck of America’s youth here. If most of America gets bored with the show, then they will probably get bored with EDM and EDM will suffer. Fame should never be your drive or motivation for your work because the result will always reflect exactly that: superficial, skin deep, and overall, boring. If we are going to have a scene where visuals, attitude and the desire to be famous destroys discovery, creativity and the advancement of music as a whole, then I would rather not have a scene to begin with.
*Note that the views are not strictly the author’s own, so as to prohibit/discourage slander and defamation upon the individual.*
Post Note: I talk directly with you, Doron Ofir Productions on your new show. Note that these are only suggestions and you can choose to take or ignore them, (although I urge you to at least take a look). This show has so much much potential to be a huge asset in the community, but it has to be taken in the right direction, with an emphasis on musicality and pure talent. There are tons of well qualified people who have what it takes to become a DJ, but they might not be as charismatic, nor as attention seeking and drama-induced that you may seek. I almost guarantee that the facets of Tech House, Techno, Trance and Progressive will not be featured, due to the media only covering mainstream Progressive House. The pieces are in place, but it is what ‘The Project‘ will follow through that will decide whether or not this will permanently damage our scene.
You need to pick people who generally love the music and showcases that they have the skills needed to progress the scene further. People like producer Tommie Sunshine, who put on his Twitter recently: “I wouldn’t have a career without my fans; you are all the reason I do this! you mean everything to me. thank you. [sic]” Additionally, it would behoove you to lessen up on your Agreement Release, for many producers choose this way of life because they do not have a looming record company overlooking their shoulder to see if they mess up once (in fact, many producers are under multiple recording companies). It wouldn’t hurt if you included some artists that represented different musical genres other than Progressive House and Electro (as this will create variety). And finally, you need to have a quality first season where there is no frivilous bullsh*t that entails what a great show ‘The Project‘ is and have artists acknowledge that you are there to help, (because I guarantee you, no real EDM artist is taking this seriously right now). If you follow these guidelines, maybe there is hope yet, but if the current trend of reality shows continue, then it is going to start to look bleak for EDM as a whole.