This is a call to not upload any more DJ sets. Why is that? Because nobody listens to them anyway, and to put it bluntly: we DJs devalue the art of a recorded mix by producing content rather than something meaningful.
Before you start, yes, I am a hypocrite when I write the following lines. Nevertheless, I am annoyed and concerned about the constant situation of DJs uploading piles of data to servers all over the world. Let me start with a confession: for the last eight months, I've uploaded an hour-long mix every month. And in fact, I'm on a train right now to play a DJ set that will be streamed on YouTube.
Where is this article heading, you may ask? There are some aspects that I don't like about everything being recorded and archived. What bothers me most is that the number of DJs releasing their mixes seems to have peaked in the last two years. The pandemic definitely pushed the penultimate one onto the bandwagon, but the train had long since reached its cruising speed.
Young and naive but with the best intentions
When we launched this website sometime in 2014, Facebook introduced its live stream feature and we jumped on the train. Radio stations like Red Light Radio in Amsterdam were using it, and we thought we could do the same. Our goal was to make what we were experiencing accessible. So we went to parties where DJs we admired were playing, installed two HD webcams and sent the data into limbo.
In retrospect, we have already contributed to the problem. We started devaluing recorded DJ sets. With the possibility of uploading more data to the servers in an acceptable time, DJs naturally started to use this way before we started our live streams. But since it wasn't just us, we can't deny our involvement. The excitement around this new possibility was just too cool not to try it ourselves.
I would say it was also around the time - plus minus 7 years ago - when more and more online radio stations went online. A lot of these stations offer DJ sets, and along with the sheer amount of DJs, the amount of content grew to a level where we can't keep up.
I know I'm the problem but so are you
This is where we are now. A recorded DJ set used to be like a CV. You thought a lot about it before you released a recording because you wanted to show your skills and taste. Today, it is just a tool to be present in our socials. Yes, I admit, that's also part of the reason why I host a monthly radio show. Which is a whole other problem itself. Am I trying to deliver something good and valuable to the listeners? Yes, of course. Am I able to put enough time and thought into the show as I should? Definitely not.
Just don't do it, I hear you say. I can tell you it's not that easy. When you see all your other DJ friends putting out mix after mix, you think you have to do the same. Also, you feel like you constantly have to give some sign of life just so people don't forget about you. I ask you back: could you resist the pressure you put on yourself? The pressure you feel from your surroundings?
Keep on keeping on
Trying to rationalise these thoughts, I come to the realisation that perhaps it is worse to overload the feeds with content. I don't have time to listen to everything that's out there, why should others have the time? At the same time, I think, why do all organisations like clubs, bars, pop-up shops, radios and whatever have to produce content just for the sake of content?
I think we should all stop recording and uploading mixes with such a high cadence. We should look at it as an art form again. Something we record because someone actually wants to hear it. What many DJs seem to forget is that you can also say that you don't want your set on the internet.
But yes, we are way past the point where it would make a difference, I think. So maybe I'll keep flooding the internet with data that nobody asked for - or maybe not. Either way, in a few hours I'll be standing in a booth playing songs I'd rather be playing in front of a live audience. But what can you do, right?
Ps. When was the last time a recorded DJ mix really touched you? For me, it was when I discovered the recordings on lovefingers.org. I think Lexx's contribution on the website (they hosted one of the first mix series I remember) is probably the mix I've heard the most in my life. But this was in the pre-SoundCloud age.
Words by Dominik André. He writes about DJ culture, music nerd stuff and sometimes shares thoughts about the music business. He runs the record label Subject To Restrictions Discs.