A DJ is an Artist?
Why is the DJ called an artist? Are they an artist or just a DJ who plays records? I guess it can depend on who is judging right?
Being a DJ myself it is too easy to be bias, however I honestly think us DJ’s deserve the tile of ‘artist’ and I’m going to explain why and give good reasons to skeptics to believe that the DJ is more than someone who pushes play. Why do we listen to music, or dance to music, or use music in films and other media entertainment? Behind all the dancing the DJ brings out emotions from their audience. By playing the right track and interacting with hand gestures and communication at the right moment and in the perfect ambiance the DJ is able to control the crowd. To explain with more weight behind my point I will draw an analogy between an art painter and a DJ. I’m sure most of you will agree that painting is a form of art?
Ok, what is in the DJ job description and their purpose?
Simply, the DJ will have a large range of music and select the right tune for the audience. The reason anyone would want a DJ is to make people dance but does this warrant a DJ to be called an artist? Some may say that an iPhone on shuffle could work. Does that make the iPhone a professional artist? Of course the device is just a phone that has the functionality to play music with no other advantages beyond that purpose. If you have a successful night with a busy dance floor using an iPhone to play songs then you are as lucky as someone who has just won the jackpot. There will be some tunes that people will dance to but on the whole I would bet that 75% of the songs will have been played at the wrong time, or just not liked by the wider audience.
Lets compare an iPhone and a DJ. The DJ can beat match and select the best possible song.
1. Beat Matching (mixing)
Normally the first aspect a DJ needs to learn is mixing and to experience this should become easier and more seamless so that the audience doesn’t notice when one song fades out of another. With good song knowledge the DJ will learn which tunes are best mixed together. Some elements of the tracks sound awesome when mixed together, but the DJ needs to know when is the best time to play both songs together and what the volume and other sound levels should be. Many people can learn how to beat match, but mixing it without knowing what sounds good is not artistic in any form.
2. Tune selection.
When playing for an audience the fundamental part of DJing is song selection and this comes before the importance of a perfect mix. If the DJ is able to, then planning the mixset by choosing the best possible songs for the occasion will ensure a great set and delivery. Mixing the best possible songs together without the audience noticing can take them on a musical journey with the emotional effects. Like me, most professional DJ’s will start their set with ‘warm up’ songs, but this is not done with the random track selection. Judging the mood of people on the dance floor, their age bracket, how they’re dressed, etc., all influences correct and perfect song selection. During the peak of the DJ’s set there is a lot of high energy as the dance floor is busier and the atmosphere is more euphoric before gradually drawing the set to a close with similar songs from the start. Depending on the theme, or if the music is specialist, the DJ can raise the roof or keep the audience on their toes waiting for a crescendo. Some sets will end with big and loud keys and kick drums.
The Main Question. How Is this Artistic?
The mixset itself is one complete musical unit and unique creation which in essence is artistic. The DJ has used good judgment, creativity and knowledge to build up a selection of tracks to mix using a huge library, and again, this is not a random selection. The DJ has made the decision to play certain songs which will generate emotions amongst the entire audience and not one individual. Being a professional DJ is not something anyone can do. The DJ must keep up-to-date with music and trends and furthermore, filter out the songs which get a bad reaction on the dance floor. The DJ is at the top of the pyramid controlling audiences from 50 to 50,000 people (sometimes even more).
Just Musical Taste or Artistic?
A painter is an artist because they use creativeness and talent to paint something which is going to impress the eye and bring out emotions. When you watch an artist paint they make it look so easy, but, of course, as you know it is far from easy. The painter will prepare by deciding what they will paint and why. Normally there will be an emotional attachment that they can express through painting. Most people will not understand the thought process that the painter has before putting brush to paper. A painter cannot just create a masterpiece if it doesn’t mean anything to them, but when they do the finished piece will impress the audience’s eye. The same goes for a DJ. The DJ hears a piece of music that has a certain quality to make people dance. The two professions balance in similar perspectives.
In a Nutshell
I wanted to put my point across and express my beliefs that a DJ is an honest artist and additionally, a great mixset is in fact artistic. Mixing is just one, and sometimes a simple part of DJ’in but the song choices matter more. Just as a painter chooses to use emotion and creative judgement what to paint in order to catch the audience’s eye. The DJ chooses from endless lists of music to create a great atmosphere and make the audience dance.
A perfect mix is a piece of art.