Favorite ThisWhat it is to be a DJ: The Art of Digging

Published: December 6, 2010


By: Arfro Monk (www.afromonk.com)

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a DJ or how many technical tricks you’ve got, your music is what makes or breaks a DJ. Every time I venture out to catch a DJ/Producer, I’m going for one reason… to hear the music they have chosen to showcase or hear their original work. A DJs set is a moment in time where they get to show off all their gems to a crowd people.

When I was younger and first started with the idea of being a D, I went a few times to the record store. Going through records and sorting through white labels was how it was done. You had to be there to grab certain records and find them. There is a certain nostalgia, old school vinyl DJs have about this, but to be honest I never experienced that culture much. I have a handful of classic drum & bass and few FL Breaks records. Times have changed and things are quite different compared to 5+ years ago. Record stores are almost non-existent but DJs are still rocking fresh new tunes. How? The wonderful invention of compressed music files, mp3s. It’s now mainly a digital world when it comes to DJing.

I’m constantly asked on a daily basis or every time I finish playing a show where I got my music. It’s quite simple. I dig and dig everywhere on the internet. Even when I use to buy vinyl on a regular basis to support the producers I enjoyed, I did it online. Record stores now have large databases of all their music and online players to preview the tracks before you order. Instead of browsing through crates of new material it’s all done from the comfort of your computer. This seems so much easier but it’s quite dangerous. It’s almost too easy.  Online distributors organize and chart everything for you. There’s not much obscurity since it’s meant to go through and find what you want. I personally don’t have an account with anyone except where I order records from. I’m sent a weekly e-mail with all the new vinyl for specific labels, genres, etc… I’ll sit back and check every single one out and see what I like.

Another means of finding music today is using one of the many social music communities out there. There are sites that actually generate music for you, suggest similar artists you might love, create a radio station for you, online forums where people are sharing, music blogs that post music, and even sites like Soundcloud that provide a place for others to upload their own. This gets a lot more interactive and deep. You get what you put into the whole social side of internet sites. With anything, the amount of time and passion you put into it will give you back 10 fold. There are countless amounts of official releases in todays world that it’d be impossible to go through… The reach is there if you want it though. People from all over the world become united and share their music online, it’s just a matter of going through all of it on the websites that promote their music.

Want to know what I tell people after asking me where I got my music from? I get it straight from the producers or labels. How? There’s a certain element to the life of a DJ where you ultimately become this giant networking machine.  After you’ve become familiar with household names and have spent countless hours going through tunes online you start to discover your taste and want more of a certain sound. At this point you crave music and get the courage to actually contact some of your favorite producers. This is where the rabbit hole leads you to. People seem shocked when I tell them I’ve never had a beatport, additech, or itunes account. I ended up doing so much in the community that I’m in constant communication with my producers. Being a DJ and going out there and playing multiple shows I see and know what works. Having this experience helps to give feedback to a person who is more of a producer rather than a DJ. Giving input to tracks and observing how the evolution of tracks helps them in their developmental project. Feedback is key and letting producers know what works in your opinion versus them listening to the same couple bars over and over could help them and keep them encouraged to continue progressing on something. Once this bond has been made, you’ve officially dug deeper than you could have ever imagined. It becomes more of a network game. You ultimately decide how far into the abyss of music you go.

Just remember one thing. Your selection should be based off of YOU. A DJ who takes pride in his work will never ask someone what a track name is or creep behind someone during their set to catch a glimpse of what song is playing. They shake the hand of the person playing and acknowledge to them what a pleasure it was to hear something new they got to hear that they might have never heard before till the other DJ played it. Create a unique style for yourself and find the tunes that will do this. I can’t tell you how important this is to a DJ. You don’t want clones of yourself to be all over the place. Eventually I think this is what leads most passionate DJs into producers. I know right now I’m going into the transition period. Keep your style unique and set yourself apart with your music.