It would seem that disk jockeys, or DJs, are the real stars of the pop world today and the music they play is just incidental to their careers and part of their “repertoire”. The time seems to be past when a disk jockey merely introduced the latest hit records, spun the disk and moved on.
Today’s club DJs are the stars of the show to the extent that fans pay good money just to watch (and presumably listen) to the latest vinyl guru who is, apparently, bigger than Bowie, prettier than Pink and more fab than the Beatles, at least according to his own PR people. But is there such a big difference between the turntable jocks of yesteryear and the new generation of club DJs?
Yes and No
While the basic principles of being a deejay remain the same (you select a piece of music and play it) the practices are very, very different.
For a radio deejay, his programme is usually preset and planned down to the last second. Time is of the essence to fit in the required adverts, news bulletins, traffic and weather reports etc etc etc. On air his job is to simply know which song is on next and press the right button but to also have the knowledge and experience to know what to do if something goes wrong.
Years ago a club DJ simply brought along his selection of music, a turntable or two and spun discs with a bit of small talk between the songs. Nowadays, the modern club DJ has become the show, and music is only secondary to the “experience” the deejay provides. He is an entertainer but also usually has some (perhaps limited) musical experience and a good grounding in sound engineering and mixing.
Requirements for a DJ
Neither a Radio nor Club DJ will last very long without a good personality. The most gifted deejay will soon fade from the public eye if he is egotistical, dogmatic or plain boring. While no one deejay, in either code, will always be everybody’s favourite, a good personality is a necessity in any presenter’s armoury.
The question of talent is a contentious issue. The listener’s, or viewer’s, personal taste will often decide the question of whether a particular deejay is talented or not but certain basic abilities are required to be successful both on air and on the club scene.
With so much competition around, and so many deejays competing for limited radio and club jobs, being different can be the deciding factor in whether a deejay works or starves.
Radio versus Club
Depending on which one you ask, a radio or club DJ will tell you that his particular profession is the most difficult and demanding but the truth is that they are almost entirely different animals.
An amiable manner, pleasant personality and working knowledge on how to operate tools and equipment like DJ mixers will take you a long way as a radio DJ. Furthermore, it is a relatively sedentary lifestyle as the working hours are generally set and the job consists of sitting behind a microphone for a couple of hours a day.
Being a club DJ these days is pretty much a young man’s (or woman’s) world. A good knowledge of computers and electronic gadgetry is just the beginning. Long shifts of physical activity in extremely loud environments and often into the small hours of the morning is not the kind of lifestyle that would suit middle-aged disk jockeys.
But then again, most radio disk jockeys have served their time at the turntables back in the days when the Rolling Stones were mere pebbles and deserve their quieter lifestyle in the radio studios.
Also see: The Serious Business of Being Funny