WIP Bans Traktor – but what really is the problem?
Words: Rob Cifre aka Bamboo
I’m not sure if you heard, but the Spanish Promotion Agency WIP banned Traktor from their events. They informed everyone by making a now deleted note on Facebook, which got picked up by all the big online mags.
Before we get started here is a quote from the note (via DJ Tech Tools): “The real issue is with “artists” who swear they can play any format be it CD, vinyl, usb and or Traktor but whose Traktor sets are nothing but stale, bland and outright insulting to a paying crowd and promoter. We’ve also grown tired of the endless issues with missing cables, problems with timecode (learn how to use your gear before you play out), taking up the previous DJs time to set up your gear (cause you didn’t want to come to the club early and set up your Traktor), how is it you play 5 times a week and still don’t know how to set it up right? And, more importantly we’re fed up with the general laziness shown by 99% of “artists” that we’ve seen and heard playing Traktor.”
Personally I think that this is starting to highlight a major problem with today’s DJ and Promoter.
Let’s get started with the promoters first. They obviously haven’t been doing their homework as to who is actually a DJ and who is actually a producer. It’s one thing to make song after song, hit after hit, but it’s another thing to be a real DJ. In today’s age anyone can basically be a DJ. Pick up some software, download some music, hit the sync button and ‘prepare’ mixes for their gigs. You can even download free software and ‘be a DJ’. In the 90′s everyone wanted to be a DJ, but because of turntables and CDJs without sync buttons you actually had to learn the basic skills weeding out even some famous producers. Back then promoters actually listened to demo mixes before booking for their events. Not just booking people for the name sake.
They mentioned how the ‘DJs’ (and I use the term loosely) they hired don’t even know how to plug in their equipment. Obviously they are not real DJs. They are missing wires, timecode problems, taking to long to setup. It sounds like they are not real professionals. Yet Traktor, NI and the rest of real DJs are being penalized because someone at the WIP agency forgot to do their homework. You are hiring DJs to DJ a party, not producers to pretend to be DJs.
On the other end of the promoter spectrum. The promoter who keeps hiring their friends for little to no money yet charge the big bills at the door each weekend. It’s the same ‘talent’ each week. These are the promoters who end up booking friends who most of the time have also been DJing for a short time an have no idea, how to master the basics. Either way…these promoters are cheating the people out of a great night of good music done right by real professionals. It all comes down to lazy promoters not researching, not doing their jobs. NOT PROMOTING NEW TALENT. Yet both business models are very lucrative while depriving the crowd of a real vibe.
On to the DJs… I already mentioned that the software allows anyone to be a ‘DJ’. It was bound to happen, where anyone and everyone could be a DJ. With the tools being so cheap and not having the proper teachers as some of us did. Our own peers teaching us the finer points of the basics…namely being able to beat match, programming live (aka reading the crowd), mixing in key without the software. Just feeling it more then picking up on a bunch of visual cues and being able to put 2 songs together. I understand where the traditionalist comes from. This new technology has created a new brand of bland DJs. Namely producers who are great at producing but have no real experience working a crowd for an extended period of time. I also understand the new movement. The computer has made things easier, but in the hands of a true professional has opened so many doors to the art for DJing.
Back in the 90′s I was booked all the time. At least 3-4 times a week at major events. I was a DJ, while producers came through to hand me copies of their work to play for that night at an event. I hate to say it, but everyone had their roles to play. The producer spent all day and night in the studio while I ate, slept, shat DJing. I made sure I was good at what I did. I then started to see a trend where the DJs who produced started getting bigger headlining spots. Well earned too, since not only were they rocking the dance floors they were creating some of the hits that were being played by other DJs. But they were DJs first. I worked at a record store back in the 90′s and one day this famous producer came through and asked me to pick him out some tracks. Not a problem cause that is how the record stores used to do it. He then went on to say “hey so um, since you DJ a lot… do you have any tips you can give?”. “Sure no problem, what kind of gig is this and how long have you been DJing for?” I asked. He went on to tell me this is his first DJ gig ever and has only been doing it for a couple of months. But because he was some major producer, his first gig ended up being a huge festival in Europe to a tune of over 10,000 people!
I know the guy understands music, better then most people. He went to school for it. He understands the formula to music. But what makes any promoter think that this guy who has been DJing for a couple of months is better then any other real DJ who dedicated his days and nights, paid their dues and gained their experience. Rumor has it that it was a boring set. Surprised? I wasn’t.
WIP promotion agency is doing a disservice to their customers by banning something like Traktor. Which means they won’t be able to experience amazing sets by Liebing, Hawtin, Dubfire and more. Real DJs who actually use the tools to move the crowd, not just some producer who is a part time DJ. I think that WIP along with every other promotional company thinking about throwing events to re-evaluate the way they pick talent. I understand that it is a business and “Producer X” who has a dance hit is more marketable then a DJ who has been doing it for over 2 decades. But keep in mind YOU SHOULD BE HIRING A DJ NOT A PRODUCER TO DJ YOUR EVENT. So please don’t complain when the DJ regardless of the tools he is using IS BORING. He should be, he is just a novice.
DJing and producing should be 2 categories (just an opinion). How long have you been DJing for? Great send me a demo and you can possibly spin at my event. How long have you been producing for? Great send me promos or I can book you as a Live PA so you can perform all your tracks live…Me personally I have been DJing for over 20 years. I am a digital DJ (again), I started on CDJs back in the 90s, purchased turntables, I understand the basics and feel that I have mastered all of them. I play music regardless of the medium for the past 20 years at least 1-2 hours a day. Now “Producer X” who comes from the rock music world is a better DJ then me because he can sync up some tracks and produce music? I have been producing for about 2 years now on and off…as a part time thing. Do you think I am a better producer then those who have been doing it for 20 years? Unless I’m some miracle prodigy, no. The more effort and time you put into something the more it will show.
I write this article and I am happy that WIP brought something like this to light. Real DJs need to be really DJing, regardless of the medium they use. You need to feel the crowd, feel the music. You are the one who makes the vibe happen. You are the story teller. Work hard for it and good things will come. Producers keep learning, keep making the great music, but leave the job of DJing to the DJs. If you want to be a DJ then please put in the work to really learn what it is like to be a real DJ. Listen to your DJ buddies when they give you advise. Like if you were to give a friend advise about producing. Turn off the visual cues in your software, turn the laptop the other way when beat matching, just so that you don’t cheat yourself out of the basics. Feel it. Doing things like this will help you to become a real DJ regardless of what tools you use. I know this because I started on CDJs, on some rack mountable Denons. I didn’t have the ability to touch the ‘record’ so i learned how to mix with the tempo fader. You can probably give me anything that controls the tempo fader.. be it mouse, a turntable, a cdj, a fader, even a usb guitar hero guitar and I promise you i can give you an amazing set. Because all the basics are the same. Reading the crowd feeling the music and being able to mix it all into one amazing story.
Now DJs.. who aren’t producers, such as myself. Pay close attention to what is starting to happen. The producer is being called out for cheating his sets. For pre-planning them, thinking they know what the crowd is going to feel when they drop a certain track at a certain time. IT DOESNT WORK THAT WAY. The people, the agencies, the promoters are all starting to notice a difference between a producer and a real Professional DJ.
If you are a digital DJ, be sure to not only learn the basics, but be able to push the envelope. Start taking things to the next level. A famous CDJ DJ once said If you are going to use a controller to DJ be sure that you can do more with that then i can do on CDJs. I hope you realize that the DJ now has more options then ever before. Ways of remixing on the fly, ways of adding to a track using tools such as a Maschine to play live with the music. The lines are being blurred and the DJ with years of experience rocking crowds will hopefully start to outshine the new comers regardless of how many records they have sold.
If you are a traditionalist, I know it all comes down to what you feel when you play. I don’t knock turntables, or CDJs. Whatever you use, master the tools that you have. But keep in mind that the kid who just got a controller, who puts in the work, learns the basics will sooner then later be doing more then you ever could on these traditional mediums. Learn all of the tools in your craft, be open to the options that the digital medium such as Traktor has to offer. That same kid who just got a controller has many years to go before they can reach your level, weather he can beat match or not. Digital DJing opens up many options in DJing. Just because the sync button exists doesn’t mean you have to use it. Evolve before you are left behind.
Shameless self promotion: Check out a mix I recorded live. I used a Kontrol S2, F1 and a Maschine Mikro… It was in a old grimy warehouse, in front of an amazing crowd here in Connecticut. Nothing was pre planned, I actually thought that I would play more house music then what I did, but the location, the people… it all just felt right. No computer will ever be able to dictate how I DJ.
If you are from the WIP agency and need to hire some real DJ talent, I highly suggest looking into a real DJ Booking agency. Make your customer’s night unforgettable. Agency Sounds DJs and producers each have over 2 decades worth of DJing under their belt. And yes they know how to plug in their own equipment, watch levels… and best of all rock any crowd you throw in front of them.