Technics or CDJs, Traktor or Serato, laptop or controller, and everything in between. I have thrown many shows in my day, and I will simply say, it’s best to be versatile. Having encountered the noob, who only plays traktor from his laptop with the sync function enabled, all the way down to the hard-headed old school cat that won’t give up the vinyl. I’ve seen it all, and it’s time I vented.
I’m not here to start the vinyl war, I am here to talk about versatility and a changing industry. I have found it serves a good DJ best to be proficient on multiple platforms and be comfortable with many types of gear. In the past 10 years the industry began phasing out vinyl turntables as the standard, and in it’s place adopted the pioneer CDJ (which is now the default gear at almost every major club around the globe). This trend has been difficult for some, who passionately love the feel and sound of vinyl (like me), and for others has meant embracing a technology that finally caught up to the needs of it’s users. I’m not here to fight for CDJs, but unless your playing an all vinyl set every single time you play, I suggest learning the other forms hardware that make life a bit easier.
I know from setting up equipment at shows, that the people I want to work with most are the ones that aren’t hell-bent on 1 interface or piece of hardware. We are not all superstars here, I promise, so making multiple accommodations for the numerous DJs often on a lineup is not always feasible. Everyone arrives at different times, and then wants to re-create their comfy bedroom setup, in the middle of a gig. Here’s the deal; If you are Jeff Mills or someone who has a giant following, by all means, request whatever setup you wish, and it will be ready for you when you step out of the green room. However, if you’re not a famous music man yet, trying to establish yourself amongst a community of your peers, it would serve you best to be able to perform whenever the chance arises. If you can “only spin vinyl”, or you “gotta have your controller”, you are greatly limiting yourself. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t play on something your comfortable with, I’m saying, try to be comfortable with playing on anything. When we challenge ourselves it builds skill, character, and integrity. When we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, amazing things can happen, and you will never know what those things could be if you stay inside your imaginary box.
When I book shows I have to take into account many things with regards to the gear being used. Is this person someone who can only play on a certain mixer, or with a certain model of CDJ? Does the person use a midi-controller and how long does it take to setup? What software might they be using, and the list goes on. What I can tell you, is that gear does not make the DJ. But it does limit the DJ, if they let it. I have had instances where people must set up Serato, Traktor or Ableton instead of just using flash drives, CDs or Records. Why? Maybe because they like to be aided by the large wave forms or syncing tempo options. Or maybe just because it has been what they’ve always done. It limits these people because they never step beyond their comfort zone once they become proficient at a certain setup, and as a result, stifle natural growth that comes with learning new methods of your craft. We all have to adapt and embrace change in every industry, no matter what your job is, and this is no different. DJing is by default a part of the the technology industry, as it was birthed by it, and so must embrace the changes and versatility that arise from it.
The point is, setup is a bitch, so unless your frickin’ Daft Punk, be easy to work with. If I gotta come in an hour early to fit your custom rig in between the perfectly capable equipment that was already there, not cool. If I have to watch you plug forty seven wires into the back of the mixer that’s currently playing, hoping you don’t pull out the wrong cord on the opening DJs set you’re now ruining, I get anxious. If you do these things, stop them, and take that extra time you spend setting up that one precious configuration of equipment you have, and learn some others. Okay? I promise vinyl DJs, your records will still work, at home where most turntables are these days. As for the Traktor Jockeys, I see you, and I’m hip to your tricks. Sure, go ahead and tell people you use it for sound quality, we all know the truth. Beat matching is pretty tough when you don’t know how to beat match. But I digress. We all have our preferences, and that’s cool, but just be ready and able to use anything, and it will make you better at everything.