Aren't Retail DJ Mixes Obsolete?

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June 20, 2012 by DJ Elroy

denver, dj, djelroy, elroy, house heads anonymous, digital dancefloor, house, music, techno, electro, edm

So word came down this week about Beatport’s new Mixes (sell your DJ mixes legitimately!) idea. On the one hand, it’s good to see them trying new things, being innovative and trying to support the artists, the labels, and the DJs (as well as taking their own cut, of course). But who really buys DJ mixes anymore? Aren’t they obsolete?

Every time I see a new retail DJ mix compilation being released I have to ask myself who is buying them? I’m not privy to the numbers, but the market is just not there anymore. Music genres across the board are moving less units than they used to. What’s the last ‘must have’ DJ mix you got? I’d say it was Paul Oakenfold’s “Tranceport“. Everyone had that mix.

But that was back in 1998, when CDs were hot. Back before the Digital Era.

Today the CD is dead (it just doesn’t know it yet) and music can be grabbed anywhere, at any time, via the web.

And before you start yelling at me to check the charts, let me make a distinction: Sure, electronic music is enjoying some commercial success — Guetta, Skrillex, and deadmau5 come to mind — but these are artist albums, not DJ mixes.

Every DJ/Producer/EDM Artist who’s anybody has their own website today, and most have their own Soundcloud page, or Mixcloud page, or one of the many other similar music hosting sites, or some other social profile to show off their goods and promote themselves.

For free.

If an artist wants to be taken seriously, he’s got to have a web radio show or podcast or do guest mixes. Sure, there are a few of the old guard that haven’t jumped on board, but they’re already established. And let’s face it, the old pioneers that are so resistant to change are becoming irrelevent anyway. Obsolete, even, just like retail DJ mixes.

So the jocks on top of things are doing monthly (sometimes WEEKLY) DJ mixes for fans to stream and usually download.

Again, for free.

So why would they think selling mixes would work? The music isn’t scarce anymore. Not like in the days of mixtapes. Today it’s infinate. Hell, I listen to four or five DJ mixes each weekday and I still have to pass up a bunch that I just don’t have time for.

This isn’t a knock on the DJs that are selling their sets. Some of my favorites still release DJ mixes for retail sale.

But when I can get their podcast for free, what’s the incentive to spend money? I can understand wanting to support the artist, the label, etc. We all do. But why buy? What would make a DJ mix worth paying for when you can get something similar for free?

And aren’t DJ mixes today disposable? Really, how many mixes in the past five years have you listened to a mix more than twice? Sure, there are a few that get steady rotation in my library, but not many. DJ mixes are like tech gear; by the time you get it, it’s obsolete.

I’m a strong supporter of the new music business model: CWF=RTB. Give away your music and charge for your shows, merch, etc. Or package your music in a way that collectors and true fans can appreciate. Give us something to buy! Autographed albums, special vinyl pressings, tour photos. Something tangible. Something real. Something we can’t download.

And coming full circle, this is where Beatport has really struck a winning idea. SELL THE MIX AND INCLUDE THE INDIVIDUAL TRACKS. The two big names that jump immediately to mind are Global Underground and Toolroom. I’ve bought several of their DJ mixes on Beatport and got with them EVERY INDIVIDUAL TRACK. UNMIXED. Not everyone is doing it (yet), but it’s sold me on paying in the past.

So while Beatport is doing some things right and some things… well, maybe not wrong, but most certainly questionable. But it goes to the bigger issue: WHO STILL BUYS DJ MIXES?

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