Mediocrity and Modern DJing

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February 18, 2015 by DJ Elroy

Paul Arden asks “Why do we strive for excellence when mediocrity is required?” The more I listen to DJ mixes nowadays, the more I hear the mediocrity.

And I think I’m finally understanding why that is.

Back in the day most DJs typically used only a mixer, two turntables, and a stack of wax, but they still managed to sound fresh, exciting, and maybe most notably, unique. Although the technology has taken a lot of the life out of the music today, it’s also opened up doors the old school jocks never dreamed of.

So why does everything sound so different today?

DJs back then had a steeper learning curve. They were bad… and then they weren’t. Something “clicked” for them. They tried, they failed, they learned, and they tried again. Many gave up after their first few failed attempts; it was a natural selection process of weeding out the kids that weren’t willing to work for it. There wasn’t a long gestation period of mediocrity. It was bad, bad, bad, then good.

Today there is relatively little time spent learning. Almost anyone can jump right in, push play, and start mixing. But because the bar to entry has been lowered so far, more people than ever before are able to simply step over that once exclusive line and call themselves a “DJ” that wouldn’t have been able to a decade ago. Nowadays it’s harder to separate the wheat from the chaff.

And I’m starting to think that maybe mediocrity is required for newbies, and honestly, with the state of electronic music today this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A good artist needs to have a firm grasp of the basics before he tries to climb the mountain of success. He needs to establish himself, pay his dues, hone his chops. If he reaches too far too fast he’s just as likely to fall as he is to succeed.

The problem is that many amateur jocks don’t ever reach for the next level. They stagnate because it’s easier. Even the one-time innovators have become routine and — dare I say — boring.

But maybe I’m looking at it all wrong.

If the new tech makes everyone excellent, does that mean excellent is the new average?

Maybe so. Or maybe the jaded way I define “excellence” needs to change. If the barrier to entry has been taken away and the technology has leveled the playing field, what is it that sets my favorites apart from the rest? Maybe creativity. Instead of trying to be better, why not try to be different? Back to Mr Arden: “That’s the nature of the creative person. All creative people need something to rebel against, it’s what gives their lives excitement, and it’s creative people who make [fans’] lives exciting.”

So if what makes your favorite DJ mixes your favorite, and what do more jocks need to do to set themselves apart?

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