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January 5, 2016 by DJ Elroy

I’ve talked in the past about how dance music has become stale and the new generation of jocks breaking out are more posers than innovators. And the establishment? “OG” isn’t “original gangster” anymore, it’s “old geezer”. Those who’ve made it to the top are afraid to take risks for fear of falling from their LED-lined pedestal high above the dancefloor.

The only ones I see with a consistent hunger and drive to succeed are the up-and-comers, the ones that have something to prove because they haven’t made it yet. They’re the ones trying new things, taking chances, and generally having fun.

But once a DJ hits “superstar” status, suddenly there’s a lot more to lose. Some live off past accomplishments as long as they can (“hey, I’m that one guy that had that one hit a few years ago!”) while others find a formula that works and keep churning out “new” material that fits the mold of the last hit (but is rarely as good).

Remember when Stacey Pullen said “DJs don’t take risks” anymore? He was right. That interview was more than three years ago, and not much has changed.

Actually, if anything, it’s gotten worse.

This past summer when Avicii was lauded for “taking a risk” at Tomorrowland, I had to stop and ask myself why that was newsworthy. The article itself brings up several points I made myself a few years back about the lack of risk-takers and innovators, but it stops short of saying it’s become a problem in the culture.

And if taking risks is now newsworthy, it’s because it has become the exception, not the rule.

Back in the day artists used to take risks all the time, they used to try new things, and yes, many of them failed. But they came back and cued up the next track and tried again. Failing is a part of success. Thomas Edison is credited with saying “I haven’t failed; I just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”

Failure is a learning experience. It’s part of the process. It’s part of paying your dues. Failure isn’t just “10,000 ways that don’t work”, it’s the Gladwell Effect: 10,000 hours of practice is the key to mastery.
It’s understandable that when an artist makes it to the top he wants to stay there. He becomes more cautious and is more aware of the consequences of making a wrong move.

That might work for a while, but eventually “playing it safe” gets stale.
Can the pack leaders stay relevant without experimenting?

In a recent interview even A-Trak briefly touches on the subject, saying “It’s cool to be weird.” As the interview unfolds the discussion between “purists” and “open-format” performers opens up, and both sides make some good points. But there’s one thing we can all agree on: It’s all about trying new things. Break the rules. Have fun!

Seth Godin reminds us:

It’s all a mistake

…until it works.

That’s what innovation is. Mistakes, experiments, mis-steps.

Until it works.

The process isn’t to avoid the things that don’t work. Because that means avoiding the things thatmight not work…

Instead, our job is to eagerly embrace the mistakes on the road to the impact that we seek.

And I’m not saying that all of the old school guys are getting soft. I’m not saying that all the new kids put more emphasis on technology than creativity. And I’m certainly not saying that the entire scene is being dragged down to the lowest denominator.

I’m simply pointing out a few of the disheartening trends I’ve been seeing over the past few years.

Do you think I’m out of line here? Is it a generational thing? Is your jaded correspondent really out of touch?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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