Attack of the clones: Copying a DJ's setlist is no substitute for talent - Comment - Mixmag

Attack of the clones: Copying a DJ's setlist is no substitute for talent

Tune identification online is a problematic thing for some DJs

  • Words: Michael Lawson | Illustration: Alex Jenkins
  • 23 June 2017
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Wanting to keep your tunes to yourself isn’t a new thing. In the heyday of Northern Soul, a DJ’s connoisseurship and unique collection were everything. Some might have the only known copy of a record, and promoters would book certain DJs just because they had that particular tune. Party ads would list not only the DJs but the rare exclusives they’d be bringing with them. But for many modern-day DJs who don’t play vinyl, the concept of physical record shopping has become obsolete, and crate-digging, if it is done, is done on eBay. Instead, they make use of the multitude of online resources, finding music through the likes of Discogs, YouTube and Spotify, and ripping tunes through file-sharing networks like Soulseek. With music that was previously restricted to a handful of vinyl copies now accessible to anyone at the mere click of a button, it’s easy to copy someone else’s set-list and pass it off as your own little bit of curation.

But for every DJ who criticises this culture, there are a larger number who have embraced it. Many have accepted that the quest for exclusivity has become increasingly fruitless, instead letting their abilities as a DJ do the talking. For an aspiring DJ, doing your homework, finding your own style and digging for interesting music will definitely make you a more exciting proposition, as opposed to simply banging out what everyone else is playing.

"You can’t become a DJ by plucking someone else’s tunes out of the air like nicking wishes,” says veryverywrongindeed legend and dance music writer Tim Sheridan. “You can’t really do it justice if it comes too easy. Being a DJ is about being an authority, and authority comes with immersion, not catching MP3 butterflies with a digital net’.

Yes, it may be easier for the plagiarists and the style thieves to nick tracks from DJs’ sets, but is this really such an issue? After all, as the old saying goes, anyone can sing ‘My Way’ but nobody sings it like Sinatra. You might have a USB full of Jackmaster’s tracks, but can you play them like he does?

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