Because ‘downloaded for’ has given the DJ a carte blanche to avoid their part in a two-way transaction that’s as old as DJ culture itself. Early promo circulation and feedback among tastemaker DJs has helped break countless anthems and genuinely kick-started careers. It’s a transaction that DJs who are now high-profile enough to necessitate a picker will have almost certainly have benefited from in the past. Yet now they’re in that position, they don’t seem to want to help the next generation of artists themselves. Some of the slack is picked up by things like the Identification of Music group on Facebook or the DJ charts on Beatport, and there are a handful of DJs who go out of their way to shout about what they’re playing across their social media. But that doesn’t relieve DJs of their duty to pay their dues.
What’s even worse is that, in a bid to combat this feedback void, some labels and companies are now using ‘download by’ comments on promo feedback forms as actual legitimised approval by big artists – whether they’ve played the tracks or not. This makes a mockery of the promo system: the DJ is no longer a filter helping to keep up quality control and guide electronic music. They’ve completely washed their hands of a responsibility that once made them guardians of the future of our unique and incredible culture, palming their taste-making signature off on an assistant or, worse still, an intern who isn’t even paid. It’s lazy, it’s arrogant, it’s completely against the original ethics of being a working DJ and it means the overall benchmark of quality is dangerously depleting as DJs aren’t providing the honest feedback that’s vital in a new track’s circle of life.
Yes, there is way too much music being hurled around right now, and much of it is sub-standard. Yes, promo management for DJs can be more of a chore than ever. But the best way to combat this isn’t by ignoring it, or hiding behind a ‘downloaded for’ message. It’s to face it head on, take a moment to really champion the quality out there, and shout about the most exciting tracks you’ve been sent. And if you don’t have time for that, then do what the likes of DJ Zinc, Villalobos and many other respected selectors have done for years: remove yourself entirely from promo culture and only play music you’ve bought and been sent directly on digital dub by your peers. Because if you’re being sent music for free, and you’re actually playing some of that music without acknowledging, supporting, or helping the artists behind it, and you’re getting paid substantial fees to do this, then you are effectively pissing on the future of electronic music… you know who you are.
Dave Jenkins is a freelance writer and Mixmag regular, follow him on Twitter