DJ Mag archives: Why does everyone want to be a DJ?

DJ Mag archives: Why does everyone want to be a DJ?

Copy from this article is taken from DJ Mag October 1991. Words by Damian Harris 

For our latest post lifted from the DJ Mag archives, we've selected an essay on DJing penned at the peak of the phenomenon in the '90s.

'Why does everyone want to be a DJ?' considers the competitive, financial and practical aspects of DJing at a time when you would "probably find a hundred different flyers with about 10 DJs appearing on all of them, and thousands of other names all vying for a position and bigger typeface underneath."

While Twitch streams feel like an alternate universe and “being a vinyl junkie” is no longer a strict requirement for entry, it would seem that not much else has changed: playing your favourite records and (hopefully) paying your rent are still the name of the game.

Revisit the essay below and get inspired…

Being a DJ is certainly one of THE most sought after positions to hold at the moment. It's becoming a very competitive and highly desirable area to work in. Some DJs will go to extreme lengths just to play at a rave. But why? Is it for the money, the glory or is it for love? Damian Harris investigates.

'So Billy, when you grow up what do you want to be? A train driver? A pilot? A footballer? Would you like to be a footballer playing for England, would you?'

'Nah, I wanna be a DJ.'


When Sunday colour supplements start doing articles on how DJs become the new idols for the youth of today, you can either think, 'smart, I'm going to be a teen idol', or 'shit, how am I ever going to get anywhere with so many people doing it?'

Go to any big dance record shop on a Saturday and there will be a queue of people buying big piles of records. Are they all DJs, and if not, where do they get the money to spend £50 a week on a hobby? In that same record shop, you will probably find a hundred different flyers with about 10 DJs appearing on all of them, and thousands of other names all vying for a position and bigger typeface underneath. On most rave flyers, these people will make up ridiculous names for themselves in a bid for attention, after all, you're much more likely to remember DJ Psycho Nutter than John Smith. The competition for DJing spots has gotten way out of hand. When you hear stories of people paying to DJ, you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Unfortunately, this competition doesn't necessarily benefit the punters. With the huge increase in dance shops, it has become very easy for anyone with the money to buy all the latest top tunes. Subsequently, when DJ Warm-Up turns up at the do', what does he play? A few slower, mellower records to build the night up while people are still coming in? Something a little bit different, taking advantage of the fact that no-one's dancing yet to play something the kids wouldn't normally expect to hear out and about? No. He'll slam in all his newly acquired records in an attempt to get the place 'kicking' to impress the promoter, while the crowd get to hear most of the records that the main DJ is going to play two hours later.

As with many things in life, the old 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' number is very relevant to the DJ business. Being able to blag your way onto a flyer seems to be more of an artform than mixing at the moment. However if you're no good, you're never going to get to move from the bottom of the bill. At present, DJing is easier than it's ever been. You don't need microphone technique or 'personality', you don't need a box of rare '70s funk 7"s, even mixing is not that important. So now any Tom, Dick or Harry can keep a crowd going for an hour or so with a few newly acquired hands-in-the-air stylee anthems.

As punk made making music more accessible, that old devil acid house did the same for DJing. This was originally a good thing with people who usually wouldn't have considered DJing, playing a wide range of different music. However, as the rave scene has grown out of all proportion, far too much emphasis has been placed on raking in the megabucks. DJing is about passion for music, being a vinyl junkie, getting goosebumps when people respond to your favourite records and if it pays the rent, well, just think yourself lucky.

I am not suggesting that anyone who wants to be a DJ must spend five years carrying someone's record boxes around, serving an apprenticeship, and must have a record collection spanning 10 years. What I am saying is that DJing should primarily be good fun. Don't worry if you feel you're not 'getting anywhere'. Simply hire out your local scout hut, fill it with all your friends, and have a party. I guarantee it'll be much more satisfying than playing half an hour warm-up at some big rave.

Want more? Revisit the mud and music of Glastonbury '98 in this colourful review, also taken from the DJ Mag archives.

Read our interview with multi-disciplinary artist Anna Lann here.

Want to win a copy of DJ Mag's 100 of the World's Best Clubs book? Find out how to here.

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