Right around the late 00’s, the DJ game began to change. Well, maybe “evolve” is a better way of saying it. More and more DJ’s were discovering the wonders of Traktor Pro and Serato Scratch Live. These new doohickeys allowed you to manipulate music that was converted to electronic media, just like vinyl records. It was revolutionary technology that most DJ purists rejected at first, then embraced with open arms.
The advantages to using these DJ programs were nearly infinite. Every record was now completely skipless, and if you didn’t have two copies of a song before, you did now. Effects, expansive playlists–it was all at your fingertips. If–and it was a very big if, in my case–if you could afford it.
I know I didn’t mention it before, because I feel like it goes without saying, but DJ equipment ain’t exactly cheap. To be an MC, you could get by with a $40 microphone, a $3 spiral notebook. and a 79-cent pen. To be a DJ, $40 might buy you a semi-decent record bag, but everything else in your arsenal is more expensive. Much more. That $400 mixer you just bought became obsolete a few days after you finished hooking it up to your two 500-dollar turntables. The next big thing will cost at least twice that much. And then, Serato (preferred at least 2 to 1 to Traktor, in most circles) was another $600 or so. Not counting the computer. Keep in mind: the cheaper the computer, the lesser the functionality of the software.
Me, I was limping by with two rickety Tech 12’s, a basic, bare-bones Stanton mixer, and all my vinyl. But I figured: hey, there’s still a place for broke-ass, divorced father, all-vinyl DJ’s, right? Right?
I had such a good time mixing records on the big stage at Soundset 2008, I wanted to make it a yearly thing. Even though I wasn’t scheduled to appear in ’09, I managed to get myself a spot at the last minute, spinning in the DJ tent. Cool! Playing old-school electro and breaks for a bunch of breakdancing B-boys? This would be a blast! And I had the perfect record to set things off.
I was going to be the last DJ of the evening. Wow, headlining for a guaranteed packed house, I’d better bring my A game! I was so jazzed up, I got there when the event started, and helped set up the equipment. I slapped high fives with, and bobbed my head to every DJ who played before me, getting more and more excited to show the crowd what I’ve got. Point of fact: Every DJ that went before me used Serato. Every single DJ. When it came time for me to hit the decks, I lugged my record case over and disconnected all the computer-related cables. Someone said, “Using vinyl, huh?” “Keepin’ it real,” I replied. Mainly because admitting I was too broke to afford Serato wasn’t an option.
That record I was gonna play to set things off? I’d forgotten to pack it. If I’d had a computer, I would’ve had it, plus 10x more music than I could ever play. Still, I had dozens of records in my case; surely there was something in there that would keep the vibe of the afternoon flowing. But, no one was feeling it. I was playing stuff that always managed to get bodies moving before, but all I got were dancers shaking their heads at me, until the announcer got on the mic and asked me if I could play something they could dance to (a request that all DJ’s hate to get). It felt like a Twilight Zone episode; I had played all my best stuff, and it wasn’t doing the trick. At long last, one of the previous DJ’s came over and told me he was going on next. What “next?” I was supposed to be the last guy. But I was so mortified, I gladly let him relieve me, and I quietly packed up all my stuff, collected my meager pay, and slunk out of there. And straight into retirement.
I figured since I couldn’t afford to update my equipment to meet the modern digital DJ-scape, I might as well not DJ at all. I quit everything, including my spot in the rotation at RSE Radio. I was down, and out.
But, not quite.
To Be Continued…