Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Thursday, 30 June 2005 15:37 UK

From disc jockey to digital jockey

CD and laptop
DJs can now create an entire sound and visual show from their laptop
MP3 players, iPods, laptops and projections of images onto giant screens are all becoming part of the armoury for the modern DJ.

Is the rapid growth in laptop mixing set to spell the end for the traditional turntable user?

An iPod mixer, made by DJ equipment manufacturer Numark, will shortly be the latest item released that allows DJs to manipulate digitally-stored music.

For some, the revolution is becoming so swift it is even changing what the letters "DJ" - traditionally short for "disc jockey" - stand for.

"Digital jockey is a DJ," Matt Black of respected DJ duo Coldcut told BBC World Service's The Music Biz programme.

"Just forget discs, go beyond discs. A digital jockey manipulates media of different forms, mixes them and produces an entertainment out of that."

Small players

At the start of the 1990s, being a DJ was very clear-cut - sitting in a booth, with two decks, a large collection of vinyl, a few samples and a baseball cap.

But the 21st Century DJ has become part of the digital revolution as much as anything else.

Being able to store and mix vast collections of music on small players and computers has also allowed DJing to become much more participatory, with a number of venues allowing clubbers to DJ themselves from their MP3 player.

DJ Mylo
People like to see that someone's doing something really live, and to hear mistakes
DJ Mylo
"We give people 15 minutes to play their favourite tunes, or their own music or whatever they want, and we have panel of judges who hold up score cards at the end of the set," said Lisa Rocket, who runs one of these nights at a bar in London.

"If they particularly like a song during the set, they will hold up a 'tune' card - that goes on the scoreboard. At the end of the night, there's a prize."

She said that different people play songs from different sources - some have laptops, some play their own music and mix it with live tracks.

"It's great when we get a crowd in because if the crowd disagree with the judges we get a lot of boos - it's fun, it's interactive," she added.

"There is a future for iPod clubbing. I think the future of DJing is in the laptop.

"There are a lot of mainstream vinyl DJs moving towards that... I can see a lot of mainstream DJs doing very complex things with samples and loops that they simply can't do with vinyl."

'Can't hear difference'

Coldcut's Matt Black said he agreed. "I don't have much truck with whinging old vinyl DJs to be honest," he stated.

"It's like, if you enjoy vinyl, that's great. I love vinyl. But I haven't used it for two or three years because I discovered that, when (CD mixer) CDJ 1000s came out, I can't hear any difference to vinyl. It's good enough for me."

He said that he found "new experimentation" very exciting, and the duo are "totally dedicated to that".

Coldcut and Lisa Stansfield performing People Hold On on Top Of The Pops
Coldcut first scored chart success in the late 1980s
"Technologies allow more real-time manipulation, and a lot more music," he added.

"One of the things I like about DJing with CDs is that, with a fat wallet of CDs I've compiled, I can play for days - whereas a fat box of vinyl was great to sit on but not much fun to lug around."

However, Scottish DJ Mylo - who had a huge international hit with In My Arms earlier this year - stressed that no matter what changes in technology, the essence would always be on the live mix.

"The format - whether it's on vinyl or CD or whatever - doesn't really matter," he said.

"The thing about DJing is queuing up one record after another and mixing them together in certain ways.

"What I think people like is to see that someone's doing something really live, and to hear mistakes.

"So if someone does a perfectly beatmatched, perfectly programmed DJ set on their laptop, the suspicion will always be that they spent hours pre-preparing it at home and they just came to the club and pressed play - which is against the whole ethos of doing something live.

"I think people will rapidly tire of that in one way or another."

Is music safe on compact disc?
27 Aug 04 |  Entertainment
Farewell beloved CDs
23 Dec 02 |  dot life
Digital CD decks challenge vinyl
07 Aug 03 |  Technology


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