Generation X vs. Generation Y DJs: A New Clash Of Generations
But today, the fans come for a show—a large scale production rather the dirty, grimy raves of days old. And the modern DJs, at times garnering six-figure paychecks for a single night, are more then willing to provide that service.
The Generation-Y DJ typically starts as a young producer—creating music through increasingly innovative production software—and begins touring after accumulating a significant following.
And no artist embodies this better than the scene’s biggest new superstar, Avicii. Tim Bergling, better known by his stage name, Avicii, sat down with me this summer to discuss his rapid rise to success.
He stated that he, “started out 100% producer” and that “DJ’ing… was something I held off on because both me and Ash wanted me to be comfortable enough behind the decks–especially since I started as a producer–so that it would be good like from the moment we started touring.” “ I got into it really quickly.”
This is remarkably different than the career paths of most longstanding DJs, in which production typically came forth following a successful DJ career.
Can he truly be faulted for being successful? Of course not. Bergling stated, “I haven’t changed my sound a bit from when I started to now in order to please the mainstream. I’ve always been doing the music I’m doing now.”
But in this changing landscape success has been unjustifiably connected with “selling out,” when in reality it is artists like Bergling that are taking the genre to the next level.
But not all successful acts have been harshly criticized. In a rapidly changing dance music scene, Armin van Buuren has been one of the few artists who has managed to retain an image of authenticity and achieve an inconceivable level of popularity, recently surpassing 5 million Facebook likes.
“I can’t do something I don’t love,” says Armin, “I’ve seen DJs change styles, and I admire them for it. For me, trance has always been close to my heart… I live and breathe dance music.”
However, there are some legitimate points to be made about the repetitive nature of the sets of certain acts. Armin van Buuren, the world’s #1 DJ according to DJ Mag, revealed a few gripes he has with the modern dance music scene.
A lot of these DJs are doing such short sets–[around] 1 hour. Everyone can make a one hour set sound great because if you play all the big hits the crowd is gonna go crazy.
I think what I’m really excited about and what I want as an artist is to bring back the progression in a DJ set, which I think is essential. If you really want to appreciate a DJ you should really listen to a DJ when he’s playing longer than 2 or 3 hours. Then you can hear his progression.
My ambition for the future would be to bring such longer sets and try to bring people on a journey with live elements.
Today, many artists’ sets are pre-planned. Jacob Schulman of Billboard’s CODE stated,
What worries me is not that DJs are simply “pressing play,” but that they’re pressing play on the same tracks in the same order night after night after night.
There’s new music being released at a breakneck pace, but many of the big name DJs are still spinning the same freaking sets every time. They are playing the same bootlegs, making the same transitions, and delivering the same exact shtick every day of the week.
But is this necessarily a bad thing? Is this really a sign of laziness? Yes, and no. Hardwell, a top ranked DJ, likes to play the middleman in this area.
I’m always the guy trying to refresh my set. I’m making a lot of mashups, a lot of bootlegs, that kind of stuff because I’m tired and sick of hearing DJs playing all of the same records at the same festival in the same lineup. At that point I’m like, “come on, where’s the creativity?”
On the other side, the crowd is up for it. So as a DJ, it’s hard to pick which direction you want to go. Am I going to educate the crowd with some new tracks and they don’t react really well? Or am I going to play the same records everyone else is playing and everyone is like, “YEAH!” I always try to be the guy that’s in between. And if I play a record that’s well known, I always try to make my own version of it.
The key point to derive from Hardwell’s statement is that today’s fans are up for it. And as electronic music producers become performing artists rather than simply DJs it becomes increasingly asinine to criticize leading acts for playing their hits at every show, especially when they innovate in ways that underground DJs simply cannot—particularly in terms of production quality.Their success has brought a genre that was almost entirely underground to the mainstream. But no one should be faulted for being successful.
As electronic music evolves from underground raves to selling out Madison Square Garden, there is a change amongst the roles of DJs.
The modern DJ is a performing artist, much like Rihanna, Jay-Z, or Kanye West. And since the fans expect a show, they must deliver and put one on. And, yes, that includes some level of repetition when millions of fans across the world are anxiously waiting to hear “Take Over Control” drop.
We do not go to a Kanye West show to hear him string together a masterful rendition of the greatest 90’s hits—we go to hear Kanye West’s music. And the same goes for popular acts like Swedish House Mafia, Avicii, and Tiesto.
Today’s fans are not going to see these acts to be “educated” in dance music with an underground tech house set. They want to hear the hits—the “Levels”, “Don’t You Worry Child”, and “Maximal Crazy” style songs that send a crowd into a fervor.
As the genre evolves out of underground raves and into 300,000+ person festival stages like Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas, one must anticipate a change. But the changing space within electronic dance music is not necessarily a bad thing.
In fact, I’d argue that the change is downright amazing.
Progression and spontaneity within a DJ set can be wonderful—when you’re looking for it. But today, this cannot be presumed as the definition of electronic music. Because I’d argue that the hordes of new fans entering this space are not even looking for that. They’re looking for a quick fix–the earth-shattering buildups leading to bass heavy drops, and fireworks and pyrotechnics that adorn the world’s leading festival stages.
However, that does not necessarily need to threaten what dance music once was. The underground scene is still thriving in clubs like Cielo and through events like Sensation. If you believe that the “mainstreamization” of the genre is outshadowing the underground, you are simply not looking hard enough. Rest assured that it is alive and well.
Sebastian Ingrosso hit the nail on the head in his interview with InTheMix when he stated,
I come from the underground. You listen to a Swedish House Mafia fucking DJ set or Axwell or Seb or Steve, it’s a lot of underground acts in house music in there, it’s not like we’re only playing our hits.
And I’m sorry if we made a hit! What should we do? We just make music for what we feel… some techno guys hate on the successful DJs. I’m sorry, but why? For what reason? It’s like, “Oh I hate Jay-Z because he is a rapper and he’s so successful”. How can you hate someone’s music? It’s weird. If you don’t like it, don’t listen to it. Don’t punish yourself!
And maybe that’s the key. Generation X, you might not like our music because, well… it wasn’t meant for you. As Seb said, one always has the freedom to opt out if the music is not to his or her liking.
Stephen Edwards | Elite.
For more from Stephen, follow him on Twitter at @BeveBedwards