Can DJs ‘keep it real’ and spin only new vinyl?

The iconic DJ Shadow'Endtroducing' cover. © DJ Shadow.

Anyone and everyone who has set foot into the DJ world will, at some point in their life, have heard the phrase ‘keep it real’. This refers, of course, to the act of DJing using only vinyl, rather than supporting the policies of the fictional MP Alistair Leslie Graham aka Ali G. People will still throw this statement about as though it is the purist way, and the elite way to DJ.

In the days before the digital age, vinyl was the only choice, and lugging crates of wax to each gig was the norm. But just how easy is it to actually ‘keep it real’ and be a vinyl only DJ in 2013?

Digital Sources

The everyday top 40 club DJ will play a range of songs, but as the name top 40 alludes to, a significant proportion of the tunes played will appear in the current charts. Using the iTunes Top 20 singles as a rough guide to what’s popular at the moment, I trawled the interweb to see exactly how many of those songs were available to buy on vinyl. What I found out was that those who want to ‘keep it real’ would actually be at a significant disadvantage. Only 25% of the Top 20 was released on vinyl as a single, pushing up to 55% if you were willing to buy the LP for the other 30%. Just under half of all chart songs would be impossible for you to play, even if you bought every song available. Cost and ease of transportation are also major deterrents to playing solely vinyl, without looking at the percentage of venues that still house working turntables.

So the people that promote ‘vinyl only’ probably aren’t going to be Top 40 DJs, as the CDJ, and the ever increasing bring-your-own-controller philosophy dominates most commercial clubs nowadays. So I jumped across to Beatport to have a look at the Hip-Hop Top 20, as I have always associated turntables with hip-hop. Unfortunately the inappropriately named ‘Hip-hop Top 20’ turned out to be just a lot of trap (or something similar) remixes. Rapidly becoming more transparent to me was the reality that 0% of the songs were available on vinyl, so I swiftly moved onto the Billboard R&B and Hip-hop Top 20. Only 30% of these could be found as vinyl singles, and an extra 5% available on an LP. Again, vinyl only DJs are left in a position where they can only get their hands on less than a third of the available songs on the market.

To briefly summarise my findings so far, if you are going to be playing current mainstream songs, then ‘keeping it real’ may not be your best option.

CDR Vinyl Only Print

Vinyl only print. Available from The Christopher David Ryan Print Shop.

Vinyl only release?

Digital only releases are now a fairly common practice, but vinyl-only is still very much alive when you delve into the underground of genres, such as G-House and Grime (just to name a couple). Certain labels are extremely proactive when it comes to making sure that no digital copies of their releases ever surface. It’s a very valid point that exclusivity is not reserved solely for the digital market, and many DJs pride themselves on the rare and hard to find records they own. Finding yourself falling in love with the dark tones of G-house, only to realise that the 7” you just bought doesn’t fit in your CDJ, puts you in a bit of a predicament. Scenes such as this actually make it a necessity to play vinyl, but these are a distinct minority in the DJing world.

To me, vinyl only would leave me without a whole host of the tunes I love to play out. Having a brief look at costing, £7 a single (much cheaper buying used from charity shops), playing 20 songs an hour, a 4 hour gig suddenly looks very expensive at £560! Transportation of more than a few records, is cumbersome, and to bring enough to handle a full set plus a few requests is going to require even more effort.

The act of buying and collecting Vinyl, to me, brings a far superior sense of intrinsic satisfaction than a weekly shop on Beatport. For this reason I do not think I will (in the foreseeable future) ever acquire a purely digital library, but nor will it persuade me to sacrifice choice and convenience, to pursue a music collection solely in vinyl format.

A very clear option seems to jump out when the argument of keeping it real versus the digital revolution comes up. Surely there isn’t a way you could possibly satisfy both camps, keeping up to date with all the current songs whilst still playing your beloved vinyl? DVS. At the flick of a switch you can jump from using timecode to control digital files, straight into slapping on some wax and rocking some obscure track you picked up from a recent car boot sale.

Summing Up

Live and let live is an attitude that seems to keep most people content, and why not hey? If using mp3s doesn’t give you that same tingly feeling that flicking through a crate of records does, then stick to what makes you happy. If you love having an ultra portable, USB stick and headphones setup for playing out, then do not let anyone tell you that you are doing something wrong. Everyone has opinions, and they are fully entitled to them, but telling someone else what they should and shouldn’t do, when it has no effect whatsoever on their lives, seems a little pointless and self indulgent to me.

vinyl sales keep it real

An addendum from Mark Settle

The percentages shown by Sam where correct at the time of writing, but highly unlikely to be much different today from a couple of months ago. But one thing is clear — keeping it real simply isn’t an option for anyone who wants to play mainstream music. And while some of you may have a more flexible definition that allows DVS use, ultimately a turntable with timecode makes it a controller. You haven’t bought original vinyl and your buying process is no different to DJs who use digital DJ gear.

One thing that gets a lot of press is much reported rise in vinyl sales. Now I’m a vinyl lover as much as the next vinyl lover, but I’m also a realist. I read the rises in sales and think “a 100% increase in bugger all is still bugger all”, and have found a very useful article by Tom Koltai that documents the 12 years up to 2007 for music sales.


It includes the above chart (updated with recent actual and projected figures), that really does give some context to vinyl sales, one that will show that vinyl as a format really does have a very VERY long way to becoming anything like mainstream, making the whole idea of keeping it real a pipe dream. Further context — vinyl is still only 1-2% of the overall market, depending on format and region. I really do suggest that you pour over that article — it’s quite the eye-opener.

So please, before heaping crap upon people for using toys and faking, just remember that unless DJs stick to very niche genres, or only play music from the last millennium, the realistic chances of DJs keeping it real in the digital world are very slim.

Over to you

Are you a DJ who plays nothing but vinyl? How hard is it for you to stay current? Have you given up trying and gone digital? Do you feel that using a turntable and DVS is enough to ‘keep it real’? Do you see the trend in vinyl sales as a long term thing or do you see it flattening out?

NOTE: The hero shot is the iconic DJ Shadow ‘Endtroducing’ cover. © DJ Shadow. Poster available in the DJ Shadow store.

  • Its possible, but expensive. 65% of my gigs are “pure” vinyl. No laptop. I buy 3-5 12″ records each week and have a lot of new music. But I often have to bring my laptop with Serato as a backup if the stage or DJ-booth is not suitible for vinyl. But I can charge more for my gigs since the promotor gets more of a show with the old craftmanship.

    • Actually I give my customers a choice, real or laptop …the real deal costs more but gets booked more often. However “keeping it real” is very expensive, but you get to know your tunes very well.

      • MidVinter

        Well you can not just whim your way through and, play n pray as many do.

        Who need to know the music when you have a big screen and realtime waveforms, who need to anything really, just load the track, cue, press play and sync everything.

        Fun?, not really

    • I love that you bring Serato as a backup, since all the general arguments are needing to bring CDs or vinyl as a backup for the computer.

      • MidVinter

        How many times have you really been in need of a backup?
        the times ive used a backup are when the venue, club or promotor have been cheap and leased crap instead of good equipment.

        Ive never personally have had the need of a backup, that saying alot.

  • to each his own, but if you can’t handle vinyl, can’t scratch& beatjuggle, you are not a proper allround DJ.

    • MidVinter

      its one thing to scratch or beatjuggle on vinyl, as its sounds rough around the edges and out of time, but trying to do the same with DVS or cds are a joke!

      Beatmatch or mix but dont try the fake the real thing.

      People that oppose this are cheapskates, pirates or the lazy ones

      They are also the ones that buy mp3 or drag computers around just to “have” gigs
      The worst thing that have happened is when an institution like DMC give a go ahead using computers in the world dj competition.

      Sorry to say this, but using controllers and computers in a dj competition have nothing to do with skill, and here i thought a competition was about skill and improv. but no.

      Its sad to see after soooo many years DMC go down digital and so lame.

      I have the deepest respect for Roc Raida (R.I.P.), Jazzy Jeff, Mixmaster Mike, Cutchemist, Shadow, Ztrip, DJ Swamp, Stenski, Bombataa, Jazzy Jay, Kentaro and many more.

      • thatonedude1010

        You do realizes that almost all the people you named use serato, right?

  • me

    for several years i mixed only vinyl and you still can do it if you are a drum and bass , jungle, dubstep and techno fan, your study only focus on mainstream shit and edm but i still say and you can still buy lots of new stuff in vinyl, take for example and you will see that you find almost everything..

    • S.Hulley

      Although the facts and figures given were taken from popular charts across a limited range of genres, here in the UK, house / pop / EDM is what is predominantly played in most clubs. I agree that some genres (I mentioned a couple in the article) including the ones you listed, still have a a thriving vinyl scene, and support vinyl releases, but this unfortunately isn’t true for all new releases.

      One of the points I was trying to get across is that the availability of Vinyl is specific to each individuals needs, and however much one might want to / be told to ‘keep it real’, it is not a viable option for everyone.

  • “: Can DJs ‘keep it real’ and spin only new vinyl? –“<wax cat!

  • William Gardner

    yeah, I think its very doable in some underground scenes and genres…websites like Boomkat offer enough good wax coming from good labels to play purely vinyl. But I pretty well agree with this article. DVS is the way to go for DJs playing genres where labels will release some music exclusively on digital formats and others on vinyl. Also if a DJ is spinning mainstream then the Keep It Real issue is right out the window from the beginning. Not in a music elitist way, but I really don’t think projecting an ‘authentic’ image is their concern if that’s the sort of music they are playing.

  • blackavenger

    Yeah, especially with Dubstep.

  • seenematic

    Coming from a strictly vinyl setup, I now picked up djing again with a VCI300. I still have my vinyl collection, but not having to carry crates anymore is a definite plus. One bag that carries laptop, VCI and VFX instead of having to travel by car and carry 3-4 crates … the choice is easy.
    For music listening at home, I still prefer listening to vinyl, holding a sleeve, checking the artwork, smelling the paper, … but for djgigs it’s a nobrainer.
    For a hiphop dj, buying vinyl also meant buying doubles very often, so you’d have to multiply the cost in the article.

  • The medium is not the message.

    • MidVinter

      The collection, selection and soundquality is!

      And many many have neither!

  • Cant afford vinyl but maybe twice a yr, so maybe I suppose. But this is such a tired argument.

  • Gulli Johansen

    Being a DJ in the 80 it was dam difficult as I live in the middle of the North Atlandic oacen and we only got new record maybe once a month. but the good part about vinyl only was if you did not have a requested song you were forgiven. Now someone requests a song and if I don’t have it. they see my laptop and demand I look for it on youtube.
    The last shop selling vinyls here stopped selling them sometimes in the 90’s any vinyls I can buy now are from recycle shops or garage sales no way to import myself as transport and tax would be double the price of a single.
    But the grate thing about my country there are no purist DJ’s. Everyone DJ I know uses controllers except from 3 that use CDJ’s.
    so to answer you question. In my country Vinyl is dead and has been for maybe 15 years.

    • MidVinter

      Youtube or spottify the true savior amogst the jukeboxes that aim to please instead of doing a proper job with what they got.

      Oh my, i dont have the latest crap top 40 tune, and now they asking me for it, aaah best i log on to itunes and buy that shit and make em happy.

      If people need to argue with the audience why they dont have that partikular tune maybe they should look inte what they are doing.

      • Gulli Johansen

        I just ask them to write it down on paper and I’ll have a listen to it when I get home any maybe have it next time I DJ. I won’t connect to the internet even if the club I play has internet.

  • Yes its possible but very expensive and don’t have any advantage. The only reason to “keep it real” is for your own ego and for a couple of train spotter. The only good reason would be sound quality but exept if the club have a very high quality sound system you won’t ear the difference

  • kissbutt

    I buy vinyl but don’t DJ with it. That makes me buy other kind of music that I treasure. I don’t know if it will boom. I guess not. I don’t care. Just keep one vinyl in the shop for me so I can get it.

  • It depends on the genre of music you play, but in all cases you’ll be missing out on playing quite a few new releases that aren’t released on vinyl. Though, it is possible to get dubplates cut of the ones that aren’t available on vinyl, but it would be an expensive way of doing things.

    • MidVinter

      If you cant play say animals or gangnam style on vinyl, maybe its not worth missing.

      Much of the massmusic is utter and pure crap, and will soon be forgotten. focus on the real gems, and keep their heritage alive.

      I used to be a hipster “toppnotch” and have the latest cool stuff, special eds dj, but if you do you have to sacrifice much especially soundquality, sure the promos i got on “real” cds are still there, but alot of the crappy mp3s are not.

      Ive probably have “murdered” more mp3 music then many of you will listen to or see in a whole lifetime, but im not sad in that sense, what i do mourn, is that i could not get it in the format the musicians and remixers ment it to be in the first place. I bought tonnes of mp3s in “special remixes” from dj stores around the world.

      And it was ok to some extent as the internet were really really slow, and a wav or aiff would take forever. so i started to buy cds and got promotion to get rid of these problems, and im glad i did, cause most of these remixes and timeless music not many can buy today, and if you get ahold of it, its either pirated or in mp3.

      But its a question of preference, i know what i would put my money on

  • Gerome

    being a producer type of DJ i dont need CDs or mp3s , i sample stuff off records cause that sounds better, also when i dont produce or scratch i prefer listening to real vinyl..if i was a club DJ or mobile DJ i’d prob use DVS..the turntable will always be my choice of cutting and looks kinda lame to me seeing some lazy DJ playing dance music on CDJs and hardly doing anything..back in the days the house DJs were actually putting some work into you see some boring middle aged man pressing a few buttons and twisting some knobs on a CDJ..i think thats wack so year there are a lot of WACK DJs out there that i wouldnt never pay money for to see..the ones that put hard work on stage behind 2 turntables i respect more cause the turntable is like the guitar in rock music..people still play the people should still play the turntable for keeping this almost dead artform alive.

  • I thought djing was about the music. If it is, and you forgo playing some great tracks because you want to “keep it real” you’re missing the entire fu**ing point of djing in the first place.

    • CreatorOnDaFader

      you clearly are missing the point here girl

    • MidVinter

      Djn is about playing the good stuff and on the right and true media.
      if you claim that mp3 is a professional and real media for djs, youd better wake up and smell the vinyl burning in your hair.

      The main purpose of a dj is to move people, and doing so with the best choice and selection of music and quality possible.

      a dj that know his shit, make a “mashup” on the fly, no need of a prerendered crappy track, and he showcase what the gear can do, using the mantra “less is more”, putting effects on tracks where it fits, not overusing or redlineing the mixer because its cool. Today house is built from loudness, real bad mastering, soundquality will make you cry and the choice of media will make you puke.

      You would know what im talking about if you took both time and money to learn the arts of an audiophile, we put quality in the first room at whatever the cost. if a cheap Pioneer cd or Amplifier could do the job, we put tenfold the cost on just one part of the system, and not counting the hour put in on tweaking and polishing the experience.

      If you implement the same philosophy in deejaying you will have the best audio and maybe visual experience you can buy for money.

      Ive been a deejay for 23 years, and i have had my share of what you can indentify as a good deejay and whats not. ive been at clubs with some of the worst soundequipment ever, and that showed when people left because of this, ive spun on funktion one, JBL, Nexo, Turbosound systems with really good quality music, and the people were extatic because of the sound, and lightshows.

      Give em a package out of the ordinary and people will pay eventually.

      Quality cost money and beeing a dj cost money also.

      You have to spend money to make money, easy as pie!

  • dj murj

    I have not given up on vinyl. Never will. But I don’t chase the impracticality idea of playing all vinyl all the time. Occasionally I will play specific gigs with all old vinyl. So my answer is not simple…I’d say I’ve “moved on” from “keeping it real”

    As far as reports of vinyl sale increases, I’m sure all the repressing of old popular LPs from “Doggystyle” to “Dookie” for sale in stores such as urban outfitters and whole foods has an effect. In my opinion this is fake and is not a market of djs or music enthusiast but more appeal of the have a record player in the living room with a little stack of records only to be played when guests come over for your trendy gluten-free diner party

  • RT

    I play all Vinyl 90% of the time. I am not a top 40s DJ so it makes it even easier. I promote something like this “If you want top 40s music this may not be the party for you…if you want to get down on the dancefloor all night long then this is your party…and Yes this is an ALL Vinyl Party!” then I will describe the night’s genres selection and the vibe. The amazing compliments and appreciation vinyl DJs get cannot be conveyed in words. HERE’S THE KICKER…because smaller venues/lounges do not have space for turntables or do not have equipment, I bought a Traktor S4 to play out – I fuc***g love the damn thing! I also bought the X1 then later bought the F1 (which I haven’t used out yet 6 months later but working on remix-deck performance shows) being able to take with my entire music library is way too convinient to dismiss. To tie-in vinyl and digital worlds I purchased the traktor certified Pioneer DJM 850 so use it instead of the venue’s house mixer. I can do digital and vinyl with a switch of a button! I do believe nothing beats the satisfaction spinning with vinyl and your audience will never ever confuse you with a button pusher, but digital opens a whole new world. (PS. I’ve shown up with my S4 or with USB cable to connect my computer to a venue’s traktor certified mixer and have had CDJs DJs call me a “sync dj” lol. can anyone imagine that? people who have never touched a turntable, vinyl record or beatmatch by ear blasting on DVS DJs! If we don’t respect each others choices then why would our audience?

  • even if I wanted to (been there, done that) there is far to much great underground music that is only released digitally.

  • LoopCat

    I am lucky that the genres I play about 90% still gets pressed on vinyl. (Techno/Deep House,UK Bass) I can completely understand people using WAV’s/MP3’s and I myself have allot of tunes I use with DVS or a set of CDJ’s if they are set up. I know its been said before but really it comes down to great selection and tasteful mixing, or scratching if that’s your thing.

    • MidVinter

      Some new prodeced stuff, has ended up as vinyl, kind a funny

  • White Wulfe

    When I lived in another city that had an amazing record store, I used to buy a LOT more records. These days, I’m stuck purchasing from online shops, and since most of them are based out in Europe for the styles of music I like (Metropolis probably being the only one that comes to mind that isn’t – Out Of Line, Rige, and HTFR are all European), shipping (and duty/taxes!) prices tend to ramp up the cost significantly.

    While I miss the thrill of digging through crates (especially in a record store run by passionate people who can provide recommendations about other musical artists you could be interested in), Beatport is my main source these days, and it isn’t just because of the whole cost factor. My biggest factor is convenience, as silly as that may sound to some. I no longer own a vehicle, nor do I have any record stores in my city that cater to the genres I like (nearest one that regularly stocks hard house, DnB, and hardstyle is three hours by vehicle away, or a $100 bus ticket with at least a 4 hour ride each direction).

    Beatport hits the nail on the head when it comes to both price and convenience for me, and if I can’t get my hands on the tracks that way THEN I’ll look at the online ordering of CDs or (when available) records, although I tend to prefer ordering CDs these days due to the fact they’re easier to rip to whatever lossless format you want and then use Traktor for playback. CDs also (arguably) take up less space.

    Like others have said, the medium isn’t the important part, it’s what you do with it.

    • MidVinter

      Beatport hits the nail in the coffin when it comes to stores of music, but i guess that is the tooth of time, same with quality, most of todays so called djs are cheapskates, and dont want to buy their music, especially wav or aiff, so they are content with mp3s as many dont get complaints of a allready dumbed down and dull audience that cant differentiate between mp3 or a hi quality recording. the same with video, this is the type of folks that watch a bittorrent movie in 700mb size and applaude that crap instead of watching it in full HD in a theatre or on a bluray at home.

      Free taste good, but the quality stink.

      Maybe thats why Tony Andrews @ Funktion One, get complaints from promotors that their system got broken the minute a mp3 dj stepped in the booth and start playing music.

      The medium is really the important part, without good music in high quality you as a dj are just making an ass out of yourself.

      Pro’s use HQ and HIDEF, amateurs use mp3 and shitty youtube “stolen” music and videos.

      • White Wulfe

        Even two days later I’m still trying to figure out why you seem to be ranting about quality as well as the notions of ripping music off of YouTube (or I suppose Bit Torrent), since I didn’t even mention those topics in my original post.

        I think there are a few motivating factors behind why not everyone is so willing to spend money, or comes across as “cheapskates” to you. First and foremost, let’s take the average person who is simply doing things because they enjoy it, and can spare say $40 every payday for new music. With records, where I live, you would be lucky to be able to afford only THREE new release records every two weeks, and it would be maybe a whopping five or so if older yet purchased through mail order. Make it 320Kbps MP3s from Beatport, and we’re now looking at 20 brand new tracks, or 26 if you buy songs that are 60 days since release or older before any coupons (and they regularly hand out 30-50% off coupons). If it’s AIFF or WAV, that bumps it down to 14 brand new or 17 two month old tracks. Beatport allows for one to constantly inject new blood into your sets while keeping your (or the crowd’s) favourites also in there, but still allow you to keep mixing things up so every night is different.

        If I were to purchase ten new tracks on vinyl every month, after shipping, duty, and taxes, I’m already looking at $200 CAD for that one order, and since I have a mortgage to pay (as well as other hobbies), I’m nowhere near as willing to pay out that kind of cash as I was even five years ago, simply due to all the extra costs with life in general. Or, to put that into perspective, that same amount of money could easily get me 72 brand new tracks encoded to AIFF or WAV (or 88 encoded at 320Kbps MP3), and I can listen to and/or use those tracks pretty much the instant my credit card is charged. Wait a week (and then maybe not be home when the delivery driver comes) versus wait a few minutes for the download – I know what option I myself would choose.

        As an addendum to my initial post: if there was a record store in town that catered to something other than rock and metal (and actually carried a good selection of DnB, hardstyle, and hard house), I’d shop there on a regular basis, but would still make the bulk of my purchases on Beatport simply due to having only so much spare cash to spend on a musical hobby. $15-18 per record just doesn’t pay off for me.

        • MidVinter

          Yeah, sure, ive been a member of Beatport since launch, so whatyou are wrighting is false, i know what beatbort are good for and about their offerrings, they just want your money, quality has noting to do with it!
          deal with it!

  • Jared Helfer

    I really want to provide a deep and meaningful point to this discussion, but I can’t bring myself to. The argument is old and tired. If DJs still sit and think that whatever tools you’re using makes you more or less legit than another then there’s nothing that can possibly be said to convince them otherwise.

    The only people that care about “keeping it real” are other DJs, not the people which really matter in this discussion: the crowd who comes to hear us spin.

    As far as this discussion, personally I see vinyl sales as always existing, but eventually there will be an entire generation which will have had absolutely no direct contact with it, except from people like us. But I doubt I’ll be teaching my kids the true “honor” of vinyl.

    • RantOn

      dont talk about DJing when you are manipulating a controller, youre not drumming when you sit behind a laptop pressing some drumkits, youre drumming when you have a real drumset, youre a rock drummer when you rock a drumset set on stage, youre not a rock drummer when you sit behind a laptop pressing some drumkits on a Maschine without having real drums..why the fuck is it acceptable in DJing to call yourself a DJ when you fucking play pop nonsense behind a laptop on a controller???? ima tell you straight in your face that the whole so called DJ scene has become as WACK as Lil Wayne is to rap music. NUFF SAID.

      • A full dance floor decides if someone is a DJ, not other DJs.

      • Jared Helfer

        You’re setting up false dichotomies. No one is claiming that pressing play on a laptop makes you a drummer.

        You seem angry and, well, that’s fine, I wish you the best in having a conversation with much of anyone, but why are you so bent out of shape? Spinning vinyl is just playing other people’s music, just like playing on a laptop with a controller. And all that should matter, the only reason we exist as DJs, is that the crowd loves it.

      • chris

        go fuck yourself you tool. nobody calls themselves a drummer with a maschine. Dick head.
        so, by your reasoning, music played on instruments (drums, guitars, pianos etc) that take time, effort and skill to play are examples of “real” music? so what about the twatty records you play? is that not “real” because it is a recording, rather than the real thing? or how about the recording of you playing your twatty pre-recorded music, not “real” also?
        DJing isn’t about what you use, but the SKILLS you use to do it. Contrary to popular belief, controllers require some skill, but simply manipulating a controller doesn’t make you a DJ. Manually beatmatching on vinyl and mixing two tracks doesn’t either. DJing has a whole lot of other skills required to actually be a DJ. If people come to see you play, it’s not because you spin vinyl or CD”s or MP3’s. It’s because you can select a decent lot of songs, mix them in a skillful way, and get a crowd of people dancing and having a good time. If you can do that, no matter what equipment you use to do it, it is acceptable to refer to yourself as a DJ.
        You, my friend, are a “real” cock,

        • chris – while I admire your passion and agree with your opinion, insulting people is not the way to get it across. I actively encourage you to keep on posting and voice your opinions, but leave the flames and insults out. Thanks.

        • urdumbdj

          you are cock retard ass wipe go and fuck your mum in the ass

  • Thomas G

    I think it all depends of what make you feel the music after all. Vinyl digging is highly enjoyable but in the modern world where we all live in, well, it might not talk to everybody.

    It maybe categorizing people saying that but I guess it also depends what music you re playing. You can’t find 20% of the top 20 pressed on vinyl, but I’m wondering what the percentage of ‘keep it real” dj’s that are playing top 20. It’s all about finding the right balance between keeping it real and answering to the actual audience you’ll be in front of – everyone needs a top 20 sometimes…

    But, I admit that on a personal level, I really enjoy seeing the vinyl industry coming back, on a more underground level, even though, that bring a new hype therefore a falseness to it. How many ‘vinyl only’ released really didn’t need to bother going to press? I believe a few, and don’t get me started on the limited prints, where you find them the next day at three time the price on Discogs…

    My 2 cents

    • MidVinter

      Its not talking to people at all, as there are no musicstores left soon, only used ones.and its a real shame, sure its convenient with digital, but you miss out on so much, like the social aspect, when we shopped for music, we came all together, cratedug and listened for hours. that was fun and educating, as there were gear in the shop to dj with. that you cant do today.

      R.I.P all recordstores that have given me so much, both fun, education in music and help me build my collection, that would have been impossible today!, i have cost me an arm and a leg, but it was worth it.

  • The CunTROLLER

    “ultimately a turntable with timecode makes it a controller” In a world where Miley Cyrus is dominant and Jay-Z and Beyoncé are a glamour couple, this may very well be. But to me a controller is emulating under others the things a turntable do (or an MPC etc.) and not vice-versa. And this whole indoctrinating attitude towards how a DJ is/should be… (Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth)

    • Mutis Mayfield

      I believe the article is talking about bypass the “player” nature of turntable into something more digitalized itself. It is not only about playing the same tune analog vs digital, it is about transforming the turntable into a tool which speaks and comunicate with other tools (controllers and/or not, computers, analog synth and even standalone drum machines)
      Imagine yourself using the turntable as a realtime and big jogwheel of your mpc stuff. That’s one of the low explored uses of (some interesting) DVS out there:

      Turntable with DVS is a controller of/from media files and/to other software/gear thanks to midi/OSC and SDK. That’s a fact.

      So turntable by itself is not capable of certain task and it needs some hacking (software/hardware) to keep in the “realm” that we “play” today.

      Turntablism: Guitarism with turntable (used as instrument)
      Controllerism: Controllers as turntables in turntablism (moldover dixit)
      Tooltablism: Using turntables as controllers and controllers as turntables or better said using tools to perfom in free creativity (Jeet kune do applied to audiovisual arts)

      If you get stuck with the name and form, you have got a jail for the mind… Maybe a gold and diamonds (or vinyl or arcade button…) but a jail at last.

      • The article is really only talking about the availability of new and popular music being available on vinyl.

        • Mutis Mayfield

          Title didn’t say so… If you ask about “keep it real” and start with a definition of it…. It seems clear a debatable “where are we”
          Said this, there is no problem for talking about it but definition of keep it real to me is not play only vinyl.
          Keep it real to me is do it in the way that you do is your best and your own. For Bambatta, Kool herc and even after in jamaican dub they work with turntables and it was their tools. For us the tools are others.

          Roots are roots but to keep it real, we must ask ourselves why the pioneers of the culture used these tools in their way and how to translate these concept/feeling into our actual context.
          Then do your best and keep it real, other thing will be mimmic and tradition but not necessary culture.

          Of course if someone look around about these concerns, vinyl has little space but turntables maybe has a little more. Tool and medium aren’t the same, tradition and culture neither.

    • MidVinter

      If you respect the gear, you actually buy a Technics 1200 / 1210 and try to get ahold of the vinyl records.

      Trying to emulate something is the same as fake, thats just the fact.

      Id rather walk than buying a kitcar that resemble a Porsche boxter
      id rather walk without a watch then buying a fake rolex and pretend beeing someone im not.

      I never claim that i can scratch or spun on vinyl, so i stayed with cds, cause thats what i master.

      Id been at venues that claim to revere the 70s and the clubs and disco back then, and when you enter, what do you see.
      four technics 1200s yes, but only with spinning slipmats and a hideaway controller and a macbook pro.

      Thats not evolution, but DEvolution, tarnish the history of something great that developed the industry as a whole.

  • MidVinter

    Keep it real means playing the good stuff, not the newest shit on the block.
    Good music is timeless, and people that enjoy good music dont care what year it was made.

    Sad to say, most people dont have a taste that is timeless, its crapless and need to be as fresh as a dogturd made in the morning, preferably mastered the same evening as it was made, so its more loud than sounding good.

    Its more of a sissy homemaker than a professional dj

    If you value vinyl and the old ways, why not just stay that way, as the audience that appreciate this will search for venues or clubs that can support that statement.

    The rest will follow the stream of what the fox say, or ride the gangnam style.
    some good some bad, and i guess thats why trax like watch the sunrise, Lethal industry, Music Sounds better with you, Satisfaction, La la land and so on will continue to be spun the old fashioned way, while the others will wither and die in the massproduced soup of sounds that bombard us all every day.

    Vinyl will once again reach the top beacuse of its “coolness” and rich history, and if you have the records and the gear you will have a ride of a lifetime. the rest of us digital jocks, will just have to cope, as the evolution will keep pushing the sounddevelopment even further down the drain. in the 70s and 80s there were vinyl and analog, a pure signal without artifacts and digital distortion, 90s – 2000 were the cd takeover, 44100hz of average qualtiy in sound, but decent mastering and effort to make it good. 2005 and future, is the mp3 era, with 10% of the total dynamic range, its loud yes, but sounds crap. But be greatful as you can cram 16000 songs on a usbstick.

    That beeing said, quantity before quality is not the best way to go.

    personally ive rooted out all the shit and put my sights on the good tracks, so instead of bringing 100 000 jukeboxtracks, i bring 2000 high quality tracks that matter and that helped move a whole world!

    Music is about movement and a universal language!

  • No because not all the new music is being printed on vinyl

  • With serato I guess .

  • Realist

    I have really wanted to keep playing vinyl for all of my sets, but I can’t because of the following reasons:

    1. The clubs in which I get booked don’t look after their turntables or actually have any.
    2. The cost of vinyl is becoming beyond feasible to budget for.
    3. Most of the music that I play is either not released on vinyl or released a lot later than the digital versions.
    4. The fact that I can bust my balls off to play a seem less mix with vinyl, only for a 16 year old to rock up and smash me out of the water from an iPad.
    5. 80-90% of the clubbing community don’t give two shits about what a DJ uses to perform, so long as they can keep dancing.

    Its a sad state of affairs and I wish I could still be playing sets with just vinyl. DVS is the closest thing to it I can get, so that will have to do.

    I guess in the long run that whilst its nice to reminisce about the good old days of vinyl, but we do all need to move on and start looking to the future of DJing and not the past.

    Keeping it real is just accepting what is going on and embracing it.. Google “DJ Craze on Traktor” and “Jon1st”. They will demonstrate how to DJ in the 21st century.

    • DJonAnyMedium

      If you listen to Craze being interviewed for the movie Scratch, he himself says that when he looks back he doesn’t want to be saying, “I was keeping it real man…” He wants to remember he was having fun! All the haters should just remember to have fun, that’s what it means to keep it real.

      Plus, the future is bright, when digital storage becomes less of an issue, we’ll be able to play music at higher bitrates and sample rates, and if you haven’t A/B’d music in 16bit vs 24bit, well you just don’t know what you’re missing. 🙂

  • tsutek

    You can “keep it real” in 2013 by buying a vinyl cutter and cut all your digital tunes onto acetates. If you can’t do that, you ain’t keeping it real 😉

    It’s too much about the equipment these days – back in the day a DJ was someone with superb records and a good crowd reading skills. I even heard there used to be DJ’s who only had (gasp) one turntable, and there was silence between every record as the DJ changed the discs. They were still good DJs and made people enjoy themselves.

    If one’s definition of “keeping it real” is some kind of obsession towards a particular DJ equipment selection, he should go back to the dojo and meditate… Nuff said.

  • The_KLH

    I wonder how many turntables would be used today if digital vinyl emulation apps were never invented…

    • RantOn

      most people who still use and buy real vinyl are non DJs, they buy mostly Rock and Indie records…they are music enthousiasts who still care about good music..most DJs do not care about good music wich is a hard fact, they just want to earn money the easiest way possible by playing disposable pop music on a digital device. Welcome to to wack world of DJing.

      • Jay Filbert

        (What I’m about to tell you is in no way out of hate/being an asshole, I’m just pointing out and putting my 2 cents in)
        Ok, I see where you are coming from, and it’s true there are people out there who still use turntables and vinyl for just listening and appreciating music, but I’m going to point out by concience that you are using sweeping generalization when it comes to what DJ’s care about and don’t care about. I for a fact care about the good music even when cutting it up my turntables, and other DJ’s may be like this. When manipulating the beats and melodies on my turntables for the reason of artistic and musical purposes, I see that it’s giving appreciation and caring about good music because it’s using the music to create new sounds and such. I mean I’m as concious aabout my vinyl and it’s sound quality as the next vinyl audiophile, but if the music gets cue burn or any other defects over time because I used that music to have a good time and create awesome sounds and beats out of the record, then that’s caring about good music and putting it to purpose, just as much as listening, possibly sampling, and collecting&storing records is caring about good music. All in all, it’s really the perspective that one has on “caring about good music”. And I probably have brought up points that you didn’t even bring up, but I thought I’d just put my 2 cents in and just point out a fallacy, in which not all DJ’s are out for the money and don’t care about good music.

  • edocronian

    DVS is good enough that the skills on real wax are still just as valid in the digital domain. Serato is the record box that doesn’t enrage my spine. Nothing more.

    For others, its a way to do new and interesting things that you couldn’t do before. (or afford to cut the custom wax)

    The problem isn’t that DVS exists, its that anyone starting out now will not “get” the way it was before. As a result, the tech becomes the focus, not the skills.

    Any knob can be auto tuned into key, but look how crap pop singers are these days.

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  • 13thICE

    to be up to date and play only vinyl is impossible. you can read text above it’s true and nothing to say about it. but who could be named as a dj? thous who play to be most best and popular dj? or just a dj on the small gig with people who know what is going on on stage and they care about music… djing is dead after sync button for me. and clubs is not a temple of music anymore. thats why nobody cares who what how playing. put the winamp with top 100 songs and it will be a best dj…

  • I gave up on vinyl years ago. Paying $10-$12 per record seems a waste compared to paying $1-$3 for a MP3. Not to mention I have the luxury of shopping in my home or at my work anytime I want. I’m not bound to record store hours or the limited quantities record stores have.

    I’ll be honest, even before I got off vinyl, I would shop more online than I would in person. I just was tired of racing to the store within a tight window of time in the hope to get some new/cool/exclusive tunes. If anything, I noticed the only folks who could really be up on it all were either guys who worked in the store, DJs who could pay the bills spinning, or the guys who worked odd jobs and had plenty of free time to shop (but couldn’t move out of their parents’ home).

    Even me shelving my 1200s was also a matter of growing sick of going to venues where the gear is broken, malfunctioning, or nonexistent. A midi control and a laptop made life so much easier and made the flow from DJ to DJ easier.

    I get the point that many young kids seemingly dive in not wanting to learn this craft or “keep it real”, but it should come down to the veterans to mentor them as opposed to bash on them. The real problem now isn’t so much the HOW someone is playing, but the WHAT someone is playing. Pop music has permeated the trade so much that DJs either won’t venture outside of the charts, or are afraid to…with promoters quick to fire a DJ who isn’t playing the hits and making girls happy.

    For everyone who wants to complain, the answer is to BUILD A SCENE. Forget vinyl, CD, or MP3. Forget laptops and/or sync buttons. If you want to be able to play stuff you believe in, love, and feel the world needs to hear…then you need to build a scene for that. Build an atmosphere where the average person could possibly give your sound a try…as opposed to them begging you for Miley Cyrus.

    Build a scene and you’ll build a music landscape that the wannabes will try to copy from you.

    Build a scene and you might even get a floor full of dancers…as opposed to a room full of folks playing with their phones.

    Build a scene and promoters will be chasing you down…as opposed to you chasing them.

  • Kelly Myers

    I only play vinyl and continue to do so. The article basically makes the case that if you play commercial top 40 crap, hip hop and well crap. You are out of luck if you are a vinyl DJ. But if you are a house or techno/minimal DJ you are swimming in new releases every week. Sadly the major trance labels have gone commercial (thanks a lot armin – you bastard for screwing up trance with your dutch based dictatorship!) and thus killed off vinyl releases immediately.
    I’m happy to pay what I pay for a vinyl record. If more people understood the difference and what keeping it real actually meant (this article missed the point – vinyl is underground and exclusive, sexy and sounds better!) then maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem to get tunes in other genres. But right now I see it like this. There are two genres.There is EDM (which really is commercial dance music) and then there is UDM (Underground dance music). Guess which one is on vinyl almost exclusively? And guess which one doesn’t have the cheese factor crap spewed all over the place?

    You guessed it – the UDM stuff.

    For all of you digital DJs out there – take your controllers and your laptops and go and do whatever you are going to do, but stay out of our way!

    • chris

      Mate…you are a purist dinosaur, and sooner or later extinction is gonna bite you in the ass. I have a bicycle in my shed, and do you know why it is in my shed? Because i bought a car. I progressed. I have nothing against people who use vinyl, shit, it’s where i started, but i’m not gonna stay out of your way. Believe it or not, there is plenty of room for both of us….so go fuck yourself.

      • Kelly Myers

        Really Chris? There is room for both of us? Vinyl DJs gave room for the digital guys and they took more than their fair share in return. Vinyl DJs are fighting back finally and there are a LOT of us out here who are sick and tired of the “progress” or evolution reasoning – because its not reasoning – it’s an excuse slackers and cheapskates use to justify their sell out behavior and actions.

        • David Michael

          I support all formats, as I enjoy playing them all… but all these statements are a bit over the top, don’t you think?

          “Vinyl DJs gave room for the digital guys and they took more than their fair share”… as if there was some sort of governing DJ body who decides what is appropriate for the booth.

          “I have a bicycle in my shed, and do you know why it is in my shed? Because i bought a car. I progressed.”… as if convenience or technological advancement is the only reason to choose one mode over the other. (Guess what? I have a car and a bike and I use both.)

          C’mon, guys. You exemplify the problem from both sides of the issue. :/

  • TDOG

    If you play top 40 music, no of course not.

    If you play old stuff, or house/techno etc. I would argue that you’re almost better off being vinyl only. There is absolutely masses of new and old stuff available that you can’t even get digitally (unless someone has illegally shared a rip).

    I use digital and vinyl but most of the best music I own (particularly house/techno) is the vinyl only stuff. I think that alone gives DJ’s an extra edge over straight digital DJ’s.

    I play sometimes all digital (weddings, parties), sometimes both (bars/clubs) and very occasionally vinyl only. I did this recently and it was the most fun i’ve had playing for a long time. Everyone always bangs on about it not mattering about the medium, which I agree with to an extent. However, you almost always get positive comments from people at the parties when you turn up with a box of records. Particularly amongst the older crowds, there is definitely more respect there, warranted or not. I think people know that a vinyl collection is harder to curate and much more expensive, therefore respect is due.

    And to all the people moaning about the price – many of the vinyl release only records I own are going for between £25 to £100 each on Discogs. Up to 10 times more than I paid for them. Whereas my mp3 collection cost a fortune and is

    now worth absolutely nothing. Even the records that are not worth much and you don’t like anymore can be easily sold on as a job lot.

  • renton marx

    That problem is why I petered out on vinyl – my favorite record store and label stopped carrying it, so my main go-tos dried up.
    But, if one wants to take a more historical approach, there is an endless stack of great records out there to be found. It just requires deep pockets and an even deeper commitment, so when I see someone playing all vinyl, I know they put a lot into it and really love it.
    That being said,most of the really mind blowing sets I’ve seen in the past decade have been digital, and now that I have an S4, the possibilities have rekindled the fire, and there’s still DVS for when I want to mix in old favorites.

  • djalibi

    here in Houston, there are a few “Vinyl Only” weekly events popping up, (records only no serato , nothing, ) I think this is great for having “old school night” i pulled some old stuff out of storage went through and found stuff that i totally forgot about, so i ended up playing them that night and forgot how great the feel was, (with the occasional “rice krispie” sound, everything went well, lol) i actually didn’t mind just picking out an hour set and carrying one crate and some headphones to the club for one night, it actually felt sort of “stress free” cause i didnt have to hook anything up, lol i guess thats the catch though, is, if the club already has tables, …

    i agree that there is nothing really new on vinyl, juno has a new few things but i wont order unless i really have a badass slot coming up, otherwise, its the digging in the used records stores here in houston, which there are plenty of, but all cater to “collector” type, there used to be some hidden “gems” of classic EDM but now they have all been wiped out around here and doesnt seem like anybody is trading anything in , anytime soon, and every now n then ill remissness about an old track and order from Discogs, .

    but i would think would be cool is if we could cut our own records somehow, lol, i know , i know, its impossible, but i see they are working 3D vinyl but looks far from perfected..

    anyway, i still use vinyl for old school parties, and my ipad and wego for other, nothing wrong with being versatile i guess, lol

    • Plyphon

      “i agree that there is nothing really new on vinyl”

      eh? There are a ton of new releases on vinyl. Check

      • djalibi

        cool thanks for the link,

    • teknik1200

      I’m into turntable tricks and very fast but very very long mixing. for me nothing feels right except vinyl.


    If you can afford vinyl only releases then you can afford to go out and make dubplates…end of story.

  • It’s funny you don’t mention that some DJ’s are purely controllerists but have Technics at home so they can rip all the “vinyl-only” releases to .wav in their Traktor collection 🙂

    • Tony

      Exactly this. If my records aren’t available digitally I just rip em. Every record I own is ripped if unavailable digitally.

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  • 1200s never die

    Okay, so back in 1999 I went to my first warehouse rave, it was a all female DJ line up called luscious grooves in Portland Oregon. Headlining was Sandra Collins. I had never heard electronic music mixed before. I fell in love, I was mesmerized by what these dj’s were doing with the turntables. I was on my way to a serious vinyl addiction. I spent 3 years trying to beat match on a pair of crap Gemini turntables, and when it finally clicked it was feeling that you can’t explain. Maybe I am just being nostalgic but I feel using a sync button and playing mp3 is denying new djs a part of what made the culture such a wonderful thing. A good DJ needs only these things, a pair of ones and twos and a good mixer, and some solid headphones. I have been out of djing for 7 years now, and it is so much in my blood that not a day goes by where I don’t think of picking up a pair of tech 12s and dusting off the old records. But to my dismay every thing is going digital and seeing videos of Donald Glaude playing on cdjs compared to watching him dominate on the decks, I can only conclude this generation has indeed lost something and they will never even know. We are all looking for cheap and easy these days, are you all getting that lazy. How do I know you didn’t just prerecord the whole damn mix and are just adding effects and drum rolls. Well crap-tastic, you can have it.

    • teknik1200

      sync kills the swing a non-syncing DJ will get in their mix.

      I gotta agree with how good it feels to drop a tight beat mix. It’s a balancing act and it sucks me in.

      That said there has always been a whole bunch of DJs on the pro circuit that couldn’t hold a beat mix for more then a couple bars anyway so they were still just posing before.

    • discorob3

      speaking of Donald Glaude dominating on the decks…. Dont forget his wonderful stage presence as shown here in the mid 90’s at the legendary State Palace Theater in New Orleans….

  • Mister Tobs

    Not much point in trying to ‘keep it real’ djing with vinyl if you wish to play modern or contemporary music. Just as the article states about the statistics. I play vinyl only, but then again I’m a retro dj.. I play hard raw 70’s funk and dirty ass 60’s soul, so it’s all part of that movement. What I object to are those dj’s who use laptops and play retro music (funk, disco, etc) with really crappy sounding mp3’s.. That’s just seriously lame!

    • Frank

      I play modern music. Just bought a load of vinyl that came out in the last few weeks. Deep house. I think you’re talking about more mainstream music, no?