There’s always some new fangled technology that allegedly is going to wipe out DJing. And within days of Serato’s new Spotify enabled Pyro music app being available on a global scale, the internet is once again littered with end of DJ days scenarios, and apparently it’s all Serato’s fault. Again. Is the second or third time now?
For those out of the loop, Pyro plays your mobile music (iTunes and Spotify) in a smoother way than just shuffle play. Based on tracks you select, it does a great job suggesting others, and smoothly beatmatching and fading from track to track. Indeed, I was impressed with how it handled my Spotify Neo Soul selection with pretty smooth on-beat transitions on a taking-it-easy Saturday morning with broken central heating while watching the snow fall. I do not however see it living up to the claims of wiping out the DJ scene.
But that’s all Pyro is — a mobile jukebox that cares not for phrasing, EQ, filters effects, levels, real track selection based on how the floor is reacting… you know, all the things that flesh and blood DJs do. Pyro however is nothing more than a good and free background music player designed to spread the Serato brand into the consciousness of consumers and DJs alike (that’s more or less a quote).
So unless Serato is in the business of commercial suicide, the idea that they’d put out a zero revenue app to destroy their own money making business is plain nuts. Or perhaps they think they can take out the whole DJ industry and kill NI, Pioneer DJ and inMusic with this trojan horse. Now you see how bonkers the claims sounds.
EVOLUTION NOT EXTINCTION
Technology changes everything, and usually in a way that reduces the need for human interaction. Things evolve, possibly radically, but the original things stick around and end up happily co-existing with the new thing. Samplers and synths operate in the same studios as strings and singers. And after rushing towards controllers en masse, our DJ shops look like 1982 again with a growing number of reimagined old school devices sitting on the shelves. Hell, someone is even making reel to reel machines again.
But why does the old stuff survive when the new shiny comes along? Because of us, the human element of things. We can’t be replaced by technology, because so much of what we do depends on our gut — the reactionary nature of playing music to a floor full of human variables means that no app in the world will ever replace the ritual of the DJ. Sure, we’re not needed as much as we were in some places, but you were never going to get paid to do that house party gig where a pile of mixtapes would do a perfectly good job. That’s just evolution.
To claim that all DJs will go the way of dinosaurs and see Serato Pyro as an extinction level event makes no sense whatsoever, especially given all the other waves of technology that have been claimed to herald the end of DJing. Despite CDs, DVS, controllers, iPads, and mobile apps, we’re still here, reading about new gear and playing new music to crowds.
It’s time to understand that just like real musicians and instruments, DJs are here to stay. Yes, DJing has changed and continues to evolve at a scary rate. But the rise of superstar DJs, the imprinting of the DJ lifestyle at a societal level, and the proliferation of DJ gear to the point of buying controllers in the same shops that you buy toilet roll at shows that DJing is booming. And it’s most certainly not being killed by little more than a crossfading beat matching app. Get real.
THE SAME BUT DIFFERENT
Despite the DJ industry’s alleged best efforts, they still haven’t managed to kill the very thing that they have created brands and a huge industry around. All they have done is made it bigger, more diverse, and open to a greater number of people than ever before. Creatively you have exponentially more options, a growing mountain of music, as well as ways to make it yourself. DJs have never had it so good. And you still have all the things you had before on top of that mountain of new stuff too. Pyro is not coming for your turntables, nor is there any law than bans you from playing on whatever gear you damned well please.
So why the doom and gloom? Why the incessant chatter about DJing dying? I’d argue quite the opposite in fact. It’s just different to how it was in whatever you consider to be the good old days before (insert wave of technology here). But choice is good, although some varied choices might be better instead of boring cookie cutter iterations of controllers, mixers, and OEM turntables. I’ll even make the bold statement that in 10 years time, we’ll still be DJs, people will have more stuff than ever, but some will still be moaning about how technology is killing DJing. I’ve made a calendar entry to revisit this in a decade to see how things compare.
Remaining relevant in the ever-changing DJ world is down to you. As a DJ, you just have to adapt to how the scene is evolving. Embrace the change or stick to your guns, but understand that keyboard warrioring your disdain in full caps is not a productive use of your DJ time, nor will it change anything. Instead, play some music — hell use Serato’s Pyro as a way to have music played to you for a change. You’ll soon come to realise that Pyro isn’t a nail in the coffin of DJing. It’s just something else added to the rich melting pot that is DJing.