When you pull up to the party with your girl friends, (and one of their boyfriends that just had to tag along) you automatically notice a few things: the line at the bathroom is slightly longer than the one at the bar, everyone’s wearing “vintage,” and the DJ is blasting your favorite song. Immediately, you walk towards the dance floor and start to swing your pony tail around only to realize the DJ is still setting up and the music is coming from an iPhone. What’s playing? A Spotify playlist.
You think to yourself, “nah, this can’t be” but indeed it is. Spotify is known for having playlists for any mood ranging from turn up with Migos to in your feelings with Drake making eliminating the cost of a DJ doable. The coveted music streaming app has millions of artists at your fingertips allowing paid subscribers to turn up in an instant. Currently, it has over 140 million active users streaming your favorite artists daily. To us, the best part about Spotify is the fact that you get to be your own “DJ” but does it really replace the live essence of a selector at a party? There’s no better moment than when you’re throwing it back on a stranger and the DJ effortlessly keeps the same rhythm of your hips, but changes the song. Unfortunately, Spotify is no live DJ.
Jamesy, a NY based DJ has been spinning on both turn tables and CDJs for over six years. He takes pride in hand selecting exactly what you want to hear at Smooth Tings, a monthly event in Brooklyn’s Kinfolk 90 along with Pizza Zoo, a bi-monthly event which includes endless pizza. Although he has never been to a playlist style party or New York’s Pass The Aux themed party, he usually keeps up with the fliers and how the events do. “I’ve seen playlist/aux parties actually feature a live DJ set, so I would imagine that playlists aren’t viewed as replacements for DJs, but rather as a different form of curating and presenting music,” says Jamsey.
DJs have more to offer than just picking your favorite tracks. Their responsibility includes keeping everyone dancing, setting the mood for the party, and ultimately having the bar packed. “I think that any good DJ knows that they have something special and unique to offer an audience vs. a playlist. DJs aren’t going anywhere — well, the good ones aren’t, at least,” he says. Every live DJ should have smoother transitions than freshly waxed armpits. “Sn ear for music, (which records go well together) good selection, and the ability to improvise and switch it up according to the audience’s perceived mood (“reading the crowd”), or more so than that, manipulate the audience’s mood” are also great tips from Jamsey in regards to DJing that a Spotify playlist just simply can’t compete with.
While a live DJ and someone curating a playlist may share some attributes — ear for music, selection — a live DJ keeps the party flowing and constantly dance-able via their transitions. Adding to that, some DJs often create their own blends or edits, sometimes live, which adds to the excitement. The “start-stop” nature of a playlist might hinder it a bit vs. a live DJ set, and it’s possible that a playlist/aux cord DJ might not understand the concepts of BPM and tempo. Also, as mentioned before, a good DJ can expertly read the crowd, improvise, and change the vibe in just a few records.
When it comes to breaking records at a party, a DJ once held that responsibility. There was always that one song where the DJ got on the mic, introduced it, and asked for our feedback by playing it over and over. While the responsibility has shifted slightly over to blogs and playlists with a handful of the general public keeping up with YesJulz’s brand 1AMCreative and their #NewMusicMondayz along with Spotify’s Rap Caviar, we believe that the two entities can coexist. “I feel like each offers the audience a different experience. The experience of a record being broken via playlist differs from a record being broken in the midst of a DJ rocking the party. It’s all about how it’s presented for the audience to digest,” says Jamesy.
In all, we prefer a live DJ bring the life of the party. Will the Spotify playlist kill the DJ? probably not. Will Spotify be our first choice as we’re taking forever to get ready in the bathroom? probably yes. Talented DJs that go the extra mile to keep up with new music, throw it back when needed and curate a vibe at the party will never be diminished. ‘The DJ, and the art of DJing, are such essential, timeless parts of the culture,” says Jamesy, and we will never replace them with solely a playlist.