Should ‘Laptop DJs’ stick to bar mitzvahs and weddings?
This is all going down outside of Los Angeles, where the owner of a club called Cure and the Cause in Glendale felt that his club was turning into an amateur hour. Even worse, the flow of music was getting interrupted by DJs who didn’t even know how to plug their laptop into the sound system. The vibe was getting killed, and the booth oftentimes messed up for the sound engineer and the DJs coming next.
So the owner, Kenny Summit, took the strong step of banning all laptop DJs in the hopes of weeding out the amateurs. Here’s the official announcement posted by Summit, who is also a DJ and producer when not managing Cure and the Cause.
“Cure And The Cause ANNOUNCEMENT:
No more laptops in the DJ booth.
Unless you’re using it to control VINYL to do a turntablist type of set, a’la Jazzy Jeff type shit, or if you’re doing a LIVE thing where you’re actually programming shit on the fly. Keep your controller in your crib, dont come to work with training wheels. LEARN THE TOOLS OF THE TRADE already. Pioneer isn’t going anywhere any time soon, they ARE the industry standard, so brush up on how to use the CDJs already, get Rekordbox (its FREE) and buy a good USB stick for $40 that will store THOUSANDS of hours of music on it.
We opened this place to showcase talent. So, show us your talent.
WE DONT WANT LAPTOPS. End of story. To each his own.”
The stirred a serious response, including those who questioned why the actual equipment on stage even matters. After all, DJs are routinely criticized for being ‘knob turners’ on stage instead of real instrumentalists, so who cares what the knobs (or buttons) are? “At the end of the day, if a DJ makes you shake your ass it should not matter what device is on the other end,” said one person in a high-traffic Facebook post.
“That’s funny recently a party goer told me they don’t care where the music comes from i.e. vinyl, CD or MP3 as long as it sounds GOOD! Amen,” another said.
“The kids just don’t seem to give a fuck today…”
Summit later expanded on the ban in an in-depth interview with Magnetic Magazine.
“We have House music events four nights per week. So we get A LOT of DJs coming through the club every week. We have the occasional big headliner (unexpected for such a small venue), and we also get a lot of locals and young DJs who get hired by promoters to warm up the room. The problem lies with the opening DJs (mostly), many of them show up with a laptop and controller, and that’s all they’ve ever used. That’s a problem. They don’t know what to connect with our Pioneer system; they have no clue what they’re plugging in or what plugs they’re taking out.
Now I know young DJs have to cut their teeth, and that’s why we give the promoters the opportunity to bring in their own DJs to open… but its gotten to the point where it’s like an epidemic with these DJs who haven’t bothered to go the full distance and LEARN how to set their shit up without interrupting the flow of the night.
Midnight is not the ideal time to turn the mixer off, pull it out and start guessing which port to plug your Traktor into.
I’m OLD, I know, I come from a time when DJs didn’t dare leave their house unless they knew they could put on a good performance. But we also took pride in knowing the equipment, knowing how to set up every component in the DJ booth. The kids just don’t seem to give a fuck today. We immersed ourselves into the culture whereas this is now just a stupid hobby that anyone and everyone seem to have picked up.”
“Would you honestly like to go and party in a club that bans laptops?”
This isn’t a new debate, and definitely not the first ban. A few years ago, for example, a number of underground clubs in London started banning laptops, raising the question over whether any of the clubgoers actually cared. “Wow. Would you honestly like to go and party in a club that bans laptops? I mean, truthfully?” wrote Phil Morse of Digital DJ Tips.
“Personally, I go out to have my mind opened a bit to stuff, not to have someone’s silly prejudices forced down my throat. One sniff of petty gear fascism and I think I’d be out of there. Can you imagine a queue of happy, sweaty people leaving a great night and saying to each other: ‘Wow, that was brilliant!’ then someone remembering, ‘Yeah, and it was all the better because there were no damned laptop DJs!'”
“There were wack DJs on vinyl before computers…”
Others have been weighing in on this debate, including DJ Rob Swift, who started out before laptops even existed. And he brought up an interesting point: there have always been crappy DJs, even when it was only turntables. The only difference is that it’s easier to be a crappy DJ these days, simply because you don’t have to make the same investments in equipment, collection, and time before getting on stage. “There were wack DJs on vinyl before computers, but the culture of DJing has changed,” Swift explained in this Medium post.
“DJing for popularity seems to be more prevalent now than it was when I was coming up among DJs who were using records. If you wanted to be popular before the laptop age as a DJ, there were things that you would have to be willing to do and sacrifice. You’d have to be willing to buy records, and you’d have to be willing to buy equipment . You’d have to be willing to learn how to operate the equipment.
“Those are things that people who only wanted to DJ for popularity weren’t willing to do.”
Images: ‘Blue Room’ by Tyler Merbler (CC by 2.0); Hilton by ビッグアップジャパン (CC by 2.0).