The Year In: “Records”

09Records
Forget the rise of mnml, the revival of deep house, the Berghain, civil rights vocal samples, the very existence of Richie Hawtin — was there any more rift-causing development over the last couple of years than the ascendence of digital technology in dance music production, dissemination, and DJing? While the vast majority of club revelers probably couldn’t have cared less what was happening behind the DJ booth, DJs and the journo-bloggers who obsess over them spent the years after Serato Scratch Live (the hardware/software package that most successfully merged a ones-and-zeros music collection with the technique and physicality of spinning real vinyl) debuted in 2004 wringing their hands over what this all means for dance music. We wouldn’t have the word “techno” without “technology,” but is soul not an equally weighty part of the equation? And isn’t vinyl culture a pretty big part of techno’s soul? To paraphrase what practically everyone inclined to grapple with such a thing grappled with: When we put the quality of the tunes aside, can a 300 gigabyte drive stuffed with ID3-tagged files not too fundamentally different from Word documents begin to approximate, to use Dapayk & Padberg’s phrase from their 2007 album of the same name, the indominable “black beauty”?
 
I think about this decade’s format war a lot, probably to the point of obsession. Perhaps it’s because I stand in a funny spot. As the younger brother of two music-obsessed and much-older siblings, I tagged along (before I could bike or drive there myself) on myriad trips to my hometown record shop, foisted myself upon its staff,  and eventually landed a summer job there as a used vinyl restoration tech. Needless to say, my love for these places runs deep, and I have a difficult time separating the experience of acquiring music from the experience of browsing through physical rows of physical product, asking spontaneous questions of physical employees, and trying to parse the clerk’s expression for some sign of how many cool points my purchase was earning me. At the same time, my first weekly gig as a budding DJ — my humble, relatively short-lived WNYU show — coincided with my being a broke-ass student in New York City. I had to play new music every week without being able to afford new wax every week, and that now-ubiquitous, USB-fired black box, coupled with a Beatport account, just made too much sense. When Todd Hutlock wrote pejoratively in a 2Q report for this website of “a whole generation of club-goers and music fans out there who think nothing of seeing a DJ work on CD decks or a laptop,” he was ostensibly pointing his finger straight at me. But he was letting his “disconcert,” to paraphrase him, lead him to the conclusion that we kids were being lazy. I, along with probably the vast majority of laptop-toting kids, was just looking for a way into this astounding world. Whether because of financial concerns or because they didn’t have parents or older siblings making vinyl relevant for them, the kids went digital. I can’t speak for the format favored by youngsters like Joy Orbison or Joker or Kyle Hall, but if their 2009 output has proven anything at all, it’s that you really want to give youngsters a way into this music.
 
Officially a degree-bearing, paycheck-receiving denizen of the real world (and thus a possessor of insanely good luck in these hard times), I’m not quite as broke as I used to be. And if you’ve been following vinyl, you’ll know that 2009 was a very good year not to be broke. As the New York Times recently noted, it was something of a bumper year for vinyl: retailers recorded a 35% increase in sales over last year, making 2009 the best year for vinyl since at least 1991. The article makes use of statistics that likely don’t include the sorts of records we’re most interested in, and vinyl’s renewed relevance in mainstream music circles seems like much more of a fluke or gimmick than it would in dance music, where the 12″ was the style’s bread-and-butter pretty much through the advent of downloading. But anyone following new releases has surely collected enough anecdotal evidence pointing to something curious — and depending on your vantage point, maybe even exciting — being afoot. I’m certainly not saying that “vinyl kills the mp3 industry”; it ain’t scientific, but I’m pretty sure I’m saying something like the opposite, that digital music has finally made vinyl its bitch. To put it a bit nicer: the ubiquity and growing acceptance of the digital download has given vinyl a new lease on life, but it’s also caused us to look at vinyl through a digital lens. In 2009, vinyl has been forced to embody that which a computer file absolutely cannot be.
 
And what better defines vinyl in 2009 than the small-press, occasionally hand-stamped white label? While hardly a new development in techno, these tiny releases exercised an oversized influence on the imaginations of critics and DJs alike this year. They also managed to turn the front page of the website for Hard Wax, Berlin’s legendarily taste-defining record shop and the distributor responsible for a sizable handful of these releases, into something closer to an ultra-relevent mp3 blog than a straight mailorder destination. Whether cut with the tracks of famous producers operating under thinly-veiling aliases (Rene Pawlowitz’s Wax and EQD projects; Actress’ Thriller series), of potentially famous producers staying relatively well-cloaked in a fog of their own making (Traversable Wormhole; Frozen Border/Horizontal Ground), or of named artists intent on self-releasing their sounds (New York’s Halcyon-related labels like Novel Sound and Deconstruct; Do Not Resist The Beat!; Hauntologists/Cheap and Deep Productions), these records all shared a musical and physical aesthetic hellbent on emphasizing the rawest iterations possible of house, techno, or dubstep. Production-wise, analog hardware-derived sounds (whether spit from real or feigned analog hardware) dominated stylistically, and high fidelity — traditionally one of vinyl fanatics’ biggest talking points — often went out with the trash. What resulted were sonics whose modus operendi was roughing you up. “Raw,” taken literally, implies touch, and every white label release I can think of this year, by way of sound and form, just begged to make real human contact.
 
Dance vinyl reasserting itself in this way and in this year seems like no accident: we’re witnessing the format stripping itself down to a curious set of constituent parts — namely, those traits (save being cut with a tune) that are mutually exclusive from a digital file. When I pull out my vinyl copy of Levon Vincent’s “The Medium Is The Message” (Marshall McLuhan reference 100% intended), released on Vincent’s Novel Sound label this year, I hold in my hand a white paper sleeve and some rubber-stamped information in as simple a font as possible (shit ain’t even serifed!) on an otherwise matte white label. It takes up space on my shelf; it requires that I take time out to put it in my record bag if I want to play it at a gig; it cracks and pops when I put the needle down if I don’t first give it a brush; it slams just a little bit harder than a WAV would when I play it on a good system.

But really, what does it or any other white label released this year offer that a digital file doesn’t? “The Medium Is The Message” provides me with no more information than a properly tagged and sorted digital file does. I’m not getting any cover art or other physical adornment (another ever-popular pro-vinyl argument); I’m not getting an object that’s likely to last any longer (techno critic and mnml ssg Peter Chambers has talked fondly about vinyl records “needing our care” and these sassily cardboard-sleeveless releases almost dare you not to scuff them); and if I’d ordered it from a site like Juno, whose vinyl [http://www.juno.co.uk] and digital [http://www.junodownload.com] sites feature nearly identical interfaces, I wouldn’t be getting a more tangible or personal consumer experience. But I’m getting something that absolutely requires an entry fee, something that can’t be turned into an infinite number of identical copies. The object carries with it the thrill of making me one of only four or five hundred people carrying it. I’ve bought a lot of these white labels this year — it’s how a good deal of house music from my neck of the woods has been released, and the Hard Wax records have made for some of the best techno on the market this year. But what are these limited run, hand-stamped white labels but ultra-authentic mp3s?

It’s not as if these white label tracks can’t exist in the digital domain, and a fair number of them have eventually been released that way. I had my first contact with Milton Bradley’s “Dystopian Vision” on Do Not Resist The Beat!, one the rawest and most underground techno records released this year (if not this decade), as a digital file — a WAV purchased from a commercial download site, if you must know — and its ear-splitting physicality was hardly lost on me. I played it at my DJ residency at Manhattan’s Club Love this spring, and its punishing low-end and no-fi brutality still took the booth’s space shuttle-style meters dangerously into the red. Unable to justify spending nearly $15 on a 12″ I might never find a context for at the sort of gigs I get (and which hardly makes for home listening), I opted to download Marcel Dettmann’s “MDR 06” and put the $5 or $6 I saved toward something I could. Though the physical music white labels have offered in 2009 finds parity with the physical product on which it’s primarily delivered, I’ve found it pretty difficult to argue seriously for format precluding the use or enjoyment of a fantastic tune. Everyone who’s likely to care about this sort of thing has a nightmarish laptop DJ story (“The DJ hadn’t mastered her record rips correctly and her set was too quiet!” “He looked like he was just playing FreeCell back there!”), but look at Surgeon: he made a thrilling comeback this year playing white-label-y stuff, and he did it on Ableton. The Sandwell District guys, proprietors of something not too far removed from a white label, have also grabbed the digital bull by its horns, interestingly and inspiringly blurring the line between DJ set and live performance. There’s tradition in vinyl, and I’m a huge fan of the sort of DJ sets two 1200’s, a mixer, and nothing more breed. But we’d be fools to deny the future that lies beyond them.

The greater concern, one I’d imagine keeps serious producers up at night, is how format shapes music collections. Any digital DJ worth his or her salt will pay a premium to download uncompressed digital files — mp3s just don’t sound good enough — and coupled with the proper organizational and exploratory ethic, such a collection doesn’t have to be soulless in and of itself. Techno fandom, of course, isn’t made up solely of such types, and the right price easily erodes good habits. In the context of an Internet-derived (read: ganked mp3) collection, you can afford to freak out, to get behind the hype without thinking too much, because you can cull it as consensus shifts seemingly by the hour. Should you want it back one day (or even later that day), it’s easily accomplished. You can share it with friends; you might even share it with total strangers. It requires a minimum of space, and thusly compressed, it sounds somewhere along the spectrum of utter shit. Forget about not having paid for it: it’s probably not worth having a stake in anyways.

No one has elicidated this better, albeit veiled in mega-irony, than Hipster Runoff douche-blogger Carles, whose subtly brilliant skewering of the mp3 has made for some of the most relevant and insightful music criticism out there of late. “Is Atlas Sound (ft Panda Bear),” Carles asks with his reliably deadpan naivete in the title of a blog post from this summer, “the MP3 we have been waiting 4 all year?” Insert practically any artist (“bloggable,” to use Carles’ terminology, or not) in at the start of the sentence, and his thesis remains intact: there’s something intrinsically ridiculous about getting excited over a non-object, a pseudo-thing so expendable. The kind of recorded music culture Carles chides doesn’t breed collections; it breeds holding pins for half-tastes. White label releases take pains not to let you live like this, but just barely. A few extra steps (or an errant mp3 promo) can throw vinyl-only releases into this cesspool, of course, but on principle they stand apart, a bulwark against the decade’s worst excesses of music dissemination — things you can’t acquire and be rid of in an instant, a “serious option for serious DJs.”

But in 2009, we’re not really talking about vinyl vs. digital, object vs. pseudo-object, soul vs. chilly ones and zeroes. Aren’t we just talking about how best to present this stuff to ensure that it’ll matter? Vinyl forces this music to matter; it forces the consumer to literally take ownership of their music, to find a place for it in their lives. But all this heroism can cost a lot of money, especially if you live on the wrong side of the Atlantic, and I’m not sure that in this year of all years it’s at all appropriate for authenticity come only in the form of a luxury item. If this music can be procured fairly and legally in a form that costs a bit less money, who can criticize? And if you can’t bring yourself to love your music files, to have some kind of meaningful relationship with them, then who’s really being lazy?

I realized I needed to recalibrate my “record”-buying habit after I interviewed Marcel Dettmann, that most dedicated of vinyl buyers, this past July. When I asked him what new producers excited him, the first name out of his mouth was Levon Vincent, a dude I’d been sleeping on for months because I couldn’t buy his tracks digitally. When Marcel Dettmann tells you to check someone out, you check him out, so later that weekend I rode my bike across Brooklyn to Halcyon in DUMBO, ground zero for Levon Vincent releases. It was the first time I’d set foot in a dance record store since a disappointing trip to Halcyon nearly a year before, back in those dark days when Hutlock had offered his lamentation on the purported death of vinyl culture. Grabbing a stack of records, I saddled up at a listening station, just like old times. I brought my selections up to the counter and had a nice conversation with the clerk before checking out. I walked out of there with her party flier, her assurance that she’d stick new records aside for me if I started making regular trips to the shop during her shift, all the Vincent records they had in stock, and a few other slabs I might not have thought to download (if they’d even been available for download). As a techno writer, I get a fair amount of music sent to me digitally for free, and all these effortlessly-attained promos make my WAV collection feel not so special sometimes. Visiting Halcyon felt a bit like coming home, and I’ve started making record store trips as often as time and my wallet allow. It’s not a matter of saving vinyl or saving record stores or staying true to techno soul. Frankly, it’s personal: I do it because I live in a borough of a city with a few really fantastic record shops, and not many people can make such a statement at the end of 2009. And I do it because I grew up with these places. Though they are for me, real live records aren’t intrinsically a part of this music anymore. At the end of the day (or, if you’d prefer, at the end of this year or this decade), every fan of this music — be you a DJ, a promoter, a producer, or just a serious listener — needs to find the relationship that keeps him or her, and only him or her, living and breathing the stuff. Forget about mine or anyone else’s; what’s yours?

NPW  on December 22, 2009 at 4:35 AM

This is a really interesting read, and the best assessment of the vinyl/digital situation I’ve read yet. Personally I’ve bought more vinyl this year than ever before, but I’ve also invested in Traktor so I can incorporate some music into my set that I either can’t get on vinyl, or can’t justify spending £8 on because it wouldn’t fit into most my sets.

I think it’s really cool how the scene in somewhere like Berlin is kind of self-sufficient, with seemingly most of the city’s DJs (certainly those from the Berghain/Panorama bar camp) favouring vinyl, and shopping/working at the store that is putting out some of the best white label releases.

Chris Miller  on December 22, 2009 at 10:09 AM

“Why the hell do you buy vinyl?” It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot lately, and one I can’t really blame my friends for asking. We all grew up children of the digital age, mp3 blogs forming, for me at least, the cement of my techno education.

Yet all the switching of computers and clearing of hard drives has taught me one thing: the expendability of an mp3. I’ve lost loads of mp3s over the years for one reason or another, and I end up not really caring. But when I buy a record it’s like giving my personal seal of approval; that this is good enough to be around for a long time. It may be a big clunky thing, but you’ll have a hard time accidentally “deleting” a record or losing it somehow.

This is all preference. The analog feel of vinyl just does it for me. I love Jordan’s point about white labels: they have no beautiful artwork, which is probably reason No. 1 for the upturn in vinyl sales in mainstream markets; they symbolize a pure love for the format and the music rather than any peripheral aesthetic qualities. Plus, labels like Novel Sound, Laid, and others are vinyl only; Workshop et. all heavily delay the digital release. Do I really want to wait for a great record just because I’m lazy? “Double Jointed Sex Freak” is $9 from Dope Jams; hardly a large expenditure given that it would fetch $6 or so digitally. Hell, the Underground Quality records are $6 for vinyl! In some cases, it just seems silly to me to not buy vinyl.

Hutlock  on December 22, 2009 at 10:45 AM

Great column. I still buy everything on vinyl that I can get my hands on, probably always will. I can’t deny the inconvenience of it, but the sound… oh the sound!

Anyway, very nice breakdown.

Daniel Ashcroft  on December 22, 2009 at 1:15 PM

Buying vinyl is purchasing a product someone has spent time and care creating and bringing to the market because they really believe in it. You realy do get what you pay for because in life the hardest things to do are usually the most rewarding. MP3s/WAVs will always suffer from the fact they come along so easily (ie can be downloaded) and can be erased so easily (ie push delete).

In particular all forms of dance music should be about having fun, and fiddling with a laptop (Ableton) or even choosing which track to put onto a serato disc through your laptop is too much like being at work! I’m not saying it never works or people will never sound truely amazing using software or digital forms of music – artists like Surgeon proove that. However when it comes to enjoying having a mix, physically putting a record on and letting it play, vinyl will always be more fun because it isn’t as clinical and mistakes can be made.

amaury  on December 22, 2009 at 1:55 PM

my thing against the whole mp3 and laptop djs is that all these guys my age (i’m 23) get their macbook, some kind of software with their auto beatmatching, get a few illegally downloaded tracks from some blog and then call themselves djs, most of them can’t even beatmatch a record… you understand my point??

amaury  on December 22, 2009 at 1:59 PM

just listen to what this man has to say.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVgBmzBzZw8

Ben Lawrence  on December 22, 2009 at 2:09 PM

re: Daniel Ashcroft, I agree re: the Digital DJ-ing being like work!!!

I often go for a casual mix but end up getting TOO involved:

– Searching for tracks (“now what was that one called?”)
– Adding loops
– Trying to figure out how a better way to control the overly complicated effects work…

Agh, my mind is overactive!! I’m not enjoying this at all. Gimme a break! I’ll stick on a disco record and dance until I chill out enough to use traktor again!

Vinyl balances digital and I like DJ-ing with both… but vinyl is niiiiiice.

Rasmus Rygaard  on December 22, 2009 at 3:14 PM

This is a fantastic post, truly one of the most thoughtful analog/digital columns I’ve ever seen. It seems that all other discussions turn into name calling and blind vinyl fetichism without any real substance.

While I’m a full-blooded digital native, born and raised with computers and the internet, I still buy vinyl. It’s hard to justify, though. I like the physical representations, the palpability, the magic of actually holding music in your hand and seeing the needle pass through the grooves (or groove, really), but at the same time it feels outdated.

What I do love about the mp3 age is that it makes entering the world of electronic music so much easier. I’ve grabbed countless mp3’s this year both through blogs and proper download storefronts and both places have allowed me to discover artists I would have never come across if it weren’t for the mp3. I probably never would have started listening in the first place. Although i may upset some purists, I still find the mp3 to be great for discovering and experiencing music. Sure, it may not be as authentic and as rich an experience as walking in to a physical record shop, but for some of us, that’s not really a possibilty. Living on the wrong side of the atlantic and some thousand miles away from Berlin doesn’t really make the vinyl-shopping field any better.

bernardo  on December 22, 2009 at 3:33 PM

Nice post… I think you captured alot of the spirit and feeling that goes along with buying vinyl. The feeling of ´owning´ an amazing music collection on vinyl is akin to having an excellent library of books vs. a hard drive full of word .docs and .pdf files.

ballyhoo  on December 22, 2009 at 7:33 PM

great article jordan!

“my thing against the whole mp3 and laptop djs is that all these guys my age (i’m 23) get their macbook, some kind of software with their auto beatmatching, get a few illegally downloaded tracks from some blog and then call themselves djs, most of them can’t even beatmatch a record… you understand my point??”

i think the point this article is making is not about format and technique…

in my view, djing is above all about a curatorial spirit. the tools and techniques vary as does the context. i know of a specific radio show that deliberately rips mp3s off myspaces of unknown bands and broadcasts them to fulfill the specific goal exposing these bands to a larger audience. fidelity and medium be damned. what matters is intent, purpose, and a respect and celebration of the art.

music man  on December 22, 2009 at 8:04 PM

I love and cherish all the music I own, whether it be vinyl, CD, .wav, aiff or FLAC. MP3 is a format I have never payed for or endorsed. As a music appreciator, collector and DJ I need a quality format.

This constant narrative suggesting that playing vinyl gives a DJ more cred is absolute bollocks. what gives a DJ cred is passion, sensibility, skill and discipline.

do your thing! love your thing.

Patrice Baumel  on December 22, 2009 at 8:42 PM

I like the way this article concludes with the notion that everyone out there should find the medium that keeps them involved in electronic music, that inspires them.

that choice can be different from person to person. I am all for offering choice to people. let them decide and don’t judge them by their choice but by their output. a great set, whether done with two decks or using traktor, is a great set and hard to achieve by anyone not dedicated to their music. beatmatching itself is a minor part of djing, track selection is by far more challenging and makes or breaks a performance. a traktor dj working his ass off and being creative with new technologies, creating drama and surprise in the process, is better than a vinyl only guy who cheats his way through a set with sloppy 20 second mixes. but infusing soul into an automatically beatmatched traktor set is super difficult, i have seen many dj’s fail and go through the motions without any sense for timing and tension. the cream always rises to the top, no matter what the technology is.

i am happy with the resurgence of vinyl but let’s not condemn any artist who looks forward and tries new ways. tradition alone will get us nowhere, it has to be in balance with curiosity and a pioneering spirit.

either way, don’t judge a book by its cover (or a dj by his/her medium) but let your ears, hips and feet decide.

struggle  on December 22, 2009 at 11:57 PM

all i have to say is that i’m thrilled at the number of people to come back to vinyl in the past year.

Fergz  on December 23, 2009 at 4:58 AM

I duno i guess its really a interresting point especially in dance music culture as i have thousound of old detroit records vynl does have its own thing with mixing but its just so hatd to orginise and ship around however i have had some great times in record stores hunting down rair records
u do wonder with a laptop/cd does that person have any skill at holding rythm some defnitly do some dont but u can tell if a dude is good on vynl
Bring on the future

Adamm  on December 23, 2009 at 9:57 AM

“in my view, djing is above all about a curatorial spirit. the tools and techniques vary as does the context. i know of a specific radio show that deliberately rips mp3s off myspaces of unknown bands and broadcasts them to fulfill the specific goal exposing these bands to a larger audience. fidelity and medium be damned. what matters is intent, purpose, and a respect and celebration of the art.”

Hear, hear.

Counldn’t have said it better myself. Do what you love and love what you do.

NoLimits  on December 23, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Great Article. Is anyone else annoyed that loads of records nowadays just come in the white paper sleeve though?

I don’t care about the art-work but if i’m paying £9 for a one-sided import, at least give me a bloody plain white case to look after it in.

harrison  on December 23, 2009 at 10:19 PM

fantastic article

rubin  on December 26, 2009 at 1:59 PM

Great article.

I bought Traktor Scratch back in March this year and i love it – especially used in conjunction with a xone 1d. However the sheer volume of tracks I now have is almost overwhelming and I’ve always found it difficult to categorize and navigate a digital collection – you don’t have the same visual access to your entire collection, allowing you to identify specific tracks by cover alone, or even the edge of a cover.

I have continued to buy dubstep on vinyl because it’s integral to dubplate culture and the heritage of the scene, but have now begun to pick up bits of techno that feel “worth it”, or “an investment” on vinyl.

At the risk of sounding like a cliche, the main motivation to this has been levon vincent. I’ll be buying much more stuff on wax, AND digitally in 2010.

Dom Terrace  on December 27, 2009 at 1:32 PM

it’s the music that is important, not the medium. the medium is only a snapshot of the technology available to distribute said information at that specific point in time. anything that makes the spread of ideas easier is only beneficial for humanity.

vinyl is on it’s slow progression towards obsolescence like 2″ tape, vhs, and audio cassette. the main reason to keep vinyl around is for the effect it gives: fat sounds, hot levels, warmer sound. once you get that effect bounce it down to digital and GIVE it to EVERYONE. you will only be better off for it. get a day job and give your art away. this is how you become a successful artist in the 21st century. mark my words.

bernardo  on December 28, 2009 at 7:35 PM

“vinyl is on it’s slow progression towards obsolescence like 2″ tape, vhs, and audio cassette. ”

Nah man… this has been said for years and years… and its yet to happen. We’ll mark your words and then laugh in 20 years when the DJs with the most cred continue to spin black wax and the posers keep clicking / controlling on mac books…

Thomas Andersen  on December 29, 2009 at 5:09 AM

Great article.

“And I do it because I grew up with these places”

This quote is pretty essential to me on this topic as I cringe every time someone says something to the extent of spinning vinyl is being more “real” than playing digital files.

How can playing vinyl be more real to me when I grew up in a home with no vinyl records & in a country with very few record stores? To me it’s almost the reverse thing, like if I’d start switching to vinyl I’d feel like a “poser” as it’s not been part of my culture at all.

Everything I know about electronic music I’ve learned online and from a few friends with knowledge. Without the Internet and mp3’s I wouldn’t have become obsessed with music and become interested in DJ’ing and sharing good music, regardless of format.

Sean Cuddy  on December 30, 2009 at 9:02 PM

As a vinyl collector i do prefer the sound- it feels warmer. I do think their is a place for digital. I think though that mp3s should not be played in clubs though as the sound quality on a good soundsystem is inferior to vinyl and wav.

Such technologies like serrato and ableton can also be very good and enjoyable in the right hand but i have found that time and again vinyl djs often play better sets simply as vinyl often forces you to select better tracks. When you are paying up to £10 per record, you have to select better records, and forces many to look past the latest catch and look to tunes with a more timeless quality. I have often felt that many digital djs dont do this. In effect vinyl encourages quality control.

Tom  on January 14, 2010 at 7:42 AM

Excellent piece (as usual)… there’s a lot of issues to discuss raised by it but I think most of that has already been covered in the comments!

@Thomas Andersen – wise words, I feel somewhat the same (I did buy a few vinyl records when getting into electronic music but most of my collection is CD singles – I was in to trance/progressive when I got really in to music so it was easy to get most of it on CD – and realised the potential of digital DJing quite early on).

The attitude you refer to (which makes me cringe a little too) is understandable though – people have invested a lot of time and money in assembling a vinyl collection and learning to mix on records, so seeing the barrier to entry of that skill (arguably) being lowered by digital DJing is bound to rile some of those people, and inspire a confrontational attitude to laptop DJs. I’ve personally seen a few people who were very anti-laptop having their attitudes turned around (at least somewhat) after seeing me play and having a go on Traktor, and realising that I put in just as much effort as them, if not more, in collecting and categorising music and DJing – to the point where one staunch vinyl supporter went out and bought a MIDI controller to incorporate Traktor into his sets after a party where we both played – so there is hope 😉

@Sean Cuddy: I can understand you saying this in the context of DJs downloading music illegally, where the music ceases to have any value (I used to do this years ago, before I realised it was actually making me a worse DJ as I had no connection to the music and no idea what half the stuff actually was!), but I have to disagree if we’re talking about laptop DJs who buy their music at online stores. Digital music isn’t especially cheap (e.g. some exclusive tracks cost up to £2.50 per track on Beatport!) and the cost of an EP/single is often comparable to buying it on vinyl (at least when I used to buy vinyl about 9 years ago – perhaps the price has risen now – although digitally you have the luxury of only buying the mixes/tracks you are interested in). I see no reason why shopping online for mp3s rather than vinyl should lead to a lack of quality control, the costs are equivalent and there is actually the potential to have access to a greater selection of music than vinyl jocks – so there could be more chance of finding “that” special track that takes your set to the next level!

Tom  on January 14, 2010 at 8:00 AM

Two things I meant to add:

1) Two other opinions worth reading around the topic of digital DJing:

http://www.bodytonicmusic.com/words/2009/oct/28/column-donnacha-costello-1/ – Donnacha Costello talking about the risk of digital DJs destroying the linear nature of music (with looping and so on) just because they can, often leading to boring results.

http://planetary-folklore.blogspot.com/2010/01/2010-random-assessment.html – Kirk Degiorgio essentially saying everything will be fine 😉

2) It’s great to see such vibrant discussion around this topic (and great that LWE is one of the few places which inspires such discussion) – it seems to have matured a bit from the kind of “laptop DJs r gay!!1” attitude of a few years ago 😉 Things would be boring if everyone agreed – and I think you could argue that the laptop vs. vinyl thing might have led to some awesome music that might not have happened otherwise by forcing DJs/producers on both sides to up their game – e.g. DJs like Richie Hawtin taking tracks apart and combining them in new ways (cliche example I know, but whatever you think of his music, I think you have to agree it’s technically impressive!), and on the other side people like Levon Vincent releasing music with the vinyl-only, underground thing in mind (which I’m sure has influenced his sound) and some of the awesome vinyl-only DJs who’ve managed to stay completely relevant in this day and age just by playing bloody fantastic sets that they’ve poured their heart and soul in to – I reckon the whole laptop thing could have put the fire in some of their bellies to really step it up and not be complacent, to prove their worth. Maybe, anyway :)

good_god  on January 26, 2010 at 2:01 PM

@ Chris Miller ‘ “Why the hell do you buy vinyl?” It’s a question I’ve been getting a lot lately, and one I can’t really blame my friends for asking.’

I’ve had the same question put to me. But there is no answer that the pragmatic money-minded fan/DJ is going to be satisfied with. I just reply: “Because I love back injuries and I want to be broke.” It’ll shut em right up.

Another question could be: “Why in the hell do you want to stay in a dark room for 6+ hours listening to blaring repetitive music?” It’s an irrational love. Then again, what kind of love is not?

Trackbacks

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Interesting Article on “Records” — PowerFM Dublin Online  on February 10, 2010 at 5:00 PM

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