Disc Jockeys. The conductor is being redefined into a storyteller and the orchestra is eternal.

This is a first in a series that chronicles what I’m re-learning about music. Over the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of stepping into a musical journey. I’m not going to bore you with the details of my journey of late, I’d rather encourage anyone to discover their own and make it happen, whatever it takes. Here goes nothing… 

Flip over to SoundCloud and scroll your eyes up and down for a minute, chances are you’ll find a list of music including hour long entries of mixes, one after the other. Now what is the difference between an album and a mix? Listen to an album, and you are listening to one artist’s (or band’s) story, typically and thematically, one dimensional. Now listen to an hour of music pulled together by a DJ and you have:  

  • A multi-dimensional compound (mix) of stories (tracks) shaped into a journey, adjoining various artists points of view, themes and genres. The conductor is being redefined and the orchestra is eternal.

With little effort into expanding the breadth of your sight while looking around you in a public place, it’s almost a promise you’ll have a tough time finding a line of sight that does not include a pair of earphones or listening device. People are investing a significant amount of time developing auditory senses, this is already happening.  

Not in a meeting? You’re listening to music. Driving? You’re listening to music. On a midnight oil work binge? You’re listening to music. Or you have a TV in the background chuckling at Archer jokes on Netflix. People are always listening and the truth is that while silence and peace are incredibly powerful meditative tools, its inherent that the human body will feel awkward when in silence. Think of it this way, last time I checked, I hear in my sleep, dreams don’t come with captions. So it’s perfectly natural to feel awkward when there’s quiet, an entire sense is essentially asleep.

Now what happens when listening is your job, that’s a question I implore you to ask a DJ outright, it’s a great conversation starter, especially for anyone that spends a lot of time listening in order to perform their job function(s).

Take a breath and think about this age of digital music, digital wallets and listening platforms out there, including some really strong architecture and algorithms that empower the listener to essentially be their own DJ. One can readily assume that the DJ as defined today is dead. My opinion, far from it. I believe the reality is that we’re on the cusp of a musical revelation and we’ll need a new type of Storyteller and Communicator focused on sharing “cultural news”.  

I want to take an informal stab at correlating key DJ skills and capabilities (this is just a TINY sample). A DJ listens to and compounds existing material, knowing exactly what to listen for, examples include but are not limited to:  

  • Pace and R-h-y-t-h-m (write that down, I’m talking about a BEAT, you know like your HEART BEAT)
  • The ignition of organized actions and stimulus => Cues
  • Reuse => Loops and Samples
  • Harmonization to bring or come into agreement => Musical Keys
  • Change/transition from one track (of thought or theme) to the next => Mixing 
  • Knowledge of varying platforms, hardware, software and how it’s all => Integrated

Most importantly though is a DJs ability to gauge and know the audience, anything > than oneself. 

If you have someone that you relate to or come across someone in your cosmos that has exposure to this industry, find some time to talk with them. Chances are a DJ can do much more than you think, including rationalizing, integrating and orchestrating different themes and points of view into a unified solution. Just taking a look at the examples listed above screams opportunities, one just needs to see through any stigmas and stereotypes to realize a DJ is fundamentally skilled at being an incredible leader, orchestrator and communicator, in any setting. 

While you learn, my only advice for now is that you share knowledge, both what you have in your back pocket and what you’re learning in the moment, that, personally is a fundamental principle of mixing music and the moral of this article.

Take precious care,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s