Is DJing Art?

Dj mixes the track in the nightclub at a party

There is always a feeling of walking on thin ice when saying wether or not something is art; and this case is no different. There are many people out there who believe that DJs merely play songs that were already made and take credit for something that is not really being “played”. There are others that see DJs as artists and value their work just as any other musician. So where do DJs stand?

Well according to Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction;” it would seem that every form of reproduction loses its “aura”; which is what makes something an authentic piece of art. In that case every time we listen to a recorded song, there is no aura; just like copies from an original painting.

Of course this is only one mind on the subject of reproduction.

Benjamin would have hated the way photography has positioned itself as a form of art, and if we compare DJs and photographers there are actually a few similarities between the two. Both search to capture something, in the case of the photographer and image, the DJ sounds. Then they become a filter that will throw away the parts they don’t need; and finally change what they captured to complete their vision of the world.

Art of Djing

According to a 2007 article written by Brent Silby; DJing is a form of art, he explains that it manifests through two main aspects, mixing and song selection.

He says:

“Well, it is art insofar as the mixset is a unique suite of music, which can be considered as a complete unit. It is built out of a range of separate tracks that the DJ has consciously chosen to include in the greater whole. It is not a random selection. The DJ has chosen the tracks for a reason–to generate emotions and feelings. Furthermore, this is not something that anyone can do. DJs are like music filters. There are thousands of tracks released every year, and the DJ has to filter through them and decide what is good, and what is not good. The DJ has to decide what to put into his set for people to hear.”

So rather than just playing music randomly because it’s their jobs, DJs must be prepared with a good all round knowledge of music, and being able to blend each song to find a good balance and show the crowd a journey they can experience.

“My goal in this article has been to show that a DJ is an artist, and the mixsets he produces are a form of art. There is more to DJ’ing than the mechanical act of mixing. Good DJ mixes do not consist of random song choices. There is an artistic process at work. Just as a photographer picks scenes that already exist and packages them in a way that makes them appealing to an audience. A DJ picks music that already exists and packages it in a way that makes it appealing to an audience.”

Make it Authentic

Avalon Emerson

Like Avalon Emerson says:

“Sometimes I see a potential in a song and how it would live in my DJ sets, and I have to edit it a bit so that it gets there. I’m not really a tooly genre DJ. I play all kinds of things and sometimes I hear something like a weird pop song from the ’80s, and I can edit it so that it can feel more right on the dance floor.”

It’s really something that they make their own, they control the feelings that will come from their audience; they make their own narrative with pieces of of other artists. It’s as if you took one piece of a hundred different puzzles and make it work as a new puzzle with whole unique image.

In the end it’s really up to each person, but there’s no denying that it does take some learning and technique to pull this of; so there is a difference. It can’t really be called art if a DJ isn’t doing a very good job, but if he does, I deserves some credit and yes, it can be called art.

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