Our man in the booth gives us his thoughts on DJ sets shared via Facebook Live - and he's not pulling his punches
Live DJ feeds on Facebook are now a thing, presumably because Facebook wasn't narcissistic enough already and didn't provide us with enough opportunities to seek validation from strangers. What do I think of this development? Thanks for asking - strap in...
A live feed of Carl Cox, playing the last ever tune at Space Ibiza, might be worth a brief look. Perhaps you never went to Space (although judging by my timeline, I'm the only person in the observable Universe who didn't) and it will give you a small insight into what it was like. And in the context of our dance music culture, it was a moment worth mentioning, hardly the most important event ever but worth a look. End of an era and all that.
That is the only occasion where a DJ live feed has been worth looking at.
I'm going to spare decent turntablists/scratch DJs from this rant. If you're a DJ who can scratch really well, then it might be worth watching you. For two minutes. But every other time that any DJ in the world rigged up a camera and filmed themselves DJing in their bedroom, it was shit. If you're a DJ whose skill set is that you can blend two pieces of music together, add effects and maybe do a little live re-editing, I'm going to suggest that it won't be worth watching you do that. It might be worth listening to you do it, but watching it? It's like The Simpsons: we all love the crazy antics of functioning alcoholic Homer, but do you want to watch a live stream of the animators at work?
Watching DJs is missing the point of DJs. And they don't need their egos inflated any further. Have you not seen Steve Aoki? Also, real DJs feel a bit weird when the punters are expectantly watching them for the entire gig, and then they start to feel like they should be doing something, so they start cutting out the bass and then bringing it back in again, which as we all know is a neat trick BUT NOT ON EVERY TUNE, ALL OF THE TIME.
DJs don't need to be 'doing something' all the time - sometimes they just need to let a great tune play. There's a whole new skill set emerging for the DJ - nowadays, a good DJ needs to be able to stand still for three or four minutes in front of a staring audience while a tune that's really worth playing is left to play, and not feel obliged or pressured to needlessly fiddle with the mixer every few seconds.
In fact, if DJs need to be constantly tweaking the EQ, adding extra tracks and generally fucking around with their tunes, then... maybe they need better tunes? I'm all for a bit of creativity on the decks but it often feels that the pressure to perform drives some DJs to tweak excessively or, worse, to break out the whole bizarre contemporary pantomime of ‘DJ moves' - the Jesus, the heart-hands, the perfectly timed air-punch, the drowning kangaroo (made that one up). All that ridiculous hoo-hah, and that's all because DJs are being stared at.
Live DJ feeds on social media just reinforce the idea that we should watch DJs, that their mixing and tunes are so good we should look at them DJing. It is the embodiment of forces antithetical to house music, trying to pull and distort a culture based on community and participation, back to a market-friendly culture based on individual performers to be watched, consumed, where the value of something is measured in the quantity of ratings, likes and shares rather than the quality of the experience.
Also, when did artexed ceilings, floral-patterned carpets and Ikea shelves become the appropriate visual accompaniment to house music? Never, that's when. So just don't.
Words: Harold Heath Pic: © Hurricane Hank/Shutterstock
Harold Heath's productions have graced the likes of Lost My Dog, 3am Recordings and Urbantorque. When he's not DJing and producing, he also writes about music and teaches music technology