Kittie DJDetroit Chic’s Rob Frank delivers a controversial take on beat-matching and the current elevation of club DJing to an artform…

Writer’s Warning: This is an op-ed piece, and is my opinion.  You are entitled to your opinion, and if you agree or disagree with me, I would love to see your comments.

Rob Thumbnail There is a trend in the electronic music clubs, much as there is to the “goth” look for non-goth music.  The trend in the clubs is in the type of DJing, however.  It seems they have to turn what they do into an artform and
become an artist themselves.  “What do they do?” you ask.  They do what is called “beat matching”.  They set
their mixers to have every song play at the same beat.  This means either speeding songs up or slowing them down so every song matches the same beat.

On top of this, many of the DJ’s do not even play the complete songs anymore.  They play about thirty seconds to one minute of a song before switching over to the next song, same beat intact.  Why is this a big
deal?

Well, I guess I am a purist.  I believe if a band or artist wanted to make a song at a certain amount of beats per minute, then they would have recorded it that way.  I also believe that if a band or artist only wanted thirty seconds to one minute of their song then they would have recorded it that way as well.

I come from the old school.  My clubbing days go back to City Club circa 1992.  At City Club the focus was on the music.  The DJ’s played the music, and were probably the most popular people at the club, but they were not the reason people were there, and they did not see themselves as artists.  They gave people what they wanted, music that could not be heard at any other club as well as the radio.

I began DJ’ing myself at the clubs in 2003.  I do not claim to be the best DJ, but I was true to the patrons and I was true to the songs I played.  Maybe that is my radio background.  I believe that the patrons do not come out just for the DJ’s, and I do not think they see “beat matching” as an art.  I sure do not.

My last gig at a club came in the Winter of 2006.  I was on the second floor with another DJ.  We took turns in one hour sets.  I played the songs as they were meant to be played, not changed at all.  The other DJ, however did the “beat matching” thing and playing forty-five seconds of each song.  This was bothersome to me because just as I would be getting into a song, the song changed and I was wondering what the rest of it sounded like.

“Beat matching” drove me from the club scene period.  I stopped DJ’ing at the clubs because it grew tired.  I stopped going to the clubs because of the “beat matching”.  If this is the future of the electronic music DJ, then I would rather stay home and listen to those same songs the way they were originally recorded.  Don’t get me wrong, I can beat match as well.  But so what?  Does that make me an artist?  The answer is a simple no.   The artists are the people whose music the DJ is spinning.  It seems perverted to me to alter songs by beat and length.  It is like watching “The Breakfast Club” on regular television and having everything get cut.

So who is allowed to beat match and alter a song?  In my opinion the artists themselves.  Many electronic artists will do a DJ gig in a nightclub here and there.  They are the ones that have that right.  Also, if they commission someone to do a remix of the song.  For a club DJ to just take somone’s copywritten music and alter it and make it a long mix of many short songs and claim it as their own is downright wrong.  There are some DJ’s (though mostly in the hardcore techno scene) who actually release CD’s of their live remixes.  If I want to hear what a DJ is going to spin or mix or whatever, I would go to the club or pull out my mixer and work with that.  Who would pay $15-20 a CD to hear a DJ’s live mix?  Not me.

To conclude, I think I made it pretty obvious where I stand on the subject.  As I said, I am a purist and believe that the only people that have the right to alter a song are the artists themselves, unless they give the club DJ permission to do so.  Some big name DJ’s in parts of America are given this permission, but the smaller ones who do it on their own, in my opinion, are doing an injustice to the recorded music.  All for the sake of art.   DJ’ing is not an art.  Anyone with a mixer can DJ.  It’s that simple.  I have nothing against the DJ’s personally.  My only contention is altering the music by making a song faster or slower and not even playing the whole song. So finally, I would just like to say, leave the music alone.  It was recorded the way it was for a purpose.  Let the artists change it if they want to.