There have always been rumblings that streaming will take over entertainment at events. There are even some apps that focus on automation of music playback. Now this may happen in the lower end market (think bars and low paid gigs) but in the medium and higher end I still think that a DJ is absolutely critical, and with music on a hard drive, CD, or even vinyl is superior. But why specifically? Let’s dive in.
Lack of ownership
Like it or not, when you stream you are at the complete mercy of those companies. So if and when they have an issue with a licensing deal with a label or artist you could find yourself without many of the songs you had the day before. Or that company can go completely under, and so goes at least a portion your music.
Heck in September 2017 Spotify nixed their integration into Virtual DJ. And then in November of 2017 Pulselocker announced it was shutting down.
This may not be a big deal for the casual listener, but for a professional DJ this could mean disaster.
Broadband is not widespread
Yes, broadband seems to be everywhere. Cell service is in most places, many venues have wifi. However many communities have access to fairly slow internet services, and some still not at all. Further many venues do not have access to fast internet, and with large crowds that gather at these venues the ability to get fast access can be nil.
Reliability can never be 100%
Imagine, it’s your first dance as a married couple. Your song starts, everyone is focused on you and a milestone in time that can never be duplicated, and all the sudden…
Even with the fastest internet speeds, you can run into bottlenecks, sometimes that service can just be down. Sure some application lets you download songs temporarily, it still can be pulled at a moments notice. Also working in backup scenarios with these kinds of services is pretty much non-existent.
Streaming service catalogs can be inferior
While streaming services like Spotify boast huge libraries of music they can still be woefully incomplete especially with older music. For example a simple list of some of the top hip-hop songs that I created has almost 33% of the music unavailable in their library. For many professional DJs, they will go to extraordinary lengths to ensure that their music catalogs are very broad, covering from as early as the 1920’s to today’s hits. Many labels refuse to offer their music to streaming services, and sometimes even services like iTunes. A professional DJ will get that music on what available medium that it’s available.
As of the writing of this article, Spotify does not allow licensing for public or commercial performances in the US. While some DJ apps have hooks into these libraries, they are not explicitly licensed for performance use.
Anti-streaming is not anti-technology
I am not a technophobe. I have a nearly multi-decade long career in IT, and am always on top of the newest trends and technologies. I embraced the change in DJ technologies like going from vinyl to CD to digital media. However one needs to be mindful of the capabilities of what a particular technology has to offer, and what it’s shortcomings are. My personal opinion is that streaming music is an awesome service for personal use. For professional services like DJing where music is critical, it’s a service that can never compare to a DJ with a catalog of music in hand, not in the cloud.
Subscribe To Legit Music Pools
Now one of the best steps a DJ can take is to subscribe to a music pool which you pay a single monthly/yearly fee to get access to a treasure trove of typically newer music. But not all music pools are created equal. Some are setup in questionably legally murky countries and sometimes puts up music that is not on the up and up.
A larger discussion. Know and own your music.
I started DJing in 1988 where there were no MP3s, heck CDs were not even big in the industry yet. As a DJ you were hired not only because of your skills, but also your music curation. Now with huge libraries that fit into the palm of your hand or even in your fingertips, and the demand from people that you literally have any song on the planet, it’s time to take a step back a bit. It’s time to get back into curation, knowing what you are buying, storing, and ultimately play back. Have enough of a library to hit any genre that comes at you, but do you really need 27 versions of one song?
Know your music. Invest in the tools that is making you a professional. The most critical piece of this are the songs you play.
This article was originally written February 23, 2014 and has now been updated on November 10, 2017 including changing the title from “Spotify and Streaming Services” to “Your A DJ. Own Your Music”.
Author Biography: Lou Paris of Paris Creative
Lou Paris has been DJing since 1988 and has a deep passion for music of all styles and genres. Coincidentally Lou is also a successful 20+ year IT professional and has merged many technology concepts to ensure a successful night of entertainment. Click here to learn more about Lou's background.