By Tony Fernandez
It’s a Tuesday, you and a group of DJ colleagues are over the house in the man cave or she-shed doing what DJs do: talking shop, talking music and getting on the set, goofing off and working out mixes. Let’s say you do some dazzling, death defying mix that makes every DJ in the room go “OOOOH”!!! Dope selection. Dope segue. Executed to perfection. It was a good night.
Fast forward to two weeks later, your gig is done, it’s early, you stop off to go check out one of your buddies who’s spinning not too far away and… you hear the SAME mix you did.
The way I see it, there are two ways you can react to this…
1) Wow! That’s cool! Mix sounds great on a large system and people are digging the vibe on the dance floor. Glad to see it works in action!
2) That lousy mother trucker stole my idea! What a Cotton-Headed Ninny Muggins!!!
I can barely put into words how low, vile, despicable, lazy and downright uncouth it is to take other people’s work and pass it off as your own. It’s stealing, no question. Just because there is nothing tangible being taken, doesn’t mean it isn’t stealing. The disgust factor in DJ world is exponentially higher because not only are you taking something that you didn’t create; you’re passing it off as if you created it. What a philistine.
Now while I wholeheartedly agree that it is verboten to take another DJ’s “work” and pass it off as your own, do DJs “own” or have the right to claim dominion over a mix/segue? To be succinct: No. DJs do not have ownership over a blend they create. No matter how original. It is of my opinion that the concept of “I own that mix” / “that’s my mix” borders on lunacy.
To put a finer point on it, I am referring to mixes, as in mixing from one song into another. Routines that DJs and turntablists create for shows and competitions are completely different. I do believe those routines are intrinsically attached to the DJ performing them. Jazzy Jeff, AM, A-Track, Q-bert, etc. — these DJs have an associated sound and style. They have taken certain records and incorporated them in such a manor that those mixes have been linked to them. I get that. I’m on board with that. BUT DJs saying “That’s my mix”… not so much.
Do you really think you’re the ONLY DJ on the face of the planet to figure out Song A goes with Song B REALLY well? While someone has to be the first to figure it out, do you think that someone is you? Let’s say it is you, you’re the first. Now what? You can’t copyright it, nor can you trademark it. So what exactly is “yours?” It’s a mix.
I’m not trying to kill any creative vibe. Nor am I trying to give a pass to those DJs who’s idea of being creative is looking up some DJ’s set from SoundCloud and copying it verbatim. To those DJs who can’t come up with original concepts, I’ve got three words for you: practice, practice, practice. To those DJs who are pushing the envelope and coming up with innovative ways to present music to the masses, please continue doing what you do. You’re an inspiration.
To those DJs who fall under the category of ‘even a blind squirrel finds a nut’ take a step back, calm down and look at the big picture. Be fluid. Be open-minded. That dope mix you tripped across is going to be viable for maybe 4-6 weeks. If you’re doing your job right, you are CONSTANTLY looking for dope tracks that work every week. So don’t get hung up on one mix or ‘this is my idea.’ What works this week for this event is not guaranteed to work for the next one.
Come down off the pedestal. Besides, if other DJs are “taking” ideas from you, you’re doing something right!
Keep ‘em spinning.
Based out of Richmond, VA, DJ Tony Fernandez has been a DJ, Remixer, Producer, Musical Soothsayer and Audio Gear Oracle since 1980. Find him on Facebook. Email firstname.lastname@example.org