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The Curious Case Of The Faceless DJ

The Curious Case Of The Faceless DJ
At this years International Music Summit event held in The Hard Rock Hotel, one of its co-founders Pete Tong, was discussing the direction of digital music with Itunes employee and artist Zane Lowe. They touched briefly on the name of a well know international DJ, who wears a childish mask and within the electronic scene here in Ibiza, is regarded in the same league as Paris Hilton. A number of well respected DJ’s including Carl Cox and now Pete Tong, have all questioned his musical integrity and what they feel is the dumbing down of the DJ industry. His act is called, Marshmello and the project produces happy, fluffy, trap music with a catchy melody, combined with a simple white and innocent appearance, that would sit comfortably with the Teletubbies. But that innocence is not reflected in his shrewd business dealings and the way he slickly markets his brand via social media. His music has already attracted 6.1 BILLION views and Forbes Magazine reports he earned over $44 million in a two year period and continues to attract 1.4 million new subscribers a month.But the question many of his peers are asking, can we really call him and his ilk DJs?

I remember very well back in the early nineties, the scandal surrounding Milli Vanilli who were stripped of a Grammy Award when it was revealed that its two lead vocalists were in fact hired models lip syncing all their songs. Their deception was condemned by the industry as a whole and they disappeared off the scene as quickly as they arrived on it. So less than 25 years ago it was considered foul play to hide an artists true identity and talent. Fast forward to today and it’s now totally acceptable to hide your identity, plug in pre-made playlists and fake technical skills. In my opinion, its disrespectful to every hard working DJ out there who has to fight for scraps to pursue their artform and make a living from it. In my opinion, Marshmello and his masked ilk are not DJ’s, they are stage performers and acts. As DJ’s, they hold very little integrity, like having sex with a condom, its safe but lacks a true emotional connection.

What makes a good DJ is not just their mixing skill, beat control and track selection, it’s got a lot to do with their own personality and how they connect with a crowd. To show your face, its joy, anguish and despair is what a real DJ is all about. To hide it, in my opinion, is disrespectful to the art and all the hard grafting DJ’s around the World who do it for the love of music. Its like wearing a hat inside a church and while they may be unwritten, there are still certain etiquette rules surrounding the DJ trade which brings me on to my next point – the formation of an independent DJ association or guild to regulate and protect the art of real DJing It’s about time that a Jedi Knight style council was formed to champion the rights of DJ’s and promote their art with integrity. To agree and approve a code of etiquette and rules constituting what requirements are needed to be called a DJ. Similar to a doctorate or certification, it would set the standards for the genre. It would require respected and experienced individuals within the electronic industry to establish it.

 Industry Electronic summits like the excellent IMS, should question more the direction their industry is going in rather than paying lip service to it. The home of IMS is Ibiza, long considered and respected as the cradle and world stage of electronic music innovation. If any summit has the potential to be outspoken and challenging, its the Ibiza one, as those that founded it are rooted in old style ethics around Electronic music.  The island is full of talented people, 90% of them are here because they love music, as the majority are not doing it for the money, as the pay is shit in Ibiza these days, as low as €50 per gig in some places. Compare that to Marshmellos €44 million earnings in just two years and you get an idea of the unfairness of the music industry right now. I know DJs in Ibiza who bare their soul for their music and it’s a struggle for them every day to find work and to just keep going in the hope they will get a break, but I feel their art is being disrespected by low pay, while faceless, celebrity and manufactured acts claiming to be “DJs” are earning obscene amounts.

 I understand and recognise they are other factors and talents at play here and I could be perceived as being unfair due to the popularity of these acts, but I don’t have all day to write a balanced point article, so please forgive my crudeness. In my opinion, masked DJ’s like Marshmello and his ilk should not have the letters DJ related to their names. They are an act, similar to Milli Vanilli, hiding their true identity so as to make them universally acceptable to a mass audience and earning lots of cash while doing so. Fair dues to them, for succeeding and getting where they are today, but personally for me, they are not DJ’s and the certain sectors of the industry needs to wake up to this fact and do something about it before its too late. Because if they don’t, the prestige around the art of DJing will continue to be diluted by charlatans, celebrities, three card tricksters and accountants, who like Dick Turpin, don’t have the decency to show their faces while you stand and deliver into their bank accounts.

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