Are DJs Overrated? Only If You Say So…

Are DJs overrated?

If ever there was a subjective question in the music world, then “are DJs overrated” is probably it. Of all types of artists in music, DJs are perhaps the most misunderstood. So let’s go over the arguments and reasons for how you quantify a DJ’s worth to work out if are they overrated.

Any form of artist can only truly be deemed worthy (or overrated) by those within their own industry. That said if a DJ has built an audience and can draw a crowd and then there are obviously significant numbers of people that don’t deem them to be overrated. After all the value of something is only determined by what people are willing to pay for it. And DJs generate, and make, A LOT of money.

DJing Is an Art so Let’s Talk About… Well, Art

It is very common for paintings that have been labeled “overrated” by many can still sell for thousands or even millions of dollars. So just like painters can be, are DJs overrated? Yes, some definitely are, but conversely, a lot definitely are not.

Let’s work out whether DJs are overrated as a whole.

To do this we’ll break down the individual components that make them worthy and the metrics that make it measurable.

17a is the 5th most expensive painting ever sold ($200m)
Jackson Pollock’s 17a is the 5th most expensive painting ever sold ($200m)

A DJ’s Purpose

On a broad level, the DJ’s main aim is to bring a group of people together and give them a shared, enjoyable experience. And there is no doubt that DJs do this.

Whether it’s a DJ in a small club or superstar DJs grid locking a city… Like Fatboy Slim did with his first Brighton beach party. There is no doubt that DJs have value in their ability to entertain.

A Note on Taste… Specifically Yours

It’s worth mentioning here that, although you may not like a specific genre or DJ, they may have a very large following. And that crowd is having an amazing time, then no one is particularly well placed to deem that DJ/genre pointless.

Music taste, like everything, is highly subjective
Music taste, like everything, is highly subjective

To argue that someone is stupid for enjoying a specific genre would be tantamount to saying people are stupid for enjoying sewing or gardening. Just because you may not enjoy that particular thing doesn’t make it wrong.

So the successful role of a DJ and the position with which they have established themselves within the music industry doesn’t suggest that they are overrated. Otherwise, there simply wouldn’t be any large-scale electronic music festivals taking place around the world. Let alone them being so wildly successful.

Are DJs Overrated On an Individual Basis

Now all of the above said I absolutely think individual DJs can be overrated. And not just because there are genres I do not enjoy.

The entire point of a good DJ is to have such in-depth musical knowledge and confidence in their skills that they can create sets on the fly. The best go on stage not knowing which direction their set is going to take. Then by working off the energy of the crowd, they will improvise that direction as they go.

Not all DJs do this, however. And these are the types I would argue are overrated.

If you have a DJ who is going from show to show essentially playing the same setlist, regardless of the audience, then they are not utilizing the DJ’s ability to play to the moment. In this case, I would suggest they are overrated as there is nothing particularly unique or individual to that show. You could go to any show on their tour and see the same thing.

After all, surely the main reason anyone goes to any festival or gig is for an experience unique to that moment. This applies whether the performer is a DJ or a live band.

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Artists Who Are Performing

Deadmau5 is often mislabeled a DJ when performing
Deadmau5 is often mislabeled as a DJ when performing

Artists who have produced their own tracks and play them live often get muddled up with DJs. And it’s not these that I am referring to in the above sections.

As an example, Deadmau5 is often considered to be DJing when playing at a festival. However, he has taken his tracks and arranged them to be playable live. Due to the size of his production, the setlist will likely be thought of ahead of time.

Much in the way that a live band will know their setlist before going on the stage. In this instance, I would argue that these artists are not in fact DJing. Therefore they aren’t bound by the same definition of being overrated explained above.

Are DJs Overrated If They Are Also Producers?

Most DJs are also producers so it’s understandable that if someone doesn’t like an artist’s released tracks then they will deem them underrated as a DJ. And by the explanations listed above, some instances of this may be valid.

However, the same rule also applies… That music taste is subjective so no one person can knock another’s sense of enjoyment or tastes.

It is very easy to judge artists and producers who seemingly don’t expert or take risks in their music. Or their DJ sets. Many artists became successful through an almost paint-by-numbers method and it is easy to dismiss these. And sometimes rightfully so…

However, electronic music and the DJ world is no different from commercialism as a whole. Commercial, easily accessible music has always existed. Which is why you have commercial radio and the billboard charts.

Therefore, it’d be unfair to use the explosion of commercial DJs to write off DJing as a whole, and label al DJs overrated.

Conclusion Are DJs Overrated?

I would argue that DJs can’t be overrated if they mean people have fun or they make so much money. After all, as mentioned above, value is only assigned by people willing to pay a price.

And there are plenty of superstar DJs out there making lots. This means they must have value, even if it is only by the people that rate them. Whether you or rate them or not doesn’t even come into it.

So, are DJs overrated? Well the amount of money that flows around them would suggest that no, they are not.

What next?

  • What do DJs actually do on stage? This post has the answers.

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