In a recent editorial piece in the UK Guardian, respected dance music author and de-facto historian Bill Brewster provides a detailed explanation of why a DJ, no matter how big or small, needs to play for the crowd, not show up playing pre-recorded sets.
It's framed around the recent controversy involving whether or not Calvin Harris endorses "press play" DJs sets. While Harris blames the BBC interviewer for changing the question in the edit and denies making such a claim, Brewster's piece explains the importance of playing live, and the connection that can be made between the crown and the audience.
Here's an excerpt-
Prerecording sets is a curious phenomenon, because it's the live interaction between DJ and dancefloor where the real fun occurs. Without the ability to change the mood, change the tempo, change the style, you're nothing more than a jukebox that needs a toilet break every so often. It's what makes DJing more elastic and versatile than, say, a rock band, whose members are tied to their audience by the songs they know and have rehearsed. Good DJs have the world of recorded music at their disposal. Half the pleasure of playing is to seamlessly go from an Underground Resistance tune into a Queen B-side before anyone realises what's happening. Prerecording misses the point entirely. Like the trend towards ghostwritten tracks (as documented in the latest issue of Mixmag), it's all part of the same culture that has grown up around, but not truly connected to, the roots of club culture.
Two seasons ago, I spent a night checking out all the big clubs in Ibiza and was struck by how surprisingly dull a lot of it is these days. Tiesto's performance at Privilege looked like 10,000 people waiting for the world's largest bus to arrive. Those supernatural nights where the DJ appears to be communicating personally with each member of the dancefloor were nowhere to be seen. What marks out these events is how little interaction there is between DJ and audience. The audience consumes rather than participates, foregoing any form of empathetic experience in favour of bland ingestion (and usually faithfully documented by the cancerous presence of a thousand camera phones held aloft). A great DJ can coax you into places you didn't know you wanted to go until you get there. It's what marks them out from a ninny with too many tattoos playing a CD.
Read the full editorial on the UK Guardian.