Let’s start at the beginning, when producers and DJs were not necessarily one and the same. Playing live usually meant hauling around a bunch of synthesizers and drum machines. Back in the late 80s and through the 90s there were not a lot of electronic music acts that really toured around with a live set-up. It was just too much gear and fees were not high enough to really accommodate moving around like a rock band.
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A few acts like Kraftwerk, The Orb, Orbital, The Chemical Brothers, Moby, Roni Size Reprazent and The Crystal Method had enough clout to play these types of shows but most producers had to turn to the art of DJing to take their act on the road.
Sure there were great light shows that came along with these live acts, but more importantly the acts were actually doing something. They were truly playing their instruments, synths, drums and often brought more traditional musicians to complement them in the mix- a saxophonist, percussionist, whatever. They worked their asses off to bring you the consumer/fan an incredible performance that was unique and well… actually a performance.
As technology has gotten better and hardware is becoming more obsolete many producers have started simply going on the road with a laptop and a synced light show, as have many DJs. A live show and many “DJ” sets now consist of an artist standing behind his laptop using software with a set that is already mapped out.
In other words most of these guys are not doing anything up there but putting their hands in the air, making EDM gang signs and dancing around laughing because of the ridiculous fucking fee they are bagging for doing nothing. What’s even more screwed up is that many of these so called DJs don’t even produce their own music and rely on ghost producers to do it for them. This is where the Milli Vanilli reference comes in (if you are too young to remember, check it out here).
We're not going to name names as that’s not the point of this article. The point is for you, the music fan and festival/club goer, to start challenging the status quo. You are paying tons of money and being served up “DJ” fist pumping, LED walls and laser beams, you have been distracted.
If consumers start complaining about this “Milli Vanilli” syndrome then the artists and promoters will listen. One of the great things about this new digital age is that you have a voice and things have truly become democratic.
Electronic music has finally gotten some momentum and is being heard by more people in the USA then ever, but all the hard work it took to get to this point is now at risk. So many artists and people in the industry have fought for the credibility of this genre over the last 20 years and it all could be undone because of lazy artists and shoddy promoters.
There is always the excuse of the “synced light show” and that the set has to be pre-programmed for the light show to be any good. We call bullshit! What about hiring a VJ to work with you and mix live to your set while you actually mix and make selections based on the crowds vibe… you know, actually DJ.
And for the artists going the “live” route if you’re going to actually claim to perform live then why don’t you try pushing the boundaries a little bit and give us a show… not just a big LED screen. Visuals are great but so is a real performance.
So in closing- to all of you DJs struggling with Milli Vanilli syndrome- we are on to you and so is everyone else.
Let’s make a stand on this as fans, or we are surely going to see this genre that we love become the next big punch line. And you won't be able to "blame it on the rain"...