Guest Post: The DJ in the Age of the Shuffle Button

With everyone able to carry their entire music collection with them on the go, what is the value of the humble Disc Jockey? And more importantly, does s/he still have a place in wedding entertainment?

It’s hard to overstate the significance of the iPod to the 2000s. It single-handedly turned around the fortunes of a floundering Apple, introduced the world to its iconic ‘Track-Wheel’ and most importantly, it changed the way we buy, organise and listen to music. Sure, the classic iPod hasn’t been updated since 2009 and has been all but replaced by the iPhone and other smart phones – but the impact the device has had on the way we engage with music is irreversible.

Itunes and the iPod are often charged with turning the world of popular music into a glorified pick and mix counter; some would even say it’s killed the classic ‘album’ format – the modern music listener’s finger is forever twitching impatiently over the shuffle button, ready to skip on to one of the thousands of tracks in a bottomless pit of 3 minute pop tunes. And with services like Spotify, Last FM and We7 available on devices with constant internet connectivity, music isn’t even limited to a single person’s ‘record collection’

The iPod has even affected the way that we (as entertainment bookers) work. These days, clients aren’t at all shy about making requests for bands and DJs – we regularly receive exhaustive set-lists for DJs from clients who have charted out exactly which song they want played when for the whole evening… seems like a bit of a waste of money if you ask me.

So when everyone at a wedding is used to having the power to pluck their favourite track from the air and pump it directly into their own ears; what place does a DJ have? The idea of a guy with a box full of records seems a little outdated when an iPod plugged into a decent speaker system can do the same job, right?

Well, no. Wrong, in fact.

In an age when everyone has access to all of their music, all of the time – the value of a DJ is no longer tied up in the size of his/her record collection. A DJ’s true value is measured in their ability to make music a communal experience again, not just cater to the tastes of one person. What we might forget when we’re curating meticulously plotted Spotify playlists, is that a wedding (at risk of sounding corny) is about a coming together of people and a good DJ is able to facilitate that through music.

An iPod, by comparison, is about creating your own little bubble with a personal soundtrack – fine for a long bus journey, but not much use when you’ve got a room full of friends and relatives spanning generations, tastes and levels of inebriation.

None of this means that brides, grooms and guests shouldn’t make requests – quite the opposite, a few well chosen suggestions can be a great way of guiding the music choices for the evening and making the whole affair more personal – but a good DJ needs to be able to judge a room, gauge the mood and play accordingly. Sometimes that comes from experience; other times a DJ just has an innate ability to know how to guide people to and from the dance floor. Either way, there’s more to it than just clicking shuffle and hoping for the best.

Today’s guest post comes to you from Adam Sternberg, director of premier entertainment suppliers Sternberg Clarke and new judge on The Wedding Industry Awards judging panel. 

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