For DJs who remember their history – or have read “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life” – it wasn’t that long ago when Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles were the ultimate tastemakers, spinning vinyl to create unforgettable sets that garnered respect and admiration. Tastemakers that had the right
songs were paid handsomely for the records they carried, and the quality of sets they played. You could be an incredibly respected DJ – and never produce a single song.
The landscape shifted drastically during the 2010s, with the producer taking center stage, as evidenced by the rise of artists like Calvin Harris and Skrillex. But brace yourself: the tides are about to turn again as we stand on the precipice of a DJ renaissance powered by AI technology.
Ean Golden – DJ Techtools’ founder – wrote this quick editorial about DJing and how the rise of generative AI will impact it. Keep reading, and share your own speculation in the comments section!
AI Will Likely Unleash a New Wave of Creativity in DJing
Artificial intelligence, like OpenAI’s Jukebox or Google’s Magenta (which even offers Ableton Live plugins), is breaking down barriers and democratizing the music production process. Soon, anyone with an idea and the willingness to adapt to new tools will be able to generate incredible songs with ease.
Just like a DJ samples from records to create an overall sound – we will be able to create new variations like candy. Entire sets will likely be played with original “music” that is unique to that DJ.
Instead of signaling the demise of DJing, this development will launch us into a new golden age, with DJs reclaiming their status as curators of unique, electrifying music.
Revolutionizing DJ Sets with AI-Generated Music
As AI becomes an integral part of music production, DJs will be able to generate vast collections of original tunes, tailored to their individual tastes and preferences. These tracks will form the backbone of live sets, which will come alive with unique, never-before-heard music.
Since the commercial value of AI-generated music will be minimal, DJs will hoard their creations, building a signature sound that fans will flock to experience live. A return to the age of touring DJs who actually have talent rocking a crowd with unique “edits” of their favorite music will come raging back. The live DJ industry will be better off for it.
A Nod to the Past: DJ Culture’s Roots
If the above prophecies come to pass, it might look a lot like 1980s Jamaican sound system clashes, where DJs like King Jammy and David Rodigan competed for notoriety and crowd love by showcasing exclusive records and dubplates.
Sound system crews battled each other in the streets for notoriety and love from the crowd. Their competitive advantage was largely in who had the best records – rare cuts sourced from other countries and then later recorded specifically for the sound system. These dub plates were hard to produce, and highly coveted by their owners.
Similarly, the 1990s rave scene, epitomized by DJs like Carl Cox and Sasha, thrived on the exclusivity of live DJ sets. The only way to hear new rave music was at the party, not at home or on the radio – so people would go to parties more to experience the DJ’s unique sound.
Music’s “value” today is ZERO
In today’s digital world, most electronic music artists earn little from digital sales and royalties. Instead, their tracks serve as marketing tools to promote their live shows. As AI reshapes the music landscape, DJs can capitalize on this trend by keeping their AI-generated tracks exclusive and avoiding putting them on streaming services at all. That would make their live shows a must-attend event for fans.
Previously this would have been a losing strategy, but in the advent of AI music generation, it would create a dramatic uniqueness that only live shows would provide. You will soon be able to generate original edits, remixes and twists of tracks that are entirely “yours” very quickly. This will give anyone (regardless of their production talents) the ability to generate a set of music and a sound that is unique to them.
My hope? This revolution breathes much-needed new life into our industry, and a million little sub-genres may emerge and flourish. We could soon see a powerful resurgence of the DJ as the ultimate tastemaker and performer.
Are you ready? I am – it’s time for the DJ to shine (again).