Trainspotting A DJ’s Tracks: Is It Lazy or Legit?

The moral acceptability of trainspotting (figuring out what a DJ is playing) is a longstanding debate in the DJ community. But in recent years, new tools and communities have changed how the process works – and one DJ, Jackmaster, took issue with it last week in a heartfelt opinion. Read on for a breakdown of what both sides of the issue think and to share your own opinions on the concept.

Trainspotting: The Bane of Professional DJs?

Last week, DJ Jackmaster went to Facebook to take to task DJs who have trainspotted his tracks and then played them out. These DJs allegedly used Facebook Groups dedicated to identifying tracks and posted videos of Jackmaster’s sets. The communities (thousands of music lovers) then all collaborate to find the names of the tracks that were played.

This is part of an ongoing and evolving debate on trainspotting. The music market is more saturated than ever, and  the way we consume music is changing. Should trainspotting become less taboo? This article aims to take an objective look at Jackmaster’s post, while also diving into the debate to see what both sides have to say.

This post has since been removed from Facebook.

Trainspotting + Why DJs May Think It’s Rude

Back in 2015, DJTT editor Dan wrote an informative article on the topic of trainspotting – which included this description of trainspotting (in DJing) as defined by the great Urban Dictionary

v: The act of staring over a DJ’s shoulder to see what records he’s spinning.

Originated from the British phenomenon of train geeks waiting on train platforms, notebooks in hand, recording the types and numbers of trains coming into the station.

“I went to the club last night to hit on this bad-ass DJ chick, but the records she brought were amazing, so I just sat near her decks, trainspotting them all night!”

Let’s break down why Jackmaster is peeved about DJs playing tracks from his sets. First of all, he states that “overrated, basic DJs” are playing tracks that (allegedly) “they have blatantly picked up from videos” of Jackmaster in The Identification of Music Group on Facebook.

Let’s assume that he’s a member of the group and saw videos of his sets being posted where people asked what tracks are being played at certain times. We can’t say for sure that these people asking or the are DJs lurking for new tracks to play, but it’s not an invalid concern. After all, if Jackmaster is a member of the group, who knows what other famous DJs might be on there trying to cop new tunes?

An example post on The Identification of Music Group on Facebook

Who’s Doing The Track IDing?

The second point of contention is that the DJs have other people identify the song, versus the “traditional way” DJs find records to play – crate-digging. In the past, crate-digging literally meant digging through crates of records to find music, people now use online tools to find tracks.

Finding tracks can be a time-intensive process. As a DJ who plays a weekly radio show, I know the feeling of spending a few hours trying to find new music to play.

[clickToTweet tweet=”It can be infuriating to spend hours finding a rare track only to hear other DJs play it out later. ” quote=”It can be infuriating to spend hours finding a rare track only to hear other DJs play it out later after trainspotting your set. “]

So if DJ A spends hours finding a specific track and other DJs start playing that same track after hearing DJ A‘s set, we can see how DJ A could be pissed off about DJs piggybacking of his track selection work.

Ripping Off The Work Of Ripping Records

The final issue brought up is specific to finding actual vinyl records and playing those out. It feels a bit overstated to stereotype trainspotting DJs as overpaid superstars, so for the purpose of this article, let’s ignore that and focus on the production work that goes into making recordings of rare vinyl records.

If you’re playing older tracks, you might find yourself in this position to want to get your vinyl collection into Traktor, Serato, or Rekordbox. Assuming the track is not available to download online, you have to buy the record, get a soundcard, and rip the song into a DAW to export the track as a WAV or MP3. Or, alternatively, the DJ could spin the record if there’s a record player in the booth and they know how to mix vinyl. The argument here is that DJs who opt to rip tracks from recorded DJ sets or download rare vinyl tracks from other sources are cutting corners and don’t respect the art of digging for tracks.

A few other reasons why some DJs believe this isn’t a cool practice:
  • The act of trainspotting is like stealing material from another DJ (basically acting like the Amy Schumer of DJs)
  • Discredits the amount of work other DJs put into finding tracks (check out our article on finding new tracks for an event).
  • DJs may be playing tracks that aren’t released to the public or haven’t been announced by the label/artist.
  • The track may have been gifted to the DJ as an exclusive remix/edit/mix from a producer.
  • Piggybacks of the successful track selection of a DJ.
  • A DJ is not obligated to share the names of the tracks being played. If they don’t want to share or publish a tracklist, they shouldn’t be criticized for not doing so.

Author’s Note: By listing the above, I’m not claiming to agree with them. The purpose is to show where other DJs may be coming from on the issue 🙂 

Sharing is Caring: In Defense of Trainspotting

DJs are often some of the most enthusiastic and excited audience members when it comes to watching another DJ play. I like to carefully watch a DJ perform to learn from them and experience how another DJ throws down a set. One part of that experience is dissecting the track list.

As an audience member, a person who falls in love with a track that they never heard before will most likely want to know the name of the song. This audience member might not even be a DJ – but still want to listen to it at home.

[clickToTweet tweet=”DJs are displaying tracks like an art collector displays their painting collection.” quote=”DJs are displaying tracks like an art collector displays their painting collection.”]

What is wrong with letting others know what tracks you played? Aren’t DJs meant to be the ones who open minds up to new music?

Now, DJs may want to know the name of the track so that they can play the song in their sets as well. DJ A hears DJ B play a track and thinks, “This house track is nuts! I want it for the club night I am playing at next weekend.” DJ A just experienced a moment of musical discovery just as DJ B did when she found the track on Soundcloud or Beatport. Sure, DJ B may have spent hours looking for tracks before coming across this awesome house track, however, DJ A didn’t come through DJ B’s set just to steal her tracklist to play at his event. He came for the music and left discovering something for himself. DJ B should be happy to expand DJ A’s mind to new music and the fact DJ A wants to the name of the track is almost flattering.

White Labels

In the vinyl DJ era, white labels were used to hide track information from trainspotters.

Before the DJing scene exploded after the turn of the century, there was a lot of competition between DJs. One form of competition was the art of track selection. It wasn’t uncommon to hide or mislabel names of records to make sure that other DJs wouldn’t be able to “steal” the names of hard-hitting tracks. There was some validity to this practice – some songs and edits were only released in limited quantities. A DJ’s competitive advantage when it came to music was huge, especially when securing gigs and creating a career:

“Today’s notion of rarity is less about old gems and more about anoraked techno nerds championing unheard-of test-pressings by twelve-year-old geniuses on tiny labels based in garages in Canada, but the prestige of rarity introduced by northern soul has never left dance music.

Clubbers would journey hundreds of miles at the thought of hearing that one elusive disc. Posters included lists of the rare records you would hear at a particular event, and a DJ’s standing on the circuit could rocket overnight by the simple expedient of acquiring one desirable 45.” – From Frank Brougbton + Bill Brewster’s “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey” 

Fast forward to 2017 and DJ culture has changed drastically. The barrier to entry substantially lower and the market seems over-saturated with DJs who have the equipment to play a gig.

DJs are also downloading tracks versus going to the record stores to find new tracks to play. That time is now spent scrolling through Soundcloud streams and online music stores where anyone can download the tracks. There aren’t limited quantities of songs either. A DJ can’t justify having exclusive rights to playing a certain track when that track has thousands of plays on Soundcloud.

Two DJs who both play the same track aren’t (necessarily) playing the track in the same context. They will have different tracklists, and mix those tracks in a different style. With the exception of a DJ’s own remixes or edits that are made specifically for their set, tracks being played by a DJ are fair game for other DJs to play. A DJ uses a collection of other people’s work to build a new piece of art. Pieces of work in that collection are available to other DJs as well.

Here are a few arguments DJs defending trainspotting:
  • DJs share music with an audience. DJs shouldn’t scold the audience (DJs or not) that wants to go out and buy the song they heard.
  • DJs who play other people’s musical work (and who don’t own copyrights, etc.) don’t own the right to play it out. Therefore, they shouldn’t be upset when other DJs play the same songs.
  • DJing is about sharing music with the world, not hoarding tracks so that people can only hear them through one DJ. (check out our new DJ Track Trade series.)
  • In the digital age, songs aren’t rare commodities and can’t be contained to one or two DJs.
  • A DJ discovering a track at a club isn’t very different from a DJ discovering a track on Soundcloud. It is just discovery through different mediums.
  • Groups like The Identification of Music Group and apps like Kado are great tools for finding the names of new tracks; they aren’t malicious tools used to steal a DJ’s set.
  • Producers appreciate their music being shared with the audience versus being hidden by the DJ. (Who is probably playing their music without permission.)

Author’s Note: Again, I’m not personally agreeing or disagreeing with the above – just listing out more opinions!

Everyone Prepares For Gigs Differently

Trainspotting continues to be an act that is seen differently in the eyes of many DJs. Beautiful music sharing to some and blatant laziness to others. While DJs will disagree about the ethics of trainspotting, no one can disagree that preparing for a gig is a lot of work.

Some DJs prepare by digging through dusty records in a vintage record store while others scroll endlessly on Soundcloud. No matter how one finds records to play, the art of creating a playlist for a gig is special for many DJs. We all do it in different ways – but no one should be shamed for wanting to play great tracks to a crowd.

Is trainspotting something that DJs shouldn’t worry about? Are DJs obligated to share their tracks with the audience? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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  • Beryl Turner

    Just in case nobody has mentioned it, this is the age of “Shazam.” Everybody is “trainspotting” your tracks now. Once again, technology has rendered another quaint human social custom obsolete.

    Besides…people have forgotten that being a DJ is also helping “your artists (as in the artists whose music you play regularly as a DJ)” to prosper. It is a symbiotic relationship and one that DJs need to remember to participate in.

  • Leandro Louder

    jackmaster F***ng suck, he talks about programing or djing, maybe you should learn to warm up the dancefloor first, then u’ll have the power to say “cause of “this”, that other dj suck” and that’s why he removed the post.

  • TinGA

    The argument is somewhat short sided. Everything we do as DJ’s is based on a shared space. If only one DJ played the track, the laws of economics would demand that the tracks themselves become too expensive. The fact that a DJ can go into a store and not a vault and pine through crates is facilitated by the fact that the artists themselves who have more rights to ownership than any of us downstream is ok with everybody hearing and enjoying their music.

    Let’s imagine where the industry should go, DJ’s must be focused on packaging rather than content. Not what we play, but HOW we present and play music. That is the future of our craft and let’s not forget, there are more people who need to hear the thump of bass than our speakers can reach individually. Let’s do it together because in truth when they are dancing, they are NOT fighting.

  • Federico Morozzo Della Rocca

    I love to share the music I play, and if I can, I give a little more info like: “this bomb is from Joe Lewis and was released in 1986! Let’s Jack!” 😉

  • Federico Morozzo Della Rocca

    Jackmaster… shouldn’t be stealing the name from real Chicago house producers… It’s so pretentious and misleading!

  • markmimage

    That DJ who wants to stop anyone from copying his set list is probably the same guy that will then tell everyone to play his track (the one he just cut up and made his own) out. lol

  • Jason Karriker

    Play records, cover your labels. Problem solved.

  • eugene

    With vinyl DJs, trainspotting used to be solved by placing whitelabels on top of the original label. DJs in the CDJ era might have had it the best just by being to cover the text screen. DJs in today’s digitized era can use technology/apps to find the exact remix of a song/artist in seconds. It is just the way of the times. What I find annoying is people, more specifically other DJs, wanting and complaining to see a playlist posted of what was played. Whether it be on YouTube, Soundcloud, or a live set, etc…No one can just enjoy themselves and enjoy what the DJ has to offer as a whole. In my head, a good dj turns 15, 30, 50 or how many separate songs into one big, beautiful long story of a song. (This is a whole other art and story in itself…storybuilding/playlist building/creation). Kind of pathetic if you really think about it. Everyone pulls out their phone to record/watch a live performance. Just the same way some of these people need to see the exact remix and playlist of every performer. In being able to find alot online/internet in seconds, there is a certain beauty in not knowing, and just accepting what is in front of you.


    honestly, i can’t think of anyone that goes to any party or to watch any dj spin for an occasion otherwise because said dj might have some exclusive cuts, it’s the entire package, the vibe that dj creates live, why heads show up to watch/dance/participate in said live event anyway…trying to fight the ever lurching forward stampede of the shift towards an open source world of everything is quite futile anyway, might as well stick your elbows out, lift up your feet, chillax and enjoy the ride…

  • Ant Cruze

    Wtf? Who cares if someones staring over my shoulder when they should be staring and picking up that girl/guy? I dont think ive ever played the same set twice!! So if ya wanna copy, go right ahead, but acknowledge your source, because thats a compliment! Ive never copied another dj’s set but do admit to sometimes hearing a track mix well into another from another dj, so i say to them “yo, that mix was cool, im copying it” ?. If you get all up tight if someone “steals” your mixset, maybe its time to be more innovative and creative!! Cheers ant.

  • Dwayne Brooks Sr.

    Old school DJ’s can remember back in the 70’s when a radio station would play a new song for weeks and never tell the name of the song or the name of the artist , and what did we do ? Grab a blank cassette tape, pop it into the deck and hit record. That next week we would be playing it by slipping into the mix with the pause button,

  • flopdog

    I was a well-known NYC DJ in the 80s and 90s, with a five-night a week, nine year residency at a major club. The DJ community was close, and it was common for us to pop into a friend’s booth and look at the label (or more likely, ask what the test pressing was.)

    I played (and still do) to teach people about cool music. Why the fu&shyck would I ever mind if someone wanted to know what I was playing?

    Kind of silly, IMO.

  • D-Jam

    As far as I’m concerned, the more I see DJs get into good sounds, then I’m happy. Without the artists who make the music, the DJ wouldn’t exist. Thus I see my role as enlightening and sharing the great new stuff I’ve encountered.

    I’ll trainspot DJs when I see sets posted online with full tracklists. If a good tune comes up, why would I suddenly decide not to buy it? How does that help the artist who crafted such a great tune? If anything, it only helps the DJ who played it first. This is why I post full tracklists of the mixes I put online.

    Lastly, one has to remember every DJ has their own unique sound…even if they don’t realize it. I’ll trainspot tunes off Armin Van Buuren and ReOrder, but it doesn’t mean I’ll sound like them when I play a set. I’ll buy some of the top tunes listed on Traxsource, but it doesn’t mean I’ll sound like everyone else when I play them.

    I can imagine in the old vinyl days protecting your promos and such when there was limited supply and it was easier to outshine a DJ who found that tune first. Now with unlimited quantity in MP3, it’s only hurting the artists and labels by playing this old game.

    HOWEVER…trainspotters should not be rude and bother a DJ when he/she is playing. Don’t leer and infringe on personal space. Use Shazam, or record a snippet and post it online. That or buy the DJ a drink and ask him/her what that great tune was.

  • DJ EmCee Free

    Man, I’ll SHAZAM a hot set in a heart beat. My job as a DJ is to insure that my clients and their guests have a good time. that means looking for and creating different and entertaining ways to present the music. That takes work too. Don’t you listen to the radio and if you here a cut you have never used or heard call the station or right down the hook or the title for later? This is laughable and really pathetic. Trainspot on me Lads!

  • Gingersteve

    DJs are absolutely there to spread their love of music to the crowds that listen, dance and socialise at their sets. I see my job as the person who highlights great music so that others can enjoy it too, as much as I do. I want the artists who move me to become popular and successful, and i want the music industry to produce more of the stuff i love. Why on earth would i want to be precious about tracks I have discovered? Greed. That’s the only possible reason. Income protection and greed. If you have faith in your skills as a DJ, you underrtand that the whole is way more than the sum of the parts, so if someone wants to steal your parts, let them. If the can make a better whole than you, fair play to them. Congratulate and move on.

  • Jordan Vesteyo

    You wanna know what I’m playing? Cool. I’ll be playing an entirely different set tomorrow. Next week, I won’t even be playing it. With vinyl, same thing. Played a lot of white labels with vinyl, but I would still tell them if they asked, it wouldn’t be out for a while any way 🙂

  • bert

    A DJs job is too share music.
    As a music producer, I want everyone to find my music I don’t care how they do it.

    Having said that, I used to DJ with another DJ for about a year, and he would always stand over my shoulder to check out what records I was playing, I took it as an underhanded compliment.

  • Emanuel Langston

    another example of how blindly ignorant and clueless many of the dj population is today. dj’s who are confident in themselves don’t worry about another jock playing the same stuff as they are. during the disco days when everybody was essentially playing the same tracks the best dj’s shined because of how they programmed their sets and their mixing, but I guess that’s just too hard a concept to figure out for today’s dj’s. it also ridiculous that you have people running around thinking that they can put out mixes using other people’s productions and don’t have an obligation to give them credit or that people are supposed to listen to a mix without having the full and complete tracklist available. ever since people started releasing recorded music it has always gone without saying that you need to let people know what they’re listening to. this idea of my mix and I don’t want to share the tracks is patently absurd. if you have a problem with sharing the tracks why are you putting out mixes in the first place.

  • Joseph Giordano

    If someone uses Shazam or the like to ID a track or two they really like during a set I don’t see the issue but if you’re tagging every song then go and recreate the set when you play live. You’re just a twat.

  • Mattia Nicoletti

    With 80 thousands official tracks released every month and thousands and thousands unofficial I think that uniqueness in a dj set is preserved. Then a playlist is like a story and depends how you use and when you use the single “parts” of this story (the tracks). I am a Dj and if somebody plays a track I found and I usually play I am just honoured. And If other Djs don’t like others play their music, just go on and on remixing tracks by their own. Cheers!

  • Greg Vallande

    OK. Here’s my $0.02 (if anyone cares LOL) – If you leech tracks via soulseek in an effort to replicate Paul Oakenfold’s 1999 Cuba set, you are a total toolbag. Period. If you are a music lover, who just-so-happens to recall the track Guy William’s played in one of his 2003 sets, and you want to bang that track out to your local scene. Go for it. To kick it up, why not look for a variant of that track(remix/edit/etc) besides your normal digging? I also dislike how the DJTT article points out “digging” as negative. Well the term anyway. The art of crate digging isn’t even in the same ballpark as “trainspotting”. TBH “trainspotting” sounds like a term Millennials use to describe a movie they likely were too young to watch but think it “sounds cool” so we’ll say that’s what “set ripping” is called now. That’s essentially what it is. There’s no crawling baby on the ceiling in my sets. Just tracks that I’ve spent hours looking for, listening to, and sorting the garbage from the proper tunes. Also ladies & gents, I’ve found that reaching out via social media works wonders now-a-days. Most (not all) DJ’s and producers are very approachable and nice depending on their level of success and which scenes they are in. Personally the underground guys are just golden and if you are lucky enough to hear back from one about a track you are interested in, you can be sure they’ll give you the full scope of what label it was released on and of course the exact track title if you can’t find it or if it’s mislabeled. Anyway. San Dimas High School Football Rules!

  • Rooshdy

    I have to say I think Jackmaster is being a little bitch here. As far back as I can remember being inspired by my hero DJ’s, I always wanted to know what track was what. Its a compliment. It means people are listening and are taking an interest in what you are doing. Now is not the time for moaning, when your bubble bursts and nobody even remembers Jackmaster…..then you can have a moan. For the record I have only listened to a couple of his sets so I wont comment on when that may happen, but what I will say is that this kind of public bitching on a super public platform is very, very unprofessional and a sure fire way to lose the respect of anyone that was paying any attention. Kidz these days ehy.

  • Ace Onetime

    I am on the fence. I want to be known for what I play and the different and cool track selections that make me who I am as a DJ but I still want to give artists and label props and credit. So usually I just search mixcloud and places for certain tracks I wanna play and see who’s playing what. If some tracks I enjoy aren’t getting drops then they will get played amongst must haves others will likely play. I share all tracklists and just move onto new tracks if some of the tracks I play get too spotted or saturated. Trainspotting is fine if it doesn’t oversaturate a scene or place with those tracks. Diversity is key and gives everyone deserving props and kinda nulls this whole argument when everyone is hunting for their own ideas of classic tracks.

  • Amie Tierney

    Calm down mate!((at Jack master) As long as they don’t rip off your whole set if a track you’ve played inspires someone else to play it then that’s ace no? It’s not just the tracks themselves but the way you play them that create your sound so he can get down off his high horse. I’ve put in hours finding tracks which you find by listening to other people’s sets, crate digging etc obviously if they Shazammed the sh1t out of everything you played then that would be a piss take but the odd track..if it’s a banger why not share the music people! #jerkmasterjack

  • joemoe

    A dj works mainly with the musical output of other people – he takes the result of creativity and effort of these people (and earns money with it) – so why should his – in comparison to – a little less high creativity of his set and output be untouchable ?

  • QCube

    Some of my favourite tracks ever were trainspoted (from mixes loadet on youtube, but still I didn’t hear them ever again somewhere else so the dj obviously put time into searching them and I was verry thankfull to him for that). Other Tracks I tried to find later were some kind of exclusive tracks or mixed live in a special way that I couldn’t figure out till now (Still searching for a less known remix of examples – all the wrong places, with a switched out, badass drop by the way. So if anyone happens to know it, please please! I would love to hear this drop again |:).

    I’m just a hobbyist, playing to a small group of friends sometimes but being mad about someone like me finding and getting the same song to share it with my friends… what are some people thinking of themselves? Noone should controll music. (I’m even against coppyright but somehow people have to make money, I agree…)

  • Irvin Cee

    I just hate it when they watch over my shoulder while they can follow in real time on my twitter account!

  • Gian Luca Grinfan

    I’m in peaceful mint. I like searching my tracks, selected it an played on my way. One of the best test is uploading a set on YouTube and if is not banned for copy rights, your in the right track.
    I really don’t care what are playing other DJs I’m bussy searching and playing my stuf

  • synapticflow

    I’ve been into all forms of electronic music for over 20 years, but nobody can keep up with every song and every DJ.

    So I ask , is Jackmaster even any good?

    If your answer includes “EDM”, don’t even bother answering. lol.

  • partofthepuzzle

    There are several sides to this issue, IMO.

    I’m happy to share and promote the artists and the tracks that I play when I DJ. The only concern I have re: other DJs asking me directly or cribbing my tracks on the sly, is when they play the tracks that they got from me at the same venues/events/scenes that I also regularly play. If I’ve found a hot new track on my own, it’s a bummer to play the same venue a couple of weeks later and find that it’s been caned by the DJ that got it from me and it’s been overplayed to the point of not being effective.

    So my approach to sharing music with other DJs goes with a request that a (for a few specific tracks), if they’d like to play them same event/venue/scene that I also play, I’d appreciate it if they’d check in with me about it first. I think it’s respectful and shows integrity. Of course, I’m totally happy for them to play these tracks as much as they want at other venues/events/scenes where I don’t play. I offer the same agreement to DJs that share music with me. Seems like a fair arrangement.

    There’s another aspect to the extensive trainspotting by DJs, which is especially easy these days with Shazam, Soundhound and these Facebook groups: the art of discovering and bringing new music to the dance floor is one of the fundamental parts of DJing. There are DJs that work very hard discovering new music via real world or virtual crate digging (ex. Soundcloud, Bandcamp and the dedicated DJ sites). The DJs that are primarily grabbing tracks from the sets of other DJs aren’t contributing to the overall dance scene is the same way. They are piggybacking on the work of the other DJs. A track here and there is no big deal, but I know many DJs that Shazam entire sets and get almost all of their music that way. I’m not whining about it, it’s a fact of DJ life. It just seems to me that they aren’t contributing in the same way as they DJs that discover music on their own.

  • Evan Templeton

    I am surprised that experience DJs are upset. When i was starting out it, used to bug me when other local DJs looked over my shoulder. Now, its a complement. Music is always living in a temporary moment. Enjoy the moment and pass it on.

  • Brad Shaw

    So many people have already said it, but at the end of the day a DJ is mostly playing other people’s tracks. It the traditional sense a DJ’s job, other than getting people dancing, is promoting the music they play. While it’s rude of course to hover over a DJs shoulder in the DJ booth (though you wouldn’t know it by some of the Boiler Room and VIP booth groupie shit you see online), Shazam and other programs like it remove that necessity. Used to be DJs would spend days digging through crates and previewing dozens of records in dank spaces and record stores to find gems. Now, save for a tiny percent of vinyl only tracks, everything is available to everyone online. As the label owners and producers have pointed out, we need to sell more tracks in this industry to feed the people that make it happen. Without them, we wouldn’t have our scene.

    If you’re doing radio shows and podcasts and sets online, in places like Soundcloud and MixCloud, you owe it to the track’s producers to post a playlist.

  • Pato

    Ego ego ego. Share track names as much as you can and give the people what they want! It’s only shitty when somebody else plays several obscure tracks that you spent time digging for. There is a fine line between flattery and plagiarism.

  • 11Fletcher

    If you want to have unique track and don’t want other DJ “stealing” it, you should make your own edit/remix/original.
    I spend at least one or two hours everyday to find track, I don’t care if another DJ will play it because he heard it in my set. Sometime I see people trying to watch my screen or using shazaam, I ask them their phone and take the picture of the screen myself, so they can have the name/artist of the song I play. If it’s a DJ and he play that track the next week, I don’t care, cause I still use more time than him to find new song and I will have other banger to play while he will play “my old” tracks.

    And as Mauri Moore said in the comment, if someone “steal” your whole playlist from your super night set and play it the same order in the same way at another night, it won’t necessary work as good, especially if you play your stuff by reading the crowd. A playlist can be a hit in a moment, but it can ruin another moment just because it’s not the right context.

    But as DJ we should’nt be secret about the track we play if they are not our own production. Our job is to make people dance, but in our culture it’s also to make people discover new music/new genre (in opposite to the “top 40 DJ” which is another approach of the job). DJ who copy your style has always been an thing in that culture, but it’s not a problem for DJ’s who know how to renew themselves

  • Greg Lane

    I have this debate with and old friend of mine who cut his teeth
    learning to dj in Tokyo and regularly attended Yellow in the early 90’s.
    He hates track list, “You should just go on the journey”. While I agree
    with that premise I disagree that it’s bad thing. My thinking has
    transformed to the simple fact that publishing track list shows support
    for the artist who make the music. So what if another dj plays a track I
    played because I published a track list or I was trainspotted with
    Shazam or what not. I just hope they are paying for it and support the
    cause, if they aren’t then hopefully the next inspired person by that
    track will or at least the notoriety might start happening for the

    Who am I as a dj to say you can’t play this track,
    because to me, that is being selfish and showing no support whatsoever
    for the creator, that is unless you are the creator, but then again why
    would you not want others to play your music. This thought process is
    antiquated and bothersome. It’s bad enough that you can’t do like they
    did back in the early days and sell 5000 pressings and make a little
    money off of it. If you sell 5000 downloads you aren’t making much. So
    every trainspot might lead to another sale and or promotion of ones

    Get over yourself and support the artist not just your
    djing because sharing can lead to better things. One being recognized by
    the artist and being thanked by them for including their music in a
    mix. This happened recently to me. I do 2 separate podcast series and
    publish both play list. I try and tag as best as possible to give
    visibility to the artist. I got a message on one of my mixes thanking me
    for adding their music. It made me smile so big because that is exactly
    how it should be. I was happy that they were able to see that people do
    listen and like their music and want to share it with everybody.

  • Deksel

    This whole discussion was off course summarized in te epic ‘Four Tet – The Track I’ve Been Playing That People Keep Asking About and That Joy Used in His RA Mix’

  • Dylan Regan

    As an open format DJ’s, ‘exclusive’ tracks are not a major potion of my set list, but there are occasions where I break out a hidden gem that I’m proud to have found. I certainly always have the “DJAM” setting on Serato active to keep prying eyes off my tracks. (Mostly other DJs). If any DJ straight up asks me for a track, I happily give it to them; but I think it’s rude to stand over the shoulder of another DJ, taking notes. Getting tracks is honestly not that big of deal compared to stealing whole blocks of ‘Mixing techniques’. I’ve seen this happen more than a couple times, where another local DJ played out a transition of a few tracks, identical to a set that I had done. A lot of open format DJ’ing relies on transitions that works really well together, and when you come up with an awesome block of tracks and gel them together, you can count on somebody copying you. Happens all the time.

  • Nogui

    Trainspotting a dope track here and there is ok, in my book. DJs who plagiarize a whole set is not.

  • MatthewWillox

    The entire craft of DJing is based on playing other peoples works.

    If you’re a DJ and you want ownership over the music you play, why don’t you start making it?

  • Beanz

    God forbid an underexposed track gets popular.

  • Ezmyrelda Andrade

    Music is out there.. Somebody having every song in my library doesn’t scare me any because its not the tracks.. It’s what you do with them. Even if you have a track name you trainspotted.. You still have to go out and find and in most cases buy that track.. It may not even be available to you with the name.. There are tracks I miss from the 90s that I will never hear again because they were on a record pool and never ripped by the person that bought it.

    • Ezmyrelda Andrade

      Another thing about trainspotting is that it doesn’t mean the same thing today.. reading a track name from someone’s laptop screen is not the same thing as staring at a record that is rotating while you are trying to read the pertinent details.

  • Jason Stanford

    A good DJ should be proud enough to offer up the tracklist – after all, it increases the chances of other people buying the artists’ music, and without the artists the deejay is screwed anyway. If the DJ is talented his skills will shine above the tracks as he melds them together, he shouldn’t be worrying about what occurs in his wake, the important bit is the party at hand..

  • Mike Linder

    I understand the frustration, Im in rotation for a monthly event, and ive had guys sneak up behind me and use their phone to take pictures of tracks im playing, and then play it at the same event when their rotation was up the next month. I also have good working trade relationships with DJ’s in other markets. Theres a right way, and a wrong way to go about it.

  • Jm

    Let me get this straight… someone is butthurt that they can’t play *SOMEONE ELSE’S* music exclusively? Here’s an idea – make your own damned music. What a bunch of twats.

  • synapticflow

    PS: The only way to beat this… Make your own tracks!

  • synapticflow

    Real DJs trainspot in person like men.
    Fake DJ’s use Soundhound! LOL

  • here_comes_the_sheik

    So Jackmaster has never ever in his live played a song that was played by another DJ before?
    When he hears a good tune in a set he would just ignore it and wait till he accidentally finds it or what?
    What a giant bullshit.
    Anyone got an idea what specific tracks he is talking about? If said trainspotters were able to track them down they can’t be so incredibly rare.

  • Dave Richards

    From a label owner’s point of view…

    I want you to share your tracklists. I want trainspotters. I just want them to purchase our music so we can pay our artists and keep putting out new music.

    It’s really that simple for me. If you don’t want to say you play MK837 tracks (when you do), you’re not helping grow the label. You might be growing your rep, but if you have a signature sound, that sound partially originates with the music you play. If you want to keep that music flowing, you’ve got to support the label and the artists.

    Again in the end, I need to sell tracks. Any exposure helps.

    And now I feel like I have to drop this link in here:

    Seriously if you use our tracks and post the mix, let me know. We’re reposting and promoting them:

    Dave R

    • synapticflow

      Sup mk837? 🙂

    • Nick Keir

      Absolutely right Dave. Sure the old idea of a coverup was part of the Northern scene and part of the excitement, but in the end artists need to get paid and they get paid from sales. DJs should be promoting those sales. Even if it’s an old track, someone somewhere benefits.

    • Peter Lindqvist

      Absolutely. This is so obvious to everyone already in, and a part of, the business so we forget that this is not that obvious for everybody. As a DJ since 1985, I’ve always been the music nerd, and that is a big part of why I still gig 2-3 times a week. BUT there’s two sides to DJing I’d like to highlight. Most of us are not internationally famous Dj’s, so we need to play in clubs and venues creating an atmosphere which ranges all from soft/mellow to party of the year. Most of the time, this is done with music we know are familiar to the crowd and there’s no interest from them to learn new music. On the contrary, they’ll be pissed and leave complaints to the management if the don’t what they’ve paid for. Then, there’s these few occasions when we are asked to play exactly what we love… I live in the south of Sweden, so my chances of that to happen is slim, to say the least, but since 1993, when I spent a season in Greece DJing everyday, I’m a total house freak. At home, I still can’t play that because there’s no audience for it, but online I have quite a good run with my Soulful funky House-mixes and to some extend also my Deep Minimal mixes. This could only happen if those owning the copyrights allowed it. In return I always include the Track List and links if possible, to where to buy the music or at least links to labels/artists. Doing this I have had several artist supporting me and this is how it should be. Just as bad as DJ’s who keep their music a secret, just as bad is it when labels/artists block our DJ-mixes. I don’t make any money from these mixes and I don’t get any gigs either. I make them because love the music and I can present the music in a nice easy available package for anyone to listen to. I also think these artist need more airplay and recognition so they, as you said, can make more money, or there will be no more underground music. I know for sure there’s a market and a lot of people just like me loving this house music. How else could it be that I, as a completely unknown DJ outside my network, can have views in the 1000’s in a short period of time. Support means everything.

  • DJ Nietzsche

    I have a lot of time for Jackmaster: he seems like a cool guy and he has also put in the time to get to where he is. He isn’t a producer who Djs, but a guy who became a DJ because he knows music and has experience in what works. I can see that he is peeved when folks download half his sets and play them.

    The easy access to anything kills the skill required to reach an acceptable level, and i think the easy access to popular current music has made being a DJ of acceptable level easy. low barrier of access.

    Jackmasters complaint may have contained unnecessary ah hominems, but i would say his underlying point is correct: DJs should know music. you can play a blinding set using only the beatport top 20 if you know how to mix, but there is no individuality to it, no character or persona, you’re just a guy or woman with a set of headphones.

    I suppose the question is: “Is DJ culture important if you want to DJ?”
    In the article the author mentions about DJs covering their labels to hide the track name. this is a cultural anecdote that everyone should already know. It isn’t required to know the culture to get involved, but when the barrier of entry is so low that you don’t need to look for records, don’t need to have knowledge of music or in the unrelated case of the 13 year old live streaming on DJmag stream, never have had a clubbing experience, and can still call yourself a DJ, then i think DJ culture and DJing in general is missing something. missing soul. missing personality. missing the human touch. it is all becoming banal.

  • killmedj

    I used to be a massive song sharer. Until one day I off handedly said to an older DJ friend of mine “hey I gotta get some of those tracks off you, they’re awesome!”
    hey looked at me blankly, and said “no”
    He then went on to explain that nearly all of his tracks he had bought on vinyl, some more than 25 years old, and that he had painstakingly ripped to AIFF and then tagged pedantically. So although he was flattered by my attention, there was nothing in it for him to hand over all his taste and hard work.
    Although I was experiencing massive track FOMO, it inspired me to hunt harder, do more of my own edits and think in more broader concepts like, sound, rhythm and vibe rather than getting the exact track that I’d heard.

  • Tom Tommy Kesh Tesoriero

    I think it’s f’ing condecending who is any one to say what tracks people can and can’t play. Yer fair enough if your ripping from some ones set but music is some thing bigger then one persons ego.

  • Luke Peter Annett

    Is this a joke? What sort of arrogant idiot thinks that a track somebody else has made belongs to them just because they played it in a set? Jackmaster is a dick. You wouldn’t see someone like Carl Cox whining like this.

  • Carlos Muñoz Armesto

    I feel so proud whenever i find someone trying to shazam a track i’m playing. It’s not that he just likes the song, but a step beyond: he needs to have it! For me, as a dj, is a fucking win. If i found one of my sets in the song identification group it would love it!

  • John Viera

    I never heard of Jackmaster so I looked him up and listened to his mixes. He plays the same shit every other DJ is playing at the moment. Unit 2 – Sunshine (Kink Remix) at every night from BPM to Ibiza.

    • DJ Nietzsche

      plenty of 90s tracks that lots of every crowd will never had heard too.

  • Jon-Michael DeShazer

    I remember in 2002 at a small (now closed) club in Boulder, CO going to see Ursula 1000 spin a set. I’m a tall guy at 6’5″ and the booth was relatively low where I could see what he was spinning, and there was almost no gap between the DJ booth and the dance floor. I got some of the coldest stares from him throughout the night.

    I seriously don’t care if you want to see what song is playing. It comes across as elitist, but I can also see how irritating it must be to hear DJ’s mimic your sets track for track. You are the one who put the work in, and all they are doing is regurgitating it.

    I would say as a DJ, be original with your sets. Find music that speaks to you regardless of genre, and play it.

  • Trevor Zimmermann

    There are infinite amount of songs out there. Finding gems (whether it be by digging in crates, scouring the internet, listening to radio, or trainspotting in a club) is a DJs job. Just know music and know people. What you play changes on a daily basis. Just give the DJ that you trainspot some love (in person, online, or through word of mouth) if you like what they play. Give respect where respect is due. I doubt there is someone going out and only playing tracks they hear from a single DJ. Your sound isn’t one or two tracks, your sound is the entirety of your selection process.

    • Spacecamp / Dan

      A good DJ always tries to remember where they found a track – “oh, you should check out this label!” “oh, I heard this on an amazing podcast!” “oh, I saw this one being made on this artist’s studio livestream!”

  • David Brown

    My personal conjecture:

    Trainspotting in reference to the practice of “playing a relatively unique track that someone else found before you did”, is not on it’s own cheap or rude, in my opinion. Also in my opinion, however, it’s a VERY slippery slope towards basically having others doing your crate digging. My thought is that it’s a constructive and community based practice as long as it’s not just “Stealing their Fire” without adding your own flavor somehow.

    I also suspect, being a Psytrance/Hard Dance/EDM/Whatever guy myself, that this is a very Techno/Tech/Trad House problem by nature, or at least those communities probably suffer from it the most. I definitely agree with the point Jackmaster makes, and the article reinforces, that finding unique music with nuanced flavor isn’t difficult in the modern field (Especially in tech and house…). In my opinion, if you can’t consistently crate dig and find stuff for yourself, you’re probably not ready to DJ a club on any regular basis to begin with. Practically crowd-sourcing your playlists as described is a bad career decision anyway I think, even if just because articles like this get written.

    People who trainspot cheaply are giving their DJing style away to someone else with better skills at track-hunting.

    Easy come, easy go. If your market is competitive in the first place, you’ll outlast them by doing original work for yourself, and it doesn’t take a lot on social media to effectively tongue and cheek people in your scene who rip you off — as long as they really are just getting you to do their work. Audiences have a more educated idea in general of what’s going on behind the booth now than in any time in history, most likely. People will start to figure it out over time, and that’s it IMO.

  • RobTicho - PurpleTreesPodcast

    I had a great trainspotting-ish moment the other night. After a friend’s really awesome set I asked him about the tracks. He said he would send them to me. I’m not going to play the same tracks the dude has in his rotation. Instead I asked him to suggest a few artists or labels so I can hunt down similar tracks. This is a good way to be influenced by someone without being lame.

    • David Brown

      That’s the way it really should be done. Props!

  • bkbikenerd

    I’ve had a DJ show up to my gig in Manhattan loft and write down my whole set. I am not kidding at all. He was there with his blackberry writing down every damn song. He would then go onto play my sets at his spots with less technical ability. I honestly don’t mind dj’s asking me for a track name or 2 but, sitting in the corner writing down my whole set is ridiculous. He’s also the type of suckadj to ask you to spin a guest set and never offer you one out of fear you will kill him at his own party. #suckadj’s

    • RobTicho - PurpleTreesPodcast

      I had a similar situation. It’s not cool. In some ways it’s less about the actual tracks and more about trying to steal your style instead of developing your own.

      • DJ Nietzsche

        word. DJing is a creative pursuit. not many people are actually creative people.
        stealing setlists is a way around this.
        anyone can DJ, that is a given, but not everyone can DJ well.

        • bkbikenerd

          Even the songs I played won’t help him much if plays them at the wrong time or for the wrong people. I never know what I’m gonna play until I see the reaction to the song I am currently playing.

  • Mauri Moore

    I never take care of this , why ? it’s simply : Put all the songs a dj played in the same order and play them in your club , IT WONT WORK . Even more : try to play using your history from last night : IT WONT WORK . Some djs are lazy , but when they think they have OUR weapons we have others . If you take 2 hours everyday to search and select new songs/remixes , nobody can follow you .

    • David Brown

      That last sentence should be re-read a couple times by anybody who doesn’t already do it 🙂

  • Psychofrakulator

    Let’s be honest, it’s not commercialism that ruins the scene, it’s elitism. How much more elitist than “If other people know the name of the tracks I play, it makes them less cool” can you get? (Okay, it’s a bit less shitty than the whole “Real DJs play vinyl” or “My genre is better than yours” crap, but still.)

    • elev8d

      Honestly… don’t be a lazy dj and play new music every single week, then it doesn’t matter if people trainspot. I spend 10-16 hours a week listening to new music, so every week I have something fresh for my audience. Sure it irks me a little bit when I have a DJs coming over trying to take photos of tracks I’m playing (I’d rather they just ask the name and try to memorize it or write it down – if it really means something to them then they’ll remember it). I get over it because I know next week my set is going to be entirely different.

  • Jon Cooper

    Jackmaster sounds like the kind of pretentious DJ that gives other DJ’s a bad name. All he is doing is playing someone else’s tunes in time with each other, You don’t own the rights to the music you are playing mate and you have no right saying who can and can’t play the same tunes, One person discovers tracks by being hunched over a keyboard for hours on end. Others actually get out there and pay to see DJ’s perform and discover tracks that way. I know which one I’d rather be.

    • DJ Nietzsche

      i think he is more saying that a DJ should find their own music that they like instead of taking music that has been pre-approved by touring DJs. i don’t think his post was very eloquent but i think his message was sound. DJs should play music that moves them, not someone else’s top 10

      • Jm

        Nietzsche would shit a brick if he heard someone was making money regurgitating someone else’s music, but then getting high and mighty that someone else wanted to regurgitate their regurgitation. Ironic.

  • Tarekith

    Hiding tracks only hurts the people who actually spent the time WRITING the music. If you like their tracks enough to play them for others, you should be willing to spread their name/work so they can continue to release more tunes.

    • Spacecamp / Dan

      Very, very true. To continue Dean’s analogy in the article, you wouldn’t go to an art gallery and see no artist names on the walls, right?

      • Jason Stanford

        In the club the ‘artist’ is the deejay, the equivalent component is asking the artist which colours of oil paint did he use for the composition, no?

        • Nick Keir

          No. The set is the gallery, the tracks are the paintings and the artist is the guy that chose the colours. That artist should always be credited so he can sell his work and make a living. DJs are on the edge of this amazing music industry with a moral mandate to promote the works of those that make it. It’s a buzz to find something new or rare, but you can only ever buy the right to play back the recording – you don’t own the intellectual property in the music and so you can’t prevent others from doing the same.

          • Erwan Hebert

            The Dj is the curator of the gallery not the artist unless he produced the track.

    • DJ Nietzsche

      one doesn’t have a responsibility to share who made a track. a dj (hopefully) paid for the record, their side of the transaction is complete. i get that as a musician you want people to hear about and hear your music, i do to, but as much as you might hope the DJ would tell them, there is no way you can say should be inclined to.

      in response to Spacecamp Dan below (i don’t want to write 2 comments), an art gallery exists to sell art. a club exists to entertain. it would be foolish to go a record store and see records covered and hidden, but a club isn’t a record store.

  • Anthony Alonso

    It made sense back in the days of pure vinyl. I would go to the local shop, by every copy of a tune I wanted to drop that weekend, then return every copy but two on Monday. We had physical dubplates traded around and limited presses that very few others had and sometimes only two or three other people had.

    In the digital age, it doesn’t make sense to hide our “labels” anymore. Artists and unreleased tunes are more accessible than ever. For anyone staying current or ahead, having a completely different crate is easier.

    If someone has the access to get it legally, let them.

    On the flipside, people need to stop ripping youtube videos and DJ Mixes for tunes they can’t get their hands on. Others also need to stop openly sharing digital tunes that they were never given permission to share in the first place.

    • synapticflow

      You would buy up every copy? Geez.
      Thanks goodness for return policies, huh?
      I bet whatever record stores remain nowadays wouldn’t take back records.

  • No Qualms

    I post a list of all the songs I play on the ‘Deep Soul Radio Show’ on Bondi Radio (Every Thursday 5-7pm ?). But my DJ sets are generally 7+hours and are completely composed on the fly, otherwise I’d probably post those too. I think in the world of globalisation, youtube tutorials and shazam that the whole DJing is a secret art thing is a bit played out.

  • Jordan Calhoun

    I definitely understand being frustrated with trainspotting. But I think I am only against it if it results in someone stealing an unreleased song or remix/edit that was gifted to the DJ from a friend.

    If someone digs a DJ’s set and then finds a new artist they never heard of before.. isn’t that the whole damn point of DJing? Especially if you aren’t the creator of the song in the first place? If someone was looking over my shoulder during a set and liked a song I played that was hard to find, I would gladly let them know.. that was the whole reason I found the song in the first place to try and share it with the world. Just seems strange to want to keep a song a secret if you didn’t make it yourself.

    Again, I definitely understand the frustration and wouldn’t blame anyone for continuing to be frustrated by it. I definitely think it’s wack if someone steals a DJ’s personal tracks that DJ created himself. But tracks that a DJ simply just found. Eh. Just for me personally, I do this to share music with whoever wants to hear it. I don’t care if I’m the first and only guy to have a rare record.

    • oli

      exactly my words jordan…

    • Doug

      I agree with Jordan and to add my two pence; if I had a song that I wouldn’t want to share, I would just reedit or remix it…

    • All-Oh

      I’m not sure I get this right. How is someone supposed to steal an unreleased song/remix/edit? They would need to have a possibility to receive it from the very same friend, wouldn’t they?

      • David Brown

        I think he’s referring to a producer giving a track to a DJ friend saying, “Play this, but don’t give it to anyone.”, but the DJ friend giving it away without mentioning he’s going back on his word to the producer.

      • Dave Richards

        Occasionally, we will send out promos to our promo list and one of those DJs will repost it on a pirate site. The effect is that everyone downloads the track for free, or worse… pays the pirate service for access to it and my label and artists don’t get paid at all.

        • Ant Cruze

          Then you probably need to re-evaluate where its being sent maybe?

          • Dave Richards

            And we do. That still doesn’t stop people from buying one copy and posting it on a warez site once the track is out and sometimes the leak is someone at either the distributor or one of the stores.

            The point is, piracy is a problem.