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Are Disc Jockeys Obsolete?

Posted on Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 12:01AM by Registered CommenterAllyson B. Crawford | Comments10 Comments

Well, are they?

Think of this: in the 70s and Glam heyday of the 80s, disc jockeys helped break bands. In fact, back in ye olden days of yore, a DJ would be known to actually hold a physical record in her hot little hands. She could flip the record...and determine if an A or B side would be a hit! In that sense, DJs in big markets really did break bands. In the magical time before Clear Channel owned the broadcast industry, these mythical DJ-like creatures could play pretty much whatever they wanted...as long as they stayed in format. Sometimes these brave souls even - gasp - broke format for the love of music!

Now, everything in broadcasting - both radio and television - is automated. A DJ tapes a song intro four hours before it airs. The introductions become MP3s and are loaded into an audio vault of sorts. The computer can either randomly select songs or is listed by priority by whatever the station manager deems important to air. When I worked at a radio station, the song computer was set up to prioritize based on requests and numbers of plays. So, if a song is on four times a morning...it would soon be on six and so forth.

Without a human actually listening to the tracks before spinning - what's the point of a DJ anyway? Most of us have satellite radio. Once in a while, those jocks tell a cute story and intro a block of ten tunes. This might help break the monotony - but they are not discovering new music.

I want to bring back the days when a disc jockey could decide the "single" was less impressive than the B side. Fun fact: did you know that "Get It While It's Hot" by Kix was actually an A side? "Don't Close Your Eyes" was the B side. You guessed it: some DJs across the land flipped the record...and the power ballad eventually became Kix's most famous song.

Now, this article should not be misconstrued. I don't want you thinking I love DJ chatter - because I don't. I hate it. But I do wish disc jockeys had a little power to find great, new tunes. It seems Internet radio is really gaining ground - but still has a long way to go to outpace the popularity of more traditional radio format. Perhaps I'm wrong, but someone trapped in a car for a few hours really is a captive audience. This is where music fans are made.

What say you?

Reader Comments (10)

yeah I know what you mean, but radio is pretty awful in Britain, not a single station plays good music.
So I never listen to the radio anyways.
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLucifer
As a volunteer DJ for a non-profit, I would like to say no. But Clear Channel has really changed the way radio is heard, and for the worse. Newer bands rarely stand a chance unless that can get in with a really good promoter or sound just like the hot music of the moment. This means great bands like Endeverafter and Airbourne are largely ignored.

That said, internet radio is great for newer bands. On my show, I play the classics from Aerosmith, GNR, and the Crue, but I also play those newer bands (and even a few unsigned bands like M.O.B).

But the DJ that you describe is long gone. Perhaps he will make a comeback some day, but not as long as Clear Channel has its hands around the jocks' throats.
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJT
australian music is just as crap
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstevie fag
i buy cds
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMotleyCrue666
jt pretty much said it all. once the radio industry was deregulated and clear channel and their ilk became giants they've destroyed radio. there's not much healthy competition and within a genre it all sounds the same. occasionally you might find a good show but the days of a dj choosing to play a b side or doing deep cuts are long gone. the corporate giant tells them what to play and usually they play it to death at the expense of new, exciting music. their are a few independant stations out there (very few) and other than that you have college radio which can be cool but that's it. here in tulsa radio sucks and tulsa university's station is npr so nothing goes there either. i listen to cds in my car, albums at home and mp3s or internet radio (when it gets snuck through the filters) at work.
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdon
I think this is a trend that has been coming about for over twenty years--wasn't the last episode of 'WKRP' about how the station was bought out and they fired all the djs in favor of pre-recorded shows?

I just had to mail our ONE non-Clear Channel station to give them some 'suggestions' about music. They had Poison, Motley Crue, Journey, Alice Cooper, Bon Jovi...but no Winger. Needless to say that had to be fixed. ;) I just wonder if a suit looks over that list I'd sent them if they'd approve it or not. It alternates between live jocks and pre-recorded stuff. Still, it's the only place where I can hear 80's/90's music that isn't crap. ;)

I originally trained to be a radio communications engineer - I'm sure nowadays instead of having a First Class Engineer onsite at all times has gone by the wayside. O well...
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChessie
When I started in the business over a decade ago, it was dying. I was a fool and didn't listen to my college advisors. I got a job right out of college as a program director at a local station in southern Kentucky, but the pay was terrible and I couldn't make the monthly bills. I was out of radio for nearly a decade before I found ClassX (the non-profit I volunteer for). On Saturday nights, I get to rock out, and during "regular" hours ClassX plays some pretty good stuff (though not usually as hard as I would go for). It's all about deep cuts and new artists you've never heard of...some hit, some miss. If you're interested in hearing it, click on http://www.classxradio.com. It's a non-commercial station that airs locally in Cincinnati, but can also be heard online.
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJT
My local rock radio still has a disc jockey that plays some new music that I've never heard of before, as well as more modern stuff that everyone knows.
Recently he started playing a band called Steadlur, who are pretty good, you should look them up if you get a chance. :)
March 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMakel
Ya know what really bugs me? Here in the #1 market in the country, NYC, we've got to have the WORST radio there is and that definitely includes the DJs. 92.3 K-Rock, was the only station that would even consider playing anything hard and they just went "POP" a couple weeks ago! NY does have a history in the industry as being full of crappy stations. Back in the day (read: the 80's) the best station to listen to was Seton Hall's Pirate Radio, 89.5. But over the years they got too much into the "cookie monster" vocals, so I haven't even listened to them in a long time. The only savior is satallite radio, The Boneyard & Hair Nation.
March 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEddieLongHair
BTW - JT, I just turned on classxradio.com. Pretty cool!
March 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEddieLongHair

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