Updated: 12/19/2008; 3:21:31 PM.

Prez Ike aka Ize Bernard presents: Indelible Beats & (ib)BuGGin Podcasts
Home to... Prez Ike's longstanding top rated eclectic podcast mix series of "fresh beats for your head nodd and body move cravings..." 'Indelible Beats'... and under the pseudonym Ize Bernard,'(ib)BuGGin' filled with cutting edge edm, minimal, deep tech, tech house, and techno. "I ain't your personal mp3 player on shuffle..."

Monday, September 29, 2008

The evolvement of DJing, globalization & the problem for the creative class in the U.S

by Isaac Basker/Prez Ike

So, just the other day I caught
this video of Richie Hawtin's Traktor setup, posted on Danny Tenaglia's fan website and read several responses that critiqued the "evolvement" of DJing, particularly with regards to the development of Minimal and live performance "DJing." With some DJ's incorporating so many "gadgets" compared to previous days where all that was needed was basically two turntables, a mixer, a mic, maybe some sound effects and a flashlight (if you're Danny Tenagla, of course), now some are wondering if this is rendering some of the basic skills needed to DJ previously obsolete.

I posted a response on the forum there and wanted to share it as I believe it represents something those who know me well are aware of my deep interest in, and am dedicated to addressing in some way or form now and in the fugure. What I am referring to is, what I see is a growing problems for creative and innovative minded individuals who are not focused primarily on the safest means to reach a high income bracket in the U.S. Here is an edited version of what I wrote:

To me, this "evolvement" and some of the responses here seem to be very similar stances that American factory workers take against "globalization."

In fact, I think this change and clash is a perfect example of how globalization and technology advances are causing significant problems for creativity in the U.S.

We are a culture where innovation in creative field industries of music, fashion, traditional visual arts, photography, and film is in the stone ages compared to other places. I don't necessarily blame us for feeling this way, actually because there are some reasons out of our direct control that lead to backlash.

Electronic music, which used to have some signature American sounds that were popular globally, seems to be facing the same deal as American car producers are as well. I think it is partially related to U.S. work culture, and attitudes we have towards things that aren't familiar, or don't make the most money with the least amount of risk.

This actually relates to my critique of Richard Florida's analysis of New York, LA, SF, as the creative capitals of the U.S. Sure, they are for ESTABLISHED artists, but they are also the most expensive cities to live. Artists who are developing and mostly unknown cannot focus enough of their time and effort on their craft if they live in these cities because they would have to take a job that earns them enough money. To me, this is why there is little wonder that great capitals of electronic music (Detroit, NY, Chicago, SF, etc.) in the U.S. no longer produce the number of big name DJ's and producers that we used to see.

I think electronic music's dominance in societies and nations that believe strongly in their social welfare systems, let young educated people become adults with zero or no student loan debt, and possess work culture value systems that are accepting of bohemian lifestyles are bound to produce or support those that would not be able to really survive or build themselves up in America this way anymore with the same ease.

Those who respond negatively to the changes we see in DJing and producing, especially from the Berlin minimal scene, are even more fair to be upset if they pursue their craft primarily in the U.S. We used to have underground scenes and development of ideas that were outside of the mainstream. Hip-Hop, House, and Techno were at one time distinctively contrary to much of what was popular. People dismissed DJing as not an artform, as well as sampling. Jazz faced the same problem, as did Rhythm and Blues, Funk, Soul, (notice that these are all forms of black music, as well, which I believe is important to note, as African-Americans and Latinos who contributed to this have never been the dominant group in America).

All of these genres were later co-opted by the (white run) mainstream industries, and innovators could not gather any support to make a living...

So...then there was increased pressure to "sell-out" to either survive or continue to succeed. Yet, the paradox of almost all of these art forms is that they all have strong underground traditions, as does DJing. If you become successful the pressure to keep that success in the American music industry, dominated by corporate owed labels and generally pop-music driven, will present significant problems for such artists, if that's where you get most of your money from.

Hawtin, I doubt, earns most of his money now from the U.S. market,
yet his success -- which came from local support of the scene in Detroit that at one time facilitated such changes, has significantly diminished on that city now -- and in other U.S. cities. He is privileged enough to have been around in an American city at a time that allowed for the staunchly creative to develop. For the rest of us who didn't get that chance we seem to be fighting for a diminising piece of the pie, so it is quite valid for us to be afraid of these changes as it may render our own skills less valuable. How can it not, when as one responder referred to that promoters here will be more likely to give a care about how "creative" one is, and the hordes of less exposed electronic music curious fans that are American, yet only know who the big European star DJ's are.

In the end it's about the $$$$$, and for Americans we live in a society that generally values this (Protestant work ethic) above all, perhaps only with the same effect and power on its citizens as a few other nations, like England and China. The reality is that we you have to make a living to survive, but we are also caught up in hyper-consumerism that believes more money and stuff that we are sold to remind of us what we make equals more happiness, when well regarded studies show that after a person earns just $10,000, that happiness actually does not increase significantly. Yet, this message is certainly not sent to many who quest wealth and power, that I contend leads to significantly less support of creative and innovative ideas that involve risk, and more likelihood of one to respond with fear of those that engage in this and challenge our worldview.

The irony is that some are also absolutely right to say Hawtin's fame and wealth allows for him to spend the ridiculous amount of money it must take to do what he's doing, as mentioned earlier. Of course, this renders those who aren't as well off, or in areas where an investment that it must take to pay for his equipment or group might actually get immediate returns (like pretty much everyone who tries to make anything close to a living off of their DJing/Producing mostly in America) left out and fearful, and having to probably "sell-out." The problem is that many technological innovations at one time have been so costly that they are out of the reach of most. DJing and producing has long been an artform that used to privilege the more privileged because of the costs. Yet, now that the game has been flattened and changed, and I suspect will more over time, where that equipment may later become less costly, is it wise for us to shun this change?

I know some pretty well known DJs in NYC who I have discussed this with personally, especially the pressure to play styles they don't like because of "market forces." When does DJing for the "crowd" become the crowd DJing for you?

It's a line that I think in America is being increasingly crossed in styles that used to be the total opposite.

I LOVE DJing records, but I would love to have what he has. I currently use Serato as well as vinyl, and I have Traktor, but not the scratch version, so no way to really use it other than for practicing mixes without a mixer.

I want to say that the same criticism of Hawtin and these changes has been made of electronic music production, in that "real" musicians have argued it doesn't count because a lot of folks can produce music without even knowing how to read music, or have been trained play an instrument. The same arguments were made against mp3 technology by established artists and record labels, but look how it's enabled folks to promote and sell themselves as musicians to a much larger audience (albiet in a more competitive market).

I blame our culture for not allowing us to grow, and how we don't support unknown musicians much, except for the hardcore fans. That culture of searching for the unknown is alive and well in places like Germany, I think, and probably England still (it's just the cost of living there is too high, hence one of the reasons for the mass pilgrimage of many to Berlin), as well as elsewhere, but in America we are so engulfed in hyper-consumerist celebrity-dom, that those creative types who are passionate about their craft beacuse they love it, not primarily for money, are on the fringes, struggling to do what they want, or giving up on it, calling it a "hobby" and perhaps getting justifiably upset at those that we see succeeding at a game we can't even get a fair chance to play in.

We need to work on supporting innovation, but also showing the value of and respecting cultural traditions. Remaining fearful and being upset is quite valid, but we must use that constructively to challenge the real forces that are behind this, and facilitate positive change to help improve conditions for creative types.

4:22:20 PM    comment []

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