Has The DJ Culture Changed Worlwide?

Watching DJs live has changed a lot in the past 20 years. The experience of watching a DJ play is very different today than it was when I first started going to live events back in high school. But I don’t know if that’s a function of my location versus a change that is a worldwide one. I’m pretty sure it’s the second, but I’m not positive.

First let’s look at what has changed. My first experience watching a DJ play live came back when I was in high school. I was living in the Seattle area and one of my friends invited me to a rave on the west side of the city in an abandoned warehouse. Funnily enough, it was his younger sister who was into the rave culture and not us. She must’ve been only around 15 at the time. Anyway, she knew about this rave and told her brother. He was interested in going so he let me know. I figured why not?

DJ and lasers at a rave
A “rave” in today’s times. Notice averyone facing the DJ (and the huge stage)

The first thing that struck me were some of the outrageous outfits. The Asian party-goers especially, seem to have gone all out. The next thing I noticed were how hot the girls were. I’d gone to a lot of rock concerts and seen some beautiful women there, but nothing compared to what I saw at this rave. I even enjoyed standing in line for almost an hour. There was just so much eye candy. If one of them had been a singer for one of the DJs, that would have been even better.

I also noticed how friendly everyone was. That brings me to the point of this whole article. There were a lot of good DJs and some of them were apparently quite well known. One, Donald Glaude, was hugely popular. But the crowd almost treated them as if the music was just coming from a stereo system. They didn’t pay too much attention to the DJs. Sure, when Donald took the stage, people noticed and cheered him, but then they danced amongst each other and didn’t really pay much attention to him. They just let the vibes he was creating take over their bodies and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

The whole rave was like this. People were friendly, were talking and were getting to know each other. Everyone was mingling and hanging out in hammocks and having a great time together. The DJs provided the music that provided the atmosphere that gave us all such a great feeling.

These days when I go to raves or even just clubs that have DJs, it feels completely different. The DJ seems to be like a headlining act at a festival or concert. Everybody stands there and faces one direction, their eyes fixed on the DJ. Sure, they dance, but they dance with the DJ in a way. Nobody is talking to each other, nobody is mingling, nobody even seems to be having that great of a time.

I have gone to one show that had a live band with an amazing drummer on an electric drum set. That was quite cool and worth watching and not something I had ever seen before. But it is not standard and at most EDM shows, I just don’t get what everyone is staring at so intently when they look only at the DJ and nothing else.

Sure, they’re having fun, but is it really fun. They don’t seem to know how much more fun they could be having. Maybe that’s the key. Maybe they’ve never had the experience I had back in the day, so they don’t know how much more fun a DJ show could be. Because let’s face it, I have a lot more fun when I’m meeting new people and mingling. Naturally, when I say meeting new people, I mean meeting hot girls.

But that can be different for people. The point is people are more aware of other people, they’re not just aware of the DJ. The DJ wasn’t some celebrity back in the day. Yes, he was famous and people were aware of him and even went to raves and clubs to see a particular DJ. But then they just enjoyed the vibes created by the DJ and treated the whole thing like house party. I suppose that’s the difference. Where raves used to be like house parties, today they’re more like a concert.

The question is, is this happening in the US too? The first few years of watching DJs were in the US, but since then, I’ve been living abroad. I’ve not been to any raves or clubs in the US in over 10 years. As a result, I don’t know if this change has become apparent to me because I’m in a different country. I do feel like things have changed abroad, that they used to be similar to the US here, but now they’re like they are today. I get the feeling this is how it is in the US too. This is the era of the superstar DJ. Unfortunately, along with the era of the superstar DJ, comes the era of not being sociable anymore.

For more on the changing rave culture and how DJs, are perceived: http://www.udel.edu/soc/tammya/EDM-Project/