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‘How do you know he's not playing Pac-Man while he's supposed to be DJing?’: technology, formats and the digital future of DJ culture

Ed Montanoa1

a1 Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia E-mail: edward.montano@mq.edu.au

Abstract

In light of the growing literature on DJ culture, this article explores how technological change is having a significant impact on specific areas of music production and distribution within contemporary electronic dance music culture. An ethnographic methodology is employed, based around research conducted in the Sydney dance music scene between 2002 and 2007. The aim of the article is to reveal some of the discourses and reactions in DJ practice that result from shifts in technology. With the increasing use of CDs, mp3s and computer programs such as Ableton Live, the notion that vinyl and turntables represent the authentic technology of DJ culture seems somewhat redundant. The physical movement required to mix vinyl records has meant that the associated skills of DJing have become bound up in notions of physical and visible manipulation of technology, and so the use of technology that does not require and afford such physical expression has raised questions around the fundamental skills of DJing. As such, it would seem that there needs to be a redefinition of the concept of DJing, and a reframing of the skills and abilities seen as being essential to DJ practice.

Ed Montano teaches on a popular music history course at Macquarie University in Sydney, works in music retail, and writes for the Australian dance music website www.inthemix.com.au. He has an MA in Popular Music Studies from the Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool and a PhD on the commercial Sydney dance music scene from Macquarie University.