I was one of those DJ’s that swore he’d never turn his back on wax ….
I ran 3 record labels and travelled the world with two heavy flight cases, and I always ended up losing my favourite overpriced 12″ going through Heathrow!!!
But by 2003 I started to notice that I was playing more and more of my own productions on CD. It was much easier for David Forbes and I to road test our various mixes on cd before we committed to spend £1000 printing up 1000 records, and before long other DJ/ producers / labels we shared promos with were doing the same. It was so much cheaper, even to post 50 -100 promos.
As my CD wallet got bigger with more cutting edge tracks which were hours old rather than a 3 weeks old white label promo (if you were lucky enough to be sent one don’t get me started on the postman knocking them) or paying through the nose for an upfront white label in the record shop. Yeah, it was a mad crazy buzz to get them at first, but like all habits it was very expensive, costing me maybe £100 / £150 a week.
Pressing a record was a huge commitment if you ran a label, you really had to believe in the single and pay for a remix. Getting your track signed to a good label was amazing; you got a recording contract with an actual
Advance, compilations made crazy money because records sold and there was money to be made and lost if they bombed. People were buying a tangible product, with artwork and label text to read, secret messages scratched into the wax to find and shout outs on the label.
If you just wanted one you could get an acetate made in a few days of your latest production or remix, but you could only play these for so many hours and they cost about £60 to press one and £50 to master it ! With Cd’s I could carry far more music and not pay XS bagged costs … Before I knew it I was asking for cdj’s to be in the club and using the turntable to hold my cd wallet and Jack Daniels ….
For the last 4/5 years even burning CDs seems like a hassle, as I can do far more edits / cue points and loops in record box and drop them on 2 usbs taking the most records I have ever taken to my gigs….
I’m now slowly watching the rest of my peers move over to USB, but like myself the first jump is full of ‘what if’s’…. I still carry a small cd wallet with back up tracks for when I’m travelling or just in case the club forgets to get CDJ 2000’s lol!
For 8 years I had a monthly residency in London where I played for 8-10 hours each Friday & Saturday , I quickly switched to Traktor and an X1 controller as there were more possibilities in the mix but I wouldn’t use that set up for a set less than 2 hours long.
I understand the frustrations on digital from both sides – Digital labels don’t offer artists advances because there’s just not enough money in sales to guarantee an advance, even though bizarrely they cost nothing to release apart from mastering the final mix and getting a small Jpeg of the artwork for the release. The punter doesn’t receive anything when they “buy” it, they own nothing, just one of thousands of nameless sounds in a hard drive or cloud that are quickly forgotten about in a few weeks and because the set up costs are so low anyone can start a digital label and flood the market with music that would NEVER have been pressed to record. But the technology is available and affordable for everyone to have a go at making their own music, even though some still prefer to pay others to do that for them and then claim it as their own work???
With Dj’ing It really doesn’t matter what the medium is, it’s all about the music. Half the people that claim to have learned to mix on wax, if they are being really honest with themselves and listen back to some old mixes, I bet they are shit in comparison to what they can do in the mix now!!! But it was their first point of contact with the art of “DJing” , their first mix, first white label, first find , first car buzz, like it was mine back in 88 !
Over 20 years later I’m still experimenting with new ways to mix records, earlier this year I was one of the first handful of DJ’s to launch the Native Instruments S5 controller in the UK running STEMS – a set up that will blow DJing wide open once again – you’re no longer mixing tracks within a DJ set, you’re actually remixing and creating new tracks with the parts from others, not just vocals but the beats , synths , strings , fx….it really is getting exciting all over again as the beat goes on ….
Once a year I still have a wax party at my house with one 1210 and no mixer so that all my guests get to drop a record and rock the house. I go digging through my garage full of records and check out charity shops – nothing can replace the feeling of fingering through a bunch of records and finding that forgotten gem, taking it home, giving it a clean then dropping the needle in the groove letting nostalgia wash over you in the form of hisses, crackles and pops long before a single note or beat has dropped.