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DJs and the lost art of ‘digging’

With so much choice available to DJs – both pre and post-release – we look into the conceptual originality of being a modern-day selector.

With so much choice available to DJs – both pre and post-release – we look into the conceptual originality of being a modern-day selector.

It is no secret that there are an overwhelming amount of DJs across the world – old and new. You may argue that the global pandemic has not helped the already saturated hobby-come-career market of modern DJing. Whilst some artists have chosen to hang up their headphones and give up on their passion throughout lockdowns, and lack of work, the increased popularity and financial availability of live-streaming have also seen a sharp rise in new faces joining the ranks. 

But what does it take to be a good DJ? 

We are going to look at one of the most undeniably vital components of being a modern-day selector. It is something that has always been a cornerstone in the social and fan judgement of performers. Something that many people say is now becoming a dying art. And something that often separates the pros from the rest.

If you are not familiar with the term (digging), it is a simple concept – although construed by people at times to make it seem more cool or edgy – especially those that only play vinyl.

Digging is an essential part of your growth and education as a DJ, and it is something that is also a highly revered piece of dance music culture – beginning in record stores around the globe, where it still happens today. Some artists travel to separate countries just to visit specific record stores and sample their unique collections.

Digging is the art of searching for lesser popular music from smaller artists and labels or even older, timeless records. 

The advancement and domination of electronic stores and streaming sites have made it a lot easier for artists to be influenced, instead of taking their time with acquiring music and researching the wider possibilities out there.

For the most part, Beatport and Traxsource are the first port of call for many DJs – and even general music consumers. The consensus seems to be that these are the best places to go if you are looking to make a music purchase for your next gig or livestream.

The sheer size of digital stores alone can be overwhelming for many people, and let us face it: people are naturally lazy. If you visit a digital store that has devoted itself to showing you what they perceive to be the latest and greatest music, why should you bother sifting through genre releases and smaller DJ charts? I mean, that is what the top 100 and genre charts are for, right?

WRONG

Dance music and incredible DJ sets are built on magical moments, often accommodated by tracks that nobody knows the name of or records that have an indefinite ability to strike a euphoric match and toss it into your internal fuel pool. 

How many times have you seen “ID?” on a social media post? It is an everyday occurrence, witnessing hands-up moments captured on dancefloors where the DJ is dropping a cult classic or hidden gem.

That in itself is the essence of digging. As DJs, you strive to build a web of memories filled with these kinds of moments. In the race for popularity and growth, it is the art of digging that is the catalyst for those individual moments that create new fans and potentially lifelong memories for those in attendance.

So, how do you dig? Well, there are several different avenues you can take – some digital and others physical.

Bandcamp is a great source of incredible and un-rinsed music. It allows artists to release their music independently with a generous royalty structure and is often the go-to place for cooler, more underground artists. Not considered mainstream, Bandcamp’s catalogue of music can often turn up some incredible records from virtually unknown artists and labels – both digital and vinyl.

Take your time to have a rummage through the electronic section of Bandcamp’s website and get familiar with new artists and labels. You will soon be receiving regular emails with a sea of uncharted gems right to your inbox.

Another unbelievably rich source of reasonably undiscovered music is YouTube. There are hundreds of brand channels that regularly post premieres and free downloads from lesser-known artists or even the big guns. If you want to get ahead of the curve and get your hands on some mesmerising tracks, it is well worth visiting YouTube and spending some time looking for cool channels to follow. There are plenty of dedicated channels for pretty much every conceivable genre of electronic music. 

Another unbelievably rich source of reasonably undiscovered music is YouTube. There are hundreds of brand channels that regularly post premieres and free downloads from lesser-known artists or even the big guns. If you want to get ahead of the curve and get your hands on some mesmerising tracks, it is well worth visiting YouTube and spending some time looking for cool channels to follow. There are plenty of dedicated channels for pretty much every conceivable genre of electronic music. 

Perhaps on the lengthier end of time-consuming sources, SoundCloud is another great place to find tracks that next to nobody has. SoundCloud’s station mode can often make your life a little easier. Once you have found one or two candidates for your secret weapons list, get into station mode and open Pandora’s box!

Last but not least, the originator of digging. If you have seen the cult classic movie Human Trafficking, you will be familiar with one specific (very famous) scene involving a record store. 

Back in the days before digital, record stores were pretty much your only hope of having any collection of records to play. The buzz of weekly store digs was a seminal part of that era of music, but the art itself seems to have fallen by the wayside somewhat during the digital age.

Record stores are still very much a thing, and they need all the support they can get. Most of the bigger or better-known stores also have digital sites, so you do not even have to leave the comfort of your own home – to dig for records. You can listen to a digital preview of a track and buy a physical copy in a matter of seconds. It is that easy!

With so many options for finding music that differs from your peers or other DJs in your genre, it has never been easier to be an individual and unique-sounding performer. Being a DJ has many different avenues of enjoyment – not all of them involve playing music. Sometimes the hunt for music is just as enjoyable as playing it to a crowd. If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you have been searching for a track from a social media clip or a recorded set online, you will know the pure joy that comes with getting your hands on sought-after records. It is a special feeling. 

So, all that remains is to ask the following question: What are you waiting for? Get digging!

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