The 16th Annual DJ Awards will be held this September in Ibiza, and the nominees have been announced. The event is held at the world-renowned club Pacha, and is quite the spectacle. Awardees represent nine categories spanning various genres, and fans have the ability to cast their vote. On the surface, it seems that all is fair. Their mission statement states that they “honor all those who have influenced and influence today’s dance music around the world.” This is a night for artists to celebrate each other, and it’s absolutely beautiful when people can applaud their competition and consider them comrades. But let’s take a minute to speak on the elephant in the room. We all know that these DJ awards ceremonies are complete bullshit. The DJs that are nominated have been known to scoff at these lists. The highest paid disc jockeys are announced as awardees year after year, and it’s no more than a high-end festival lineup where nobody has to play records.
Last year’s awards awarded Lenny Kravitz (of all people) for his live performance at Ibiza 123, and saw Pacha Magazine as the recipient of their media award. One must wonder who is creating these lists, and why our current culture isn’t being properly represented. You could look at how one of the two founders of these DJ Awards, Lenny Ibizarre, held a residency at Pacha. Or how he’s collaborated with DJ Pippi, who has affiliations with the Pacha Group. Doesn’t seem fishy at all, does it? Ibizarre is a multi-platinum artist. You don’t get there without major business connections. What better way to rub elbows with those in power year after year? This ceremony seems self-serving, and refuses to acknowledge the rest of those that are making progress in electronic music.
The most obvious slap in the face is that DJs like A-Trak, Shiftee, and Craze aren’t represented. They are all DMC World Champions that curate amazing content on their respective labels. They all absolutely crush a live crowd. Seeing them earn a fraction of what Tiesto, David Guetta, Steve Aoki, or Afrojack does is disheartening, but really quite understandable. As long as you know how to make a hit record, pick a strong team, work incredibly hard, and knock out a clean set on CDJs, the average consumer is obviously quite happy. Sure, Shiftee could run a clinic on any of these nominees (and is a Harvard graduate), but as his market isn’t what’s being marketed, there are less promoters and venues willing to roll the dice on his performance. What is absolutely unacceptable, though, is that these living legends aren’t placed anywhere on these lists.
How have we gotten so removed from what a real DJ actually is? I’ve been in this game for 15 years, and beyond Josh Wink, John Digweed, Deep Dish, Roni Size, and LTJ Bukem, I looked up to Babu, Roc Raida, Klever, Crazy B (let us not forget that Birdy Nam Nam won the World Team Championships in 2002), and Mix Master Mike as indicators as to what was possible with two turntables and a mixer. Though these technical skills must be scaled back to please the average consumer (because even those that appreciate a world-class turntablist might have issues tolerating scratching for an hour straight), the absolute dismissal of this skill is embarrassing. Sure, they aren’t in the same category as a Paul Oakenfold or Hardwell. But they all play electronic music, should have a place when naming the world’s best DJs within the industry, and have earned the same level of respect as those that represent this awards ceremony.
Is Afrojack a shit DJ? Certainly not. His set at EDC New York was actually one of my favorites. He took his crowd on a journey, played a stack of amazing records, and did so with pristine technique and skill. I take nothing away from any one of these nominees; they are all veterans that have spent years getting to where they’re at, and are all extremely talented. The deeper issue is that one small sliver of music is being placed on a pedestal as the standard. The categories don’t give a proper representation of electronic music at all. It’s mind-boggling that drum & bass and dubstep would be lumped together. Skream is competing in the same category as Knife Party. Anything outside of house, techno, and trance is nonexistent. What happened to club? Juke? Trap? Moombahton? Electronic music is more than just a small selection of genres at 128 beats per minute.
I think most people my age got into electronic music because it represented individuality, because it operated outside of the corporate structure. And as Europeans hiss when you whisper the term “EDM,” I can’t help but find it humorous that the generalization in electronic music is being fostered within corporate culture in their own continent. These DJ awards do nothing but demean our jobs as content curators and writers. It places emphasis on separation between one box within an ecosystem that those in power refuse to exist. The fans deserve better.