Thursday, April 10, 2008

Let's hear it for the DJ!

Bob Lefsetz, music insider, has a blog, and he often makes points that seem obvious until you realize you'd never actually thought about it that clearly. He makes one this week, about radio. Growing up, I could never stand the DJs, obvious exceptions like John Peel apart.

Now, a DJ with a personality and knowledge and his or her own playlist is essential to distinguish the radio from your iPod. And yet radio owners are doing the exact opposite, programming streams of bland music designed to be seamless and unobjectionable. If that's what you want, you've already got it, on your own iPod. If you want to hear something new, or an opinion, or a juxtaposition of two interesting tracks... well, actually you can't have it. But if Bob Lefsetz had his way, you'd have it on your radio. He says:

Your only hope of surviving in the terrestrial world is to serve your location, a paradigm given up when Clear Channel started broadcasting the same tripe in every market. It’s the era of personalities. The music is secondary to the CLUB! Make me feel like I belong, in the era of social networking isn’t it hilarious that terrestrial radio has abdicated its power! We’re not in a heyday of music innovation. The music shouldn’t come first, the deejay should. He should guide and inform. With useful information. He should show his rough edges and his smooth ones.

It's an interesting idea, and one I heard recently somewhere else. In a conversation about Jamaican music, I was told that musicians made special mixes with the sound systems, with the DJ's name and slogan and specially chosen music. The reason for this is simple - the music is not the message. The party, the gathering, the friendship, is the point of the sound system.

Welcome to 21C, music. You just joined writers as content providers for someone else's party.

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