Most club-goers understand (or learn the hard way) that approaching a big-name DJ mid-set with a song request is usually a futile effort. Further, some DJs (including San Francisco’s M3) have gone so far as to print t-shirts bearing the warning “No Fucking Requests Ever!”
However, the days of militant DJing may be slowly fading. A new generation of mixers is armed with laptops and digital DJ programs, as well as high-speed wireless Internet connections and music-seeking software that can find virtually any song instantly. No more claiming, “I didn’t bring that record tonight.”
This creates a dilemma–is the DJ merely a jukebox serving the pleasure of the audience, or are they artists creating unique, one-time-only mix “experiences,” which depend of the variables of their mood, preparation, and the crowd’s reaction?
To further blur the lines between DJ and audience, social music network Last.fm has teamed up with British label Ninja Tune to create a “user-generated” club night on June 2, at The Big Chill House in London.
The concept goes like this: Last.fm users going to the party will help decide the setlist for the upstairs room, DJed by Ninja Tune’s Sparky. They’ll register their intention to attend at the club’s event page on the Last.fm website, and on the night of the event, Sparky will play tracks drawn from music listened to by those users in the preceding weeks. Sparky’s user-generated set will also be recorded and made available on Last.fm for users unable to attend. A-Trak, MC Kid Sister, and Herbaliser’s Ollie Teeba will also spin music.
Imagine the dynamic for a minute: The DJ won’t be bothered with request seekers because they’ve been collected in advance, but a good portion of the music is predetermined, thus leaving little room for spontaneity or improvisation. It’s as close to a punter plugging in their iPod at a house party as you can get.
As club attendance figures sag, and partiers have more entertainment choices, could wedding- or high school dance-style playlist suggestions submitted online be the next wave in clubbing? Time will tell if this new style of clubland democracy will catch on, or go the way of the jukebox itself–a sentimental relic that once tied music requests to commerce during an explosion of teen culture.