Wednesday, November 11, 2015

9 Reasons Why "Turntablism is Dead" is a Myth

When ever I see articles posted, along a theme or title that says, "turntablism is dead", I can't help but always question the evidence behind the opinion. Because when you look at it from an economical and social growth standpoints, the facts and evidnence tell a different story. Which I argue the idea, "turntablism is dead", is a false one.
1. 2006 to 2008 was one of the lowest prices Technics turntables sold brand new for. A MK5 could be purchased at Guitar Center for $399 and a flagship M5G for $650. Today, the price for brand new ones of the versions could be up to their 2006 to 2008 prices. The prices inflated especially because of Technics' discontinuation of the SL-1200, heightening the demand for them, as well as proving it existed.

2. Being the leader of digital DJ technology, a future looking company like Pioneer DJ wouldn't invest in R&D to develop a new turntable if the demands were not there. Hence why we now have the PLX-1000. While they are arguably the new standard for turntables, they weren't fitted with new technology like MIDI buttons or line outputs. The demand for traditional styled turntables are being answered by the leading company in DJ technology.

3. There are more DJ and music production centered schools than ten years ago. Not to mention some universities have courses for DJs. Many of these programs include special interest in teaching students how to scratch and juggle. Some of these schools include the Scratch Academy, Dubspot, Full Sail, and Berkley School of Music.

4. Twenty years ago, the audience at DJ battles like DMC were filled with a mix of DJs and non-DJs. Today, almost everyone in a DMC audience are DJs and most likely turntablists.

5. Equipment manufacturers have almost made curve control on crossfaders to a be standard feature with the expectation that some performers will want to scratch. This is not just exclusive to mixers, but includes just about all top of the line controllers.

6. Vinyl sales have surprisingly gone up since 2008. All though this may not be for turntablism use, the interest for vinyl has not diminished.

7. Some turntablism communities often blame the rise of producer-cetric DJs as the reason for the loss of interest in turntablism. First off, nobody who shows good scratching and juggling skills ever gets booed off a stage. In fact there are plenty of names where the artist are both good producers and skilled turntablists. To name a few, guys like A-Trak, Laidback Luke, DJ Craze, DJ Flipside from Jumpsmokers, DJ Godfather, Juicy M, Terrance Parker, Jeff Mills, and James Zabeila. The truth is, some turntablist communities have this expectation that producer/DJs are obliged to take interest and achieve the same proficiency as they have, when the reality of it is, their main interests are in making music.

8. While controllers are an easier and efficient way to DJ, there are a handful of individuals who have a self expectation to "upgrade" to turntables. While technologically this is going backwards, and sometimes fueled by traditional influences of older DJs, some guys truly see controllers as a stepping stone to their ambitions to learn how to use traditional equipment adequately.

9. Youtube alone accounts for countless DJs who have embarked on turntablism with massive amounts of tutorials and routines. How to scratch videos are among the most visited DJ tutorial videos on Youtube along with how to beatmatch. Among known Youtube communities, one of the agreed upon ways to get many video views, is to make fundamental tutorial videos on how to scratch.

My speculation is this, as to why some think turntablism is dead. Ten to twenty years ago, all the attendees of DJ battles who were inspired, are probably DJs today. And a closed community of artist began to form. The first DJ battles from New York to Philli were conducted to impress the "regular folk". Because of the closed community of some turntablists, it is no longer the case. It got to the point that routines and techniques became so complex, that it wouldn't be understood or appreciated by the "regular folk".

Imagine a scientist that writes a science book that can only be understood by other scientists. No matter how great the message is, it would have no way to spread because it's written in way that the regular person couldn't understand. I think that is how turntablism is today. And the exceptions, like the names I mentioned above, are because the individuals understand how to take turntablism and bring it back down to earth. There is nothing wrong with pushing the complexities of the techniques, but if you have a desire to expand interest on an art form, and connect with more people, you have to package your performance in a way that sparks the interests of regular people.

Regular people have favorite bands and favorite songs. It's rare non-guitar players look up guitarists based on shredding skills alone. Neither do regular people favor DJs in the same manner.

Turntablism isn't dead. It's just that some of it's artists have lost their connection with regular people. And the people who reserve that opinion are sometimes the ones discouraged by the fact it's not a people friendly art form. In the words of Jazzy Jeff, "DJs who DJ for other DJs, are DJing for the wrong people."