Insight - Pushing Buttons

DJS HAVE come a long way from the club booth.

DJS HAVE come a long way from the club booth. Today, acts like Swedish House Mafia, Skrillex, and Tiësto are selling out stadiums and headlining festivals around the world. But as EDM continues to explode, backlash is brewing in some circles.

There’s no question that executing the kind of elaborate multimedia “experience” that fans have come to expect can come at the expense of a live performance element, as Deadmau5 famously pointed out this summer in his Tumblr missive calling out DJs as “button pushers.” (Judging by our own poll below, a lot of Electronic Musician readers feel the same way.)

But to insist that a DJ act must be 100 percent live to be legitimate is missing the big picture. DJing lies at the intersection of performance and production; there are as many styles as there are DJs, skills can shine in the studio or onstage, and DJs can approach their craft from the perspective of a musician or a producer.

With that in mind, this month’s Roundup digs into a spectrum of sophisticated DJ tools, from iOS devices to controllers to instruments. If you’re serious about DJ production—both live and in the studio—there’s something here for you.

Then, get inspired by Rana June, who’s been dubbed “the iPad DJ” but is really more like the Bionic Woman, with her homemade rig featuring 16 iPads and bodypack controls that incorporate mood metatagging, realtime reactive triggers, and live instruments. I don’t think anyone is calling her a button pusher. Are you a DJ? How do you work? We’d love to hear from you.

Sarah Jones