We are a part of an ADD culture that is obsessed with lists and immediate gratification. Like anyone else, I fall victim to the trap at times. It’s a whole lot easier and less time consuming to simply skim through names attached to numbers than it is to delve into a topic and spend the time and brain power required to truly understand it. Beyond that, we are a culture that is concerned almost entirely with what interests us individually and fail to look at it through a different perspective. In our mind’s, what we love must be the best thing. We rarely take into account the differing opinions of others. DJ Mag knows this and their well known and well advertised list of the Top 100 DJs is a perfect reflection of it. It’s more or less a popularity contest that involves fan voting, heavy self promotion, and a complete lack of consideration for a DJ’s full body of work and effort put into production. Earlier this week, Gareth Emery gave us his two cents on what he thought of the poll voting. Gaz’s post touched millions of fans and paved way for many other artists (and us) who wanted to take a position against the poll, but weren’t quite sure how the public would react. And he wasn’t kidding about using the proceeds for charity.
DJ Mag uses the justification that fan votes are decided via a fair and foolproof system. In order to be able to cast your votes in this campaign, you are required to have a Facebook account and have DJ Mag liked. If you’re voting for who the most popular mainstream DJ is, this would probably be exactly what you’re looking for. Needless to say, this poll’s primary goal is and should be to rank DJs in order of skill and talent. The DJ Mag rankings don’t do quite that — the poll cannot be used as a talent metric to rank DJs by skill. When ranking a DJ’s skill level, you can’t consider the opinion of someone who may have only heard one or two mainstream tracks on the radio before casting their vote. Consider, for example, an individual who is familiar with Swedish House Mafia’s “Don’t You Worry Child” and Zedd’s “Clarity” simply because they’ve been played, and played, and played again on popular radio. Chances are, those two artists will be getting the votes as a result.
What started almost 10 years ago, the DJ Mag Top 100 has steadily grown to become a “big deal” for many DJs and producers (wait, I thought this was the “DJ” Mag Top 100?) when the voting campaign comes around every July. To generate an extra push for votes, some DJs release new tracks offering free downloads with a friendly “please vote for me” reminder, some mention it in their radio shows, and some would ask their beloved fans via a Facebook post. While these are all legitimate tactics of earning additional votes, some DJs would go as far as cheating to one up their competition. As a result, a hardworking DJ might be outranked by some fool who just happened to buy some votes on eBay? It has become more and more obvious that the Top 100 voting is something that is very important to a handful of DJs. I mean…why wouldn’t it be? They get booked more. Their credibility increases. They rack up more plays on their soundcloud. At the end of the day, the smaller the number next to their names on the rankings, the “better” they are, right? Wrong.
What ever happened to being recognized more for your actual work and music? Rob Swire had a mini rant a couple weeks ago about how fans view time spent writing music as wasted time and that it’s a concept that no one values or appreciates anymore. Well, the DJ Mag voting only solidifies his beliefs. If you aren’t doing some kind of touring right now and you’re too busy making your music better, no one is going to be voting for you. No one cares that you’re working hard in the studio and putting in that extra effort when you could easily be doing something else. They just want you on that Ultra streaming they’re watching and that EDC mainstage.
But, no matter what I think… the popularity contest will continue. Legends of the genre will be passed up by young artists who produced a couple mainstream hits this year. So, if we’re going to continue this mess, let’s call it what it truly is. It’s a poll by the fans for the fans, so by all means, they are obligated to vote for whoever they damn well please. I am heavily bothered by the fact that this popularity contest has played such a prominent role in a genre that is taking off. Let’s face it: if you’re getting voted in, you’re a pretty bad liar/hipster to say you don’t care; and if you aren’t getting voted in, you’re a bitch for bitching about it. In todays 24 hour media cycle, people don’t necessarily take things for face value anymore. And quite frankly, that should be exactly what this poll is all about: a poll by the fans. If you’re on there. Cool. If you’re not, whatever.
Let me leave you with a quote from 2012’s 30th most popular DJ, Kaskade (what?!)…
I’m not saying the things that I crave are better, worse, or the same as other artists. Awards and accolades are lovely. Being reviewed positively by peers and fans is awesome. And if placing in the Top 10 of a popularity contest/marketing bonanza quenches your thirst then drink it up.
While I do appreciate a person taking their time to vote for me, it’s ok if you’d rather spend your time doing something else. This type of competition, poll, award whatever is not on my radar. I don’t have the bandwidth to campaign for an event that mainly exists as a stunt for Facebook and website page views. And while the integrity of the voting process has never actually been solid, the bigger and somewhat embarrassing question is, does EDM actually need a Prom King or Homecoming Queen? I didn’t jockey for the title in High School, and I’m not doing it now.
Well said Ryan, well said.