Back In The Day

As I arrive at the venue to do my gig tonight, carrying my backpack with a backup laptop, 2 sets of headphones, and my flash drives I think of the old days. DJing in the late 80’s was a lot different from today. We had to carry crates of records 5 miles through a foot of snow with no shoes. Of course I am kidding but it did require a lot more heavy lifting.

Turning Pro

I turned pro in 1988 and by turning pro I mean that it was my only job and form of income. Pay came out to be around $500 a week, which was a lot then. Being a “full time” resident DJ meant you were a jack-of-all-trades. You worked 3-5 nights a week doing 4-6 hour sets and during the day had a task list of work that needed to be done in the club.

The daily activities included:-

  • changing light gels,
  • bulbs,
  • replenishing fog juice,
  • loading confetti cannons,

and performing various repairs that needed to be done, such as, swapping out blown drivers, or amps. We were experts at the use of a soldering iron as well. The ability to replace a cue light bulb in a Technics 1200 without stripping the miniature set screw was a required skill.


Tools of the Trade

The DJ performance tools of the trade (If you were lucky) were 1 Rane MP24 Mixer and 3 Technics 1200 Turntables. Some preferred the Urei or Biamp rotary fader mixers.

Extra styli and cartridges already mounted on head shells were a must to have around as well. Large wooden bins for records were a prerequisite. We would usually leave our “recurrent” records at the club and carry in and out our newest releases in a flight case or record bag depending on how many you had or how much weight you were willing to lug around.

Remixing was out of the reach of the average DJ. Some of us were lucky enough to have access to a Tascam 32 half-track and a sampler. This huge behemoth would set you back a couple thousand but was required pre-computer age for edits. I would usually mix down to DAT and then work it into my set somehow.


DJ’ing Today

Today you are allowed to forgo the restraints of yesteryear and concentrate on the music. After all, isn’t that what is most important? With Traktor you can load an S2 controller and laptop into a backpack and just plug into a PA then let the show begin.

People discuss the merits of today vs yesterday but I believe they both hold their own intrinsic value.

How do you feel each era compares, do you have preferences, or observations?

Connect with Matthew Shaw:
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2 thoughts on “Back In The Day

  1. It used to be very difficult in the times, because of the limited DJ means. Nowadays to be honest, it might me far more difficult because you have so much means with tons of options.

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