I Predict A Riot (But What If I'm Wrong?)
As a reader of Pro Mobile magazine I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that modern mobile DJs are generally expected to cover music ranging from the 1950s up to the current day. You could say that it is the role of the mobile DJ to play ‘pop music’ as a form of entertainment at parties, weddings and other events, and that the term ‘pop music’ does in fact have its roots in the 1950s. It would therefore make sense that every DJ’s music collection includes at least some material from that specific era and plenty more from each subsequent decade right up until the year 2016.
Recently, however, I was browsing some of the various DJ forums that can be found online and soon discovered that this issue (one that I expected to be universally agreed upon) actually seemed to divide opinion and fuel furious debate. Rather than the debate being over whether DJs should include older music in their sets, it was actually more about whether they needed to play music from the 1950s and 60s at all. At this point the journalist in me came out: the issue had piqued my interest and I wanted to hear the arguments for and against! So, I read all of the comments from DJs with a multitude of differing views. And, after giving it some thought, I concluded that this issue must be one that reoccurs every few years or so, as pop music continues to move forward and the years since its origin increase.
It seems the time for debate has arrived once again; there was a lot of negative talk across a few forums about the credibility of what I’ll cautiously call ‘more dated’ music with the modern audience. The reasons given for ditching music from the 50s and 60s ranged from “no one requests it” to “it’s boring” to “you only need it for 100th birthday parties”. There were of course a few reasons that, in my opinion, held a little more weight – one of which being that 60s music is getting a bit old-hat and modern audiences want to hear the latest dance music and chart hits.
The point about dance music and chart hits is certainly valid. You can safely assume that many of your younger guests will want to hear the latest chart hits, including dance, R&B, hip hop, pop and some indie tracks. Your guests in their late-twenties to late-forties will most likely enjoy hearing some dance classics, having grown up in the era of raves and late-night clubbing. But the argument for chart hits and dance music starts to falter when the demographic of your audience crosses the 40+ threshold. You begin to enter the realm of 80s pop, bringing with it a range of niche styles including ska, punk and new wave. A little older still – I’ll use my dad’s age of 53 as an example – and you’re looking at guests who were in their teens in the mid to late 70s, going out to parties by the turn of the decade. As for the claim that “you only need it [50s/60s music] for 100th birthday parties” – it couldn’t be further from the truth: guests in their early-sixties would’ve been teenagers when Beatlemania struck Britain and those of 70+ will have no trouble remembering their favourite hits of the 1950s.
If anyone should know their music, it’s mobile DJs. If you’re someone who specialises in providing a niche service – such as only playing modern R&B/dance – then there is a slim chance you could get away with not taking 50s and 60s music with you to your gigs – although your fellow DJs probably wouldn’t recommend it! But for the majority of DJs it’s important to be able to provide music for guests of all ages and an audience with varying tastes. You might not play a 50s track all night, but you should a) know something about that musical era and b) have some hit songs from that time to play should they be requested. Of course, this applies to all the decades since then, too.
So far I’ve talked about being able to play music for audiences of all ages, roughly matching guests of different ages with their respective musical eras – a logical choice, as for most of us it’s the music we listen to in our teens and early-twenties that informs our tastes for life. However, this issue of whether 50s and 60s music is still relevant really got me thinking about the risks that come with stereotyping an audience and predicting what music guests will like, judging them purely on their age.
It could be argued that it is impossible to know exactly what music someone will be into without actually asking them first. Age, dress sense and hair style can often give good indications, but just as no human being is exactly the same as another, you could say that no person’s music taste is exactly the same either.
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The full review can be found in Pro Mobile Issue 76, Pages 32 - 34.