Is A DJ Considered An Artist?


There’s a question that I was asked recently about whether or not a DJ is technically an “artist” or not. I hadn’t really thought about it in much depth before but after some deliberation and chats with other DJ friends I was inspired to share my ideas with you, for and against.

Is A DJ Considered An Artist?

A DJ performs, entertains and plays music in front of a crowd which is similar to a musician, conductor or singer. On the other hand DJs simply play music without crafting the sound from an actual instrument. Some DJs are producers of music so are known as artists.

Now lets explore some of the reasons for and against why DJs are artists OR are not artists.

Reasons Why DJs are Artists?

  • By definition of an artist or musician is that they manipulate musical instruments by playing notes or sounds of one or a combination of instruments e.g. drums. When turntablists are scratching, they are manipulating sounds by selecting different samples to scratch and organically create a composition of sound.
  • DJ Producers are technically artists because they play their own music that they created. They create music in a audio production setup by organically layering different sounds, including drums, piano, bass, percussion etc to compose a final musical sound track.
  • Secondly, to the point above, some artists are DJs / Producers & live musicians all in one. Let’s look at an artist called Bonobo for example. He DJs live, creates his own music but has also played to a live audience with other musicians. Bonobo is a DJ and therefore an artist.
  • Let’s look at this another way, from another perspective. Musicians and artists control aspects such as volume, frequency, tempo, timbre and play music for extended periods of time. All of which entertain an actively listening audience. This is exactly what DJs do.
  • DJs that play music tracks like the rest of the other DJs BUT remix and edit latest releases to their own style and creativity. Now that in my opinion is an artist to a certain extent.
  • Artists seek to perform within a set time period evoking emotions and taking listeners on a journey. This to me sounds like a DJ could well be the same as an artist in this respect, no? Especially due to the amount of technical skills that are required to take the listeners on such a unique journey of music.
  • The way that DJs put together DJ sets is a work of art in some way due to how the pieces of individual music can be crafted together.

Reasons Why DJs are NOT Artists?

  • Artists can be seen as musicians and the difference between a DJ and a musician is that one plays recorded music and another (the musician) creates music from a live instrument organically which is not pre-recorded. Therefore DJs aren’t technically artists or musicians in this respect.
  • To the point above, DJ turntables and a mixer aren’t musical instruments, they are simply players of recorded sound. True instruments allow a person to manipulate a sound by playing multiple notes
  • DJs simply play a track and then another, just like a juke box in a bar. This simply does not mean a DJ is an artist, it’s not different to a person playing a Spotify playlist in the car or in the kitchen. It doesn’t mean they are an artist.
  • If you get hired by a bar or club venue where they require you to DJ and play a specific type of music style to a particular audience, then you are a DJ, not an artist.

Related Questions

Is a DJ a performer?

A DJ is a performer because they perform live to an audience in real time, they mix audio sounds together in order to get a reaction of a crowd. In turn the crowd then dances and reacts positively to the music that is being played by the DJ. DJs sometimes MC, so they verbally interact with the crowd too.

What does a DJ even do?

A DJ entertains a crowd of people by using a mixer and turntables to mix music continuously for a set amount of time. The turntables allow a DJ to match the tempo and beats in time together, while the mixer allows a DJ to blend music from one music track to another smoothly.

What is DJ short for?

DJ stands for Disc Jockey. The reason for the name is due to the beginning of DJing when Disc Jockeys used record vinyls to DJ with the name has stuck ever since.

What skills do you need to be a DJ?

The skills required to DJ are rhythm, timing, ear for music key, networking and people skills. Business or marketing skills are essential too to help build awareness of a DJing brand and essentially gain bookings to get paid as a DJ.

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