Is the Era of the Mashup DJ over?
Posted by Middy on July 6, 2012
Many of you are probably wondering why I chose Madeon for the picture. I will get to that. Is the Era of the Mashup DJ over? The popularity of Mashups has been a very United States oriented thing, though it has spread abroad with the likes of Mashup Germany and others. Mashups in their modern form in the sense that they are not live bootlegs, but studio productions of multiple songs being put together using various samples of songs was really brought to the forefront of the American music conscious by Girl Talk and then by the likes of Super Mash Bros and DJ Earworm with his United States of Pop year end mixes. The next generation of big time Mashup DJs led by guys like White Panda, 3Lau, Kap Slap, 5 & A Dime, The Hood Internet, E-603 and more helped define what it meant to be a Mashup DJ. Obviously I am missing names, but just follow me here. They brought the whole profession to the masses, notably the college crowd, where it spread like wildfire. From there it felt that just about everyone with Virtual DJ started to make Mashups and the boom started. Eventually those who actually had some talent and the tools to take advantage of that talent started to separate themselves from the rest with more guys entering the scene like Sex Ray Vision dabbling in Mashups, Basic Physics, Yoni, DJ Trademark & Mr. Rogers. They would use their quick rise during the Mashup boom to move from just DJing parties on their respective college campus to touring across the US. There was still that dream of instant success with the boom of DJs in the US and making Mashups was the easiest way to get there. It became the starting point for those who wanted to become a DJ.
Fans and blogs have become a lot smarter about their music in respect to Mashups. You cannot just simply put any two songs together, match the rhythms and put it out onto the market and expect success. The expectations are much higher now. People have grown tired of the same acapellas (remember “A Milli”?) and instrumentals (“Levels“?) being used over and over again. Songs have to be in the right key, which limits options, but also shows which artists are the most creative and do not regurgitate the same Mashups of their peers over and over again in different combinations, but actually think of something different. Then there is the issue of sound quality. I will be brief on this, because it is an old topic, but having non 320 samples on big speakers makes your bass sound like a lawn mower and your high frequencies sound very grainy. These high quality samples may not always exist, but you must adapt.
The popularity of Mashup DJs has dropped off precipitously in the last 6-9 months or so. I do not necessarily mean this in the sense that their fan bases are shrinking, though some may be, but in the sense that most fan bases are not growing at the rates they used to. We are not seeing Mashup DJs popping up all over the place and starting careers that would appear to have longevity. Instead they are being replaced by DJs that are making their own productions and remixes. People no longer need to hear Usher, Chris Brown, Lady Gaga or another pop star on top of the some of the latest House tracks to make them popular. House and Dubstep are popular on their own and can be played to the masses without having to be combined to rap or pop vocals. Sometimes these vocals can become obtrusive and can hide the intricacies of the original track. Bootlegs and Mashups are used by professional DJs all the time in their live sets with guys like Thomas Gold, Dash Berlin, Ken Loi, Chuckie, Kaskade, Dannic, Disfunktion, Porter Robinson, Tristan Garner among those who are noted for their Bootlegs. However most of them keep them for their live sets to keep them fresh and exciting every time you see them live. Many of them do release a few of them for free download, but they are their gifts to the fans, not their primary work at all. Chuckie calls his bootlegs “Airplane Edits”, meaning when he has time to kill during his countless hours traveling, he is making his Mashups. Madeon has shown with “Pop Culture” and Annie Mac mix on BBC Radio One that there is a whole new level to achieve to with Mashups, and he has brought the bar there, with no one else stepping up to meet him there with his limitless talent. If the next wave of Mashup artists were to meet him there, then I think the discussion could be refocused there, but otherwise I believe the music public has moved on from Mashup DJs.
That is not to say that Mashups have not been integral to the revitalization of EDM in the American conscious, notably the American youth. Using House and Dubstep tracks in Mashups was critical to bringing them to the mainstream audience and allowing them to be slowly integrated into the playlists of millions without the harsh transition of pop vocal songs to largely instrumental tracks. Mashups and Bootlegs are still a refreshing change of pace if you get very tired of a song and want to put some vocals over them. However with the excess of music out there, a change of pace on a single track has become less and less of a necessity. I had a great time when Kap Slap came to my school, so the live venue is still useful for them. The transition has been made with kids in high school and college shelling out a lot of money to see EDM concerts all across America; festivals and shows selling out in record time, such Swedish House Mafia at MSG and Above & Beyond at the Shrine in LA both selling out in 9 minutes, and concerts selling out before the lineup is even announced. Guys like Kap Slap, 3Lau (though he is moving onto remixes and originals), 5 & A Dime, Girl Talk, and Super Mash Bros will still be followed, but soon the name of the Mashup artist will become less relevant and the actual songs being Mashuped up will be what people judge the Mashup by.