Can live bands compete with DJs?

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by pklima, May 17, 2012.

  1. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Something I've had rattling around the back of my mind for a while, and some of the talk in the thread about playing for free got me thinking about it again... Can live bands compete with DJs or are we dinosaurs doomed to an ever-shrinking niche market, like jazz big bands 50 years ago?

    I'd personally like to think that even though DJs do have some huge advantages there is hope. Two things give me reason to think this.

    One is the existence of what we call "live acts" - not sure if that English term is used by actual English speakers or not, but it's basically a DJ plus an instrument such as violin, sax or some sort of percussion. Those are fairly common here, and I think they show that deep down, even dance club crowds want some sort of live human presence in music and just a DJ isn't enough to satisfy that desire.

    The second is that, like I mentioned in another recent thread about marketing, I've played quite a few songs that I've literally never heard another band play live but DJs spin them all the time. Buraka Som Sistema, Sean Paul, Don Omar, Alexandra Stan type stuff. Our crowds love those, so there's apparently a market for playing "DJ music" arranged for real instruments (but not in a rock style). Can't really say how big or small that market is, but it does exist.

    So... your thoughts? Any experiences?
  2. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    Can radio compete with television? Live bands and DJ's are both in the entertainment industry, but very different genres. Neither is a replacement for the other. IMHO.
  3. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    Same thought donned on me too when I was at a club in Miami. The DJ was really creative in the songs he was sampling and the music was constantly changing from different styles and blending in synth stuff. The dance floor was on fire. I started thinking that with the short attention spans nowadays maybe this was the future and doom for live musicians. I couldn't imagine the people in that club having any interest in listening to us grind out a 5-6 minute version of "Redhouse" or something.

    Locally I already see a drop in interest in the younger crowd for seeing live acts. I think there will always be live bands but they may be relegated to jazz coffee house type status one day.

    I do know one thing though. Although I respect what the really good DJ's do, you will never catch me dead playing second fiddle to two turntables and a microphone.
  4. Yes, we can compete.
    I just recently played a hiphop gig where some songs were with the DJ and some with the band. The band was blaaaastin' lemmy tell you...

    Where I live, not many hiphop guys get big gigs when there's no band!
  5. the yeti

    the yeti

    Nov 6, 2007
    raleigh, nc
    some live bands can. lots can not.
  6. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    Original bands, perhaps. I was thinking that the market for band and DJs might be different until I considered coverbands in the equation.

    Both cater to people who want to dance, only I think the music that younger people enjoy dancing to isnt exactly the kind of music that coverbands play. Of course, not in any absolute terms.
    The music that a lot of younger people dance to is more electronic, with driving beats and catchy hooks. Sure, cover bands could play that kind of music, but its not what I see a lot of them doing.
  7. Live Dance Music me thinks is a big market, you play same kind of music as DJs but instead of the audience seeing someone 'reading email' on a laptop and fist pumping every two minutes, they have something else to watch and talk about later.
  8. lowfreq33


    Jan 27, 2010
    Endorsing Artist: Genz Benz Amplification
    It's two different markets. But it would help if cover bands played music people want to hear versus what they want to play.
  9. bluewine

    bluewine Inactive

    Sep 4, 2008
    Depends on your niche.

    My bands following is older and they have no interest in going out to see a DJ.
  10. pnut166


    Jun 5, 2008
    The question for me should be: can a DJ compete with a (good) live band ? The answer is no.
  11. portlandguy


    Feb 15, 2011
    Portland, OR
    We are bass players, we do not need bands - check out the group Tycho, guy on a Pbass jamming with a DJ mixing it up
  12. bass12

    bass12 Blistering barnacles! Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I'm a DJ and a musician. People were asking the same questions in the 70s when disco became the dance music of choice for most North American dance clubs. If you're talking dance floor then it basically comes down to how close the band can come to sounding "like the record". Most club music today does not revolve around song arrangements and musicianship - it relies on texture and low frequencies. I've played plenty of gigs in clubs where the band comes on after the DJ and the energy level plummets. The band just doesn't have the low end and sparkly sheen of a recorded club track. On the other hand, I play in a corporate band that can compete with a DJ. The thing is, we use sequences. Without those sequences there's no way we're going to be able to "sound like the record" when it comes to current top 40 club tracks (even though we're fourteen in the band). But even DJs are suffering these days. The mystique has largely worn off for most, I would say, and with the widespread availability of (free) music (and easy-mix technology) anyone can be a DJ. A lot of places around here that used to hire DJs (I'm talking smaller bars/clubs, not dance clubs) now just plug in an iPod.
  13. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    I think we need to be clear on what we mean by the term DJ. On one hand, it can mean someone who produces their own beats or is a turntablist - someone like David Guetta. On the other hand, it can mean someone who bought a PA package from the Carvin catalog and plays a bunch of prerecorded tunes on a laptop at weddings. I make a qualitative distinction between the two.

    I was at a club this past weekend that pumped loud electronic-based music through the PA. Like Bert, I realized that with that crowd, in that environment, a live band just wouldn't have worked.

    To answer the OP's question...I honestly think that rock music is not the commodity it was a decade or 15 years ago. Of course, there have been times that rock music has also gone by the wayside, only to return stronger when a new sound came out. I hope that rock music becomes the force again that it once was. On the other hand, country doesn't seem to be hurting. A good country band will almost never be hurting for work, IME. Unfortunately, a lot of mainstream country is way too produced and commercialized by the Nashville hit machine for my tastes. Not that I have a problem with produced and commercial music, but it's become a little too much for me in country right now. Of course, this is all my anecdotal experience and isn't really a systematic survey on the state of music.

    I will say that being in a cosmopolitan area definitely seems to help. I think that in this time and place, live bands need to be more niche oriented as a general audience may not be a receptive to live music as they were a decade ago.
  14. My improv "jazz" band mixes up electro dance grooves with drums keys and myself. Hard getting gigs at 3x what a dj charges.
  15. PJRL


    Mar 27, 2010
    greenfield center NY
    I would much rather go out to see a live band over seeing / a DJ spin records and Blab away about nothing.
  16. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    My opinion as well
  17. Jhengsman


    Oct 17, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    Its been going on for longer then 50 years, since before the big dance band era. There are still a few horse buggy whip makers, but only a few.
  18. pklima

    pklima Commercial User

    May 2, 2003
    Kraków, Polska
    Karoryfer Samples
    Some interesting stuff. I'll weigh in on my own thread as well.
    This is pretty much what I'm thinking.
    Yeah, DJs have a lot of advantages over bands and bands a lot of advantages over DJs, but I really think that playing songs large numbers of people like is the biggest single one.

    A lot of cover bands that think they're total sellouts and are playing the most popular songs possible aren't really. They're all very retro.
    Yeah, that's been my experience. If you play hip-hop or electro with a live band, you can get the crowd going as much as a DJ or even more.
    At the top, you're right - I don't think David Guetta can really compete with Rihanna. But at the level most TBers occupy?
  19. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Radio and TV DID, at one time compete, and TV kicked it's butt. They might be "different genres" now, but that comment show a bit of ignorance of the past.

    DJs are indirect competition for live bands.
  20. Live Bands and DJs have totally different audience "feels"

    It isn't about competing I think, but more about which audience a place wants to cater to. I must say that DJ stuff is extremely popular, but I would prefer to go to a place with a live band playing stuff I didn't like over a DJ playing stuff I do like.
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