How AI Puts a Fresh Spin on the DJ Experience
DJing is an art form and a craft I have been mastering for nearly 30 years. I'm incredibly passionate about it. In fact, it's where I feel most at home. Creating perfect vibes for a particular collection of people on a dance floor—whether there's five or 500—is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. It requires the inherently human talent of crafting connections through precise musical choices.
So, naturally, the debate on how AI is emerging as the next frontier across the creative landscape has caught my attention. It will undoubtedly rewrite some portion of the DJ rule book. But as long as interpersonal connection remains a critical nutrient for the soul (spoiler: it will), then the craft, in my opinion, is safe. In fact, I see AI as providing a great opportunity for exciting augmentation.
Finding that early human connection
For two reasons, my favorite set as a DJ is the warm-up. First, and quite selfishly, this slot means my work section of the evening is over relatively early, and I'm able to revel in the joys of being an audience member. Also, I adore the power in those early evening musical choices and the opportunity to set the mood for the night.
Responding to an evolving audience as they find their feet and loosen up on the dance floor requires an innate human dynamism. The principle employed by a DJ in the warm-up set can generate a beautiful and intimate relationship between artist and audience.
This is a trust that is hard-earned by the DJ. For all of AI's genius abilities, this human factor is a quality that it does not threaten. That's a truth to be cherished by creatives more generally. A DJ responds, reflects and reinforces how an audience is feeling. Any brand that aspires to have a customer-centric strategy will do the same. Through leaning into emotion, brands (and DJs) are rewarded with a loyal consumer (or fan) base.
I'm hopeful that if AI is incorporated across the creative industries in a sensitive and intelligent way, the interpersonal qualities will have space to flourish, beautifully.
For DJs, AI can scientifically assess mood. For example, it can deliver information about average BPMs and make song suggestions accordingly. Don't be surprised if in a few years, AI DJ assistants are making suggestions based on audience brainwaves, too!
AI, the world's best ego equalizer
Creativity based on pure subjectivity is intrinsically limited. If I perform a DJ set which features only songs to serve my mood that evening, I have not succeeded at my job. This might seem like a rule that should be applied across the industry in equal measure. And I would agree; however, I have experienced many adland boardrooms where campaigns have been killed by committee consensus. The loudest voice in the room wins rather than—by some objective measure—the best creative to satisfy the brief.
AI, however, can deliver objective recommendations—through harvesting and comprehending enormous amounts of data—regarding which ads serve the brief best. This data does not set the agenda but empowers the team to be bolder. Behind the decks, this means combining the DJ quality of audience connection with statistics to generate truly augmented choices.
I have been an avid tech enthusiast since the birth of the web. I vividly remember my visceral excitement about the era of Internet 1.0. In the early 2000s, it presented an opportunity for data democratization leading to boundless ideation. And now, it is all things—part creation, part shopping, part entertainment platform and frankly, part dumpster fire.
AI is the new battleground, and those with apprehension about its possible impact are reasonable to hold such doubts. I feel vindicated in my optimistic take on the internet back at the turn of the century, and confident the same will prove true for AI.
I do not envision a world where the art of DJing is lost to the powers of machines. Instead, I see a great opportunity for enhancing the performance through improving how we connect with an audience.