Music is no longer universal language
By Dean McNeal
It used to be that when you listened to a Top40 radio station that you would have Michael Jackson and Van Halen on the same frequency. That meant if you were a Top40 Cover band or Top40 DJ, you would have to be familiar with several genres of music.
Well, times have changed, and so have the radio stations, and the clubs of today.
With new technology, and the personalization of music, you can listen to what you want, when you want. No longer are we subjected only to what your local mall, gym, or elevator is playing. So where does that leave us as performers and entertainers?
Clubs are more specialized. They’re either a DJ Hip Hop club, a live rock room, a slow-groove R&B room, or a Live Top40 Casino room. I encourage clubs and entertainers alike to specialize in what they do. The problem becomes, what kind of entertainer are you really? And where do you really want to play? Gone are the days of “just build it, and they will come”. Many bands and DJs feel that all dance music is the same, and fail to see the difference between Rock, R&B and Top40. Sound ridiculous? Not to a venue who wants what they want. Sometimes they lack the ability to express what they want.
I’ve been working with a venue that tells me he wants his DJ to play Top40, but when he tells the DJ to play Top40 music, he plays Hip Hop and R&B. To the DJ, this is Top40. Technically, neither is wrong. It’s having the ability to describe what you actually want.
After listening to the club’s manager, what he really wants is “Upbeat Top40 Pop” that usually plays at 128 Beats Per Minute (BPM), like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna. Being specific when talking about music is vitally important. Even though the DJ or band would not be wrong in playing Rihanna’s hit song “Umbrella”, the difference is that it plays at 87 BPM, much slower than the club wants. A lot to think about.
It’s even harder to explain to the bands because there’s a personal effort and pride in what they’ve rehearsed, learned and prepared for. Your typical Old School R&B band plays at a slower BPM, your average Top40 Cover band chooses music from a genre of a much faster Beat Per Minute. These two bands are very different.
Unfortunately, music is no longer a universal language, and sadly, it’s not true that “if you build it, they will come”.
Just as clubs and venues have to decide what type of music they want, entertainers need to determine what kind of band or DJ they want to be. Then realize that not all types of music are the same, and not all clubs are going to want what you have.