A Fun Look At DJing Then vs. Now...
One of our Facebook fans suggested that this would be an interesting topic to write about and I thought “why not?”
Thinking back to my earliest days in DJing, I remember colossal, long load-ins and load-outs. Firstly, this was before the advent of the Multi-Cart a.k.a. Rock N Roller Cart that allowed us to eventually get everything in and out in one load, so back then it was all about having a good quality, large capacity commercial hand truck; you know, the type you see beer truck guys use to stack cases on and bring in the store. It takes strength, very good balance, developed technique, a few bungee cords and a bit of luck to use one of these successfully in all of the crazy conditions one can be exposed to in event loading!
It would take me typically four trips in and out of a building to get the job done. My first trip was usually speakers, the second was a 100+lb amp and processing rack (NOTE: this is before we were graced with self-powered speakers with their own amps and processing built right in!), the third was usually lighting and the fourth was all record crates, both 12” and 7”. Each of these loads except the record one had other items added or hooked on top i.e. suit bag, backpack with assorted connectors and headphones, etc. By the time you got in you were usually already tired!
Additionally, we didn’t travel with assistants in those days so it was just us out there and one big concern with that was during that 30 minutes or so with all those trips, we were leaving a lot of gear unattended in the banquet rooms for periods of time both on the way in and out. This obviously posed a theft risk and unfortunately we occasionally had bunches of CDs vanish and one time almost an entire sound system stolen. Interestingly, though – and this is a BIG one – back then, Raffi and I always agreed that the object of primary importance to guard and transport with first priority was our record collections, because back then it would have been so hard (with some out-of-print-records, impossible) and so expensive to replace those if stolen. In contrast, we figured even an expensive piece of gear could be replaced exactly and very quickly if necessary.
Once inside, the record crates (and then later CD cases, then binders) would all go up on a 6’ or 8’ table that the venues would usually supply (though not always – thank you, load #5) and get all spread out so that we could navigate this large vinyl ocean and be able to find the right songs at the right time. It is crazy now to think how much navigation information was on tap in our brains as DJs that allowed us to be able to quickly find anything we were looking for. By comparison, now it’s as easy as punching the song title or artist into a search box in our DJ software (we use Serato DJ and Itch in our systems).
On into the night we’d be using our new-fangled wireless mic systems (oooohh!), but they didn't sound too great and were single-diversity, meaning that if the single channel that they operated on got compromised, you got your pick of crazy noises (airplane transmissions, truckers, whatever!). Luckily wireless technology has gotten better and better but then again, the FCC and the tech industry have made our lives difficult by trying to add more and more frequency bands and even taking some away from us (that was fun – having a bunch of $600 investments suddenly be worth nothing…). All in all, at this time if you want pretty much 100% reliable, great sounding mic coverage in a critical use, you would honestly be best off with good old fashioned cabled mics!
Well anyway I hope you enjoyed this little walk down memory lane. Honestly I think I like it better the way it is now overall, but like most things in life, if you use the new and sprinkle in a little bit of the old reliable you usually end up with the perfect mix.