How DJing is evolving, and how L&D must too

I’m going to let you in on a DJing secret. Are you ready? Okay. There’s a sync button which matches beats on all modern DJing software. Press the button and whatever tunes you are playing will fall in time. Wow, your respect for DJs has just plummeted, right?


There are a few exceptions to the magical deployment of the sync button but clearly the purists are very upset. After all, these are the poor souls who learned to mix on vinyl over many grueling hours. In fact, they are just another victim of technology just like taxi drivers or the famed Pony Express.

An endangered species – the taxi driver

DJs are 2-a-penny nowadays because anyone with a passing interest in music and a few hundred pounds can kit themselves out with all the gear. The challenge then, is simply finding the tunes that get people dancing; throw in a few ridiculously dramatic twists of the bass knob and you’re there.

I promise you with a day of tutelage anyone can become a “DJ” in the old sense. Yes, technology has truly eroded any skill required to put on a show.  I’d estimate that most people spend more time refining their logo and discussing their DJ name with their mates then they do practicing.

Yes, now even Paris Hilton can “DJ”

This isn’t a criticism, it’s just a fact. The quicker the old vinyl brigade can get over it, the sooner they’ll realise the truth. DJing isn’t dead, it’s just evolved into something else.

Now the business bit for comparison. The phrase “Learning is Dead” is thrown around a lot in my team. Simply put, we refer to the death of traditional training precipitated by the invention of the internet. Now anyone, anywhere, can access any information, at anytime! It’s a real-life miracle. Why do children need to sit in a classroom and get taught facts and figures by weary academics when they can just Google it? They don’t, hence “Learning is Dead”.

This poor soul had to actually learn to do multiplication in his head!

The same applies in our home lives. Before the internet we needed to call a technician every time something broke down, now we have YouTube and Facebook. We call this “performance support” because these online tools give you what you need, when you need it. It’s still learning, just not learning organised and formalised by people whose job it is to formalise learning. As I said, “Learning is Dead”. But there is a part of the story missing. Just like with DJing, learning has evolved.

The value added by a good DJ is the same as that of a good learning professional. Both have become curators, sense-makers and culture builders. The internet has made millions upon millions of tracks available to everyone. Finding the best new music and sharing it widely with others is a useful role in 21st Century culture. Zane Lowe has certainly made his career doing just that. There’s also an opportunity to offer a new perspective on popular tracks, this is sometimes know by the cool kids as a “mashup” as Loo and Placido demonstrate so effectively here.

Lastly, if you have the patience, you can create new tracks, but that too has become easier with the internet and libraries upon libraries of recorded sounds. Personally, I haven’t got the time nor the inclination to sit in a room and create new music. Particularly when everyone else appears to be doing such a sterling job of it.

In Learning and Development (L&D) where simply knowing stuff isn’t enough, the value is added by offering a perspective which challenges people to use their brains; because what’s more important in learning than exercising our grey-matter? There’s also a facilitation role that needs to be filled; where a L&D professional collects ideas and approaches, and shares them. Thirdly, Learning and Development can become the expert at changing people’s behaviour for the better; identifying and supporting leaders who support their staff rather than making them miserable.

The evolution of DJing and the L&D profession is on a parallel trajectory. You can be a traditionalist and cling to your vinyl, or you can be at the forefront of innovation, and do things that are new, exciting and offer a fresh perspective. There will always be a place for vinyl, just like there will always be a place for human-driven cars and classroom events, but it’s important we don’t confuse the past with authenticity. DJing on a modern software is no less DJing than doing it on vinyl, it simply makes the stuff that can be mechanised easier, so people can concentrate on doing new incredible things. Cue Madeon’s Live Mashup of 39 songs…

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