The List That Won't Go Away
What’s in a list? Are we defined by how we rank?
Got your attention? I bet you stopped to think of those lists that are a part of everyday life of the struggling artist, producer and record label and on and on and on… and they just won’t go away.
Media Services NYC published just such a list on their site in January 2014 with the tag line “Our 1st Ever Compiled Overview of the Top HOUSE Djs Today.” The list was compiled by Michael Johnson with a private poll being sent out to 1000 people globally… were you polled? We’ll get back to that.
Soon after the list was shared on my wall, I saw it appearing in my newsfeed like wild fire. There was a LOT of positive feedback. I looked at the list and, because I saw my favorite DJs listed, I wanted to jump on the band wagon and congratulate every DJ that I know deserves to be recognized for their commitment, love, struggle, and efforts. I did, rethought it, deleted it, and then, I waited.
Within minutes, there were the “angry” posts, discrediting the list and Michael Johnson, who, apparently, no one in the industry knows. I sure don’t know him, never heard of the guy. There are even a couple of videos (graphic language) vocalizing displeasure over how the list is handled.
I wasn’t going to write this article. It’s difficult to judge the validity of pushing this information, or what is now (in the hallowed halls of 1200Dreams) affectionately nicknamed ‘The list that won’t go away”. I kept following the posts and comments, searched the Internet for mentions of the list (of which I found a few) and even read an open letter from Deeper Shades of House founder and CEO, Lars Behrenroth, who, in my opinion, is one of the most respected DJs in the House scene – his following and staying power serve to back that opinion. I followed, and checked, and inquired and then, it struck me… this needs to be written about. It’s not something that we, as a media outlet that is focused on DJs and the nightlife can ignore.
I can’t claim objective status in writing about this: in House there are ZERO degrees of separation. However, let’s see if we can come to some sense about this “Most Respected House DJs for 2014”… from someone who wasn’t polled. Were you polled? We’ll get back to that.
Who is Michael Johnson? A newbie on the scene trying to make a name for himself by coming in gangbusters and shaking things up? A well-intentioned, although misguided, critic? A well-established person in the House community incognito? Does it really matter? Maybe not so much. Whoever Michael Johnson is, or pretends to be, is irrelevant. One thing is for certain: We should be thanking him (her, them, whichever). He actually got the House community talking to one another about the DJs, bringing attention to them on a broader platform, in one place, on a level playing field – or rather, a list. And it’s always a good thing to talk about what you love, right?
Does ranking matter? Come on, now! In this competitive industry, where “Top 10” dominates, where sites charge to run release banners on their main page to feature releases they are selling and making money from, to the effort artists put into increasing their views on YouTube, social network shares and clicks, all this is an effort to push our creative works to the top of the newsfeed, to deny its relevance is hypocritical. If it doesn’t matter, why bother promoting your music or your artists… or for that matter, yourself? The higher the rank, the bigger the spotlite, the more in demand, the more money, the more gigs, the greater the respect of your peers. Does ranking matter? It keeps people in business. And this is a business.
And here’s one last thing that may surprise you: All lists are subjective. Even the criterion for a list is subjective. A criterion is based upon what a person, or group of persons, determines to be important enough to create a list for in the first place.
That being said, where did this list come from? As fans who take our music and the business side of it serious, we have the right to know. Especially, since it is said to represent us. As stated in MSNYC disclaimer: “We then asked regular fans through our social networks event groups and databases who they considered the TOP HOUSE DJs”. Obviously, it did not come from any other House related list or any other House or DJ magazine that I know of. I don’t recall seeing a House “Top DJ” list, from any source, reliable or otherwise, online or off. Did you?
What exactly does “privately polled” mean, anyway? A casual conversation; the number of mentions in social media by the same person or demographic; an email sent to a 10,000 email database and responses received were 1,000?
See, this is important to us for many reasons, including the fact that we publish DJ related lists, lists we take seriously. 1200Dreams runs “DJ of the Week” and “DJ of the Year”. In 2014, we decided to publish our own DJOTW 2013 TOP 10. This was simply a recap of the years DJOTW’s based on the number of views; easy enough. DJ of the Year is based on votes from emails sent directly to DJs. How do I know this? I was privileged to be involved in that process. But here’s the thing, would you care to guess how many people actually took the time to respond to our requests for the name of their favorite DJ? We just asked for one – top three if they were so inclined. Not as many as you would expect; not as many as this topic deserves.
As for Michael Johnson’s list, I can say, irrefutably, that I didn’t receive an email or a follow up email, or a last request email and those I specifically asked didn’t either. On social media I post about my favorite DJs, new DJs, DJs that move me. I talk about DJs, write about DJs, hang with DJs. So, where did the 1000 privately polled people come from? Or is the better question, how many of those bothered to respond if they were polled by email? Would I have responded to it? Yes. See above about ranking and business.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I am, we are, passionate about House Music. It IS a spiritual thing and not everyone understands House Music. These aren’t just clichés. They’ve become a mantra for the underground. They’ve become the excuse why lists like “Most Respected House DJs for 2014” are not in DJMag.
So, Michael Johnson, wherever you are and whoever you are, I (we) do want to believe that you had good intentions and that your love for this scene and these DJs run deep, and that this list “controversy” is simply due to a lack of experience that led to poor execution. Whatever your intentions, you have now put yourself in a position to “put up or shut up”. If you’re going to go around bragging about a list you’ve compiled, best be ready to back it up, especially if you expect to be taken seriously. Most importantly, the community you represent by creating such a list deserves it. And those on such a list deserve their proper respect.
As for those upset by this list, there is merit in what you say. I do believe, however, that if you’re going to complain about a list, the way to change the direction is to support those you respect by understanding that it takes money to have a successful anything – that’s just the way the world works – boycott piracy, buy the music, support the venue your favorite and where the DJs you respect the most are playing at, share the love, say “Thank you”.
Oh, and, if you get an email, a request to talk about your favorite, or most respected DJ, take a second and reply. Maybe then our lists will go viral for positive reasons.
And, that, my House family, is just my two cents.