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Did you know there was once a time when tensions were so high between DJs and musicians that the Musicians’ Union went as far as suing DJs, and sometimes picketed discotheques?

In the ’60s, DJ Jimmy Savile was being harassed by the local union, and came up with a novel solution. He hired a five-piece band, paid them in full, but told them not to show up. He knew he’d make far more by DJ’ing his party than he would if he enlisted a band, so his solution satisfied both the Musicians’ Union and his pocketbook.

It’s now the norm for a night club to make a DJ their featured entertainer. There are some that feature bands, but by far the majority of bars, clubs, and pubs rely on a DJ to provide their evening’s music. This wasn’t always the case. Until the 1960s, if you went to a club, you heard a live band. The idea of a guy playing records for the patrons to dance to didn’t yet exist. Once the concept of a DJ in a nightclub environment came into being, it had a brief run, but never threatened the dominance of bands as live entertainment. After a few years, the whole “DJ fad” seemed to fizzle out, but it came roaring back in the ’70s, and has never died down.

Even into the ’80s, it was the norm that a wedding DJ first had to convince a potential client that she wanted a DJ at her wedding, and not a band, before beginning to convince her that he was the right DJ for the job. Now, it’s a given that a DJ can provide suitable entertainment for a wedding, but it was a long road to get here.

I wonder what lies around the corner, waiting to replace DJs as the de facto entertainers in clubs and at weddings. Is it an algorithm? Or perhaps something else that doesn’t even exist yet. Never forget, no matter how entrenched you are in your industry, that can change overnight. Just as the car made the horse and buggy obsolete, something may be poised to send all of us DJs to the bread lines. Be ready!

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