Our So-Called Nightlife

By: Marcelo Báez

Before the Internet became a widely available commodity, before any person with a smartphone could instantly stream almost any song in existence off YouTube, and before record stores were seen as little more than unintentional museums, people often went to bars and nightclubs not just to get drunk, but to discover new music.

To older generations that might seem like an obvious statement. After all, playing the latest and greatest music was a job relegated to the DJ, a person many nightlife aficionados viewed as a connoisseur because he or she had spent hours listening to 12-inch vinyl imports and special-edition CD releases. Since taste is subjective the experience of listening to some music nerd’s selection was always a gamble. But submission—and keeping an open mind—had its payoffs; audiences were often exposed to artists and genres they were probably never going to find on their own.

At first, the ubiquitous presence of the Internet seemed like God’s gift to music fans—and, in a way, it is. Think about it: right now, right this second, you can listen to almost any recorded sound in the world. To do so, all you have to do is lift your finger over your keyboard a few times. That’s incredibly powerful. Now, I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumors but, like Martin Gore, I also think that God has a sick sense of humor. Because if he/she/it really did send us the Internet, then he/she/it should have warned us of its terrible side effects—like how it creates a need for instant gratification—which, in turn, has made impatient fools out of many.

Case in point, disc jockeys are now seen as fleshly jukeboxes instead of curators. The reason is obvious: audiences—now greatly impertinent, undisciplined and constantly yearning for quick satisfaction—can also access a DJ’s arsenal at any place and time. That makes people approach the DJ booth with delusions of entitlement instead of curiosity. Wait, the DJ doesn’t have your favorite song? Then command that person to download it or plug in your phone because you can’t stand whatever he or she is playing now. Plus it’s your birthday and you really wanna hear that new Rihanna song.

Let’s not kid ourselves either: the world is full of bad DJs. In part, their existence can also be blamed on technology, since now any person with a handful of inexpensive gizmos can technically qualify as a DJ. Either way, who cares about DJ skills or repertoire anyway? Most DJs—good or bad—will be left alone as long as they play the hits and not some strange MP3 that came from a SoundCloud account with 10 followers.

And so, in 2014, the thrilling possibility of discovering new music at a bar or a nightclub has become rare and accidental instead of expected. When it does happen, thank the brave DJ for squeezing in one unusual song in their playlist before he or she gets harangued by restless, anxious assholes. Afterward get ready to recite that Kanye West song you’ve only heard 89 times.

Marcelo Baéz is a writer, DJ, and musician based in NYC. When he's not producing "Rico Suave" parties, he releases music under P3CULIAR.