Its that time of year again when all manner of publications scramble to collate their definitive end of year charts. As always amongst this melee of differing opinions DJ Mag and Resident Advisor offer up their annual ‘Top 100 DJ’ polls. For the last few years these polls have passed with the relative certainty that the same Dutch behemoths will dominate DJ Mags top ten and that the same 5-6 global (never likely to be seen in your local club) names dominate Resident Advisor’s list. For us we have always read them without dwelling too much on the validity of their content, I guess partly due to the fact the same names crop up every year with excepted certainty, and therefore we have never felt compelled to raise too many questions, until……….enter David Guetta, 2011.
In October 2011 DJ Mag announced, that via popular vote David Guetta was the No.1 DJ in the world, instantly polarising opinion amongst fans, critics and fellow peers. In the main it seemed that if you were a casual electronic listener you were fairly content with the result, but for those of us who like to think we take our music more seriously this outcome was seen as a travesty. Twitter was awash with tweets of who was better, why he shouldn’t of won, what a joke the list was, and so on. The recriminations were endless. But are we all missing the point?
So with the DJ Poll fires fully stoked it was with considerable anticipation that people awaited Resident Advisors results, perhaps hoping that their more forward thinking and underground stance would deliver a more favourable result. However despite a list that boasted the likes of Ben UFO, Joy Orbison, Four Tet, Scuba, Julio Bashmore etc the eventual winner Jamie Jones was on the whole not well received, with one reader commenting ‘Jamie who’.
In general the complaints for both polls seem to centre on the same issues, ‘it doesn’t represent the best DJ’, and it’s just a virally marketed popularity contest. In truth it doesn’t represent the Best DJ, but this hasn’t been the case since perhaps the mid 90’s when a DJ could be just a DJ. These days DJs need more (see our article DJ vs. Producer). Therefore this is not a valid complaint, it may be called a DJ Poll but in reality these polls are attempting to identify the biggest names within DJ culture as apposed to the most technically gifted. So what about it being ‘Just’ a popularity contest? Well of course it is, it stands to reason that in an age where people can simply ‘like’ or ‘follow’ their favourite artists that those with the biggest followings or have been most active in the year are likely to feature higher in the list. Furthermore to win such an award you appeal needs to be fairly broad, and therefore its no surprise David Guetta won when you consider he has nearly 3 million twitter followers and 25 million Facebook fans, and that Jamie Jones won with a sound that both appealed to the underground and more commercially minded in a house resurgent market.
Overall the arguments against the validity of DJ Polls are fairly compelling but overall not valid. They are never going to please everyone and it shouldn’t be a surprise that those topping the lists are those who have been most visible during the year and consequently most popular. However there is room to perhaps reconsider the criteria for being included in the DJ Mag poll. For example are artists like David Guetta now more of a Pop act than a DJ? We would lean towards the former suggesting that perhaps the format should be a comprehensive list of names chosen by a panel of experts from which you can choose your top 5.
All arguments aside David Guetta’s victory has certainly added a bit of spice and debate to what had become an annual procession of the same old names, and for that reason alone DJ Polls are a welcome yearly distraction.