Performance expertise of DJs in the club-context

Alexander Förstel, Hauke Egermann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Bacjground Recent theories on musical interaction propose a close, inherent relationship between music and body movements both within the performer and the recipient. This interconnection is especially strong in the club context, where danceable music with pronounced rhythmics is played by DJs and electronic live performers. Aims We want to investigate which movements occur during a DJ performance, and whether these movements differ according to the degree of expertise of the performer. Further, we are interested in which (stereotypical) movements are used by DJs to interact with their audiences. Method An explorative video content analysis of a popular Youtube channel regularly publishing professional DJ performances (BoilerRoom) was conducted, including the most viewed prototypical performances from 8 different DJs. Additionally, 6 semi-professional DJs were invited to record video data during an actual performance in front of an audience. For both groups, we analysed the amout of time spent with operating the equipment, with dancing and with gestures, by developing descriptive categories. Additionally, we looked for specific individual characteristics within the performances. Results The video analysis revealed that professional DJs dance much more than the semi-professionals, show largely idiosyncratic behaviour and vary in their gestural expressiveness. Some professional DJs frequently use expansive gestures to address the audience (e.g. fist pumps, raised arms), whereas this does not occur in the semi-professional group. Beyond that, professionals spend more time operating the mixer and less time operating the players than semi-professionals. Conclusions We conclude that professional DJs have developed a distinct ���performance expertise``, allowing them to set the energy level and to lead a crowd through the evening, whereas semi-professional DJs seem to react in a more passive way to the overall situation. Additionally, professional DJs operate their equipment almost continuously, often beyond the mere creation of a smooth transition to the next track endeavoured in semi-professional performances. Consequently, we argue that classical musical concepts such as improvisation and interpretation could also be applied to the work of a DJ.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEscom Manchester 2015
Subtitle of host publicationNinth Triennial Conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music, Programme and abstracts
EditorsJane Ginsborg, Alexandra Lamont, Stephanie Bramley
Place of PublicationManchester
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Club Culture,DJ,Gesture,Interaction,New Musical Interfaces,Video Analysis

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