DJ discusses music industry

World-renowned DJ and producer Markus Schulz shed light on developments in the house music scene in the United States and Europe at a Master’s Tea Thursday.

Schulz spoke to roughly 50 students about how he cultivated his interest in DJing and entered the world of professional music production. As he explored recent changes in the world of house music — a subset of electronic dance music that is often performed in nightclubs — Schulz touched on issues ranging from the technicalities of music production to piracy and illegal downloading.

Schulz said his interest in electronic music began at an early age. Growing up as an adopted child in Germany, Schulz said he listened to radio DJs, traded mixtapes of their music with his friends, and would often “listen to the different sounds and try to analyze them.” Though he did not know where his initial interest in DJing came from, Schulz said he was surprised when he met his biological father five years ago and learned that he had also been a radio DJ.

“We had been living parallel lives in the world of electronic music,” Schulz said.

With a strong interest in DJing but few technical skills for the job, Schulz said he joined a music academy for two weeks before deciding to explore music in the real world instead. Schulz said he started trying to DJ with two turntables he acquired at a pawn shop, adding that he had a knack for knowing “where the song must go and where it needs to release itself.”

Schulz said he is unimpressed by the latest technologies crowding the market of sound mixing. He said he prefers more retro, traditional styles of DJing with CDs and rarely uses his computer at concerts and performances.

“I don’t want technology to consume me and my music,” Schulz said. “The song has to be allowed to breathe.”

As he discussed the technicalities of sound mixing and music production, Schulz expressed concern about perceptions of rave culture and drug usage that often accompany electronic music concerts, particularly in the United States. Though electronic music is changing because of this image, Schulz emphasized that the genre should not be associated with drugs and partying.

Schulz said he prefers playing at clubs where his set can continue for hours, allowing the music to build over the course of the night.

“I like to be about the party, not to just go for my music and get off the stage,” he said.

At festivals, on the other hand, Schulz said DJs are typically given one hour to perform and must play at a “high frequency” to keep large crowds excited.

Whether at festivals or in concerts, Schulz said the performance element of DJing is essential for house music.

“The performance has to be a Broadway production,” he said. “While I produce a song, I am also conscious of how it will translate to a performance on a live stage with lightning and theatrics.”

Schulz said there has recently been increased interest in house and dance music in the United States, attributing this change to the music festivals that have introduced people to the genre. At the same time, he said the popularity of mainstream house music has declined in Europe.

Toward the end of his talk, Schulz discussed music piracy. Rather than expressing dismay about music theft, Schulz said he believes illegal downloads have contributed to the rise of house music in America. He added that music and Internet-based companies are adapting their business models to ensure that musicians and producers get their dues, citing how YouTube pays royalty to musicians.

Five attendees interviewed said they found Schulz’s talk engaging, as he took questions throughout the conversation.

Amelie Peisl ’12 said that Schulz had always been her favorite DJ and she was glad to have an opportunity to hear him speak.

“I am only a newcomer into the industry of music, and learned a lot from his talk about technicalities and inspiration today,” she said.

Schulz was ranked the world’s eighth-best DJ in a 2011 edition of DJ Magazine.

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