The Age of Imitation... Has Shazam Taken Away the DJs Secret Weapon?

shazam feature

There has always been an air of secrecy amongst DJs. In the 60s, Jamaican dancehall DJs used to spin one off dubplates as a way to stay unique, and later, hip-hop DJs in the 80s would cover up the labels on the records for the same reason. For the listener, there was something special about hearing a real bomb out, then having to either wait patiently for its general release, or at the very least scour record stores just to find it. But things have changed. Today, the landscape of modern dance music is massively different in light of the ‘age of information’, with the ease of availability giving rise to an infestation of ‘chauffeur knowledge’ amongst our generation, which some fear is devoid of any real substance.

beatport shazam

Consequently, many seem frustrated with a new wave of selectors that seem to lift entire track lists from their idols top 10 charts as oppose to organically developing their own sound. 2013 saw the popular app ‘Shazam’ integrate with dance music giant Beatport, meaning users can now literally identify tracks dropped by their favourite DJs at the touch of a button, even before they get home. The crate-diggers are furious, but are apps and charts like this really that detrimental to budding DJs, or are they brilliant tools to aid and educate? Eager to delve a little deeper, I asked some of the people affected. From DJs, to label owners, to record shop workers… here’s what they had to say:


Axel Boman (DJ: Pampa/Hypercolour/Pets Recordings)


I’m basically FOR music, in every way… I don’t mind people shazaming every track I play! I do however find some weird pleasure in playing un-shazamable music (maybe its the crate digger in me).

I think the personality of the performer/DJ is the most important. Like - when Moodymann plays "7 Nation Army" its kind of cool (hey, it is from Detroit and IT IS a badass bassline!), but if Tiesto does it, well… it comes off a bit shit.

Audiojack (DJs: Gruuv, 2020 Vision, DIYnamic)


It’s fun to see people figuring them out but we’re all for sharing track IDs, unless a track isn’t out for a long time, is unsigned or we’re asked not to by its maker. A lot of the music we play is unreleased or pending release so name checking those tracks helps us and the producer see the reactions and builds interest for when the music comes out. Regardless of what it can do for us though, unless you prefer playing at home on your own DJing is a two way deal and people should be entitled to know what they’re listening to, if they’re taking the time to listen.

Dan Farserell (DJ: Act Natural/Fear Of Flying/Othertones)


I’m not necessarily for or against it, but I don't see it as a problem. I think it is a good thing that people want to know and share the tracks you are playing as a DJ. The annoying thing is when people try to become other DJs and have no identity themselves. They just play music that their favourite DJ does and that is a problem for me... although saying that, these people never become someone on the scene anyways.

Ben Rau (DJ: Fuse/Luna/Save You)


Any deeper knowledge about who made the tune and what else that Artist might have done has got to be a good for us creators. After all, I became I DJ because I like sharing the music I love and make people dance to it. On the other hand, tunes now break extremely quickly once you receive the promo. It is often less than a month until a tune is rinsed, whereas back in the day, you could play secret weapons for years! This is certainly annoying but the antidote is this - make your own music! Put in the time and make good music, share the music with a few trusted producer friends who will give you their music in return, and that way you can be fresh all the time while testing your own material, in the only place that matters: on the dance floor, I get a great deal of satisfaction of playing out music I made, and Shazam won't be able to tag any of those.

James Cotterill (DJ & Label Owner: Illusion Recordings)


I genuinely couldn't care if some one went to the effort of researching every tune I played from a DJ set and published it online. If, anything I would be flattered! I think this boils down to pure pretentiousness on the DJs part. They are happy to go share this music with the people that pay their wages, but no one’s allowed to know what the tracks are? How the hell are the producers who make the music that allow you to be a professional DJ meant to get paid, if people can't go buy the tracks because they don't know what they are? My answer is if you want to be that pretentious, don't DJ, because you are not supporting the community that supports you! And if you do want to play more sought after tunes... buy vinyl.


Silky (DJ: My Favourite Robot/OFF/Faceless)


I think it's great. At the end of the day, DJ's get promo's before they are released to see if it fits into their sets, so they can play them, and promote the release and artist… that’s the whole point of getting a promo. Music is for everyone.


Terrence:Terry (DJ: La Vie En Rose)


For me there’s no problems for sharing tracks who are already in shops or online, but off course many of us have our own special tracks from our crew and family, or secret weapons that we like to keep... and this is exactly what the people need! Stay informed, and follow your favourite artists and labels.


Simon Rigg (Phonica Records)


To be honest, Shazam isn’t THAT upfront with many forthcoming releases or new labels etc., and it doesn’t have lots of old or obscure Secret Weapons are still secret weapons!


The responses certianly raise a lot of interesting points. It seems the general concensus is that it's ultimately people buying the tracks, feeding the scene and allowing producers to dedicate all their time towards actually making more music, so to educate the crowd is surely a good thing! Those actually making something interesting will shine through, not only with their own productions but also with their track selection – meaning the art of DJing is still very much alive – the landscape has just changed. The accessibility only encourages DJs to keep their fingers on the pulse, support eachother and keep it as creative as possible! It's not over yet...


Words by James Ellis