Simon Cowell’s latest eighteen-carat brain fart, an as-yet-untitled X-Factor for DJs, promises to thrust DJ culture further than ever down the snapping maws of a tween populace old enough to sense the imminent delights of consumer gluttony, but young enough to be free of the cloying shackles of cynicism. Ever happy to gorge himself on the emerging appetites of the young, Cowell evidently reasons that there’s a vast untapped market in clubbing the dancefloor scene into step with his lucrative programming format. There’s gold in them thar hills.
He’s probably right, too. Say what you want about our Mr Cowell, the man knows how to make blockbuster TV. The problem with this – well, one problem with this – is that while X-Factor’s diversity of performance is something you could watch with your grandma, one that hones in on a dynamic modern subculture, even one as broad as the DJ’s domain, is limited to an audience more accustomed to getting its musical fix online than on the TV. Hell, between digital broadcasting and live and on-demand streaming services, the whole concept of TV is morphing into something new and exotic. Something more like the internet.
Maybe Cowell’s genius is all a matter of timing. TV’s not dead yet, by any means, and of all trending human activities, DJ culture is one that’s plumed down from the rarefied to the commonplace with especial agility, ubiquity and endurance. And what with DJs being the new rock stars, there’s no shortage of undiscovered, photogenic talent out there just gagging for a chance at their fifteen minutes of fame.
But here’s the thing about your fifteen minutes of fame: it only lasts fifteen minutes. How many songs can you name that charted more than two years after the season of Idol in which the artist, and I use the word with tongue firmly in cheek, appeared? The ones with any staying power are (generally) genuinely talented, and so can neatly sidestep this crusty old idea that there’s some value to be had in learning the hard way, in striving for excellence, in playing 350 shows a year and knowing your industry as well as you know your craft. In paying your dues.
DJs are no different. Maybe once upon a time, when the concept of stardom wasn’t even on the same map as our career paths, but today we (and, thank the gods for Simon Cowell, our tweens) know better. It’s a big world out there, and there are so many obstacles to getting known. If only I had a chance to get in front of the kingmakers and show them what I could do, maybe I could be the unconquerable DJ Season 2, headlining at under eighteens parties across the nation in the coveted 8.00 to 8.30pm slot, simulcast live into the bedrooms of my screaming fans. After all, we’re all capable of something amazing, right? We just need one shot at the big time.
We all just need one shot.