Twice this week I have had dj gigs where I've played with Serato on internal mode, meaning no physical decks, just the laptop & mixer. I do just fine like this; in fact, Thursday I played for about four hours this way without a hitch.
It reminded me of a discussion I had with my friend Scott Weber, a.k.a. Line 47, last year at an art opening dj gig. As you can sort of tell from the picture at the right, he was not using turntables or cd decks; rather he was using Ableton Live. Scott dismissed his performance by saying he was "not dj-ing". In the etymological sense of a "disc jockey", no, there were no discs to be jockeyed.
Now, of course Scott was exaggerating the point to be self-deprecating, but he hit on something I've thought about quite a few times since purchasing Serato: Does spinning mp3s preclude one from being a "real" dj? What is a "real" dj?
Frankly, I'm not too stressed about whether any given person considers me a "real" dj, but I remember a friend in a prominent dj crew agonizing over whether to get Serato himself, for that very reason.
It comes down to this: everyone has a "dj line". On one end, which for lack of a better term I call "dj conservative" (that term being a construct similar to "social conservative" or "fiscal conservative"), we have someone who is not only anti-mp3, but also anti-cd.* On the other end of the spectrum is the "dj liberal", the person who has no (or at least few) rules about what, technologically speaking, constitutes "real" dj-ing.
Personally, I'm near the extreme liberal end of this scale, though perhaps not all the way -- I have seen dj's using Winamp and I-Tunes, and at times this has rather annoyed me. But for the most part, I say, use whatever. Technology will always make its way into any area, so we might as well use it.
In the end, it's about what you're doing as a dj. If you're rocking the party, with a room full of people dancing, then it doesn't matter what you're using to do it, even if it's (*gulp*) Winamp. Line 47 always kills it with Ableton, as does DJ Shiva (though I've seen her do a great set with decks as well), not to mention Love Between Equals. Purists can be purists if they like, and hey, if they're rocking the party, more power to them.
Feel free to share your opinions as well! Hit up the comments, especially if you can think of better terms than "dj conservative" and "dj liberal".
*In fact, I think I remember seeing a dj mix once with liner notes in which the artist claimed to have mixed only legit releases of records, by exclusion decrying the use of Ultimate Breaks & Beats-style compilations. This guy, whoever he was, would be a "dj conservative".
UPDATE: There was some lively discussion in the Facebook version of this blog entry. I'm unsure how public it is, so feel free to leave a comment here if you have anything to add.