A disc jockey (also called DJ, or deejay) is an individual who selects and mixes prerecorded music for an intended audience. The term was first used to describe radio announcers who would introduce and play popular gramophone records. These records, also called discs by those in the industry were jockeyed by the radio announcers, hence the name disc jockey and soon to be known as DJs or deejays. Today there are a number of factors, including the selected music, the intended audience, the performance setting, the preferred medium, and the development of sound manipulation, that have led to different types of deejays.

The physical act of selecting and playing sound recordings is called deejaying, or DJing, and ranges in sophistication from simply playing a series of recordings (referred to as programming, or composing a playlist), to the manipulating of recordings, using techniques such as audio mixing, cueing, phrasing, cutting, scratching, and beatmatching, often to the point of creating original musical compositions. It should be noted that the term "DJ" in Jamaican dancehall culture refers to the performer who inserts live ad lib raps or "toasts" over dub instrumental recordings played by the "selector", here described as a "DJ".

There are several techniques that can be applied by the disc jockey as a means to manipulate the prerecorded music. These include audio mixing, cueing, slip-cueing, phrasing, cutting, beat juggling, scratching, beatmatching, needle drops, phase shifting, and more.

By definition, the role of selecting and playing prerecorded music for an intended audience is the same for every disc jockey. The selected music, the audience, the setting, the preferred medium, and the level of sophistication of sound manipulation are factors that create a number of different types of deejays. The following is a list of the most common types of disc jockeys -

Radio DJs

A radio disc jockey is one that selects and plays music that is broadcast across radio waves.

Bedroom DJs

A person who owns DJing equipment (ie. turntables, mixer, CDJ, etc.) and has a passion for music, but doesn't play out to crowds at bars or special events (ie. raves). Instead, they opt to play their music at home for their friends, record mixtapes or over the internet via audio broadcasting software, such as shoutcast.

Club/Rave DJs

A club/rave disc jockey is one that selects and plays music in a club setting. The setting can range anywhere from a small club, a neighborhood party, a disco, a rave, or even a stadium.

Hip Hop DJs

A hip hop disc jockey is one that selects, plays and creates music as a hip hop artist and/or performer, often backing up one or more MCs.

Mobile DJs

Mobile disc jockeys are an extension of the original radio disc jockeys. Unlike their radio counterparts, mobile DJing is primarily seen as a part-time or second career. Although it is often perceived this way, there are many mobile DJs around the world that use this as their primary career.

Mobile DJs travel or tour with their own sound systems and play from an extensive collection of pre-recorded music, on various media, for a targeted audience. Mobile DJs tend to work for hire at private functions such as wedding receptions, bar and bat mitzvah receptions, school dances, and so on, but they can occasionally be seen in bars, nightclubs, or even block parties. Unlike many club/rave DJs, mobile DJs often play more mainstream selections of music from multiple genres and they often take requests.

The definition and responsibilities of a mobile disc jockey have changed since Bob Casey's first two-turntable system for continuous playback was utilized for sock-hops in 1955. Bands had long dominated the wedding entertainment industry, but with the advent of the less expensive mobile DJ, the demand for live performers dwindled. Even so, in the early years, the mobile DJ industry was seen as a last-resort choice for entertainment, as the DJs were reputed to frequently be unreliable and unprofessional. Mobile DJs companies came and went. However, a few companies of this era did establish themselves as competent businesses and thrived; some even still exist today.

During the Disco era of the 1970s, demand for mobile DJs (called mobile discos in the UK) soared. Top mobile DJs in this era would have hundreds of vinyl records and/or cassette tapes to play from. The equipment used in this era was enormous and usually required roadies (similar to those who work for bands) to set up. Because of the high demand for mobile DJs, many people from all facets of life jumped into the industry, hoping to make a few extra dollars on the weekends. These "Weekend Warriors", as they are called by many, helped enhance the negative stereotype of the mobile DJ; many of the same complaints from the earlier era continued.

Some tried to improve this image by forming professional associations. The Canadian Disc Jockey Association (CDJA) was one of the original associations formed in 1976 as a not-for-profit trade association for disc jockeys across Canada. It was joined by a much broader online association called the Canadian Online Disc Jockey Association (CODJA), founded by Canadian mobile DJs Glenn Miller (not the famous bandleader) and Dennis Hampson.

United States Disc Jockeys were reluctant to form anything similar until 1992 when the American Disc Jockey Association (ADJA) was incorporated. The original Board of Directors were Bruce Keslar, Maureen Keslar, John Roberts, and Lori Jesse. In 1996, after being removed from the ADJA Board from a financial dispute, Keslar then went on to form the for-profit National Association of Mobile Entertainers (NAME), based in the Philadelphia area. Both associations thrive today, with an estimated 5,000 members combined as of November 2005.

As the late 1980s turned into the 1990s, new technologies emerged. Compact disc collections were becoming the standard to play music from. Many equipment manufacturers realized the potential market that existed for mobile DJs and raced to make equipment that was smaller, easier to use, and of better quality. Dedicated mobile disc jockey trade publications such as DJ Times magazine and Mobile Beat magazine were founded in this era. These publications helped to spread the word about the emerging technologies and published informational articles that were helpful to the mobile disc jockey. This is also the era when mobile disc jockeys became the top entertainment choice for most private parties including wedding receptions.

In the mid-1990s, computers and the Internet had a profound impact on the mobile DJ industry. Professor Jam, a Tampa Bay, Florida disc jockey already known in the industry for having performed for many celebrities and television networks, became one of the first mobile DJs in the United States to regularly use computer technology to play music at his shows, and was the first professionally endorsed computer disc jockey internationally. CODJA cofounder Glenn Miller became the first licensed MP3 DJ under new music licensing agreement that was introduced to Canada in 2000 by the AVLA, and had already pioneered online networking for mobile disc jockeys by starting the first bulletin board system for mobile DJs from all over North America (and eventually the world).[1]

In the 21st Century, the role of the mobile disc jockey has expanded. While there are still many conventional, "human jukebox" mobile DJs, many others have assumed more reponsibilities to ensure the success of the events where they perform. These responsibilities include emceeing, event coordination, lighting direction, and sound engineering.

The number of resources available for mobile DJs has also expanded. Aside from the many online community forums, there are now annual conventions, regional conferences, and many local seminars for mobile disc jockeys to attend.

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