The term DJ traditionally stands for “Disc Jokey”. However, I quite like the Jamaican meaning for “Deejay” - a person who verbalises with music - as that is essentially what a DJ does. They communicate music, through their collaboration and presentation of different tracks and styles.
I’m sure DJs who understand the craft, sneer at the act of audience ‘requests’ that treats them like IPODs or jukeboxes. However, requests are a simple part of DJing, for all players, perhaps because the social understanding of DJing is ill-equipped.
Some strongly argue that DJs should be called artists along with musicians, composers, painters, and photographers. The argument here, is that DJs use their skills and preferred medium (vinyl, compact discs, computer media files..etc.) to bring about emotions in people. Artists are so, because they do this by capturing a unique item or moment in time, and then make it available for people to experience.
The 'mixing’ element of DJing is arguably a mechanical process, which involves a simple switch of the audio mixer’s cross fader. On the other hand, the fundamental element - song selection - is more complex. DJs create a mixset by picking a number of songs which will not only fit together, but take the listener on a musical journey. The song selection conjures emotion and behaviour through different styles, keys, tonalities, and tempos. A live DJ uses their interaction with the audience, to feed them the most desired journey. Essentially, a DJ is like a music filter. In this sense, the DJ is most like a photographer - purposefully selecting random pieces of life with a particular goal, and presenting them in a piece.
In a further artistic sense, the DJ manipulates expressive functions such as delay, reverb octave, equaliser, and subharmonic synth effect. And of course, turntablism possesses its own expressive control in cutting, beat juggling, scratching, needle drops, phase shifting, and back spinning. However, it can be argued that the turntable is used more as a musical instrument than a tool for blending recorded music.
What is obvious, is that DJing relies heavily on innovation and technology. Beatmatching, harmonic mixing, and phrasing techniques, are two examples of the role technological advancements play in the DJing craft.
Secondly, I think it should be argued that the artistry of any DJ, musician or photographer alike lays in their ability to attain creativity, not simply effectuate the act itself.
In fact, non-amateur DJing requires hard work, finding and understanding your true audience, practising your skills, and developing creativity. The creative DJ is useful or solves problems; is innovative or generates other ideas or things; or influences the way people think, look at, do, or listen to music and entertainment. Across the board, there is factor in common; the most prominent successful and popular DJs are passionate - they perform their art with passion and conviction.