What is the difference between a music producer and a DJ?

What is the difference between a music producer and a DJ?
Written by: Dexxter Clark
A DJ makes music, right?
And when he is in a club he makes music on the spot, right?
no and no.

A DJ plays music that others (or himself) produced before the DJ gig.
The Music producer is the person who makes the music so a DJ can play it.
For Example:
When I’m operating the cd player on a party of my friend and play “Madonna - Like a prayer”, I am the DJ.

When I am Madonna (or collaborated with her), I am the producer.

(I am aware that I’m oversimplifying things here, but it’s just to make a point).

Where the confusion comes in is when a DJ also produces his own music.
And since 95% of the famous DJs distribute music under their DJ name, everybody assumes that that always is the same person.

That can be, but doesn’t have to be the case.

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To clarify what a DJ does.

A DJ tries to make a smooth transition between one song and the other.

If the DJ does his job right, people won’t even notice that the DJ ‘pasted’ 10,20,30 songs together.

A DJ can only manipulate a song and make a (fluent) transition.

In other words, a DJ needs to have existing songs to work with.

A performing DJ can (depending on the equipment):
influence the volume influence the low/mid or high frequencies influence the key of a song influence the speed of a song influence the order of parts of a song (digital only) mix in prerecorded sound effects like a bass drop, horn, riser etc scratch making a basic beat from scratch with a drum computer do a basic mashup, like playing a vocal over an existing song use effects like echo, delay, reverb etc.
But a performing DJ can not: make a song from scratch

more music producer confusion

To make matters even more confusing, there is a grey area.

There are DJs that indeed make a song ‘live’. They have a program like Ableton Live in which they have prepared little pieces of a song in advance and can combine them on-the-fly (and even play an instrument on top of that) to create a song (or multiple songs).

He can hape a song tailored to the needs of the audience.

In the 70’s and 80’s DJs where only DJs and music producers, only music producers.
But that started to shift in the 90’s when it was easier to make music with computers and DJs also started also to produce music.

Nowadays, most DJs produce music and a lot of producers DJ behind the decks.
And it has even gotten to the point where you have to produce music in order to get DJ gigs.

If you are serious about DJing and want to take it to the next level on the CDJ,
you should check out my CDJ 2000 video course.

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photo author dexxter clark
Dexxter Clark
Music Producer / YouTuber

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