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Why are 9-year-olds DJing at festivals?

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CBS News recently ran a story on John Anthony: the nine-year-old DJ who performed at Sunset Music Festival in Tampa last week. In light of the segment, we can’t help but ask the question: why are 9-year-olds DJing at festivals in the first place?

The title for the CBSN video reads, “Nine-year-old DJ taking the dance music world by storm.” We certainly use our fair share of hyperbole when talking about artists like Carl Cox or Eric Prydz — there’s no doubt about it — but mind you, these are DJs who have been perfecting their craft for over two decades. The caption for the video goes farther, referring to him as “one of the biggest, and youngest sensations to hit the electronic dance scene.”

Now I’m not trying to dismiss the abilities of young John or derail any dreams here, but isn’t this a bit much? Has electronic music become so watered down that a nine-year-old with a bit of training can perform on the main stage of a festival? Let alone share that stage with Skrillex and Tiësto?

It feels a bit absurd, but then again, people are entitled to see what they want to see. For all we know, young John Anthony could be a nine-year-old mixing prodigy. In fact, from the short video clip, he even appears to have some semblance of mixing technique.

Ultimately though, it’s hard not to get a bit glum about these things. DJing once felt like a sacred art reserved for those who had dedicated years of their time to perfecting the craft. There was mystery to it: wonder evoked by unidentifiable records and innovative techniques. Not to say these things have been lost completely — just go catch a Damian Lazarus or Âme set for evidence — but it just feels as though it’s been severely cheapened in the eyes of the public. With rampant suspicion of pre-recorded sets (much of it warranted, yes) and the never-ending cast of celebrity DJs, the art form seems to have been buried beneath substance-less performances and overnight entertainers.

John Anthony isn’t the first of his kind, and he certainly won’t be the last — and honestly, the kid deserves no blame or malice. He’s just a nine-year-old kid immersed in his dreams. The real issue is once much larger, hinging on the artificiality inherent in our beloved scene… but that’s a topic for another day.

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