In 2008, the International DJ Trade Association was founded. It claims to be "an advocacy group for the DJ industry on a range of public policy and rights issues. The association is especially committed to improving the understanding, respect, and compensation for the role of the DJ in the entertainment industry and being a powerful, unified voice on behalf of DJ’s rights." That all sounds good to me.
We often hear of hip-hop containing four central areas of expression: emceeing, DJing, break dancing, and graffiti. It only seems logical that these four pillars have a voice in our government. The artists are well represented, but the DJs, many of whom work closely with artists are often left without representation. It seems that the only way a DJ might have a voice inside the political machine is if they are a member of another artistic association: ASCAP or AFM for example.
The IDJTA doesn't have much going on on its website, but it looks like there's a solid foundation for success. It will be interesting to see what legislative priorities the group will come out with. It will also be interesting to see if they engage in the sort of advocacy that, like it or not, maters in Washington, DC -- writing letters to Members of Congress, making phone calls, getting to know key legislative staffers, publishing op-eds and letters to the editor in response to stories that affect the DJ's craft.
It's great to bring together like-minded people and discuss policy, passion, and politics, but it's another thing to have an effective lobbying group that influences legislation, regulatory policy, and others. Will we see IDJTA reach out to ASCAP or AFM? Will we see something like the Davis-Bacon Act (prevailing wage requirements) passed for DJs? Will collective bargaining be next?
It seems that a union might actually run counter to much of what DJs do. The organization and rules of a union stand in stark contrast to the mashing, remixing, and recreating DJs engage in. Is the very idea of a union antithetical to the art of DJing? It's also unlikely that IDJTA will be able to recruit many DJs. I don't know too many DJs that can find the time to worry about legislative priorities, dues, or board meetings when they're trying their best to schedule new work, finish a mixtape, and potentially even work a day job.
The IDJTA plans to offer health plans and even legal representation when membership goals are met. That's a great idea considering most DJs do not work for corporations with health benefits. Spinning in smoke-filled clubs and house parties, being out all night, and the all too common alcoholic drink can take a toll on the body. As we've seen on this blog, legal issues abound in hip-hop and it would be powerful if DJs had a way to counter hegemonic copyright forces.
Well intentioned? Yes.
Politically powerful? No.
Something to look for in 2009? Absolutely.