Friday, April 27, 2012

I am an Open Format DJ! What is Open Format?

Whenever I get a call or e-mail from a prospective club owner or promoter to play at one of their events, I always ask them what the music format is that they are looking for.  Sometimes I am asked why I go through this step and I explain that I play a wide variety of music formats.  For example, for many years when Hip-Hop was fashionable I was focusing mainly on that genre.  I even had radio mix-shows in various cities that catered that that music format.  As the music scene gradually evolved to more pop, uptempo dance music, and House, I adapted my focus on that genre and style of music.  

Being exposed to music from various eras (70s, 80s, 90s, 00s) and genres (Hip-Hop, House, Dubstep, etc) has provided me a wide range of knowledge on how those beats work with each other and has given me the opportunity to work with those genres for both radio mix-show and club gigs.  

Open Format literally means being open to any and all formats of music.  An Open Format DJ will play what seems like a random selection of songs from different genres and eras and blend them together in a cohesive way that sound great and keep the dancers on the dance-floor interested.

One way I try to bridge the gap between these different music styles is producing my own Mashups.  By arranging samples from different songs and mixing them in a way that sounds great for a dancefloor I am able to accomplish a few goals.

  1. Make the original song sound more interesting for the audience while still maintaining an element of familiarity.
  2. Rejuvenate older elements from past songs that would normally not be used as a track during the night.
  3. Give the song my own personal touch that is unique to all the rest.

As an Open Format DJ, I have the freedom to pick and choose songs from different genres, tempos,  and eras and program them in a way that sounds great for the dance floor.  If the club owner or promoter is looking for a DJ to spin House or R&B, an Open Format DJ can successfully play those genres and still introduce elements from other genres to spice things up. 

What I enjoy about playing an open format is the challenge of working with different songs and keeping the guests on the dance floor entertained.  I personally know I would get bored if I just played strictly one genre and played every song as is.  I love being able to get creative with the songs I'm working with and also hearing other DJs doing the same.  If done well, it can really provide an entertaining and exciting atmosphere.

If you are a DJ and are interested in broadening your horizons and diversifying your music repertoire, the best bet is to expose yourself to as much music as possible.  Exposure to music usually happens over time so don't feel pressure if you are not knowledgeable in every style of dance music.  Time is your best friend when it comes to expanding your musical knowledge.  The important thing to remember is to be open to what's out there.  Some songs I may not ever play at a club, but I may borrow the bassline, melody, hook from that song and use it in another track that is popular at the club.  By doing so you can really make an impression at your gigs.

Here are some examples of tracks that I've mashed up using elements from various eras and genres.

Elements used: 

  1. Genairo Nvilla - Al"Liv"N (Original Mix) - Backing track I House I 2011
  2. Far East Movment - Like a G6 - Acapella I Pop I 2010
  3. Dire Straits - Money for Nothing - Guitar riff I Rock I 1985
  4. Liquid Stranger - Ripple I Dubstep I 2010

Far East Movement, Dire Straits, Skrillex, Liquid Stranger - Like a G6 (Club-Dubstep Mashup) from DJ Mario Santiago on Vimeo.

Elements used:
  1. Enrique Iglesias ft. Pitbull - I like how it feels - Primary track I Mainstream Dance I 2011
  2. The Rolling Stones - I can't get no satisfaction - Tambourine, Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Acoustic guitar, Lead vocal I Rock I 1965


  1. How does this mashup'ing work out legally?

  2. The legal treatment for mashups is tricky. For example, I can create a mashup and play it out at a club or use it in a radio mix-show without any fear of legal action from the rights holder. However, I cannot sell my mashup without first getting permission from rights holders and clearing the samples used. Because of this most mashups are just unofficial remixes that are used for private use.

  3. Interesting - for sure your mashups are cool and they really blend in well for sure a FAN :)

  4. Yes keep up the good work :)

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  7. Thank you for this informative blog post! It gave me a lot of insight into mashups, and even into myself. I have always been very eclectic, and sometimes have a hard time deciding how to fit my songs into the correct genres. This opened my eyes to an alternative way to market myself and I really appreciate that! May I ask how successful you are in booking gigs, events, etc?

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  9. Two words, Loved it! I love to mix things up and it's true, it keeps the crowd on their toes.

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