The cult of superstar DJ, after turning a handful of artists into the closest thing to a rock star the dance world has, seemingly has disappeared from the lexicon of the trend-obsessed music press. As progressive house titan Sasha laughs, "We're not flavor of the month. The honeymoon period is over."
Sasha can joke about it because, unbeknownst to mainstream journalists, big-name DJs such as himself, Paul Oakenfold, Tiesto, and a handful of others are more popular than ever in clubland. The proof isn't in electronic music's declining record sales, a symptom of a larger industry trend, but in the nightclubs and festivals the DJs continue to pack with fans. These large turnouts are a testament not only to their perennial staying power but to the widespread appeal of electronic music, which is now being felt in areas far removed from its origins. The commercialization has had a dual effect: keeping the genre viable while giving DJs other ways (producing film and video game soundtracks, running independent labels and publishing companies, etc.) to express themselves, a particularly attractive option once the novelty of staying up all night and spinning records has worn off.
For example, at the Microsoft Summit in Seattle last February, Sandra Collins gave executives advice on their pending music ventures. She offered insights on trends, what attracts a younger audience, and the needs of the tech-savvy generation. "It's a broad thing," she says of her DJing experience. "I can give the knowledge to a company, help them move along with technology, or create an idea."
Other superstar DJs aren't all about self-promotion. Paul Van Dyk makes use of his fame by getting involved in good works for children, such as the Indian nonprofit organization Akanksha, and supporting the Rock the Vote registration campaign, for which he has embarked on a national tour. "When I traveled [around the world]," he says, "I realized that if you want to change something, if you want to make this world better, you have to do it yourself."
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Sasha, Sandra Collins, and Paul Van Dyk perform on Saturday, March 6, at Bayfront Park. Sasha performs on Saturday, March 6, at Mansion. Sandra Collins performs on Tuesday, March 9, at Space 34. Paul Van Dyk performs on Friday, March 5, at Space 34. See listings for more info.