MUSEUM MONTHLY: Live Indie – A DJ’s Journey Away From Top 40



For many commercial DJs I know, the new Top 40 being released has become unbearable and even non-existent. After the explosion of EDM in the mainstream, music has seen a massive separation of styles. For most of the 6 years I’ve been djing commercial clubs, there has always been a median in the music that was represented, something to ‘warm up’ the crowd to the big electro I’ve always aimed to play. 128bpm dance/pop music anthems like Scream or Die Young, uptempo songs without 32 bar electronic drops, just don’t seem to exist. Artists and fans alike seem to have either intensely embraced the EDM influence of mainstream music, or completely rejected it and moved back towards a slow, un-energetic rhythm. A commercial DJ’s job is to find a median on the dancefloor and try to satisfy everyone. Generally a night has consisted of opening with Old School Hip Hop and Classic tunes and then warming the crowd up by moving on to some of the less abrasive dance/pop to bringing the hard stuff once they’re drunk and rowdy. When you try to follow that format, but lack the warm up music, you end up having to lead off (far too early in the night) with elating melodic anthems like Wake Me Up and I Need Your Love or big dirty bass tracks like Work Bitch, that results in you driving the other end of the spectrum away. (If even Britney is on this, who’s left making pop? I even had to turn this off at a Corporate Event. Yes, Britney’s music was too risky.)

The problem with the other side of the floor is that the hip hop tracks that are being released now are very low energy. The disjointed slow jams like Drunk In Love and Hold On We’re Going Home are being requested (sometimes violently) at 1am. Having to drop down your tempo completely to go for these songs is frustrating, because you lose the other half of the crowd that was so amped up they’ve been requesting Tiesto since midnight. We thought the popularity of Get Lucky and Blurred Lines would have inspired a new mid tempo sound, but there isn’t enough of it to support the ‘warm up’ needed, especially on a long, cold, winter night.

So what are we left with? I just started playing the Old School and Classics further into the night, so the portion where I needed the ‘warm up’ dance songs was smaller and I could fill it with older pop anthems without people feeling like I’m stuck behind the times. This, of course, resulted in feeling like I was stuck further behind the times, as there is only so many times you can play Biggie in a night. By the time I was coming down to my final hour, I was so lost and frustrated by what to play, I would just lose all feeling for the music and the crowd.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had a time where I felt passionately about any newer commercial music, although I’ve cherised it for it’s dancefloor fun, and my ability to get a paycheck. But this had also left me devoid of something to listen to on my own time, that had come out after 1976. For years and years I’ve added almost nothing to my personal playlist. Until just over a year ago..

Etro and I, planning our first vacation together with our video camera, headed off to Turkey to film our first travel video. The biggest concern we had before we departed was, what music would we set it to? Obviously it had to be something that inspired us, so we started downloading indie/folk/pop music. Instantly becoming addicted to the sound, we cruised through many artists, and began to compile massive lists of incredible songs, so we’re going to share a few of them with you. One of the greatest things we found that engulfed us in the music was watching these artists perform live. So, for each song I post I’m going to post a live version – something that is pretty much unheard of in today’s commercial music industry. Click on the song title to access a recorded version/official video of each song.

Stubborn Love – The Lumineers (2012)

Dirty Paws – Of Monsters & Men (2012)

Man On Fire – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (2012)

Another Story – The Head & The Heart (2013)

Wherever You Wanna Go – Aunt Martha (2011)

Here is a mix we did of a bunch of awesome Indie tunes combined with tons of beats, loops & acapellas. 145 tracks in 45 mins and NO EDM OR TOP 40.

And if you want MORE INDIE you can check out a couple playlists we previously compiled on with tons more tunes.



While we know all of these aren’t current, we’ve finally started developing the proper channels to seek out new and amazing Indie music. So if you enjoyed this, check out things like Music Map, Live on KEXP,, and, or stay tuned for more.

So incase you’re wondering why I went on the DJ rant at the start a) it was to get you to listen to the music and I’ve found that ranting works, and b) it has impacted the music I’ve been playing. The result was starting an Indie and Oldies night at Picnic Wine Bar in Toronto, and beginning my Friday nights at The Raq at 10pm with Indie Hour. On those commercial nights, instead of becoming stressed about what to play as the night progresses, the indie music has fulfilled those opening hour with quality tunes, and pushes everything else back to make up for the current lack of Top 40.