The cult of the celebrity DJs

Celebrities on the decks reached a nadir with Paris Hilton's festival debut. Alison King offers some advice to the VIP wannabes

When Paris Hilton made her DJ-ing debut with an hour-long set at a festival in Sao Paolo earlier this summer, it was a disaster. Wearing diamond-studded headphones, waving a flag and pointing her finger in the air, she looked crushingly out of her depth. What began with pitch issues during a mash-up of Avicii's "Levels" and Gotye's "Somebody I Used to Know" continued with her accidentally playing Rihanna's "We Found Love" having introduced a different track. When she finally touch ed the controllers, a sound-man was forced to come on stage to adjust the sound and correct her errors.

Talking about her performance, Hilton told Digital Spy: "Being a DJ you get to create the party and bring happiness to so many people with your music. For me this is something I am very excited about."

She was, predictably, slammed by critics. deadmau5 called her set apocalyptic on Twitter: "To be fair the Mayans saw this sh** coming." Jens Moelle of Digitalism called it "a slap in the face". Even Hilton's ex-boyfriend, the DJ and producer Afrojack, said on SiriusXM radio: "Everyone should do what makes them happy for the right reasons. Being a DJ is hard work. It's not just about pressing 'play'", He added that her set was pre-recorded. It is clear that Hilton's sudden foray into Dj-ing was partly due to Afrojack's influence, but if celebrities can't DJ, why do so many try to wing it?

The celebrity DJ is not a new phenomenon. Promoters want to fill clubs with a better draw than a two-for-one on cocktails, and hiring a celebrity to perform is a reliable way of getting people into a club. It's difficult to escape a party or event without seeing a DJ set from Daisy Lowe, Alexa Chung, Agyness Deyn, Taylor Momsen or Elijah Wood. Whether it is a big name like Ryan Gosling or Mark Wright from Towie, the public is drawn in by celebrity status and, so long as the club is filled, the promoter is happy. It doesn't matter whether the DJ can DJ or not. And for the celebrity in question, it is far less embarrassing to have a valid reason to be there ("I'm DJ-ing"), than to be paid a fee simply for turning up.

In most cases "DJ" is an honorary title. Showing up with a posse of their PR and "it" friends, VIPs sip drinks, sway by the decks and press "play" on one track until it finishes then play the next. It reduces DJ-ing to a paint-by-numbers, celebrity-picked playlist – it's rare to see a celebrity DJ bring more than the minimum requirement to a set. Some celebrity DJs even palm off the skills and production of other DJs as their own. It is a great charade playing the new BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix until the audible watermark "essential mix" voice-over turns up and the game is up.

DJs have nowhere to hide. They are alone with a crowd of people waiting for them to conduct the party. Hilton's haphazard turning of knobs and pressing of effects made her look helpless. Had the millionairess taken a year or two out to practise the basics and get to grips with the technology, she would have realised there was more to it. It is a skill that is reliant on knowledge of music, technology and experience, and it can make or break a party. DJ Samantha Ronson told TMZ website: "If you do the work, your work will speak for itself… If you're just going to be like, 'oh, I'm going to figure out how I can make some money this week', it just insults the people that really work really hard at it."

Solange (sister of Beyoncé) Knowles is on the right track. Introducing a set at Capitale, New York, she said: "I DJ for the love of music, for the love of the joy and the fun side of music... but I gotta see y'all dance. So stop tweeting, stop taking pictures, stop texting, and just dougie." The draw may be her and her sister's celebrity, but she can really DJ.

A a passion for music doesn't mean you have to call yourself a DJ, though, as Macaulay Culkin has proved. At Le Poisson Rouge in New York, Culkin hosts a night aptly named "Macaulay Culkin's iPod Party." Crowds come to watch him press "play" on an iPod. If a celebrity wants to be called a DJ, they should respect the practice by learning the skills before they go into it, otherwise their event is nothing more than an iPod party. Samantha Ronson said of Hilton's DJ-ing "It's like me reading WebMD twice and calling myself a doctor". If you can't DJ, learn. If you can't learn, don't DJ – promoters will still pay you to turn up.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Arts and Entertainment
Sergeant pfeffer: Beatles in 1963
booksA song-by-song survey of the Beatles’ lyrics
Arts and Entertainment
music'I didn't even know who I was'
Arts and Entertainment
Cheryl was left in a conundrum with too much talent and too few seats during the six-chair challenge stage
tvReview: It was tension central at boot camp as the ex-Girls Aloud singer whittled down the hopefuls
Arts and Entertainment
Kalen Hollomon's Anna Wintour collage

art
Arts and Entertainment

TV Grace Dent on TV
Arts and Entertainment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

music
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer is believed to be playing a zombie wife in Patient Zero

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Gatiss says Benedict Cumberbatch oozes sex appeal with his 'Byronic looks' and Sherlock coat
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Clothing items bearing the badge have become popular among music aficionados
musicAuthorities rule 'clenched fist' logo cannot be copyrighted
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson will star in Seth MacFarlane's highly-anticipated Ted 2

film
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in 'Gone Girl'

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
    Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

    Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

    Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
    Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

    Education, education, education

    TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
    It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

    It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

    So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
    This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

    Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

    Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
    We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

    Inside the E15 'occupation'

    We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

    Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

    The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
    Witches: A history of misogyny

    Witches: A history of misogyny

    The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
    Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Meet the most powerful woman in US television

    Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
    'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

    Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style