Letsmix.com's Next Generation DJ contest has been the subject of online controversy recently, as its emphasis on self-promotional skills has left many participants feeling wrongfully snubbed.
The contest—which received over 3,000 entries—aims to reward "mixing skills as well as entrepreneurial drive," but it seems the latter quality carries more value than many contestants expected. The rules are fairly simple: amateur DJs upload their best mix in MP3 format, and Let's Mix! posts them online with built-in widgets to tally plays and ratings. Competitors then set forth to garner as many ratings as possible from whomever they can find, often taking advantage of social networking devices such as Twitter, Facebook and MySpace. At the end of January, the top 100 competitors with the best average ratings advance into Stage 2. These finalists will now craft a second mix, which will be judged by a jury of industry specialists, including Deadmau5's global manager Dean Wilson, Sebastian Ingrosso, David Waxman of Ultra Records, Beatport founder and CEO Jonas Tempel, Mark Grotefeld of Pioneer, and DJ Mag editor-in-chief Ben Murphy. Each contestant's final standing will be determined by a combination of the jury's opinion and the average rating of the participant's mix.
Trouble began cropping up last week when competitors noticed something odd about the finalists: some of their mixes had received far more ratings than plays, meaning that the bulk of their high scores came from people who had not actually heard any of their mixing. In one case, a DJ advanced into Stage 2 with over 400 ratings and fewer than fifty listens, meaning that only about 10% of his high ratings came from people who had actually heard his mix. Many contestants found this unfair, and some suggested that scores like these should be considered "inaccurate," as they could not have been based on any assessment of the DJ's mixing skills. They made their opinions known on Facebook and the Let's Mix! forum, but to little effect. Neither the rules nor the technology of the competition prohibited listeners from rating mixes without hearing them, so scores were considered legitimate even in cases where the rating-to-listens ratio was extremely lopsided.
Reached for comment in his office, Ola Sars of Tonium, the company behind Let's Mix!, stood by the results of the contest. He explained that the Next Generation DJ contest intends to reward both mixing skills and self-promotion technique, the latter of which is a very important part of being a professional DJ. "Those DJs that went out and got hundreds of ratings on their mix," said Sars, "they definitely have entrepreneurial drive." He admits that the contest could have been improved by requiring listeners to hear some portion of a mix before submitting a rating, but also points out that only several of the 100 finalists have strange rating patterns. Furthermore, Sars says the staff at Let's Mix! had been extremely rigorous in preventing any form of cheating, and that none of the current finalists has broken the rules in any way.
Despite the unrest among those left behind, The Next Generation DJ contest will continue as planned. Winners will be chosen on February 20th, and prizes include gigs at this year's Winter Music Conference in Miami (with hotels and flights included), PR and management contracts, and a variety of DJ equipment such as Pioneer CDJ-2000s and 60GB Pacemakers.
This piece has been amended to reflect the fact that Deadmau5 will not be judging the competition. It will instead be his global manager Dean Wilson. We regret the error.