Original Music Makers: producer, dj, musician?

Ok, admission: I’m ignorant.

I played bass in bands for years. In the last 2/3 years I’ve moved on to trying to make music on my own, which in my case has meant sequencers and synths (in their capacity to get a lot of different sounds out of one ‘instrument’). So I bypassed (for the most part) the growth of electronic music.

Now I find that people who make music, original music, can finish up being labelled musician, or DJ or producer.

Why ?

What’s wrong with using just musician for someone who makes original music.

Or is the application of the term DJ to people who create original music ‘incorrect’ in some sense ?

Sometimes DJs produce tracks.

Sometimes producers DJ.

Sometimes musicians produce tracks.

Sometimes DJs make music.

Sometimes musicians DJ.

You can be any combination or all of the above, sometimes at the same time.

I am not and cannot DJ, but many people have called me one, because they are stupid.


DJ = Disc Jockey. Which means someone playing records for a crowd. So this is not actually a musician / producer in the sense that you mean.

A producer is someone who produces music. Meaning, arranging music into a finished song. This may or may not include sound design, mixing and mastering.

A musician is a term that, to me, is a bit more broad. Someone who plays guitar/synth/drums etc. is a musician but doesn’t necessarily produce their own finished music. A music producer doesn’t necessarily play an instrument so is not a musician in that sense. But one could also say someone who creates mnusic, with or without an instrument, is a musician.

Another flavour is composer. Someone who composes music, but doesn’t necessarily play nor produce it themselves.


Well … yes … that was my understanding of what it meant. But I’ve come across lots of instances of people who make original music being classed as DJs rather than musician or producer … which makes no sense to me.

Thanks for telling me I’m not going mad.

It does indeed make no sense at all and is mostly due to people not knowing how electronic music is made. Those same people often thing a DJ is playing live. And that a live act is the same as a DJ.


So (thinking out loud here) someone who produces an entire piece of music on their own, but without touching a midi keyboard or any traditional instrument … you would call that person a producer, but not a musician ? I kind of think of that as still being a musician, even if they step-sequenced every note rather than played it ?


Well in the traditional sense a music producer would produce a band for example. Meaning they would help shape the songs of the band into fully fledged productions. This means overviewing not only the band’s created compositions but also being able to add to those compositions, change arrangements, overall sound signature, recording proces etc. etc.

In that role that person is not necessarily a musician.

But yeah musician is a broad term and surely can be applied to a mouse wielding electronic producer as well of course. When someone is musically talented in any way, one could say that person is a musician I think :slight_smile:


That (and the DJ thing) was exactly my starting point for this thread. Thanks.

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I’m not sure any of the traditional names / roles work for a lot of people making or playing music in the modern world. Arranging, songwriting, mastering are other specific roles that many people creating music will undertake over the course of a project.

I think this is the most exciting thing about being able to create any art form; the accessibility of tools means anyone can experiment with any part of the process

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I like to call myself a DigiPoser(short for Digital Composer) and comes with a free self-dig in the title


The only producers I hear being referred to as a DJ are those who dj as in play clubs and gigs and on an agency

I guess they are referred to as a dj because that’s what they mostly get booked for.

also producers are probably known as producers to those interested in their productions but to the average club goer they’ll be a dj.

People like to put tags on things I guess

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My stage name is: edit name already taken.

Ooohhh DJ Edit? Also taken.

DJ market is saturated

DJ Saturated Market? Bingo


…as @Fin25 ends his statement…people are stupid…at least in average.
and since we entered the 21st century, all kinds of music content creator combos are possible and valid, no matter what u wanna call them…

i always hated it, when somebody called me a dj, even right after i was uberobviously treating various electronic instruments on an open stage, no matter how far away from any sort of dj booth/setup, even singing live for the last hour…

i used to say then, i’m not playing records, i’m making records and also perform those songs live…
did it make any difference to them…nope, not really…since a few years, i learned not to bother anymore…

many people just don’t get it and since yesterday is always fighting against tomorrow in the here and now, they’re simply used to the term dj, even if it could not be more inaccurate these days than ever…


In my (old school) opinion, a producer is someone who produces other artists’ music professionally… ‘producing’ your own music makes you a music maker/artist/musician, not a pro producer.

Wayyy too many people refer to themselves as a producer these days.

Sylvia Massy is a producer.

Derek who has an Octatrack, a Distrokid account and a YouTube channel, is not a pro producer. They’re blag.

Edit for an analogy:
A pro (professional) firefighter trains to fight fires, then is paid to go out and fight fires professionally.

Making a fire in your back yard and extinguishing it at the end of the night, doesn’t make you a firefighter.


I guess one could use the term musical instrumentalist instead of musician. But that would be awful.

as an occasional DJ who (tries) to produce original stuff and remixes, i’m only the barest of a true musician. i have just enough keyboard technique to plunk out some chord progressions, basslines, and leads. but all of it is sequenced, without which i couldn’t play it live (well) in real-time. it’s not a source of pride or anything, just the constraints i’m mostly forced to work within

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Totally agree with this re. Producer. I’ve got into
Electronic music over the last few years and enjoyed jamming away on gear and learning to play it (I come from a more ‘traditional’ instrument), however I’ve never finished a track (or really tried) and would not call myself a ‘producer’.

Though I wouldn’t be offended if ‘Derek’ in the above example called himself a musician-he uses his chosen tools to make music. Agreed though - not a producer.


Fire beats!

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i think anything is fine.
i consider myself a musician for various reasons, but other people who make original music may have other reasons to consider themselves something else.

PS. honestly, a lot of modern producers should be defined as overproducers.


I feel like in the club/dance music world, a lot of DJs are producers. Like if you look at who headlines the big festivals most of them are known for making great tracks.

Exceptions are the older school guys, and people who began as straight DJs and shifted to doing producing but still go by their DJ name vs rebranding.

Theres a lot of practicalities that make doing live producer type sets at shows a headache. It seems like a lot of producers play sets with stems or loops off cdjs (at least the ones I like and watch their sets).

Personally, for this type of music I’d rather listen to a good dj or producer make something in the moment layering pre-produced loops, either from their own tracks or others. In my view thats just as musically valid as doing a live performance with several instrumentalists and a singer, and as a punter it gives a more enjoyable experience.

But stuff like say Nils Frahm, Christian Löffler, Rival Consoles etc its not necessarily music you doof out too and lends itself more to like a seated appreciation type of setting, with live recreation with key parts performed live.

Like if a “dj” is playing music in a club, but what people are hearing is actually 4 loops from 4 different tracks layered over each other, thats just a form of music performance that wasn’t possible or feasibly until relatively recently.

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