It first dawned on me when I was doing a gig at a club. We just played a Michael Jackson dance song, and I thought we did a pretty good job of it. People were into it. They watched intently, and then applauded loudly at the end. We then took our between-set break, and the DJ took over. The DJ played Michael Jackson. All of the sudden everyone started dancing. Huh?!? Ok, maybe we just had an off night or maybe the sound wasn't great. But then I saw it happen at a Wedding. A fantastic wedding band was playing. I was very impressed by how great they were. No one danced to them. As soon as the DJ comes on people start dancing. What's going on here?
A lot of people I have spoken to about this subject say it's the bass. The DJs can pump the bass more than a band. But this is not necessarily true. In fact most bands bring way more PA gear than DJs, and on top of that some of these bands are using kick drum triggers and synth bass to get that same low end response. So, I ruled that out. It's not a sonic thing. And since I thought the band was really great, I ruled out talent being the issue.
So why do kids only dance to pre-recorded music? Well, I think there are a couple of reasons.
First, parents find ways to pacify kids with TV. Cartoons in particular are very pattern heavy. In many cartoons, the same exact thing happens every day. It almost becomes ritualistic. Drive something into a kid's head enough times, it becomes hard to break the pattern. (Disclaimer: I know nothing about psychology, but this just seems kind of obvious to me.) The connection with live music is that a lot of kids get so used to hearing a song a certain way, that they can't accept a different version, no matter how good it may be.
Second. I don't think kids are exposed to live music as much as they should be. Nowadays, every kids party has a DJ or an ipod going. It's not that kids aren't interested in live music. (Put a set of drums in front of any kid, and you'll pique their interest.) It's just that they don't see enough of it.
Third, Dance clubs don't have bands anymore. I realize that nowadays you MUST have a DJ at a club, but that further reinforces the fact that DJs are for dancing, and bands are not.
So what's my point? Next time you see a band and they're good, feel free to shake it! If you're a parent show your kids some live music. It's good for em!