OK. I'm guilty of bashing DJs. Venues tend to pay them more than live bands (I'm talking about your standard fare bar/club), and on the surface, it seems that all DJs do is play other people's music through a fancy speaker system. Easy work, right? Heck of a lot easier than spending a bunch of time learning an instrument, memorizing lyrics, and coming up with an engaging act, no?
Well, from a venue's standpoint, DJs are prone to make far fewer mistakes than a live band (oh, but man does it hurt when a DJ makes a mistake). They can take requests more reliably than the average cover band, play to the vibe of the room, and have finger on the pulse of the current hits.
But perhaps I'm being unfair to DJs and what it takes to be a good DJ. A good DJ has to have an ear not dissimilar from an arranger or musical director needs to have. This includes the ability to find rhythms, time signatures, key signatures, etc., that mesh well together. Timing is everything. Do you "keep the party going" or do you tactfully use silence to build suspense and anticipation?
Ultimately, bands can learn a lot from how DJs construct musical performances. Yes, the average DJ does not "compose" any music, but neither does a cover band. People love hearing familiar songs, but DJs and cover bands can also slip-in some of their own, perhaps lesser-known musical preferences. It helps keep the industry going and allow the music of past and present to stay in people's minds.
What's your take? What's your position on DJs vs live bands?