Believe it or not, there was a time when the idea of “digital music” was a brand new concept, and when it arrived in the early 2000s, it changed everything. It changed our method of consumption, from paying for ownership of a physical copy, to paying for access to the material through streaming platforms. It levelled the playing field for independent artists who no longer had to wait to get “discovered” by a major record label in order to have their music in stores and could instead become their own label, publisher and distributor. It revolutionized the way that humans interact with music and overhauled a number of creative industries and cultures.
Digital DJing arrived in the mid-2000s and not only saved a lot of DJs from future back problems from lugging crates of vinyl from gig to gig, it changed the style of play. Multi-genre, open-format performance, with DJs playing multiple genres and often incorporating different pieces of tech to enhance said performance, took off in a big way, and Red Bull—known for pushing the limits in any sphere they touch from action sports to culture—jumped on the wave early to test the limits of this new style.
The brand hosted a small event at Vancouver’s now-closed Atlantis club in 2007, with local talent including Rico Uno, Flipout, Friktion, Marvel and eventual winner Mat The Alien doing battle. Besides some basic rules and regulations (ie. no pre-recorded sets, obviously), the only must-haves of the 15-minute set was that the DJs had to incorporate at least three musical genres into their selections. And with that, Red Bull 3Style was born.
It didn’t take long for 3Style to catch on around the globe: After touring the concept around Canadian cities in 2008, Red Bull held the first-ever national 3Style final in Toronto in 2009. The following year, the competition became an official global activation, with DJs from 10 different countries doing battle in the first world final in Paris, France. Each year it would expand, eventually becoming a week-long event that was part party, part showcase, part competition, part networking event and part DJ retreat. By 2013, Red Bull 3Style was the biggest DJ event/competition in the world, and this year enters its 10th official year.
“Over the last decade, the Red Bull 3Style Competition has built a worldwide community of DJs who all strive to push the boundaries of the art form by thinking outside the box when putting together all different genres of music,” says Vancouver native and 2011 World Champion Hedspin. “It’s created a platform for DJs locally and nationally to showcase their talents in well respected venues in their home countries, and if they move on to the World Final they get to showcase their talents on a world stage in a country that they normally would never get the chance to perform in on that level.”
Red Bull also continues to work with past champions on various opportunities and keeps them in the 3Style ecosystem as judges and DJs for future events. “Crazy that in 2008 I won the 2nd 3Style in Vancouver which was only a local battle at the time,” Hedspin remembers, “Fast forward to 2020 and I was just in Beirut a couple weeks ago showcasing, and judging which DJ will get to go to Russia for the World Final in April.”
Skratch Bastid is another pillar of the 3Style community, who never actually got to compete in the event himself but has been involved from the jump in a different capacity. “I first caught wind of Red Bull 3Style’s local BC events when I was living in Montreal and had recently stopped battling,” Bastid remembers. While his competitive nature tempted him, he’s found a home within the the 3Style for his other skills outside of the battle arena: “At first, it made me want to jump back in the ring because it was a DJ competition that finally considered the crowd-rocking skills needed to be a working DJ that plays shows and parties, not just the technical skills honed in practice. I was offered a position to help the event grow nationwide as a judge & showcase artist rather than a competitor, and that ended up being more rewarding to me than competing ever could have.”
This week, 3Style’s home country of Canada will host their national final in Vancouver in which six DJs will battle for a chance to rep the Great White North at the 2020 Red Bull 3Style World DJ Championships in Moscow, Russia later this Spring. 3Style’s global community is expansive, and the competition is well-received in far-reaching corners of the globe. “Through the early years of the event’s expansion, I travelled around the world to participating countries such as Brazil, Germany, Japan, and Chile and saw first hand how the event was shining a spotlight on an important intersection in DJ culture that was, although very appreciated when experienced, having a hard time fighting through the some of the increasingly crowded DJ market,” Bastid says.
“It has given hard working DJs from all over the world a stage to showcase their abilities and boost their visibility, simultaneously pushing the boundaries and preserving elements of DJ culture from around the world.”
Competing tomorrow night (February 27) in Vancouver are Ash Lacch, DJ Invizible, Joash Charles, Lykx, Powerdog and Walter Deans. The winner of this National Final will head on to the World Finals in Moscow, Russia, from April 20-28, 2020. Tickets for the Vancouver event and more information about 3style as a whole can be found at redbull.ca/3style