…eases back into office chair after extended break…
Happy New Year everyone. Needed a solid break so I took one. But now I’m back and ready to give 2013 an over-long man hug. But what of last year? 2012 saw the rebranding of skratchworx to DJWORX, and with it came a new way of thinking. Can things be done better? Are the old ways still valid or redundant? This new thinking kicked in when after having spent half a day crafting my end of year chronological retrospective, I realised that it was a complete waste of my time and yours. Much like reading out the phone book, if you want to retread the events of 2012, check out the skratchworx and DJWORX monthly archives.
Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to cherry pick key moments that have shaped this year, and will most likely shape 2013 and beyond. And then I’ll ask you to pick the things that excited and annoyed you in 2012.
It goes without saying that times have changed in the last 5, let alone 10 years. Bar some notable exceptions, every manufacturer has some sort of MIDI controller offering. But the market is now completely saturated with just about every shape and size of weird, wonderful and me-too controller. Enough now.
We’ve got to the point where it’s got too hard to pick one over another. Not only that, but they’re evolving all the time so that you just get used to your expensive purchase, when you get hit by a barrage beautifully shot images and videos of VIP DJs enticing you to sell a kidney for the next slice of the gear pie, that really tastes much the same as the old one.
I cannot help but think that the industry needs to put the brakes on a little. With a planned lifespan of 18-24 months, return on investment is low thus forcing up the prices. Give the users a chance to fully utilise their new controllers before force-feeding them more. If you overfeed them, they’ll just stop eating.
HINT: Users will drop regular small amounts of cash easier than shelling out 1K. And then you can add hardware features easily. Just remember to add a USB hub to the back of your next übercontroller and you’re sorted.
iPad comes of age
Much was made of the iPad when it launched. We predicted that it would have a massive impact on the scene, but 2012 saw that impact take shape and form. For me, iPad DJing is capable fun but limited from a real performance perspective. So when Numark wrapped a whole controller around one, the future direction became quite clear. Just like laptops spawned controllers, the iPad is the brain that requires a tactile device to make it engaging, and the iDJ Pro demonstrates this most admirably.
And with the iPad Mini and iPhone, iOS devices are proving themselves to be very useful additions to any DJ’s setup. Not replacements you understand, but having a very focussed and cost-effective carry-around brain that can be plugged into a plethora of devices is a very compelling evolution for the DJ scene.
We can only hope that Android and their respective confusing slew of devices can begin to make the same impact, if only to stop the barrage of “Android?” comments whenever a new Algoriddim or DJ Player release comes around.
As a wider corporate body, Pioneer was hit hard in the recession, to the point where the grapevine persistently twitched about tough times ahead. And yes, there has been a certain rationalisation of their various divisions, but 2012 saw Pioneer come out fighting, and swinging hard too.
The year started with a few good but unremarkable products (DJM-850 and HDJ-1500), but then basically exploded with a stream of products designed to challenge the somewhat safe image they’d cultivated over the years. The RMX-1000 came first, followed by the wireless AERO, pocket-sized WeGO and finally the DDJ-SX controller – all products designed to push themselves out of their comfort zone and to propel them into the forefront of each market.
We’ve also seem the coming together of their rekordbox and nexus workflow. Neither full CDJ or DVS, it takes the best of everything the DJ world has to offer and melts it all together into a logical workflow. We’ll have to see where this goes, but the one thing that has dogged Pioneer has been their pricing structure. Arm and a leg springs to mind, but if recent releases are anything to go by, Pioneer may have realised that in a market of almost no players, it’s easy for CDJs to clean up. But when you’re late to the controller table and all that’s left is scraps, your offer has to be considerably more appealing, hence the new pricing structure that seems to be emerging.
Serato’s presence on the DJ timeline is one of peaks and troughs. There have been times of being untouchably brilliant, and others of royally pissing off previously loyal for life users. Like many businesses who have experienced stellar success, the small group of geeks with a great idea have struggled to handle the growth of their brand and business.
Partnerships have been forged – some successful, others not so, but it has become more than clear that the previously ridiculously strong brand had become unwieldly and confused. The golden age of Scratch Live was slipping away, and the former temple of worship that was the Serato forum became a virtual protest march.
People in business know that brand image and reputation is absolutely vital to success. Christ knows I agonised over rebranding, thus Serato brought in some key fresh blood to knock the messy product line and image back into shape. And despite the core of Serato being DJs doing it for love, cold hard and probably unpopular business decisions have had to be made. As the saying goes, you cannot make an omelette without first breaking eggs, and Serato are still having to break a few more before the omelette begins to take shape.
Bear with them. They are listening, but are unfeasibly busy making what might be one of the best omelettes you’ve ever tasted.
But 2013 is likely to shake things up a little bit more. Serato still have a little way to go before their road map become clear, but their model will see them locked into contractual agreements with a handful of manufacturers, whereas Virtual DJ will become everyone’s friend via the soon to be released VDJ8.
Native Instruments however look to be forging their own way forward in the DJ industry. They clearly have the skills to make high quality hardware, but being in control of the software integration with their own hardware puts them in a very strong position indeed. The Kontrol Z2 has indicated their intentions, so for me it’s a matter of time before a Z4 appears along with matching CDJ-like players too. Conjecture of course – just my gut talking there.
What I do think will happen is that you’re going to have to make your choice and stick with it. Buying a Serato or Traktor controller and expecting quality mappings for other software is folly. MIDI is being cast aside in favour of hard coding so that each manufacturer can get the tightest integration possible. If you want that jog wheel to scratch without compromise, or for those buttons to carry out some complex multi-function trickery, you’re going to have to make a decision and stick with it. Bleating about mapping is likely to fall on deaf ears, especially when you also want advanced hardware and software with pin-sharp performance.
More is Less
Touching on the same subject, it’s clear that all in one controllers have reached their apex of usability. The software vendors are coming up with all manner of crazy features, and they all need physical controls to make the best of them. I hate having to do keystrokes or mouse clicks to make something happen, but at the same time I cannot do with the idea of yet more buttons and knobs in front of me.
I’m part way through my Pioneer DDJ-SX review, and while it is undoubtedly a great unit, the sheer volume of things in front of me makes it hard to use at times. I’m accidentally nudging the pitch controls with mixing, and sometimes get a little lost in the layout. And as good as the Glazmann controllers are, they’re teetering on the very edge of user friendliness because of the wall of controls.
I think it’s time to take a step back from the edge for a while, and think hard about new features for the sake of it and how those new features can be executed in hardware. Think smarter rather than more.
2012 saw the culmination of close to 10 years of hard work and almost 6 years of desire to rebrand. DJWORX is the new skratchworx, and reflects the whole DJ scene rather than just a small part of it. The industry has welcomed the change with open arms and got behind the new vision and focus, and a clean slate has allowed me to rethink everything we do.
The biggest change has been getting actual premises for DJWORX. I’m chuffed to bits with the new worxlab, and already have huge plans beyond even this space for the next few years.
We’ve still got a long way to go though. The first 3 months in the new worxlab has seen me have to adapt to a radical change in workflow, one that I’ve not fully adjusted to just yet. But cementing a solid and dependable team with coherent communication across the continents is my first task of 2013. Then this solid team can carry on providing the very best content, as well as making the lofty plans we have real. You have no idea. Well some of you do.
2012 was the year of change – a big shift in thinking brought on by a string of events that one day I’ll let you in on. But I’m done screwing around now. The next 10 years is going to be fun-filled fluff-free gear focussed hard work.
So what of 2013?
The digital age has rampaged through the DJ industry, and caught some with their pants down, and others ready, willing and able to manhandle it into submission. It does seem to be slowing down a little to me, as if there’s a pause before it all kicks off again but in a new way. The evolution of the Big Three will play a key part in this, as new software features begets new hardware.
But I hope that while coming up with all these new features, software makers also think about how this impacts on the hardware side of things. For example, mixers are generally considered to be long-term purchases, but if NI were to add a new feature that required an expensive upgrade purchase over the Z2 that someone might already have bought, then people may well begin to lose faith. Likewise, DJs aren’t getting long enough to get attached to the lump of shiny they just sold a body part to finance before the next big thing comes out.
I suggest a period of contemplation, where manufacturers can take a breath and decide on future directions. Should they simply throw a bunch of controls at yet another all-in-one, or maybe work on some external add-ons to compliment the increasingly expensive main unit. I’d also suggest ways of working smarter. Do you need all of those hardware controls, or can a more efficient way of making controls do more than one thing be devised? Perhaps some features can be offloaded to external add-on hardware or even touch devices. Let’s get back to basics, totally nail them and then work on the new stuff.
The one thing I am seeing is that you’ll going be very tightly tied to software. But the key to choice is your music, and how it is handled. Wouldn’t it be truly bloody amazing if your music library worked seamlessly in all software? I see no barrier to it bar manufacturers signing onto a common format. I challenge some smart developer to come up with such a format, or for Pioneer/MixVibes to make rekordbox available for everyone. I tire of how many times people talk about loving to move to a new piece of hardware, but having to migrate their library is always a barrier.
Happy New Year!
Signing off, I want to say massive thanks to the evolving DJWORX team – for their hard work, patience and faith in my often crazy ideas and lack of communication. I thank them for being my sounding board and for saying no when necessary. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do a fraction of what I do now, and they’re just as important as anything I personally do around here. I plan for you to know their names just as much as you know mine.
I also want to thank the manufacturers, large and small for much the same things as the team. In their presence, I have a tendency to talk and talk and talk about crazy stupid ideas, and have done for years (sorry Tobias). But 2o12 saw them all begin to take shape. I have certainly learned a lot from them this year, experience that will make DJWORX even stronger than it already is.
And big thanks to the guy who didn’t want to be namechecked. Lay off the triple espressos and keep wilting that kale. And while naming no names, the thoughtfulness and kindness from one particular industry type brought me to the verge of tears at BPM. I truly thank you good sir.
But I need to thank you readers for your patronage and allowing us to keep doing what we’re doing. Please don’t think that just because the 12 Days giveaway is over that there’s nothing else to see here. That was just a sign of how highly the industry thinks of us. And if we can get that kind of booty, just imagine the stories we’re going to get.
This has been my retrospective of 2012′s story. But what has the year meant to you? And where do you see things going? But perhaps more importantly, where would you like them to go?