While the Beamz controller has been around for a dog’s age, it’s just recently and especially this weekend that the product has garnered a lot more attention that it ordinarily would — and just about all of it negative. If you haven’t seen it, the latest Beamz video features the self-titled legendary Grandmaster Jay (who nobody has heard of) unbelievably miming over a Jazzy Jeff set (the above video is the redacted version). Scandal aside, I did ponder about Beamz as a product though, and what if a respected and established company had put it out.
Imagine if a big player in the DJ market had come out with Beamz, and pitched it as a real alternative to touch or physical technology. You’ve probably all seen laser harps and theramins — technologies that are based around interrupting light beams or proximity technologies. It’s certainly not a new technology, but one that in the whole controllerist scheme of things is very valid, and full of creative options.
So let’s say that Native Instruments decided to throw commercial caution to the wind, and put the completely imaginary and not in any way real Traktor Beamz into the market place, as a device that enabled remix deck control with RGB lasers plus a greater level of interaction with the crowd — would you take it seriously? Or if doyens of the controllerist scene DJ Techtools embraced the technology to add another niche product to their repertoire of boutique controllers — would that make you sit up and take notice?
One thing is for sure — Beamz has pretty much shot itself in not one foot, but both of them with this marketing own goal. The old saying goes that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but in the case of the latest video debacle, and subsequent social media avalanche of scorn and disbelief from such DJ luminaries as Cash Money, Grandmaster Flash, and Jazzy Jeff himself, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll recover from this. Product aside, their reputation is shot to pieces now.
But it does raise the question of Beamz as a technology, and drags this back to the point of the story — if Native, DJTT, or some other respected manufacturer experimented with Beamz-like product, would you take it seriously? Does it bring anything worthwhile to the DJ’s or performer’s table?