iWebDJ and Partycloud — DJ with a controller… in a browser

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Almost 2 years ago, we introduced you to iWebDJ, which at the time was a glimpse into the near future of DJing i.e. spinning from the cloud. Well things have changed a little since then, namely that the iWebDJ technology now has a product with a wrapper called Partycloud. It has a new interface for a start, but there’s a lot of new features, ones that see it encroaching into the territory of iPads and other DJ software. The biggie for me — you can use it with a MIDI controller. Yes, you ready that right.

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So to cover off what Partycloud is — it’s a DJ interface for the iWebDJ technology in a web browser. The layout is a familiar one, with 2 decks, 2 channels with EQ and filters plus rudimentary looping and effects. It doesn’t aim to be a pro experience, but has enough going for it for any DJ to be able to rock a party with just a laptop.

The new stuff for the impatient:

Mouse scratch — rudimentary but doable. I actually found this useful for spinbacks.

Recording, streaming and Facebook — Partycloud isn’t just a singe user experience. You can record your sets on the fly, post links to the live streams, and talk directly to a Facebook wall via a widget to spread the word of your live mix.

New audio engine — Partycloud goes multithreaded, meaning that the audio resources used are independent of anything else on your computer.

iWebDJ Partycloud web dj midi controller (4)Low audio latency — the rewritten audio engine sees much better latency, and can be configured for improved performance or better audio quality.

Headphone cueing — borrowing from the iPad, you can run headphones and master via a splitter cable. Obviously however, you can use any audio interface you can for the full stereo experience.

Sample player — a preset library of one-shot samples.

Active user list — bringing all active DJs and users together in one global window, you can see what connected Facebook user are listening to and playing.

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But the most exciting thing for me is MIDI. In a browser. No really. A bridge app is needed to get the USB device talking to controls in the browser window, which means that all controls are hard-coded at this time. The developers say that HTML5 MIDI is probably years away from being a reality, so for the time being, you’ll have run the bridge app. And because the developers only have a MixVibes U-MIX Control at the moment, that’s the only one that works. Well, it also works with the U-MIX Control Pro 2 now thanks to some ping-pong emails to get it all up and running at this end.

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But work it does. I don’t own a PC, so I had my iMac running Windows 7 inside Parallels and got really great performance. Switching to low latency mode is recommended, but as long as I don’t want to scratch on the jog wheels, performance was still good. Suspend your nextlevelness brainwashed minds and just have a mix — you’ll lose hours and remember just how much fun can be had with a simpler toolkit.

Is this the future?

Many pundits including myself have theorised about where this industry is going. But it’s clear that much tighter control over music distribution is on the cards. You only have to look at the recent kerfuffle cause by Germany’s GEMA to see that the audio police will be busting DJs who aren’t playing legally. While streaming from Spotify or Beatport is one possible way, iWebDJ with a custom front end is another way for companies to distribute music and offer a solid interface for playing in, knowing that only a set library is being played. It’s not for everyone, but it is one solution for establishments that only need a limited selection and not the terabytes of music that many DJs want to take everywhere.

One thing is for sure — partycloud.fm is an absolute blast. The engine works flawlessly, the sync is bang-on, and the interface offers the essentials to see yourself losing hours to the utter simplicity of mixing. For some, this may well be too cut down, but I feel that for most DJs, this offers everything that is needed. And when you plug in a controller, it just feels right. Try it and see.

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What’s next?

iWebDJ is the technology party cloud.fm is the showcase. The tech is being constantly developed, but the future is about working with online music sellers, record labels and artists to offer branded web based solutions for playing and listening to music. This also has the potential for licensing libraries from labels, or being able to licence say just the top 100 each month from an online store to stay current. There are a lot of possibilities with this, which does at least have a solid foundation with the technology. It’ll take the manufacturers chucking controllers at the iWebDJ guys (please do) for it to truly take off and be a practical solution though. But the attraction of not having to pay for and install DJ software is a huge draw for many people. Except the makers of the DJ software of course.

Exciting times. This has the potential to be huge. DJing in a web app? Hell why not. Keep up the good work guys.