It’s hard to explain what NAMM 2014 really is for us in the DJ world. With the explosion of whatever EDM is and the general democratization of the DJ industry, bringing almost any person anywhere to our ranks, we feel like we are the biggest thing ever. The DJ “culture” (whatever that actually is) echo chamber is makes it hard to look at our world objectively and realize just how small it really is.
This is my third NAMM, and my second one running DJWORX coverage. I am very grateful for my loyal helpers Phil and Pete (and my own extra thanks to Drew, Joler, and Quynh – Ed), but I always end up running around like a mad man for four days. It is always great to see old friends that you only get to see at the shows, and to meet all the talented and passionate people who make up our corner of the internet. And yet the show feels smaller than the other two I’ve covered, though I’m not 100% sure that’s because it is smaller for us or I’m just used to it.
Our industry has one of the smallest representations at this show (you should see how many guitar cable companies there are), and most other shows. Musikmesse is even more intense, with companies like Yamaha holding a three-story building dedicated to just their pianos. But to us, to those of us involved in this crazy thing, this is the world. And that perspective just gets fed by the industry at large, who wants to sit around and talk about the “DJ Culture”, which we all know doesn’t exist.
Two years ago the theme at NAMM for us was controllers. Behringer had announced the CMDs, NI teased the F1 and remix decks, Vestax had the 380 and 400, Stanton was pushing the SCS.4DJ, Numark showed the weird Numakai MPC 4 channel thing, and there were very few booths with turntables outside of Rane and Stokyo. Last year the story was very similar with the release of those CMDs, the release of the Orbit and the tease of the NS7-II, the DDJ-SX and various offerings from Reloop and Vestax. This year, though, the story was flipped. There were very few new controllers of interest, but there were turntables and mixers everywhere.
I think this year will be the first of a few as the industry figures out “what’s next”, or whatever. Yes, there’s the DDJ-SZ, but as cool as that thing is (did you see the airhorn button!?) I just can’t get excited about it. I understand I’m not the vast majority of the market, I’m just a guy who has too many toys and likes to talk about it, but this was definitely a laid back event for the DJ world.
The story for me, the real excitement about this show, was DJ Tech. Two years ago, when I met those guys, they were a very different company (the DJ mouse lolwut?). Now they releasing and teasing some of the most interesting products, simply because of the combination of high build quality and low cost. A year or two from now, if they keep pushing forward, they could easily be releasing gear that restandardizes the industry and can be in the hands of almost anyone who wants to DJ.
And that’s what everyone wants. 20 years ago becoming a DJ was an investment in gear, time and music. Nowadays, the hardest thing to get is the hardware, and while that has come down in cost drastically since the VCI-100, any kid is going to have a hard time convincing their parents to buy them a $1000 controller that requires $200 software. But to have your hands on that market, where for $800 you can have a complete DJ rig with turntables and a mixer that is reliable and will last, well, it is another step into the democratization of the DJ market. While we, heavily invested as we are, may find this frustrating as random kids are calling themselves DJs, it’s the way of things. It’s where it’s going, we can’t stop it, so we need to do whatever we can to nurture the brain trust and create better DJs out of these minds. Hell, the more good DJs there are the more fun we all have, and the harder we all have to work to be good. And why do this stuff if you don’t want to improve?
I got to see the Beat Junkies, Qbert, and a whole host of amazing talent at the DJ Tech booth. While many of them also performed at Rane and Stokyo (hell, Qbert performed almost everywhere), they were all tied into DJ Tech. This little upstart company is getting buy in from respected talent all around the industry, and I believe that they will have a hand in pushing all of it forward. Hell, the CTRL MIDI controller they had at their stand was amazing at that price. The prototype feels better than some final production gear I’ve reviewed. And it’s going to be under $99? Really? Numark or NI would release that same controller for twice and it’d be made of plastic.
All of that editorializing having been said, every year is interesting for us, and I’m sure 2014 will be no exception. While Serato was everywhere this year, VDJ was on very few large DJ stands and Traktor was completely absent, I wouldn’t dare be naïve enough to count Native Instruments out. Hot on the heels of their “best app of the year” award for Traktor DJ I am very excited to see what they will do with Traktor Pro. Best I could get out of them was “this is a big year for us” and really, what can we say with that?
There are a lot of words here, but it’s hard to encapsulate the madness of this show. Even crazier is Messe is only 6 weeks away. Rest assured loyal DJWORX readers, that 2014 is going to push our coverage even further along. We are going to leverage our expertise and excitement to ensure you get the best news, reviews, and opinion on our corner of this vast internet.
Here’s to another amazing year for DJWORX as we march into our second decade.
A Note From The Editor
Below is a wide selection of images, both of gear and random shots from around the show. There’s 281 to wade trough if you can be bothered, but I figured it was easier to throw them all up in one go.