Our job is often incredibly hard. We generally get to find out about what’s happening in the DJ world a long time in advance of the actual event, and are trusted to keep our gobs shut. So having to read comments from the community that we know to be wide of the mark or blatantly untrue and not be able to say a thing is one of the toughest parts of what we do. And this has definitely been the case with the future of Traktor.
We’ve been aware of events behind the scenes for a considerable amount of time, and have repeatedly urged NI to keep the community informed of… well anything to be honest. But their customers were presented with a wall of silence, one that naturally caused them to speculate and frankly make stuff up.
But yesterday, Native Instruments broke cover on the future of Traktor.New Director of Products Pedram Faghfouri released this short but sweet missive that goes some way to explaining where Traktor is heading:
“In 2018 with over 500,000 users and some of the world’s best DJs behind Traktor, we are in a unique position to integrate feedback from artists and our community.
The digital DJ market is fast moving and increasingly cluttered with competition. At Native we are passionate about leading genuine change and taking our time to ensure we blend quality, innovation and user functionality.
In 2018 we will unveil new Traktor hardware and software that we believe achieves this goal, and further empowers our global community of professionals and hobbyists. We have prioritized user feedback and collaboration for product development.
We have engaged in rewriting Traktor from ground-up, even though this takes significant time and resource investment. We will maintain and improve Traktor Pro for several more years until the new Traktor is mature enough, also for our Pro users. There are more updates to Traktor Pro planned in the coming months.
To ensure focus to both development streams, we also doubled the size of our Traktor teams. We will be shedding more light on these exciting new Traktor projects over the next few months.
We continue to work with the world’s best artists to learn from and inspire new ideas in the Traktor ecosystem. More insight on how today’s leading artists are using Traktor can be seen in our new Signatures series campaign.”
Traktor has a huge audience and we’re listening to it again.
But Traktor is one of many now, so we have to be better than before.
So Traktor is not dead, and we have new stuff coming that you’ve helped create.
The current Traktor will still be developed, but expect a concurrent ground up rebuild for an all new version.
We’re throwing a lot of resource at Traktor, so please stick with us.
So how did they get to this position? I feel that three key factors were at play here:
A closed ecosystem
Traktor was open, both to mapping and working with partners. But going from being incredibly open to pretty much bringing up the drawbridge and annoying the hell out of the industry impacted them hard. Eventually end users would get pissed off when they realised that their newest controller wouldn’t be getting a Traktor map, nor will that expensive mixer be getting certified.
NI’s singular vision for Traktor and the Stems workflow blinkered them to the reality that people still want to play one track after another on turntables and controllers, and no amount of glossy PR and sheer force of will was ever going to change that. I’m with them that it needed doing, and still rate Stems as a technology and workflow, but not at the expense of the core needs of DJs.
I’ve described this as a grenade lobbed into the room, and it definitely was. It impacted on everyone, and threw Traktor further off course than their closed ecosystem already had. When in a weakened state, a new and major competitor coming along to “clutter” the market was only going to make their situation even worse.
So the combination of these elements meant that Traktor was going to go through a rough time, so rough in fact that some believed that Traktor’s time in the DJ software industry was firmly over.
THE WAY FORWARD
It takes guts to shine a light on yourself and do some real inward looking. And the gutsy decision to take a step back from constant if minor evolution to find a way forward was made. Sometimes, you have to retrace your steps to find the right path. And Traktor’s path appears to be more or less resetting the product.
Details of the actual future version of Traktor are slim to non-existent. Some of the DJWORX team are helping, but are under NDA which I insist that they maintain within the team. So I don’t even know what’s coming, which makes it easier for me to speculate to write this piece.
But it’s clear from the press release that the current version and future versions will coexist, with a ground up rebuild to make an all new version of Traktor. This suggests a back to basics approach, where core features will be added and honed to perfection, and leading a point where it can replace the current version. Obviously like Scratch Live, some will hang on to the current version for dear life though. Hell there’s even some people still using Final Scratch apparently.
It’s not just making sure that it’s bug free. We’re in a place where all the major packages do more or less the same thing but with their own little ways of doing things. So to bring out a more polished version of something that’s trailing is a strategy doomed to fail.
Traktor has to come back with things that the others don’t. It could be finding better ways of doing key features (the library for example is their weak spot right now), or perhaps opening the ecosystem to plugins to generate new and steady revenue. Or maybe they really do have some killer all new features that they can introduce via plugins that doesn’t mean leaving the old ways behind completely, or making people pay for things that they’ll never use and that could undermine day-to-day use.
NEW THINGS ARE COMING
We’ve discussed the new Traktor as much as we can within the scope of being under NDA and what I personally know. But what of the hardware?
It’s clear that not everyone bought the #futureofdjing vision, something that reflected in sales of the Kontrol S5 and Kontrol D2 controllers, which are now discontinued. The Kontrol S8 however seems to be holding its own out there and it continues to be available, along the now relatively elderly S2 and S4 controllers which continue to sell enough to remain alive, and despite endless moaning from many corners still manage to do enough to keep people happy. Remember — most DJs are happy with the basics, and the S2 and S4 do them perfectly.
So I suspect that any new hardware is will have jog wheels. I won’t rule out a Stems workflow in there somewhere, but I feel that preference will be given to a more conventional DJing workflow. Killing the S5 and D2 shows a lack of appetite for Stems, but if there isn’t a hint of Stems, it will indicate that NI is walking away from the format.
A word of advice for NI — for me and a great many others, we couldn’t give a crap about Stems for new tracks. We want to mess around with back catalogues and create new music with old. The audience would respond to hearing classic elements intertwined in the mix, and old music would start generating income for the original artists again. The big issue is if masters are available.
NI needs a win. If Traktor is to come back hard and win back fans, I hope they ditch the closed architecture, and use the Pioneer DJ model of officially supporting their own hardware, but being unofficially open for business with other hardware too.
But more than anything, they need to learn from the mistakes they made in the past and push forward with great haste. Now that they’ve signalled that it’s game on again, their competitors will be primed to push forward as well, potentially making more ground for Traktor to make up before they’ve even got going.
So Q3 is shaping up to be more interesting than any of us had previously thought. Much popcorn will be consumed as we watch events unfold.