UPDATE: Public beta now closed

As the digital age has progressed, and the tools available to DJs have expanded outside of just vinyl, a Portastudio, and some second-hand Roland gear, it has become a mantra that to be a successful DJ, you must also be a successful producer. Thus we have collectively thrown ourselves at Ableton Live, and been largely stopped in our tracks by the learning wall. But Serato is here to help us make more sense of laying down tracks. They made a good start with Serato Sample, and now have announced a public beta of their new Serato Studio software — the full fat Sample that aims to introduce production to Serato DJ Pro users, and it does it in a considerably more DJ friendly way. 

Let’s get the plethora of PR materials out of the way first. But you definitely need to watch and read them before commenting:

Meet Serato Studio – production software for DJs

From Auckland, New Zealand, March 28th 2018 – EMBARGOED until 28th March at 10am (NZ)

Serato has launched the first beta version of its new beatmaking software, Serato Studio, which will help more DJs become producers.

The product combines powerful production features with a DJ-style workflow. This includes cue points, mixer channels, FX, time-stretching and key-detection with Pitch ‘n Time, waveform displays, loads of content, and access to your Serato DJ library.

“By building on what DJs already know, we’ve reduced that steep learning curve commonly associated with music production,” says Nick Maclaren, Chief Strategy Officer at Serato. “Which means less time hitting technical roadblocks and more time actually making music.”

Studio caters to more experienced producers with advanced features like automation, stem exporting, and third-party plugin support (VST and Audio Units), with an overall emphasis on intuitive and simple design.

“Over the years we’ve spoken to countless DJs and beginners who want to start making music but either don’t have the time, the hardware, or feel overwhelmed with attempting to learn production software,” says Maclaren.

“As a result we’ve made Studio as intuitive as possible, so you can open it up and start making beats right away,” he adds.

Studio also includes a range of time-saving features including instant key and pitch-shifting, “Play in Key” mode, which allows users to play any instrument in key without knowing any music theory, and a “Make Beats” feature, which creates drum patterns with one click to get you inspired.

“During the testing phase we noticed DJs would try to make a track and spend a lot of their time on less creative aspects, like putting a drum kit together or finding the key of their sample,” says Maclaren. “So we’ve focused on being able to get ideas out fast.”

Studio works with a range of setups, including standalone using just your laptop. As well as a range of supported Serato DJ hardware and MIDI controllers.

“If you already have a DJ controller or mixer that’s supported in Studio, you can use it to make beats without investing in extra equipment,” says Maclaren.

Serato Studio is a subscription-only service, with subscribers receiving ongoing sample content and software updates. Contributors include world-renowned sound designers and artists, including Decap, MSX II Sound Design, Goldbaby, and more.

Serato Studio Public Beta is now open until it reaches member capacity, after which Serato will schedule semi-regular openings to add more members before the official release.

Join the Serato Studio beta and learn more here.

Serato Studio – Key Features:

  • DJ Style Library – Access your entire Serato DJ library with crates, cue points, BPM and key information.
  • High Quality FX – Tweak your beats using over 30 built-in FX presets that will feel instantly familiar to DJs.
  • Works with DJ hardware – Studio works with a range of DJ controllers and mixers, as well as MIDI controllers, or just your laptop.
  • Make Beats – Get inspired with over 300 pre-made drum patterns across a range of different genres.
  • Master Key and BPM – Let the project key automatically update as you start making your beat. Adjust the BPM to extremes with world-class Pitch ‘n Time stretching
  • Play in Key – Play any instrument or plugin in key, without knowing music theory.
  • Quality Content Built In – Studio comes with a huge amount of built-in drum kits, instruments, audio loops and samples, with frequent content updates for subscribers.
  • Simple Sequencer – Get creative with your drum patterns using the simple and easy-to-use 808-style step sequencer
  • DJ-style mixing – Mix your sounds using a familiar DJ channel mixing strip, with dedicated gain, EQs, filters and more.
  • Serato Colored Waveforms – See your audio and MIDI sequences in Serato’s famous colored waveforms.

A BRIDGE TOO FAR

Serato is not new to the production game. Indeed, their first dabble was Pitch ‘N Time, a plugin designed to make pitching and timing sound flawlessly smooth. But it was only when they released Scratch Live that their name became a DJ household name.

But they could see the future all the way back in the distant memory that is just the last decade. But without production software of their own, what could they do? Thus the idea was hatched to work in partnership with Ableton to create the Bridge i.e. a way to have their respective software work seamlessly together to create a DJ and production powerhouse.

What actually happened was the equivalent of putting wildly different materials in a blender and expecting them to mix to create something at least palatable. They never really gelled well at all (for me it was like forcing magnets together), and while well intentioned, cramming alien software and workflows into a single window never worked well at all. We so wanted it to, and in particular the Mixtape part held such promise, but it was destined to fail.

Thus the Bridge was laid to rest, leaving Serato with no real way to adequately serve the growing need for DJs to make their own music instead of just playing the music of others.

Serato Studio beatmaking software public beta (8)

STUDIO IS GO

It would have been all too easy to set about making a Live clone in a Serato skin. But here was the opportunity to create something that made sense to DJs. Despite what we’re routinely led to believe, sitting down to create music is not the same as playing other people’s creations. It requires skills that you can’t buy, and tools that you can.

So what Serato has done is to create a workflow that is not only familiar to DJs, but also works as a simple DAW. And that’s what Serato Studio seems to be. It’s definitely not Live, but is something more akin to production training wheels for DJs. 

Opening it up presents an easily accessible environment that isn’t an immediate barrage of off-putting techy stuff that makes you feel like a music scientist, and serves to obfuscate the experience. Instead, it’s very easy to prod ’n play, and get satisfying results quickly — it’s amazing what an 808 drum kit can get out of you. In this respect, Serato Studio definitely removes the Ableton Live learning curve wall (I’ll say it guys even if you just allude to it), and replaces it with an experience that engages you to keep going to produce more. 

As I spend more time with Serato Studio, it’s clear that it’s very engaging, and positively demands that you dick around with features to see what happens. For example, I’ve just discovered the beat generator that can create beats in specific genres for you to use as a starting point. That’s a nice touch, especially for those that might not be that adept at laying down a beat.

SUBSCRIPTION ONLY?

Imagine that you’re making software from scratch. Now imagine that the years of development that has to happen before you even see a penny. Now imagine that to continue development, you need a steady flow of revenue to keep paying the people who have created the software. Getting lump sums from the launch and an unpredictable flow of purchases doesn’t allow for solid decisions to be made. There is a lot of uncertainty in this business model. 

Now imagine spreading the cost of your purchase to a monthly model. This not only means that you get used to paying each month, and never have to deal with the dreaded upgrade fee. It also means that the developer gets a smooth and predictable revenue stream, which makes for much better planning and product development cycles.

It’s definitely something that the end users need to get used to. I certainly have with the Adobe Creative Cloud, and that’s a significant sum each month for just a small fraction of what it offers. My hope is that this won’t be expensive. For a first version of a new software, Serato can’t go balls-out and expect people to fork over huge sums. This isn’t Adobe CC. The sweet spot for subscriptions seems to be 9.99 of your local currency. I’d be surprised if it was more.

THE MISSING LINK

While the emerging path seems to be DJ to producer and vice versa, the paths from an existing software perspective barely cross. There has been little that grafts one into the other over the years. Native Instruments has always talked of the their ecosystem being a melting pot of cross-pollination, a concept that has yet to see any meaningful merging of Traktor and Maschine for DJs.

With Serato Studio, there is a real opportunity to bring together the two largely disparate worlds into a coherent workflow. But right now, I’m not sure how that is going to work. There are no clear signs in this version, but that is only to be expected on day one of an all-new application. But for me that needs to happen, and in a way that makes sense from a DJ workflow perspective.

Serato Studio beatmaking software public beta (7)

SUMMING UP

To most, Serato Studio will be something of a jaw dropping surprise. But I’ve been hearing about this for what feels like years (because it has been), so it’s just been a waiting game. I have to say that I’m pleasantly surprised, for had it been a Live clone, the tone of this piece would have been quite different. But it’s good to see them make something that DJs can immediately understand and access.

From Serato’s perspective (and probably every other DJ software maker too), they needed another direction. It’s my contention that everything meaningful has been done in software, and major developments that can be charged for are likely to be few and far between. V2 of Serato DJ Pro was more update than upgrade, hence not charging for it. And for me, it’s unlikely that DJ software will develop in any huge way in the future, thus Serato Studio has come along at exactly the right time for them to develop a new market.

At this point, this is the first beta of a brand new product. There will be a roadmap that will become clear, but for now this is more barebones than some will like. Established producers used to pro level DAWs will most probably dismiss it. But for me, this is for DJs wanting to get into producing via the accessible workflow of beatmaking.

Serato Studio will evolve and grow with them, and in time get to the point where those established producers will probably take another look, and find something more interesting. It’s also important to note that Serato refers to Studio as “beatmaking” software — we media types may be tagging it as production because it’s not DJ software so it just be a DAW right? Wrong — see it for what it is at this point.

I’m not going to spend time discussing individual features or workflows. I don’t need to, firstly because Mojaxx has produced one of his excellent videos and created an easy to understand first look piece.

And of course, Joey at Digital DJ Tips has done the same too. But secondly because the public beta is open, and it’s much easier for you to have a dabble yourselves and report back. I’m sure that Serato will be reading your comments.

UPDATE — BETA CLOSED

This just in:

 Serato Studio public beta sign ups paused after influx of users

From Auckland, New Zealand, March 29th 2018 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Serato has announced it is putting a hold on new sign ups to the public beta of Serato Studio after launching the beatmaking software yesterday.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the response since opening and have already had a ton of useful feedback from our beta users. We plan to open the beta again in the future.” says Nick Maclaren, Chief Strategy Officer at Serato.

Anyone interested in joining can still register their interest and they’ll be the first to know of any future openings.


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