Streaming and the demise of DJ music ownership

streaming wifi vinyl

I’m sat here putting the finishing touches to my algoriddim djay review, a product that now enjoys a fully symbiotic relationship with music streaming service Spotify. With the right connection, it’s perfectly feasible to play streaming music instantly as if it were stored on your iPad. And with Traktor being plumbed into Mixcloud, and Mixvibes just announcing that Soundcloud is its online music buddy, it would appear that streaming music is this years thing.

Obviously this is nothing new. The idea has been around for years, but was generally looked down upon because of the flakey nature of wifi, a feature that every DJ manufacturer insisted be turned off. It might be alright at home, but imagine trying to maintain a connection strong enough to play out in a club with, especially when it’s potentially shared with a floor full of punters uploading embarrassing shots via SnapChat. Exactly. Things are getting easier though, and a decent connection is easy enough in a properly setup venue with private wifi access.

But for me it leads to a bigger issue, one that hits at the very core of being a DJ, and that’s music ownership. Here’s how the role of the DJ has changed over the years — it used to be our job to find the newest tracks and purvey them to a floor full of music hungry punters. But in this connected world, everyone has the same music, and can get it instantly from just about everywhere in the world — even while on the dance floor. Now, when we had to buy music, there was still a chance that we DJs who laid out large wads of virtual money would still be a step ahead of the masses, but when everything is increasingly streamed via every manner of social media, the DJ’s job is made ever harder.

Why buy when you can rent?

This is where we are with music. DJs no longer have to buy tracks. For a tenner a month, anyone can get Spotify and have 20 million tracks at their disposal. And with the increase in track discovery features like Spotify’s Echonest, you don’t really have to even listen to it before you play it, and better beat gridding and key detection means that tracks can more or less mix themselves. Trust me — with a little prep, djay will play unattended and do a decent job of mixing for hours.

So we are at a point where we don’t have to own music, know music, or even play music. This is of course a gross clickbaitish over-simplification of what being a digital DJ is all about. But it’s a scary dystopian vision for DJs to contend with, especially when such a thing was just a crazy prediction some years ago. Back in the days of skratchworx, I foresaw a time when music would be managed by some sort of central service that clubs and DJs could subscribe to, if only to placate the growing number of music police agencies popping up. I imagined limits on tracks, and it being hardwired. But it seems that you can have it all over your phone now. Bob Dylan was right — the times they are a changing. The question is how are you going to deal with it?

Do you use streaming services? For personal use or for playing out? Can you see a time when you stop buying music completely and just subscribe? Or do you feel that like most things, the new ways can happily co-exist alongside the existing ways?

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