Native Instruments’s new fangled Traktor Kontrol S8 proposes a new way for DJs to perform. It eschews the decades old vinyl-based DJ workflow, and instead brings a format that is arguably more suited to the digital age. This of course awakens the keyboard warriors inside the detractors and naysayers, much like when CDJs, DVS, controllers, and touch screens were all put out there for the first time. They’re either toys that pros will never use, will never be seen in booths, or they’re just plain cheating. They’re also apparently fads that will never catch on, which looking at the DJ scene over the last decade patently isn’t true for any of them. So why do people fear new technology in DJing?
New ideas are good
No really. I know some of you fear them, but new stuff isn’t here to eliminate your existing setup. Here’s the thing with new technology — I don’t for a moment think that when a designer sits with a blank canvas that they set out to design the next big thing that will banish all the old things to annals of DJ history. I think that they hope to create something cool that people will love and buy by the container load.
Without new ideas, we would not have loops, cues, samples, effects, digital audio… I could go on, but you get the idea. And I’m looking forward to what comes next too.
This and that
There seems to be a mentality from a section of the scene that sees each new wave of technology as the great usurper, designed to pillage and plunder the current scene and leave a trail of destruction. History has shown that some new waves of technology did have an adverse impact on the current ones, if only because the new ways tick more boxes of the masses than before. But history has also shown that there’s a trickle-down effect where successive generations learn and borrow from the previous one, and that the old ways come back to the surface again anyway.
The S8 is a clear example of this. It does indeed leave behind the things we would otherwise take for granted to deliver a controller that challenges convention. But at the same time it also lets you directly hook up turntables and CDJs. Thus the S8 is both a next level controller, and a 4 channel DVS mixer with added controller functionality. It really does depend on your viewpoint.
My point is that you shouldn’t view this technology as mutually exclusive. You can hook all sorts of technologies up and create a setup that works for you. Think ‘this and that’ not ‘this or that’.
Nothing has changed
Reading some of the comments on here, you’d be forgiven for thinking that some genuinely fear new ideas. The hostility shown is genuine, but quite unnecessary.
Let’s do a short test. Go over to your current gear — spin some tunes and do what you would normally do in your DJ life. Amazing, your old gear still works exactly the same as it did before the advent of the latest and greatest. You can still play the same tunes and mix them the same way for your audience, who largely couldn’t give a crap about your gear anyway.
And despite NI’s best efforts to allegedly eradicate turntables and jog wheels, they’re still just as popular as they were before. In fact, the rampant march of controllers through the DJ landscape, turntables are more popular than at any time in the last ten years. Like any technology-led scene, the further the industry pushes forward, the more attractive the old ways look, which is why despite having cameras so ridiculously amazing and cheap, every damned picture online has been pushed through a retro filter.
You don’t have to use it
Some see change, but I see choice, and there’s more than ever, and new things are coming out all the time. These choices often fall into neat genres so that you can subscribe to a particular tribe, that at one end lets you spin real vinyl, and at the other use gesture control and not touch anything, with many stops in between. Choice is good.
And choice means not using something too. Nobody is forcing you to drop hard cash on the newest shiny, because as discussed above, your old stuff still works as it did before. I just wish more people would try out new things and decide that it’s not for them rather than heap hate without even giving something new a chance.
Not liking something does not mean you have to vocally hate it either. I cannot stand flip flops, like really irrationally despise them. Should I walk up to everyone in the street and verbally attack people who wear them? No. So why do people insist on doing it online when talking about DJ gear?
The wheels don’t stop spinning
Technology never stops evolving. Whatever state we’re at now, you can be sure that somewhere in a secret lab is the next big thing, and probably the next revolution is almost certainly being kicked around a drawing board. Whether the next attempted coup actually works remains to be seen. CDJs and controllers certainly saw huge changes in the scene, and mobile devices are beginning to make themselves known.
But some purported revolutions have not had quite the same impact. Touch and gesture technology haven’t really caught on in a big way, because DJs have made it clear (though not buying them) that they generally want to grab hold of things when DJing. Video is another allegedly huge revolution that has yet to take hold, perhaps not succeeding because of trying to make it work in a DJ workflow. But that’s another story.
I would however say that the DJ gear scene is maturing, with old and new tech being used at the same time. But truly new and unique ideas are few and far between now. Even the newest controllers (Kontrol S8 and Numark NV) are just reworks of existing hardware and ideas.
Nutshelling this for all those who simply jump to the last paragraph:
New thinking in DJ gear is good, and brings some cool ideas to the scene.
New ideas do not replace existing ideas, but can complement them.
Your current DJ gear still works just the same as it did before. Try it.
You are under no obligation to use the new gear. Ever.
Expect more new ideas that challenge convention. And live with it.
So you see that you have nothing to fear from new ideas in DJ gear. They’re not here to kill off what has come before it, and makes the DJ scene a richer and more vibrant place. You don’t have to use it, but if you do it’s not necessarily to the exclusion of what you’ve used before. It’s perfectly possible for you to use both perhaps even at the same time.