How Apple's iCloud Could Change DJing

music in icloud

iCloud: what does this mean for the way we'll DJ in the future?

Apple's new iCloud service, which as part of its offering provides music storage in the cloud and auto-sync across all iTunes-enabled devices, looks set to revolutionise the way consumers access their music - while of course tying them in ever more to Apple. But what will this mean for DJs? Is it likely to change the way we access, store and play our music?Does it mean that the days of having a huge hard drive, backing it up religiously, and collecting vast gigabytes of music on our home PCs and laptops will be a thing of the past? We take a look into what could be a very different future for DJs...

What's different about iCloud?

iCloud has a couple of aces up its sleeve which differentiate it from similar services offered by Amazon and Google. The big, big thing is that it puts all of your music "in the cloud", without you having to actually upload the vast majority of it - iCloud just looks at what you've got in your iTunes on your local machine or machines, and it magically appears in your new iCloud service immediately - as long as it's already in iTunes's store, that is.

All music appears in AAC 256kbps format, and in effect Apple is standardising and cleaning up all your music - it will all be in a uniform format, all metadata present and correct, and so on. Once you're up and running, your music also appears in the iTunes programs/iTunes app on all your devices - your Mac or Windows PC, your iPad, your iPod Touch and/or your iPhone. Buy something on one device, and it appears on all the others. For music not purchased through iTunes, iTunes Match costs US$24.99/year and lets you add an unlimited quantity of music to your iCloud iTunes account that you didn't buy from iTunes - ie all your existing collection! Of course, you have to upload the stuff that iTunes can't match, but that means that once you have, it all gets synced across all of your devices just the same.

It's available now in beta in the US (although you'll have to wait a few months for iTunes Match), and no doubt will be available to all soon. But what does it mean for DJs?

How iCloud may change DJing

Here's a few thoughts:

  • iTunes will become more integrated with DJ software - This is turning into the ultimate music library. Being able to access all of your tunes, playlists, metadata etc properly via iTunes in DJ software is a seductive idea, and I can't see anything but closer integration in the future. Traktor, in particular, is poor in this department - expect this to improve. The idea of your DJ software keeping its own database is feeling clunkier by the week
  • The 256kbps AAC format will become dominant - I have very little music in this format, but I am led to believe it sounds as good as 320kbps MP3. If so, there's no reason why it shouldn't become the dominant music format should iCloud take off.
  • Streaming will mean you only keep limited music for offline use - The service doesn't come with streaming - it uses WiFi to sync all of your devices, so you still have a physical copy of every record on every device. But it no doubt will soon, and at that point, you'll only carry what you want to on each device, and stream the rest should you need it. Spotify is already slick at this, giving you the option to download folders, playlists, albums etc for offline use, streaming the rest. So you could prepare a set, have local copies of your music for that set, and have the rest of your music in the cloud, maybe pulling down anything else on the fly should you need it. Which means that...
  • The laptop may start to become unnecessary at gigs - So if your set is available to you on iTunes on your iPhone, why take your laptop? Why not just plug your iPhone into next-generation DJ gear in clubs, and play from the local files? It would be a bit like playing on Pioneer CDJ-2000's with USB sticks
  • DJ gear will start to appear with iCloud/iTunes sync built in - We have already seen in the Stanton SCS4.DJ that it is perfectly possible to have a modern DJ controller without a separate computer, as that particular controller has a computer and screen built-in (we have one here, by the way - review coming soon). All it would need would be a firmware upgrade and a WiFi/3G enabled device (or an iPhone interface) and you could play your iTunes/iCloud music directly on it. I am happy to bet that manufacturers are already looking at this (the SCS4.DJ, tellingly, has two spare USB slots in its body, where music supply devices could be located).
  • You won't bother to download local copies of stuff from online sources any more - When you come across stuff on SoundCloud, or music blogs, there'll be a "transfer to my iCloud" button as well as a "download" one, and iCloud will take care of syncing it across all your devices

Still a few rivers to cross...

iCloud iTunes iMatch DJ

iTunes Match means that whatever the tune - whether or not it's available on iTunes - you'll be able to keep a copy of it in your iCloud.

Of course, there are issues. A lot of people will be hesitant to give up control to Apple in this way. DJ software and hardware will have to find a way of storing analysis information in AAC files, much like Serato already does in MP3s, rather than having separate libraries of metadata like Traktor (for instance) currently does.

But it will be fascinating to see how this develops. If, as is expected, full streaming of your music is introduced (it's one of the things we predicted for 2011), and adoption is high (and as all of this stuff is built in to the next auto-update of iTunes, we have to suppose it will be), the DJ companies will without doubt be leaping over each other to innovate in this area.

And the first of the big players that manages to jump into bed with Apple on this one may well change the DJ market profoundly, cleaning up for itself in the process. We watch and wait...

Did you watch the iCloud keynote? Do you already store music in the cloud, or stream music using other services? Would integration with this type of service appeal to you for your DJing? Let us know your thought in the comments.

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  1. Is the new iCloud setup though a STREAMING SERVICE? Or is it just more availability?

    From reading, I keep thinking this is more like you buy a tune on iTunes, and then you can put it on up to 10 devices, but it's still stored on the device until you delete it...but you can do it again if need be.

    So let's say you buy the new Lady Gaga single, play it a few times, delete it, then a month or two later you need it again. You can go back and download it for free (because you paid for it), but you still download and store it on your device.

    I'm not a fan of streaming music into the DJ booth simply because the infrastructure can't handle it. Imagine the wifi goes down at the club, or the connection is slow and you need 10 minutes to download a tune. I think this can help in an emergency, but not for the regular play.

    Plus I wonder if you're able to buy and use anything at any given time, does this destroy the idea of making crates and limiting what you bring?

    Girl: "Can you play some Bon Jovi?"

    DJ: "I didn't bring any."

    Girl: "So go on iCloud and download it."

    DJ: "But this is a deep house night..."

    Girl: "I don't fucking care. I'm a girl. I have tits...I call the shots. So download my fucking song and play it you tool."

    • Jeez man I don't want to meet the women round your way!

      At the moment it's a sync service but they will introduce streaming shortly with the option for files to be available offline.

      • Well, the tits comment is a bit much, but you would be surprised how much these girls here become spoiled little brats and act like because they're women that the world should cater to their every need.

        I never had a girl give me a bad attitude, but I've had way too many simply give me pressure and hound me to play requests that totally clash with the night and/or the music currently playing. My three favorite moments:

        1) Girls asking for the chicken dance or marcarena at a posh suburban nightclub.

        2) Girls asking for Ian Van Dahl or ABBA at a lounge where I was hired to play deep soulful house.

        3) Girl claiming it's her birthday, and she wanted me to play Scooter. I was DJing at a European-style cafe and the owner only wanted "background" music...and he definitely said "NO" on Scooter.

        I'm also sure I'm not the only one whom was asked if I could just download the tune since I have a laptop right there.

      • The streaming part I wonder about because of the terrible infrastructure we have here.

        Plus I wonder how Beatport will counter this?

    • D-Jam, you have made my day. The end of your post has just had me laughing out loud at my screen. Brilliant and true..

      On the main topic, is it possible to love and hate Apple at the same time? I think I do.

      p.s. I've just read it again and I'm still laughing...


  2. Bugger - no point finishing off the article I'm writing then. A slightly different tack but similar nonetheless.

  3. Virtual DJ has a link to iTunes already built into it. I use it for my Promo Only music service audio cd's. Will be interesting to see how iCloud impacts it; especially since there is a $9.99 monthly VIP member interface with Groveshark already built into the Virtual DJ program. Things just keep getting better and better!

  4. Steve Boyett says:

    As long as Apple continues to pursue its locked-in, monopolistic vertical integration, I won't come near this.

  5. iTunes is awesome at managing a music library but it'll be a long time before the "cloud" is relied on so much. Will it happen? I'm sure eventually but there's just too much at risk for something to rely completely on the cloud.

    • Another concern, if we're allowing Apple to scan our library and "match" what we have, how much longer until all of the record labels start taking that information and trying to turn it against people?

      Oh hey look, this person has an unreleased album or track, lets prosecute them!

      • This is definitely a concern of mine... as is the question about what happens with all the edits and remixes I've done... will they just be replaced with itunes store versions!?!?
        Also, what about all the cue points & loops I've put in my 320 kbps mp3s? Do I lose those because apple replaces those files? oy.

        • Phil Morse says:

          No, you can upload all your unique stuff and it'll keep copies for you in the cloud. Regarding cue points/looping etc - that's the big hurdle. DJ software will have to find ways of storing these for you and associating them with the correct files in the cloud. Certainly hurdles left for this to all become reality, but it's interesting watching things edge towards at least the option of DJing this way.

    • iTunes is passable at music management. There's no option for custom tags/fields, no confirmation that tags are synced to the files, and no custom file management for different media. Passable. Whilst I'm excited about cloud based storage I'm not thrilled that iTunes is getting the hype.

      And really, it's not cloud storage. Not really. I'm a rock broadcaster and iTunes doesn't have half my collection. I imagine it's even worse for my electronica friends.

  6. Torq also uses iTunes.

    There was always a time when something like this would come along.

    Now Apple has done it, watch the others follow.

    But I also think that some DJs will insist on playing the highest quality digital files and that one standard digital format (stored locally) will eventually take over, sounding better than 256KBPS.

  7. DJ Sir Andy says:

    If I had a dollar for every broad that said, "why don't you just download it since you have a computer right there?" when I told her I didn't have the song she requested (usually something I wouldn't play anyway) I'd have at least a hundred dollars. Yeah, and why don't I just check my email, edit a video, book a flight, upload said video to youtube, create a movie in iMovie and back up my hard drive to Time Machine while I'm at it? Perhaps you should request a song that fits into the format of the night, or better yet, request a good song? What? That would entail the use of common sense? Never mind then, go annoy a different male who will accommodate simply because you have tits and a vaj, I'm not him. Rant over.
    I wouldn't want to DJ using Match or iCloud for the simple fact that their 256kbps files and their on the cloud and the instability of streaming from the internet scares the crap out of me.

  8. You're one and a half hours into your set, pulling your music straight off iCloud, when the network goes down (something they are known to do).
    The audio glitches for a second, then goes silent.


  9. BigMixxx says:

    Seriously speaking...I don't really take that as being true. True Turntableist, still use...turntables. My point there is that people still keep there tunes closest to them. Remember, internet access is not as useful in the club, or wedding, etc. to spin up a song from a cloud service, still means you have to 'WAIT' for that song to be available. Until Speeds get faster, there is no way. NOW, the thing I see is this.

    Not iCloud, but streaming service in general. A Bedroom DJ greatest asset right now is google's music beta or soundcloud, because they can produce a mix and make it available for millions of users, or that one person, who wanted some great tunes but there favorite DJ is 1700 miles away ( literally ).

    • Phil Morse says:

      Lordy, this is a digital DJing blog - there's very few people round here still using turntables. We're talking about music distribution, not what gear you use :)

      Also, you will always have a local copy of your files - look at this more like a central "master copy".

  10. Bartboy says:

    I would double check some facts about iCloud. I thought (I could be wrong) that there was a limit with the amount that either a. could be stored in the cloud b. that apple would match thru the matching service or c. both. I'm pretty sure Apple has set some kind of 25,000 limit on either the number of songs it will allow you to match and/or store in the cloud. Now granted that's a lot of music but I know some people have way more than that. Which makes sense as I mean Apple is HUGE but they don't unlimited space.

    It does appear to give some people a kind of legal "loophole" if they have shamelessly pirated any of their music. If Apple matches a song that you pirated you technically now haven't pirated that song as you have a legal copy. Just some things to think about. I am in no way advocating piracy.

  11. I believe this is the future. We will be able to walk into the club with only headphones. By then, every major city will be wireless, we'll pull up our tunes from the cloud and play them on the club's system. Sure, there's lots of kinks to work out, but this is the natural next step.

  12. I wonder what they'll do with tracks that are "not available in your region"?

  13. Gotta be the worst article on here....this is just fucking bloatware and I cant believe that djs are actually bored enuff to buy into this crap.

    "iTunes will become more integrated with DJ software"

    Imo iTunes integration into dj software should be left alone, sure its nice to have something else to stare at when collecting/organizing/making sets but do you really think that Apple is going to give 2 fucks when an update shows up from either end of the programs you use and starts messing up your tagging info; And shouldnt djing software be enuff to handle all your cataloguing needs without having to borrow from what "seems" to be better programming because of its popularity? personally I think iTunes as junk...10+ versions later and it still fucks up my tags when I import into serato, also on this note you better make sure all your mp3s are clean of certain languages in tagging info or iTunes wont read it, and how the damn song youre editing skips around your screen when while youre typing, imagine wanting to do that live in the dark drunk.

    "The 256kbps AAC format will become dominant" <== That is cool but the rest of this article just makes you sound so lazy wow Dj gear with itunes/icloud sync buttons? lolwtf are you smoking. Oh and heh Im going to dj off my iPhone wow I feel so cool...Then theres the streaming basically its like having 1 hard drive full of music but instead of bringing that lol hard drive Im going to make things a bit complicated by only having what I need on my iPhone and streaming live hey hows your bandwith when I didnt expect to need this set tonite.

    Sorry if I come off as rude but this really hit a nerve its like reading an article on Dj Techtools which is usually biased, thoughtless and uninformative. iCloud sounds more like an iDisk 2.0 maybe if I was still asleep Id fall into the omg hype crowd and buy into this bull but late or not I doubt Id use this thing as a back up service think about your transfer rate..

    • Phil Morse says:

      Hi Dylan. OK, the majority of DJs on here do indeed use iTunes as their music library, and in my opinion nothing within major DJ software as yet comes close as far as ease of organisation, smart playlists etc goes. Maybe DJ software should be enough, but for many people, it isn't.

      Seems like you have some issues with getting your iTunes to work properly. For us, iTunes works just fine in all of our systems, although we use Macs so I don't know if it is less reliable in Windows.It plays beautifully with Serato ITCH - those two pieces of software are my DJing basics.

      The whole point about iCloud is that you DON'T need to eat your bandwidth to back up, as it just duplicates your content in the Cloud without uploading your exact copies of all but the music it can't find.

      Anyway, as we point out there are many issues to be dealt with, but it's fun to imagine and I for one can't wait to mess around with iCloud / iTunes Match and see where it could help me with my enjoyment of music.

      And yes, you do come across as a little rude - we just ask commenters to set a good tone by being polite and constructive, I don't see any need to be anything else.

      Thanks for taking part all the same.

  14. I was actually looking to email you but I couldnt find a link

    I only bitch cause I care =P - I find the articles here refreshing from other Dj blogs...

    Yea Im on a mac too and using iTunes as playlists did seem cool until you notice the little quirks that comes along with it and why would you need iTunes when Itch now has smart crates; wouldnt it be easier to edit tags, set cues, grids and plan sets while looking at a waveform? And for the bandwith thing...what about all the obscure stuff or bootlegs.
    Ok so now youve got a duplicate of your library now would you really want to use that service to import your songs on your work laptop or use a cable instead?
    Bringing your ipod bit to a gig...doesnt that seem so unprofessional? Random Joe at the club "Oh hey I got an ipod too - can I plug in?"

    lastly if you need toys and distractions to keep yourself passionate...

  15. Seeing as V10.3 of iTunes is still like a v1.0 programme in critical places creating even more dependence on such a cacky bit of software is really not a good idea.
    As for why I think it's so poor - a database that cannot even synchronize with the files that are on your hard drive is the main reason and iTunes is just shocking when it comes to duplicate handling. Adobe Lightroom got this essential synchronisation feature sorted in V2.0 and even in V1.0 it would not allow duplicate files unless you told it to.
    LR is like iTunes in that is uses a database to catalogue and organise your image collection and despite LR being only on V3, it puts iTunes to shame when it comes to file management, despite that the library module is only 20% of the programme. So even with LR being a more powerful and feature rich programme, is still only 2/3rds of the install size of the bloaty, but still feature poor iTunes.

  16. Eky metal says:

    What happens if there is no wifi or you loose your Internet connection?
    your stuffed , if your a mobile guy like me , you will still need your hard drive and CDs .
    Cheers from Tasmania

    • Yeah, I'd be screwed. But I wouldn't attempt until that was well figured out. Probably will be a long time in the future. Then once, say, an internet connection is available anywhere in any city, it will be even easier.

      I know when I started with Serato, I was always worried, and I'd always hear, "what if my laptop crashed!?" And it has, once. That's also why I always have some CDs and records on hand. Same thing when we're all wireless.

      Our music has gone from a record case to a hard drive. Next it will go from a drive to a cloud. It's really inevitable.

  17. I suspect this statement to be inaccurate and I'm curious as to the details in apples implementation:

    "DJ software and hardware will have to find a way of storing analysis information in AAC files, much like Serato already does in MP3s, rather than having separate libraries of metadata like Traktor (for instance) currently does."

    I think it is actually the opposite. Extra metadata can't be stored directly in files any more as files can't be modified since they are in the cloud. Any extra information that a program needs to store will HAVE to be in a separate database.

    However, I have not been able to find any information regarding editing meta data and the cloud.


    • Phil Morse says:

      You're absolutely correct, Dale, that is an incorrect statement. However, what if files were beatgridded and BPM/key analysed and that became standard MP3 information, in a format all DJ software could understand? How cool would that be?

      • It wouldn't be cool at all for two reasons.

        First: Even BPM aren't a clear measure for all users.
        With almost every Dubstep an with many Reggae tunes you got to decide if it has 70 or 140 BPM....

        Second: What about Cue Points and all that personal stuff you suggested to put into the grouping or comment-tag?

        I'm pretty upset about the possibility to lose information that I tagged into my mp3 because iCloud replaces my files bought in the its with the ones in the Cloud.
        To tell the truth i feel like someone would have to die if that ever happened... (not meant literally but for sure no joke!))

      • I agree marinelli, the fact that iTunes won't have an ability for us to tailor our own files is terrible. But I expected no less from iTunes.
        I bought a kanye west album off the iTunes store once and all the featuring artists were listed in the artist tag as Kanye West ft. suchandsuch.. So I had kanye west listed under artist 20 times with all those variations. Imagine not being able to fix that because we have no access to the metadata!

        Even though iTunes implementation makes sense, it has that massive floor.

        Googles implementation is clunkier in that you have to upload ALL your music but at least it gets around that problem easier...
        However, it doesn't really at the moment because once you've uploaded your files, you have less options for tags and editing and updating tags local doesn't refresh the files remotely.

        1. iTunes was created
        - step forward for mainstreaming digital music usage, 5 steps backward for digital music organisation and management.

        2. Apple iCloud & Google Music Beta were created
        - step forward for music accessibility, 15 steps backward for music organisation and management.

  18. Eky metal says:

    Yeah that sounds great phil , but will apple allow it !!!!

  19. Eky metal says:

    The thing for me here is how reliable will the cloud be ?
    What happens when the sun comes out and the clouds disappear ?
    As I am mobile , some places I go have no wi fi or Internet connection .
    So what happens then, you can not put all your music in a cloud !!
    And all the mixes are rare stuff you pick up over the years , iTunes won't
    Have these !
    It sounds great but!!!!!!!

  20. JustaBarDJ says:

    How about this:
    4 DJ's are resident in a bar and they only DJ at that venue.
    The owner of the bar can create an iTunes-account, the DJ's upload their music to it an the owner makes this music available on iCloud. Only the owner and the DJ's have access to the account. Via Wifi the DJ's login to the iCloud services and use the music on the cloud. New music only has to be purchased once instead of each DJ purchasing it individually.
    All the music of the DJ's which isn't in the iTunes-store can be uploaded to iCloud and used by the other DJ's.
    With iTunes the owner can play the downloaded music on nights when there's no DJ necessary (weekdays, not weekends).
    The bar owner can stop his subscription on the 'BMP-studio-like' monthly music service and only pay 25$ a year for legal music.

    This sounds like a possible plan to me. Have any of you some thoughts on this?



  21. Hi Phil,
    Sorry for arriving so late to the party on this subject, but after reading this post (along with additional research, I have the following question:

    I think my main purpose for using iTunes Match would be to upgrade a large about of 128k files to 256k and re-store them locally on my MacBook. Based on what I am reading here, would I loose all my cue point and other data for these songs that i have in Itch 2.0?

    I take it you have had a year+ now with iCloud/Match, any recommendations or cautions to be aware of?

    As always, thanks for your valued site!

    • Yes you would lose your cues etc. as they're effectively new files. Overall I think it is excellent, but once it has replaced a perfectly good file with a poor quality version of it, something I haven't yet worked out a way around.

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