Today we're returning to something we covered in a very early form a while ago, but in its latest incarnation, this service has come on leaps and bounds - and you really must try it.
It's powered by technology from a company called iWebDJ, but the "public facing" product I'm going to show you today is called PartyCloud - so first, I'd like you to take a look at it. See you in about six hours... 😉
So basically, it's a web mash-up comprising the complete library of music available on SoundCloud, and a pair of decks and a mixer of the type that's familiar to anyone who's ever used DJ software.
While it's simple to look at and simple to use ("It was important that your mother or girlfriend would be able to understand and use it easily," the developer told me - with apologies to mothers and girlfriends with deck skills everywhere), I am sure you'll agree that the behind-the-scenes stuff is impressive.
Why it's easy to use
They've just got it right. The decks look like a Numark DJ2GO - just what you need and nothing else. It loads really fast. There's an awesome search. SoundCloud is just a wonderful place to browse for music, remixes, mashups and so on - there's 20 million tracks to choose from!
As an app, it's seriously addictive, the developers having stripped away everything superfluous, leaving by and large just what you need to DJ with, and adding a few features that ensure it's a lot of fun: the parallel waveforms, the seamless looping, three FX that give a lot of bang for the buck, and a noteworthy "automix" - just hit this and see what a good job it generally does.
They've even cleverly pre-selected a load of likely tunes for you to get you with. In web terms, they've made the app "sticky" with bona fide DJ features.
Why you should be impressed
Do not underestimate how hard this must have been for the developers to get right.
Note how quickly it loads in your browser. Note how smooth it all is (I could get audio glitches moving the controls very fast, but apart from that everything is truly smooth). Note how fast tunes are analysed. Realise there's a bloody good keylock algorithm going on there - as good as any I've heard on any pro DJ software. Try that filter out - amazing. All the while, try to remember this is all in your browser.
You can log in to Facebook and it'll remember your favourites, so you can quickly build up a set that way (you don't have to share them with anyone; just select "only me" when linking the app to your Facebook account). That's a smart move, because Facebook integration will almost definitely ensure this app blows up big time.
I took the time to speak to the developers to see where they're heading with this, and I found out that they've got Midi compatibility in the pipeline!
Imagine plugging your DJ controller in and using it to control this...
(Again, please take your hats off. Can you think of any other browser-based software that lets you take control via a connected Midi controller? Nope, us neither.)
They've also got pre-cueing working in their studio and on the way (using a splitter cable). Add just those two things and you've got basically a complete DJ solution for playing from SoundCloud, wherever you can open a browser! Not bad from a handful of part-time developers. If I were one of the big DJ software houses, I'd be buying this up now and labelling it mine.
What we'd like to see
Clearly, this is something that runs in a browser, and there's no way it could (or would want to) turn into a huge bloated DJ app - lean is good. We get that.
But if I was the boss of the crew who've got the app thus far, I would be pushing them really, really hard right now. I'd be making them sweat. Because I think they can do many of the things I'm about to suggest, and I want to see them happen!
Firstly, it would be good to grab and scratch the waveform or decks. Come on boys, your algorithms sound excellent - add some wow factor by letting us scratch.
Keyboard control of all features via shortcuts would seriously make this an a-m-a-z-i-n-g app for "proper" DJing from just a laptop - I'd divide the keyboard into two "halves", one for each deck, and try and approximate a decks/mixer layout with my key choices. Or just let us map them ourselves.
I want to be able to sign in to my SoundCloud account and access my own favourites there. It is perfectly possible to DJ only from SoundCloud (and there are good arguments why you may want to do this - I've heard of DJs who do so they can be sure they're completely upfront in their tune selections), but to do so, you need to be able to access the way you've already organised your tunes over on the service.
I think for what it is, the GUI is almost perfect - but I would move the Search / Hot Songs / Favourites / Random widget into a single line just under the decks (where Traktor keeps its crates) and widen the library, allowing the user to choose columns. I'd like to see a BPM column.
Why this app matters
This isn't meant to be used in DJ boxes (I bet you could though - I'd love to see someone pull off a "pro" DJ set on this). It relies on an internet connection. It would never be your only DJ software.
But, can you think of a more amazing way to audition tracks from SoundCloud?
Let's look forward further, as this is plainly only the beginning. How about being able to slot in any online music? How about being able to drag and drop online tunes from other services straght onto the decks? How about this as an app for Spotify? How about being able to record sets performed in this way? To broadcast them as you're playing?
iWebDJ, the company and technology behind this, has shone a light on all these possibilities. Aside from the fact that even getting this far is an amazing accomplishment, this little app is a clear demonstration that cloud DJing can be done well - online music played with an online app. The developers should be immensely proud.
We're watching closely, boys. Don't lose the faith - you're changing the game.
Please only respond to this post if you had a play - here's the link again. I'd love to know what you think, how you think this can be improved, how you found the usability, the sound quality, the "stickiness" - and where you'd like to see such technology going.