In 2012 we possibly saw more DJ controllers launched, more column inches written about dance music, more leaps in digital technology, and more blows to the old ways of the music industry than in any year before.
But what were the trends driving the changes? What is changing in the world of DJing as these things have happened? And what will it all mean for DJs in 2013 and beyond? That's what we find out today as we look back on seven things we learned in 2012.
1. Dance is now mainstream in the USA
EDM, as it's now called, is big news stateside, with mega festivals and money men not to mention the scene's canniest musical operators mining a rich seam of interest.
There's a glorious history of musical scenes ping-ponging backwards and forwards across the Atlantic of course, and for DJs and everyone involved in DJing, the "EDM exposion" can broadly be seen as a good thing. But of course it's brought its downsides - DJs are not, in many people's minds, rock stars, even though many behave that way, and seeing Paris Hilton DJing and superstar DJs miming have equally appalled many people. Where it goes in 2013 is anyone's guess, but it'll certainly be interesting to watch.
2. Streaming is replacing buying for many music fans
The massive rise of Spotify, Rdio, Rhapsody, Deezer and so on means that for many people, music is now "rented", not bought. Many of these services have offline functions so you can pack your smartphone or iPod touch with "your" music, while never actually buying any of it, just paying your monthly subscription to your service of choice.
I think it's a good thing, and also think it's good that DJs can cut the fluff by using such services and only buying what they want to DJ with. But this year it got taken a stage further by Pulselocker, who can "rent" you tunes to DJ with right there in your DJ software. The cat's out of the bag: Long-term, people will own less and less music and stream more and more - even DJs.
3. iOS is now a viable DJing platform
We've long championed iOS devices for their extreme convenience, and carried a lot of articles exploring how they can be used in DJing, but this year they exploded big time.
Whether used as library managers / streaming drives for Pioneer's rekordbox or Denon's Engine software to the respective hardware, or to run DJ software on to be controlled either using the touchscreen or a connected DJ controller, iOS devices are in many ways far more natural a choice for DJing than fragile laptops. (Android hasn't got a look-in yet.)
This year the multi-route audio issue was conquered as was reliable connection of Midi controllers, and as iDevices get larger hard drives (and the streaming we mentioned in point 2 becomes more widespread), this "device capacity" objection will go away, too.
4. The DJ booth and controllers are merging
There's been a big gap betwen "controller" DJing and "pro" gear in DJ booths for a while now, one that has traditionally only been bridged by cumbersome DVS systems. And while many DJs happily take their controllers to DJ booths and plug in, that leaves an awful lot of equipment sat there not being used. But it's all changing.
Pioneer DJ booth gear now plays happily with Traktor, meaning you can roll up with just a laptop and play away. Pioneer itself has developed its pro DJ rekordbox software and DJing workflow beyond the DJ booth - you can now use rekordbox on the Pioneer XDJ-Aero, a small home controller. As manufacturers get creative in bridging the controller / DJ booth gap in these ways, it's starting to look like things are finally moving in a unified direction - although it's still too early to call how exactly it will all pan out.
5. Digital DJing has seen explosive growth
It's half-fuelled by the EDM explosion no doubt, but also by the technologies maturing and the gear getting better and cheaper. Whatever the reason, digital DJing is now truly massive.
Our very first DJ controller guide in 2011 featured just 38 devices; our latest 2013 DJ controllers guide contains 142 DJ controllers, and we made the conscious decision to remove dozens of older ones, too! Likewise we've seen our site traffic grow from 80,000 visits a month two years ago to over half a million visits this last month - a seven-fold rise.
We believe that just as digital photography revolutionised picture taking by making it cheaper, easier to share, more accessible and more fun, so exactly the same thing is happening with DJing and music in general, and that for this reason alone the future is extremely bright. Digital killing the art of DJing? That argument is sounding very old (and faint) as we march boldly into 2013.
6. Interest in video DJing is growing
Serato Video was (re)launched at the start of 2012, anecdotally shifting an awful lot of copies in its first weeks on sale. Virtual DJ has always been loved by a significant minority of DJs for its rock-solid video handling, and MixVibes has just also launched its own video add-on for its Cross DJ platform, having previously championed video DJing with its VFX PC-only controller. What are all these companies betting on?
They're gambling on video DJing continuing to grow as it did in 2012. With storage getting cheaper, and devices getting more powerful, video DJing is now as easy as audio-only DJing, and can add a whole new dimension to the sets of DJs who choose to embrace it.
And while "true" VJs (maybe rightfully) distance themselves from the "music video DJ" types, there's room for both, and you can rest assured the technology will continue to smash down the walls - you only have to see Algoriddim's awesome vjay software streamed straight to the big screen wirelessly over AirPlay from an iPhone to realise that.
In an age where DJs struggle to differentiate themselves from their peers, we've noticed that many in 2012 have taken video DJs to their hearts in an attempt to do just that.
7. Traktor still dominates, but the jury's out on its new features
Over three-quarters of you use Traktor as your number one DJ software. This year there have been some balls dropped elsewhere (Virtual DJ delayed launching version 8 and Torq disappeared, for instance) so perhaps it's not surprising that Traktor has had a lot of the field to itself.
But Traktor hasn't has it all its way. The jury's out on the whole Remix Decks thing among our readership - it's a great idea, is the consensus, but many of our readers are reporting that they've yet to see many people blow them away with it. We get the feeling there are more than a few Kontrol F1s sat there waiting to be put to full use. Hats off to NI for innovating, but this is one that has yet to be grown by the company into something mainstream.
Meanwhile, Serato has finally sharpened up its marketing and product range and started to show some real competition for Traktor after a couple of relatively unremarkable years, and with Pioneer pushing its rekordbox software into the XDJ-Aero, plus the slow but sure rise of iOS (no sign of any of the "big three" on that platform yet), Traktor's dominance remains strong, but by no stretch guaranteed. On measure, though, we bet it'll still be biggest this time next year.
What did you see change in 2012? What did you learn? How has your DJing evolved this year? What new skills or gear have moved your music forward? Please share in the comments.