It’s exciting to try and predict what 2011 will bring for DJing: so much new gear is released annually, and if you look at what’s changed in just the last 2 to 3 years, it’s clear the pace is not going to slow.
Pulling together the views of our readers, the little whispers we’re hearing from within the industry, and a good dose of creative thinking, here are our predictions for 2011. We’re already looking forward to having a good laugh about how right/wrong we were come the end of the year…
1. It will be the year of 4 decks
One solid thing that digital has brought to the table that will become abundantly clear in 2010 is 4 decks. DJing with 4 decks will become much more common – indeed, it may become the norm. We will develop our skills in this area, and the hardware and software from all companies will continue to catch up. Specifically:
- Numark will launch a 4-deck controller – this has already been leaked by Skratchworx
- The Vestax VCI-100 Mk II, Traktor Kontrol S4 and the Denon DN-MC6000 will all sell well – heralding the 4-deck controller as the new mid-range norm
- Reloop will launch a full 4-deck model – maybe, if the teaser they’ve put out is a 4-deck controller, as early as NAMM in January
- M-Audio will update Torq – A 4-deck take on the Xponent plus software must surely be due
- Behringer will update its controller range – the BCD3000 (don’t even mention the 2000) just doesn’t cut it any more. It’s time for a new 4-deck controller to complement the strides they’re making in other areas of DJ gear
- More S4-compatible hardware will come from Native Instruments – surely the Kontrol S4 will not remain their only S4-compatible controller?
- Pioneer will finally enter the DJ controller arena – hard to work out what Pioneer are doing, but whether it’s a firmware update to let its new CDJs control DJ mainstream controller software directly, or a controller range of its own, surely they’re not going to ignore pure digital DJing forever?
2. Non-computer DJing will become less popular
Laptops and increasingly iPads are so damned easy for DJs – big screens, easy to scroll through and choose tunes, lots of functions to access. Therefore DJing off USBs while squinting at tiny LED readouts, or using CD players, or plugging iPods into devices that let you “miraculously” mix with them, will all fail to gain any ground. (Vinyl of course is niche already.)
Mobile DJs like some of that kit, sure, but with laptops, iPads and equivalent devices becoming smaller, cheaper and more reliable than ever, and the cost of media including solid state drives falling all the time, computer DJing – whether DVS, controller-led or even DJs just turning up and plugging their laptops into club installation mixers (the Xone:DB4 is a powerful beast for this purpose) – will become more and more popular overall.
3. Ableton will become more attractive to DJs
As the skills and roles of DJs and producers merge, Ableton Live will become more DJ friendly. Specifically:
- An update to Ableton Live will offer more DJ features – At least decent DJ skins and incorporation of some of the easy kills among DJs’ wishes for the software
- Serato will update ITCH to work with its The Bridge software – It’s what ITCH controllerists are waiting for – the ability to control Ableton tracks from directly within their Serato ITCH workflow
- Novation and M-Audio will release new Ableton controllers – Novation will have watched the Akai APC20 and APC40 successfully launched, and want to offer something equivalent in its own range – and don’t bet on M-Audio not launching something along those lines too
4. The touchscreen will make more inroads into DJing
Apps for iPod, iPhone, iPad and Android devices are arriving in droves, and with more and more touchscreen devices appearing, it is only natural that they will make inroads into DJing. Expect:
- More remote control apps – Virtual DJ just launched one, of course Apple has got people accustomed to using remote control apps in the home with its iTunes Remote for iOS, so having apps to help control features of DJ software will become more usual
- More powerful iPad DJ and production apps – djay for iPad has shows that iPad DJing has legs, but expect more apps that add to what you can do – the iPad can add an extra control surface for the DJ, and apps will make more use of this
- DJ hardware that uses the iPad as its main computer will be launched – there was a Numark hoax controller image that did the rounds this year, but this will become a reality. Instead of plugging your laptop into your controller, why not your iPad? Touchsceen browsing for music and extra controls, plus a hardware surface for the tactile part of the equation – surely someone will have a go at launching a controller like this?
5. DJing will become more visual
With performers now making the music and using innovative new digital technology to play it with, we’re moving miles way from “two decks and a mixer”. Video and visuals will become a more integral part of this.
- More equipment and software will be able to handle video – Midi controllers will be made with video mappings, other manufacturers will catch up with the Denon DN-MC6000 (hardware) and Virtual DJ (software) to add video-enabled controllers to their ranges
- More top DJs will add genuinely innovative video and visual elements to their shows – Not just big-production visuals, but something DJs control themselves, intimately, directly from their kit. DJ Yoda does it with video, Ritchie Hawtin does it in a very different way – and more top names will embrace curated video performance to tray and make it an integral part of what they’re known for.
6. Digital DJing will become more accepted
“As long as music travels faster than the bands that make it,” to paraphrase Frank Broughton and Bill Brewster, “there will be a need for DJs.” That’s the truth at the heart of it.
Discord and rhyme
This year, it seems that more than ever there is discord among old jocks and new ones, controllerists and vinyl heads, beatmatchers and sync lovers, producers and performers.
It’s borne from the big rush of new DJs who the old school feel don’t have the skills and haven’t done their dues, mixed with a genuine lack of direction as to where all this is going.
DJing – an industry that was always open-minded and forward looking – is in the midst of a battle between the new thinkers and a deeply conservative old school.
While I don’t think the direction part will become any clearer (Pioneer continues to push one form of digital DJing in DJ boxes here in Europe, DVS shows no sign of dying out everywhere but especially in the States, controllers are splintering into the S4-style performance controllers and those that are more traditional in outlook), what will become clearer is that DJing is never going to return to how it was when Technics ruled.
DJs will realise that everyone else “gets it”
As more consumers enjoy DJing for fun with video games, touchscreen apps, free or cheap software, iTunes innovations and so on, DJs will realise that everyone knows what their tricks are, everyone knows what they’re up to, everyone understands the gear nowadays. It’s what you do with it that will matter increasingly.
With young DJs who know nothing other than digital coming through, digital DJing culture will develop at a pace, bringing new disciples on board and throwing off those who can’t keep up as spins into the future.
Yet it will still, at its heart, be DJing. You can’t teach rapport, you can’t teach musical passion, and you can’t teach enthusiasm.
Music is the answer
I’m hoping that this year we spend less time debating the pros and cons of what’s going to happen anyway, and more concentrating on what really matters – great records, played in the right order, for right now. Something I confidently predict computers won’t be able to do by the end of this year or any year.
What do you think 2011 has in store for DJing? Let us know in the comments.