Mixxx is unique among DJ software in that it’s completely free. We’ve watched this open-source program develop into a serious contender for DJs who support the idea of such a platform and who want a genuine alternative to the big commercial programs. With the release of Mixxx 1.8.2 and the Mixxx 1.9 Beta, there’s even more for DJs to enjoy about this unique program. Here we have an exclusive interview with Adam Davison, one of the Mixxx developers, about the project:
Hi Adam. Can you start by telling us how and why you guys start developing Mixxx?
Interestingly, Mixxx was originally developed as part of a PhD thesis by Tue Haste Andersen, but he’s no longer active in the project.
Most of the current developers got involved by working on a feature they really wanted personally and then ending up having fun and sticking around.
For example Albert Santoni, our current lead developer, started working on Mixxx because he really wanted to see an open source implementation of vinyl control.
At what point did it become serious?
I don’t think there was a specific point, the project just sort of snowballed. We just kept doing releases and the number of users kept growing and more people got interested in development.
In the past 5 years we’ve gone from a few hundred downloads a month to over 3,000 a day but it’s been quite an organic process. We’re all still involved in the project because we enjoy it.
What are the advantages of open source DJ software over the big names?
The obvious advantage is zero initial cost. If you want to figure out if DJing is for you and learn the basics, open source is a great way to get started. More advanced users get the additional benefit of not having to worry about vendor lock-in.
Many proprietary software solutions only support some types of controller or vinyl hardware, and open source is a great antidote to these problems.
Additionally, with open source the development process is quite open.
If you really like proprietary software but wish one thing was different, will a large software company ever listen to you? Mixxx, like many open source projects is very open to user feedback and contributions.
What do you think Mixxx does BETTER than anyone else?
I think Mixxx 1.9 probably has the potential for better Midi controller support than anything else out there.
Our scripting engine allows you to write completely programmable mappings and customise your controller in previously impossible ways. I say potential because we still don’t have mappings for some controllers and some have some bugs but expect to see some impressive things being done with Midi controllers with Mixxx 1.9.
What would you say Mixxx’s weaknesses currently are? How will you go about improving them?
I think historically we had problems with the user interface, especially the music library. Things have improved a lot in this area in Mixxx 1.8 and now Mixxx 1.9 though. We’ve got some really great new skins and the library has been rewritten to use a database which helps it scale much better.
If you were turned off by the user interface of previous versions, I really recommend you check out the new Mixxx.
Also we pay a lot of attention to stability now. We think Mixxx 1.8 is more stable than any previous release and we intend to continue this trend.
What should we expect from Mixxx 2.0? And when should we expect it?
I don’t think we’ll do a Mixxx 2.0 until we’ve got something which represents a really major advance. I think it’s fair to say we don’t know exactly what this might be yet or what the timescales might be.
We’ve got a few ideas in mind, particularly overhauling the way our user interface works, but nothing concrete at this stage. For now you should expect to see regular 1.x releases, each with one or two exciting new features and a bunch of smaller improvements and fixes.
What encourages you to carry on developing Mixxx?
I think the reasons are personal and you’d get a different answer from every member of the development team.
For me though, knowing you helped make something which is being used by tens of thousands of people worldwide is really something.
We get feedback from people all over the world who say, “You have no idea how many parties your software is running at, how many people you’re making happy,” and that’s fantastic.
Can you give us examples of DJs using Mixxx in clubs/bars etc? What are their experiences?
A long-time Mixxx user, DJ Thread, does a weekly drum and bass show on DnbRadio.com on Linux. He likes the stability of Linux and our great support for the Hercules RMX.
Though we have a dedicated forum on our website for DJs to post their gigs and mixes, people tend to be a bit shy about promoting their gigs.
From our user survey last year, we estimate roughly a third of our regular users have performed in front of a live audience with Mixxx, so we know they’re out there. Mixxx powers a lot of house parties and smaller gigs.
What skills do the dev team have in music? How many are DJs, how many are producers etc.?
I would say most, although not all, of us either were DJs or became DJs when we got involved with Mixxx.
I think every one of our developers has either a DJ Midi controller or a set of decks. Most of us only do occasional gigs though, either in-person or broadcast over the net.
At least 2 of our developers will admit to having some previous or ongoing electronic music production affairs. One used to be involved with the C64 demoscene, and the other produces chiptune tracks on handhelds with software like littlegptracker.
We have a diverse range of backgrounds, obviously some people from artistic professions, we also seem to attract quite a few scientists with a side interest in music – but all united by an interest in music, DJing and open source software.
I think for an open source project we probably have quite an unusual group of developers. It’s a really fun community to be part of.
Anything else you’d like to say to the readers of Digital DJ Tips?
We appreciate the feedback and comments, both positive and negative, that DJs give us. We use that feedback as much as we can to help steer development. We’re going to continue to grow Mixxx, and we hope one day many of you can join us as a user or contributor!
If Mixxx doesn’t run well on your computer, please tell us! Being open source, we have a limited number of computers available for testing which sometimes means we miss bugs.
We have a public bug tracker where anyone can file bugs: https://bugs.launchpad.net/mixxx/+filebug.
Our developers get emailed every time there’s a bug report, so we pay close attention to these.
Have you used Mixxx? would you consider switching to an open source DJ program from your current DJ program? Let us know in the comments below.