Native Instruments Launches Multitrack Music File Format

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multitrack audio Native Instruments stem stems
Last updated 30 March, 2015

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Mate Galic of Native Instruments announcing the new format, at Miami's Winter Music conference last Friday.
Mate Galic of Native Instruments announcing the new format, at Miami’s Winter Music conference last Friday.

Native Instruments has announced a new multi-track file format for DJs and producers, called “Stems”. The new, open format allows a track to be released with four “parts” (or “stems”) – for instance drums, bassline, harmony and lead – that DJs can then use for advanced mixing using isolated parts of each track.

This will mean instant instrumentals, acapellas, adding effects to only one part of a song and so on will all become possible, something facilitated by Traktor, which will have the ability to mix with Stem files built in as of this summer.

Juno, Beatport and Traxsource have all stated that they will be selling music in this format from June this year, and as the format will be open (all details on how to make Stem files and how to play them will be publicly available, and anyone can create Stems without paying licensing fees for creation, distribution, or use), it gives producers big and small the chance to release music this way. Any DAW in conjunction with the free Stem Creator Tool app ought to be able to create Stem files.

Stem files are “backwardly compatible” as they’re based on the MP4 format, so you’ll be able to treat them just like MP3s as far as editing metadata in programs like iTunes is concerned. Modern CDJs ought to play them fine too as will existing DJ software, although accessing the four stems will require software or players designed to do so.

What this means for DJing

This is something we’ve debated before (see this How Multitrack Files Could Revolutionise The Way DJs Mix from two years ago), and indeed it already exists (.mogg, or “multitrack ogg” is similar, and hundreds of songs are available in that format already). But this is the first time someone has announced something like this with music store support, DJ software and creator software all in place.

For NI, it is a logical addition to the company’s “beyond two decks and a mixer” approach. It will be interesting to see how it fits in with the Remix Decks, which of course are also “four tracks in one”. NI has attempted to kickstart an ecosystem of producers releasing tracks in Remix Set format for Traktor’s Remix Decks which doesn’t so far seem to have taken on its own steam, so maybe this is an attempt by the company to come at this idea from an additional angle.

• Download the official FAQ sheet here.

Good idea or too complicated to appeal to you? What used can you see this being put to? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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