Is It Time For A Universal DJ Tag For Music?

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DJ industry Pro Serato Dj Traktor virtual dj 8
Last updated 5 April, 2018

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Wouldn’t it be great if most of our track metadata could be read in all DJ software? Read our forum mod DJ Vintage’s open letter to the DJ industry…

DJs in the digital age spend a lot of time preparing their material, and we do this because it allows us to become intimately familiar with the track: apart from the usual BPM and album art, prepping our tracks gives us their musical keys (essential for key mixing), lets us place cue / points and beatmarkers, and generally allows us to craft better playlists and pack more meaningful crates. It’s a time-consuming labour of love, but it ultimately lets us DJ in a more effective manner.

But all that hard work then becomes proprietary information depending on the DJ software we use – what if we want to DJ with Serato for a gig, then switch on over to USB sticks for CDJs at the club? All that extra data you’ve so lovingly placed won’t be read by other DJ software, and it’s like starting at zero. As a result, modern digital DJs often keep more than one music library at all times (including iTunes).

For example, here are three possible workflow scenarios:

1. Prepping for a DJ controller / software gig

  1. Download tracks to your downloads folder or inbox
  2. Use Mixed In Key, Platinum Notes, or other tools to prepare tracks for import
  3. Import tracks to your DJ software and analyse them
  4. Do all your prep work, including setting cue points, beat markers, adjusting the beatgrid, adding to playlists and grouping
  5. Check your tags for consistency

2. Prepping for a CDJ / USB stick gig

  1. Use Mixed In Key, Platinum Notes, or other tools to prepare tracks for import
  2. Import tracks into Rekordbox and analyse them
  3. Do all your prep work, including setting cue points, beat markers, adjusting the beatgrid, adding to playlists and grouping
  4. Export them to your USB sticks
  5. Show up at the gig, setting a few new cue points and loops with CDJs if needed
  6. After the gig, open RekordBox and sync back your tracks, which will copy any extra cues that you’ve added, as well as data like play count
  7. Open your DJ software and have it check your tags for consistency

3. Prepping to DJ on an iPad for a friend’s party

  1. Use Mixed In Key, Platinum Notes, or other tools to prepare tracks for import
  2. Import tracks into iOS DJ app like djay Pro
  3. Do all your prep work, including setting cue points, beat markers, adjusting the beatgrid, adding to playlists and grouping
  4. Check your tags for consistency

Having to redo your preparations on separate DJ apps is so not 2016, don’t you agree?

I know that all DJ apps write their own proprietary metadata, meaning they can only be read with the same DJ software that you used to add them with, but won’t it make more sense if we kept all these extra data within the track itself? That way all a DJ would need to do is have one central locker to keep all his tracks in and sync from.

How DJ apps can fix this

The simple solution to this is to arrive at a consensus on what metadata needs to be stored, and in what format it should be stored in. Beatgridding will probably remain a proprietary bit of info since each software uses its own algorithm for it, but other stuff like cue points, loop in / out markers, and track start markers shouldn’t be an issue since these are absolute time values.

I understand the need to keep your customers, but DJ software companies also need to keep their customers happy. If DJs stay because you’ve made it too difficult to try moving to a new app, they might stay albeit begrudgingly. You should have customers that stay with you for the value you add to their way of working. Your features should be what sell, not holding data hostage.

So my call out to the industry is to come up with a “DJ tag” addendum to the MP3 format and embrace it. This makes all the time and effort put into preparing our stuff no longer hardware or software dependent, but ours. It seems only fair since we are the ones putting in all the hard work after all.

What other aspects of digital DJ software do you want to be made “platform-agnostic”? What’s your main gripe with switching from one DJ software to another? Share your thoughts below.

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