What Next For Traktor? The View From Our Community

| Read time: 4 mins
Club/Festival DJing Native Instruments Pro Traktor
Last updated 10 October, 2019

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We’ve all been talking and thinking a lot about Traktor in the Digital DJ Tips community recently, since the news about mass layoffs at Native Instruments. Many of you have contacted us, shared your concerns, and offer your “if only they’d…” ideas about the way forward for the platform.

Despite everything, nearly 20% of you are still using Traktor in 2019, and by and large are a fiercely loyal bunch – if sometimes frustrated about what you feel are shortcomings, and concerned about the future.

Traktor use
DJ software use 2019 among our community. Taken from our Global Digital DJ Census.

Traktor was actually the number one DJ program when we started teaching DJing back in 2010 – and while at times as users we’ve shared your impatience about the slow progress the platform appeared to be making, it still holds a place in our hearts. And of course, as a school we’re still more than happy to train those of our students who choose to use it.

But what of the future? While Native Instruments has promised a new Traktor controller (could it be some flavour of Traktor Kontrol S3?), that’s just about all we’ve got at the moment from the Traktor team. But digesting your emails, social comments and student questions over the past couple of weeks, three big areas jump out where you think Native Instruments should – and shouldn’t – concentrate to get Traktor back on, erm, track.

So in this article, I’ll paraphrase what you’re saying.

1. “Please embrace hardware partners again…”

Third-party controllers mapped to Traktor were instrumental in making it the choice software for many digital DJs in the 2000s, most notably the Vestax VCI-100 pictured above which helped kickstart the digital DJ revolution of the late 2000s.

It used to be possible to get a whole range of Traktor controllers, until Native Instruments stopped that approach and went for a closed, Apple-like direction instead (“our hardware and our software only”).

That might just about work if you’ve got the hardware dominance of Pioneer DJ, both in and outside the DJ booth, but NI surely desperately needs partnerships and licensing – a similar model to Serato – once again. Many of you are screaming for exactly that.

The company has actually promised another hardware controller before the end of the year (so plans for that were obviously well developed before the layoffs), but we can’t see any more coming any time soon after that, especially after all the layoffs.

And with even previously reticent Pioneer DJ now making devices that work with multiple platforms (such as the DDJ-XP2 for Serato and Rekordbox), the wish here is clear: We all want to see the Traktor logo appearing on gear from other manufacturers again soon!

2. “Please speed up software development!”

The latest version of Traktor released in 2018 was a welcome update, but some features that Traktor fans have been asking for for years (like elastic beatgrids) still weren’t a part of the software.

To sum up your overall sentiments in one sentence: We’re not sure where Traktor software is going.

Features-wise, the new app Traktor DJ 2 is a sideways move from the original Traktor DJ app at best, and there is no sign of Traktor DJ 2 developing as promised, even though it is meant to replace Traktor Pro 3 at some point. For many of you, it doesn’t even replace Traktor DJ, missing lots of the features you liked on that original app.

Meanwhile Traktor Pro 3 soldiers on with the same old issues (let’s not dwell, but to pick a few from your feedback: No smart playlists, no elastic beatgridding for non-electronic music, clunky and hard-to-use library, poor graphic resolution that just makes it look poor in 2019…).

All this while the other platforms are being invested in heavily and are thus improving faster and more consistently. The recent news that Traktor 3.3 will work with Apple’s new Music app (the iTunes replacement) was encouraging, but it’s hardly enough, you say.

The bar is raised. We agree with you that the team simply has to double down here, because Traktor is losing ground on everyone else and everyone’s patience has a limit.

3. “Please, no more reinventing the wheel :)”

The former flagship Traktor Kontrol S8 was a bold move by Native Instruments to push the boundaries of DJing, and to push its Stems format while providing extensive control for traditional Traktor decks and Remix Decks.

We love innovation, and applaud it – but it turns out that there are limits.

Maybe it can be summed up by saying that DJing builds on what has come before.

NI gambling with its last generation of controllers that DJs didn’t need jogwheels/platters was daring but ultimately a step too far, just as it was for Novation beforehand with the Twitch. (That should have made the failure to usher in a jogwheel-free revolution at least slightly predictable.)

Pinning so much on Remix Decks (no, we couldn’t get our head around them either – and we did try, we really did), and on Stems (it’s a genuine shame that Stems failed, but…) contributed to the loss of direction for Traktor.

So it’s maybe not surprising that one thing we’re hearing loud and clear from you is that you really hope the Traktor team focuses on DJing how it is actually done.

You Traktor users who have been reaching out to us are overwhelmingly house and techno DJs – the “electronic” crew. For you, Traktor’s gridding, looping and beat jumping and other electronic music-friendly features, plus its great effects, still make it a natural choice.

Ironically though, your needs are quite simple – you know what you like, and just want it tweaking and improving. So “no more big, broad brush strokes please!” is the final message we’re getting from you, and we’re happy to pass it on here.

Finally…

To sum up, we as a community clearly think NI should focus on making Traktor the number one platform once again for DJs who want to play house and techno.

Pioneer has the clubs stitched up. Serato is the choice of open format and hip-hop. Virtual DJ is preferred by millions of mobile DJs.

But house and techno is Traktor’s natural home, and many such DJs still love Traktor. And in many ways Traktor is still the best at this.

So the way forward surely involves consolidating that lead among already loyal DJs, while trying to attract new house and techno DJs into the Traktor world by being good enough to turn their heads from other platforms, or indeed from the CDJ world.

Investment, a few good decisions, and sustained, serious momentum could yet save the day.

We are fond of Traktor, and it seems many of you are too. Let’s see what the next few months bring – fingers crossed.

What do you think? What should the next big things Native Instruments does to get Traktor back on track be? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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