Rekordbox Professional is the highest tier of Rekordbox DJ library preparation and performance software, offering automatic cloud backups of your library and music, and use of Rekordbox across up to eight devices, including the mobile preparation app. It’s not perfect, but a much better product than Rekordbox Creative, the plan below it – and if you have a medium to large music collection, it won’t cost you more than that plan, making it a no-brainer in the choice between the two.
First Impressions / Setting up
Rekordbox, the DJ software from Pioneer DJ, has just got a new, highest-tier plan: Rekordbox Professional.
Rekordbox works as both library preparation software for exporting libraries to USB drive to use on pro gear, and as full-blown DJ software for performing with a laptop. It is one of the most popular programs for this in the world, so any new features are going to be of big interest to many DJs.
Become a Rekordbox ninja: Rekordbox Made Easy
In this review, we’ll look specifically at the new cloud features added to Rekordbox Professional, to help you as a Rekordbox user decide if this version of the software is the right one for you, and also to help you decide if it may be worth switching to the software, especially if that’s something you’ve been considering anyway.
Before we start, it’s important to explain how this software is “sold”. Most Pioneer DJ gear “comes” with Rekordbox, and users of Pioneer DJ’s pro club gear can use the software for free to prepare their libraries for export. But if you want to use the more advanced features of the software, you pay a subscription.
Rekordbox Professional is the top such subscription, the others being “Rekordbox Creative” (the previous “flagship” version), and “Rekordbox Core” (to allow you to use the basic software with non-qualifying controllers, too – remember, for most Pioneer DJ controllers, this version is free).
Clear so far? It is important to note that you can’t “buy” Rekordbox, and that it is only subscription when it comes to the more advanced features. Also, note that this review isn’t a Rekordbox review: We assume you’ve already decided if you want to use “all features” Rekordbox or not. This is about the new stuff in the Pro version, and specifically, the new cloud stuff.
The new tier is not, on the surface, cheap: It’s $30 a month. So what do you get?
Well, you get everything everyone else gets (export mode for prepping USBs, performance mode for using with controllers, DVS control, video playback, sequencer, Edit mode), and a crucial new set of features, based around unlimited, automatic cloud backups of all your music and data, including libraries you export to devices such as USBs.
This means you can DJ from and work on you library using up to eight computers/mobile devices (Rekordbox has an iOS/Android app too), with all your cues, loops, playlists and music available and in sync across the lot of them, automatically, with unlimited capacity.
It also means automatic “device” backups. This is where, when you create a library and export it to a USB drive, the system creates a copy of it that it keeps either on your local computer, or in the cloud. Should you lose your USB, or it become corrupt, you can grab another and copy the library across from any computer with Rekordbox that’s logged in to your account – a potential lifesaver for touring DJs, for instance.
Some of these features are available in the next tier down, the “Creative” plan, but they have come of age here, to the point where if you’re thinking about using the cloud to sync Rekordbox across multiple devices and to back up your music, this is the one to go for – more on why, later.
The Dropbox connection
It’s important to understand what is going on under the hood, not least because to use this plan you’ll need to use Dropbox, the cloud backup service.
There are two types of data being backed up to the cloud here: Your Rekordbox database, and your music files themselves.
The Rekordbox database (cues, loops, waveform data, beatgrids, playlists etc) is kept in sync in the background, automatically, between all your instances of Rekordbox, via Pioneer DJ’s own servers. You get no say over how this works: It is wisely out of your hands, as it is essential info for Rekordbox to function properly.
Your music, though, is kept in sync using Dropbox. For this, you sign up to Pioneer DJ’s “Pro DJ” Dropbox for Teams account, where you get your own folder. It’s like having a Dropbox Account of your own, but under Pioneer DJ’s umbrella – and as such, you can use it for all your personal stuff, too. It’s in the T&Cs that your data remains private, etc. This is how Pioneer DJ can give you unlimited cloud storage for your music (and for anything else, apparently).
One of the reasons you need to understand this is that you’ll need to download and install the Dropbox desktop app on any Mac or Windows computer you want to use it with. Another is that if you already have a Dropbox account, you’ll need to decide whether to move it to your new Pro DJ Dropbox for Teams account (probably a good idea). And finally, you need to be happy sharing your data in this way.
While the Creative plan also uses Dropbox in a similar way, one of the differences is that with that tier, it is up to you to make sure the Dropbox account you’re using has enough capacity for your music, but with this solution, you’ll never have to worry.
Switching it all on
So once you’ve installed Rekordbox, bought the Professional plan (which includes the Dropbox element), transferred your Dropbox account if applicable, and installed the Desktop Dropbox software, you have to turn it all on.
There are settings in the software to enable cloud features, to merge Rekordbox libraries if for some reason you have more than one, and to enable auto upload of music to Dropbox (you’re paying for this “set and forget” feature, so you’ll almost definitely want to).
You also get to choose whether Rekordbox moves any music you import into its library and therefore to Dropbox, or copies it across – unless you want to work on and with that music in other DJ software or for other purposes, you’ll probably want to set this to “move” to keep things simple.
Finally, you get to set whether, when you create a USB device for DJing from, it backs it up, and if so, whether those backups are stored locally or in the cloud. (I think this option shouldn’t be an either/or).
And then you’re ready to go.
I’ve always been a fan of backing up all my music to the cloud, and have always had that set to happen automatically anyway by keeping my DJ music in a cloud folder on my computer, but have always had to manually back up the DJ software library. With this system, it does indeed happen seamlessly, and in the background.
Become a Rekordbox ninja: Rekordbox Made Easy
It is important to note that if you’re using the Rekordbox app on your iOS or Android device, it won’t automatically download all your music to that device – which is wise, of course. That does mean you’ll have to set that music downloading manually, and I could see no other way of doing that than track by track, even within playlists – an oversight.
But with laptops, as long as you have the feature switched on, your music is quickly pulled across, and it all works as well as Dropbox has always worked, which is to say, very well. Using Dropbox’s built-in tools, you can still decide what is and isn’t kept in sync, if you wish.
Changes you make to your library don’t happen instantly, although you can force a refresh, so do bear in mind that you may have to wait a few minutes for things you do to copy out and back to different devices. But it’s fast enough.
A few things I didn’t like:
Rekordbox builds its own, rather complicated, folder structure for your library, based on multiple content folders, then artist folders, then “album” folders. It’s a bit like how iTunes does it, if you’ve ever used iTunes and peeked into the Media folder to see how it’s organising your music. This does make it harder to access your music away from the program – although you should be careful when doing this anyway, as it’ll run the risk of confusing the software. Also, it doesn’t update when you change, say, the “album” title of a track – it stays in the previous folder structure, which I didn’t like.
Worse though, certain characters in filenames confuse Rekordbox/Dropbox, so rarely, tracks won’t sync or upload. This latter bug definitely needs fixing.
Also, while Rekordbox is happy to move or copy music into your Dropbox, and you are discouraged from going in there yourself for any reason, when you delete a track, it is removed from your Rekordbox collection, but remains in Dropbox. You should, I think, be given the choice to delete the file too. After all, if a program is going to take control of something for you, it should take full control.
But by and large, the cloud features work pretty seamlessly in the background, doing what is advertised, and giving you the peace of mind of cloud backups, and access to your Rekordbox library and music wherever you want – something I find amazing. Being able to work on the studio computer, my laptop, and my iPhone on the same music and library – even buying music on the phone and it being properly added to Rekordbox everywhere – is genuinely useful and new.
This is not cheap. But if you look at the price of the Creative plan ($15/month) and add in say a 2 or 3TB Dropbox account, it adds up to about $30 a month, which is the price of the Rekordbox Professional account.
However, with Rekordbox Professional, you’re getting unlimited Dropbox for both music and other use, plus fully automated backups, plus USB device backups.
If you accept the subscription model for DJ software that modern versions of Rekordbox require you to (and to be clear, many DJs don’t), and want to use cloud backup and multiple devices, this makes Rekordbox Professional a no-brainer. It’s more powerful, simpler, and no more expensive than the Creative plan, which is why I said earlier that this is cloud DJing “coming of age” when compared to that plan.
Become a Rekordbox ninja: Rekordbox Made Easy
What is really interesting, though, is the foundations this is laying for the future. I can see the day, not far away, where a DJ can arrive at a venue, type their Rekordbox username and password into the CDJ-3000 set-up, and have instant access to all of their music, cues, beatgrids, playlists and so on. Now that will be quite something.
So while Rekordbox Professional still isn’t perfect or seamless, and you will still be a bit of a guinea pig/early adopter if you go for it today, it’s a huge leap forward over the Creative Plan, and towards simple, ubiquitous cloud DJing, for which the question now is not “will this happen?”, but “when will it become the norm?”.
I think the answer to that will be “when 5G internet is the norm”. So not here yet, but getting closer. It looks like Rekordbox will be ready when that tipping point comes.