Today I came across a post on Gizmodo showing off a new app on the iPad called Mixr. It’s not dissimilar to DJ’ing programs on the iPhone (or iPod Touch), but it takes advantage of the iPad’s larger screen by enabling more on screen at once. Check out this screen shot and you’ll see what I mean:
As you can see, it’s a beautiful looking application that looks to challenge at least entry-level DJ applications, although in my opinion it’s fatally handicapped by the lack of dual outputs. What that means is that you’ll be using the iPad single 3.5mm headphone output to either DJ in stereo without being able to cue anything (which makes it not real DJ’ing, essentially) or split the output into two mono channels and use one for headphones. It looks like a lot of fun to mess around with (especially since you can access your entire iTunes library), but this is no threat to industry standard DJ applications like Serato.
After gleaming over the info and photos in the post I get to the comments section where I naturally find a lot of logical and insightful comments, like these:
“Welcome to the Future.”
“Holy hell.. this right here is a killer app for me. Gotta get an iPad now.. no joke”
“Spinning on the iPad will be fun but not really something you can do on a pro level. However, a 10″ multitouch surface that can interface with other apps (presumably MIDI over WiFi) could be amazing. $500 Lemur anyone?”
The Timeless Analog vs Digital Debate
But, there always has to be one, doesn’t there? One guy who’s as abrasive as he is self-righteous and narrow-minded. But it was constructive in that in provoked some thinking.
Here’s the comment I read:
“I can’t stand laptop djs’s. Sorry for all you computer dj’s: it ain’t the real deal. Nothing is better than the quality vinyl offers, and you can actually scratch, honest to goodness scratch, with vinyl, not a laptop with a scratch button. I can bet that in New York or L.A. you’ll see these turd burglars in no time at all. Yeah yeah, you don’t have to haul a shit ton of vinyl, but guess what, it’s part of the art. Do you see concert bassists complain about carrying their instruments. Maybe, but they understand that it’s part of playing a large instrument. I understand using cd’s, because vinyl is damn expensive and heavy, but only when used in tandem with real vinyl. Final Scratch is fun, and is a good merger of computers and dj’ing, but nothing can replace the feel and warmth of vinyl.
This is a rant, I know, but it just grinds my gears when I see cheesy shit like this.”
And my response:
“When you say you can’t stand laptop DJ’s do you mean virtually every famous DJ touring the earth now? Like Jazzy Jeff, A-Trak, and The Beat Junkies? Because they all use laptops. After 20 years of performing with vinyl only.
This app looks great for beginner DJ’s, but it isn’t meant to (and cannot) compete with industry standard applications.
It bugs me when vinyl purists act elitist because there are a lot of Serato DJ’s who were vinyl purists (I’m one, too) who were converted by what’s an incredibly solid and practical solution. I use Serato but vinyl emulation has reached such a refined level of development and practicality that it’s become the standard while playing records has become the exception. It’s because the experience of DJ’ing with vinyl has been reproduced with such accuracy that it’s converted the masses. It’s already converted many of the most hardcore vinyl purists that you could name.”
Transformation of the DJ Landscape
It’s startling when I think of how much has changed in ten years.
In 2000 I was spending most of my pocket change on house records at Yoshitoshi on M Street in Georgetown (Washington DC) while adjusting to adulthood. Now, I check blogs and whitelabel.net every week for new tracks to DJ at my shows. I have 900+ records in storage at my fathers house in Virginia and 100 or or so records with me in China, although I don’t ever even use those.
What’s the point? With the choice between records or Serato, I’ll choose Serato everytime. As much as I love vinyl and the culture surrounding it, I don’t like warped records, pops and clicks, or carrying a 40lb bag of records with me to clubs. I like having all my music organized and accessible in a moment, effortlessly flipping between songs and cue points, and being able to add new tracks to my playlists without breaking my back or my wallet. I love scratching and Serato flawlessly produces the unmistakable enjoyment that I experience when I’m scratching actual records. There is zero actual difference in terms of feel.
I’ll keep my records though, because they’re like a collection of experiences and memories. Every record has a story behind it – sometimes individual drum hits, instruments, or arrangements within songs have their own story. Artwork on the sleeve make each disc totally unique. That’s the beauty of vinyl culture and collecting records.
A lot of has changed, but I say that what we’ve gained is greater than what we’ve lost. As with all tools, they must be used in the right way.
Best of both worlds: the authentic (and unmistakable) vinyl control of a powerful digital platform.