Interview with the champs of DJ streaming – Pacemaker and Algoriddim on the future of streaming


In a world of streaming music equipment and software platform providers will need to adapt. Although both vinyls and cassettes are making a re-entry into the world of music, streaming services are here to stay. One area that is particularly interesting is the world of DJ-ing. Today there are several providers of apps and software programs that support streaming in the context of DJ-ing, but how are these services standing up towards the hardcore DJ platforms from e.g. Pioneer and are they really equipped enough to be embraced by professional DJs?

The answer from many aspects is yes, but to learn a little more we interviewed two of the most renowned players in the field of DJ streaming – Pacemaker Music and Algoriddim (djay), to ask them of what make their products stand out, how they work to embrace more than just consumers, and their view of the future of streaming DJs. We actually started out with this very first question to get things started:

What impact do you foresee that streaming will play in DJ-ing going forward?

Pacemaker: “We strongly believe in streaming as the main platform for music consumption and DJing will be a part of it. Having 30 million tracks at your hand to create something new is simply convenient and it opens up for creativity since it’s easier to test new ideas. With streaming also comes a lot of metadata that can be stored in the cloud, such as beatgrids and cue-points etc.

Algoriddim: “I strongly believe that streaming is the future of DJing. Whenever there has been a major paradigm shift in content accessibility, it’s elevated the artform of DJing. Vinyl, CDs, MP3s are just examples. Streaming is the pinnacle of this evolution is practically removes the barriers of content accessibility altogether.”

So what will the future look like? Why not go with touch all the way? In this demo we are using a touch projector to display how DJ-ing can work in any environment and thus not even confined to the limits of a PC, DJ Hardware gear, or a smartphone/tablet for that matter. Video shot with a smartphone so apologies for slight shakiness.

Today’s amateur and professional DJ’s alike have moved beyond turntables and into the digital age to create mind blowing DJ sets never possible on vinyl. But as mentioned above you don’t need complicated and expensive equipment to curate, play and replicate your favorite sound. Now all you need to do is basically to get yourself a smartphone or a tablet to start DJ-ing and the modern apps are so powerful that in principle you will only need a streaming playlist and the apps will do the rest for you. Turning to Pacemaker Music and Algoriddim to get their view on the subject of consumer vs. pros:

Will it ultimately be confined to the consumer space or will it also have an impact on the hardcore vinyl guys and DJ professionals?

Algoriddim: “Even though DJs are the trendsetters in music, the medium they play typically originated in the consumer space. We are already seeing a shift towards streaming among professional DJs. It is also a unique discovery tool to find new music.”

Pacemaker: “Vinyl will probably still draw a big crowd of professionals since it’s great art form. As the total amount of DJs grow you’ll have different silos of practitioners.”

So what then are our options – there are several players in the market and we have gathered an overview on some of the more prominent ones.

Pacemaker with its neon visuals and simple controls, is very user friendly and the most accessible app for wannabe DJs. You can grab tracks from your Spotify or iTunes collection, then mix them easily with the help of the built-in sync feature. There are of course a bunch of extra effects, from loop and reverb to “ChopChop” and “8-bit” that can be bought as in-app purchases. The app also comes with auto-mix options so If you’re not prepared to stand behind the DJ desk all night the app will also choose suitable tracks and mix them for you.

Apart from the streaming capability itself what would you consider be the most important benefits of the DJ apps you provide? Does streaming open up new doors that traditional DJ tools do not have?

Pacemaker: “Pacemaker puts the user first and we therefore focus a lot on the design so it’s not a cockpit of buttons that meet the user at first glance. Instead we try to introduce features at the different states when they need it. Streaming allows for users to open up an entire spectrum of ideas since you have unlimited amount of tracks at your disposal. We think that all DJ tools should be a part of streaming and with our Metamix format and SDK that allows for creation and distribution of mixes from any DJ tool using streamed music, we can make it happen.”

German based Algoriddim is one of the longest-established companies making DJ-ing platforms and apps, and this is clearly visible in their DJ streaming products. djay 2 models itself on a physical set of decks, and it works smoothly with your local collection as well as with Spotify. In the former case, you can also record your mixes for later listening and sharing. djay 2 is a good step between people who are just getting started with DJ-ing, and semi-pros, who want to play with more powerful features and audio effects, this is especially true if you go for the PC version of the app. djay also comes with in-app expansions should care to expand your arsenal of DJ-ing capabilities. We asked Algoriddim to exapnd a bit on the benefits of their platform:

Apart from the streaming capability itself what would you consider be the most important benefits of the DJ apps you provide? Does streaming open up new doors that traditional DJ tools do not have?

Algoriddim: “We have partnered with Spotify and introduced a unique first-of-its-kind music recommendation tool named “Match”. This cloud-based feature recommends tracks that go well with what the DJ is currently playing and provides track selections based on danceability, BPM, key, music style, and how well the song mixes with the currently playing track. The fact that DJs now access the same shared content pool offers possibilities that weren’t possible before.”

Worth mentioning is that Algoriddim also carries a pro version of their djay app, an app that a year ago won the prestigious Apple Design Award. It got the prize due to the fact that it’s been heavily optimized for the latest iPads, including the iPad Pro, with all manner of shortcuts for owners of the big-sized tablet. Like the consumer version of djay, it supports iTunes and Spotify Premium for music, but the emphasis here is on pro features, from recording and sample packs to its video features.

 

 

 

 

Serato’s reputation in DJ circles comes from its pro software, but its Pyro app is aimed much more at music fans. It’s another app that can pull songs from your iTunes and Spotify Premium collections, and once you’ve chosen a few for your mix, the app will suggest others that it thinks will fit nicely. Pyro handles the mixing for you, and will re-sort your playlist for smoother segues if you ask it to. Serato’s take on auto playlist building takes it one step further – it actually beatmatches the songs and mixes them for you. Cool little app with Serato in its DNA for long drives and get-togethers, and also a cool way to passively discover new tunes and how they’d mix with each other.

Pros: Easy drag and drop playlist-building app for “set and forget” parties and back to mines

Cons: No DJ controls at all here

Edjing is another well-established DJ app, and this one too has been through several versions to reach its current, slick incarnation. Edjing has some different sources too: besides the songs downloaded to your device, it can access music from streaming services SoundCloud and Deezer. Mixing is simple, with tools to help novices, and like rivals you can buy various effects and tools as in-app purchases. There’s also a useful recording feature. More experienced DJs may wish to try the separate Edjing Pro app.

 

 

 

 

This app’s creator, Mixvibes, is another veteran of the digital DJing scene, with its app a good free option even if you don’t want to spend money on the effects sold as in-app purchases. It can draw from your local music collection as well as SoundCloud, with a good range of mixing controls, plus an automatic option if you want to take a break. That’s another in-app purchase, as is the ability to record and share non-SoundCloud mixes so you can build Cross DJ into a tool that suits your needs with relatively little cost, or buy the separate Cross DJ Pro version instead.

 

 

 

Finally, this is another app for more experienced DJs, from one of the most well-known companies – Native Instruments – in the DJing world. Traktor DJ ditches the idea of virtual decks in favour of getting you hands-on with songs’ waveforms via some inventive multi-gesture controls. It works with your iTunes library, with as much or as little help mixing as you need. It also plays nicely with other music apps on your device, and can work with Traktor’s DJing hardware. A separate iPhone version is available.

Traktor DJ has stayed the same for the most part, in fact the last update to the software was back in February 2015, including the continued absence of the oft-requested metadata sync between Traktor Pro 2 and Traktor DJ that was once a feature of the app but was removed – this was one of the come-ons of the app because it let you prepare tracks on your iOS device and sync it to your laptop.

Of course there are even more players out there and the segment will most likely grow and evolve over time, especially when it comes to more niche orientated version to address different users and audiences.There is actually quite a nice comparison video that goes through the different DJ apps, although 30 minutes long it can be valuable to watch through it before you make your selction:

However, even if there are a range of really sweet DJ apps for streaming out there, there are, or at least have been a couple of limitations – two of which will be addressed here – off line mode and latency.

Most streaming DJ apps appear to have no real solution for off-line playlists – is this a real limitation technically or more of a conscious decision / market restriction?

Pacemaker: “This is still a discussion with rightsholders to allow it but for our use we don’t really need offline support since we’re not offering a professional live DJ tool.”

Algoriddim: “While our implementation of streamed music in djay is already very robust and relied upon by millions of users, the field of streaming for DJs has just emerged. Like with every new technology, capabilities expand overtime.”

Cross-platform support has always been key to app developers, to which degree is Android a target platform in your go-to-market strategy, and are there any major differences that you would like to highlight? As an example Android has be renowned for its latency issues is this something that has been an issue from your perspective?

Algoriddim: “Our mission is to make DJing accessible to anyone and there is a large amount of Android users out there. Therefore, it was quite essential for us to be in that platform. Over 10 million users on Android have downloaded our app djay within the first year of our launch and we are seeing significant growth. Latency has gotten much better since Android 4.2. That was the point when we decided to bring djay to Android.”

Pacemaker: “We’d like to be on all platforms but we’re a small team so we have to focus our efforts. And we simply love iOS, it’s a great platform to build these types of apps on 🙂 ”

But the evolution does not stop here, also on the cloud side things are moving and one such move is Pulselocker. Pulselocker, the brainchild of Alvaro G. Velilla, a former record label exec and dance industry veteran, Ben Harris, founder of the Grammy-winning early-00s electronica group Dirty Vegas, and Joshua Goltz, is the first streaming service designed and optimized for DJs.

Pulselocker is, as one of the founders (Ben) puts it: “It is a music streaming service for DJs created by DJs. We’re all DJs here; even our Chief Engineer used to run club nights in his younger years. We provide a new way for DJs and dance music fans to discover and consume music. Through our monthly subscription model, Pulselocker gives DJs unlimited access to our catalog of over 44 million tracks, and through our integrations with DJ software companies, DJs access that music directly through their favorite DJ application – both online and offline – through our patented “locker” technology.” So in essence we are just in the beginning of how DJ-ing will evolve when it comes to streaming.

The technology has cut a new trail for dance music discovery and – already integrated into the Serato and Pioneer platforms – is poised to transform the way DJs consume and perform with music. We asked our interviewees about the hardware integration part of the equation:

What role, if any, does external gear have in the world of streaming DJ apps? Adding external MIDI instruments and integration with bigger platforms could transform the eco-system – what is your view on the future of streaming in this regard?

Pacemaker: “External gear will be essential when streaming becomes integrated in all DJ tools. We think that the future of music will be streamed and as long as you can make that compatible with everything else, then let’s do it!”

Algoriddim: “It is already happening. You can use djay + Spotify with pretty much any entry level controller up to a full professional CDJ setup.”

Being confined primarily to touch UIs – how would you say that you compensate for the more tactile experience of knob-twitching, which at least for many more experimental sounding DJs is considered a vital part in their live performances?

Algoriddim: “djay provides state-of-the-art touch integration across all mobile platforms and is among the most sophisticated and popular apps globally, winning two Apple Design Awards, a Google Play Editors’ Choice Award, and the Windows Developer Award by Microsoft. There is a whole new generation of DJs that swears by the touch screen. That being said, both our mobile product line of djay and djay Pro on the desktop fully integrate with industry leading DJ hardware. On the desktop, for instance, djay Pro is officially certified by Pioneer DJ to be used with CDJs (the worldwide standard gear in clubs) plug and play.”

Pacemaker: “To do a live professional performance it will probably always be most convenient with physical knobs and that’s something we also would have to offer if we’d create a professional live DJ app, we currently don’t so it’s out of our scope.”

This brings us to another interesting perspective on streaming and cloud based services is how they tie in to social activities, like sharing something we wanted to hear if Pacemaker and Algorridim had any plans for:

DJ streaming apps have the opportunity to be in the forefront when it comes to social media sharing. Do you see that services like Mixcloud will need to adapt to also capture the world of streaming, and in what capacity are your products dealing with the concept of sharing?

Pacemaker: “Yes, DJ streaming apps can be in the forefront when it comes to sharing unique content but they won’t be able to simply rip a mix file from the streams, that would be illegal and nobody would win. We have a solution and it’s our patented format Metamix. Because we only save ‘how’ the mix is created, not the file. When DJs operate in a world of streaming there will not be any files left to send to Mixcloud and Soundcloud so yes, they will have to adapt.

With the Metamix, you can share your mixtape and then generate streams in the premium streaming services.

We are already thinking about how DJs like to share their Metamixes outside the Pacemaker app, and even outside the streaming services. For example, a metamix creator might want to post it on Twitter and Facebook in a way that lets people listen there and then, rather than having to click or tap through to another app.”

Algoriddim: “Now that both listeners and DJs share the same content pool (e.g. in the case of Spotify) of course this opens up new possibilities for sharing. In our app we allow users to record audio files (when the source music is located on disk, i.e. not streamed) . As far as streaming is concerned we currently allow users to share their history as a playlist with other users on Spotify.”

The best accessories and apps in the world won’t replace the perfect playlist that gets guests on their feet at your next house party. Chances are you are going to need some big songs if you are playing for house party and a lot of different genres, so start scouring YouTube pages like The Sound You Need or Majestic Casual to kickoff your song curation. Spotify also offers an instant playlist option to tap into a ready-to-go EDM experience if you are not all that familiar with every genre. But to really impress the crowd, draw from your own favorites and a curated list from friends or curated Soundcloud pages to get suggestions on favorite and lesser known dance tracks. So what does the future look like?

Finally, working with cloud platforms like Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud etc allows for more real-time communication with an audience and their ability to influence what´s being played. What is your vision for the future DJs and how will this be reflected in the apps you develop going forward?

Algoriddim: “The lines between music listeners and DJs are already starting to blurr and I think that is a very exciting trend for the future of DJing.”

Pacemaker: “We believe people want to be social when listening to music and these platforms allows for many different ways to do so. Future DJs might be adapting real time communication tools or they may not. It all depends on what setting they’re playing in, live set or podcast style or just for fun. We’ll probably see different styles and takes on this.”