Instrument Meets Radio

Probably 80% of DJs/producers use SoundCloud, and have enjoyed using it. I understand the beauty of being able to share your music, but the fact is that it is not regulated fairly for copyright owners. Piracy went from being uncool and illegal to becoming the norm in how we treat the work of rights holders.

Some are still holding on to these less moral but much more convenient stances. But this is all a part of a state of mind that was taught to the younger generation through the promotion of fun words and phrases, like “user generated content”, “sharing”, “exposure”, “followers” etc, which literally sucks the essence out of what music is, what its powers are and why the people who make it need to be able to support themselves.

Technologists are not (fully) to blame. Software companies deal with copyright infringement of their work daily, and suffer financially due to cracked software. But the horror of, what I consider to be, the next, and possibly last, phase in music distribution and presentation are algorithmic playback systems acting as both instrument and radio. This next generation of platforms are on their way. In fact I was approached by a few of them to assist, which I am, obviously, not doing.

The new platforms will give DJs a taste of what producers, composers, musicians and songwriters have been going through since their copyrights have been trampled on, but it may actually be worse, as it will lead to a world of presets, regurgitating copyright free audio with the users ability to mix it themselves. The end game being a popular music without the fuss of copyright, royalty shares, publishing splits and contracts, and without the hassle of an artist’s needs.

You can already see it, with DJs playing unhooked up gear for big events. If you think about it, why do they need to be there at all? As soon as they are replaceable, they will be. So please, DJs/producers, put your thinking caps on and join us in combating this future from happening.

Enter the typical bar. Everything looks right except for the person, standing at the laptop searching online via the cloud for fresh music to fill the room with. Eventually the owner sees clearly that the DJ is replaceable by a playlist that generates its choices by an advanced system of what appears to be randomization, all based off of the data gathered by companies like Google.

Xhail‘s platform (still in Beta) uses advanced technology with the stem format to score film & media using a list of genres and moods. Although they seem to have a market for composers and musicians to work for them, I’m still not sure of how their pay structure will work down the line, and the concept is one of many that are being built which could push out original scores by single composers.

Spotify’s Running speaks for itself, and considering Spotify’s reluctance to pay artists reasonably for their own work, its easy to imagine how this will converge with the concept of Stems. I have no doubt Apple will soon follow with their version, which most likely will be far beyond this in its technology.

To be clear, what I am talking about is by far more advanced than the presets of analog synths and hardware samplers, and what joys those brought to music. However, the Stems concept seeping into DJ products is in my opinion the beginning, once combined with radio and the Xhail concept.

On the flip side, Ableton Live‘s presets can be modified or built from scratch in a user friendly way. This opens doors for musicians, not just in that it can be individually invented, but that to make them on your own there is a learning curve, which means jobs for teachers. I designed the Ghost Producer “Don’t Obey” Rack for Ableton Live as an action to this article, which slips in randomized abstraction that is difficult for users to predict and nearly endless variations.

Once the tactile aspect of DJing was lost, what is left is the choice-making. That is for sure an element best left to a human being, but no longer necessary. Thousands of restaurant and bar owners are constantly trying to figure out how to cut corners, lessen their costs and make more money. This is their answer. Lesser-known bar and restaurant DJs will suffer first.

This is a natural progression, as that is predominantly how a vast majority of popular electronic music is being made. If the music is produced in the same way, then when it comes to this instrument/radio hybrid, users will enjoy the feeling of being creators, and in a way they will be. Yet its form will absolutely destroy the industry of both production and mainstream DJ culture.

One of the ways to avoid it is to develop your sounds and compositions yourself, simply by doing some research into how to achieve the same results from an entirely original (personal, human) formula that you keep to yourself, and by adding abstractions and new ideas, which have yet to be reconstructed into a preset, by adding an additional tool to your production set up.

The best way to combat it is to alter the process before it is weaponized.

Photographs courtesy of the author.

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