Broadcast your tracklist on TWITTER?
Our Frienda at Beatprotal shared with us this article:
Richie Hawtin’s Twitter app announcement this morning hasn’t had much time to properly sunk in yet, but already I’ve been having some major thoughts about how the broadcasting of DJ tracklists in real time will change everything.
With Traktor quickly becoming the standard for electronic music DJs, the addition of a Twitter app will bring a level of transparency and fluidity to DJing in one fell software update that is likely to have a long-lasting impact on electronic music culture.
Here are my initial thoughts on the pros and cons of this development.
Since the beginning of DJ culture, tracklists have been a major source of music discovery. Everyone wants to get the best music that a DJ plays, and identifying the tracks that make up a DJ’s set has become a sport of sorts, that has spawned a number of valuable ideas.
From the culture of Track ID requests online (our own BeatDetect section is part of this system), to the dissection of Essential Mix tracklists on the BBC’s website, to the kids down the front who ask what every good beat is, the system of identifying good dance music is as much a part of the culture as headphones and vinyl.
It is a social, crowd-sourcing system that aligns itself well with dance music’s inclusive community roots.
But the system has never been very efficient. In the days of vinyl, punters used to try and read the title of records as they spun round and round on the platter. In a dark and smoky club, at 45rpm, the ability to catch the words of a spinning record was a skill in itself. White labels didn’t help, and DJs drawing symbols and smiley faces on records only further led to confusion.
When CDs came along, punters who were desperate to find out the name of a tune had no option but to hound a DJ for its name. People still hold up mobile phones in front of a DJ’s face today asking ‘Wat tune is dis?’
The development of protected DJ booths in clubs, with high walls that are unable to be scaled by fans, was probably in part, fueled by the increasing amount of hounding.
Then laptops came along, and punters received a polite and shiny Apple logo in their face. The internet, YouTube and the proliferation of digital cameras then unlocked the wisdom of the crowd and satisfied the hunger of some, with fans able to upload dodgy clips of a dancefloor in motion all under the banner of ‘Track ID?’
However, the system of Track IDs too has its inefficiencies. The internet is a wasteland filled with video and audio clips of music that will never be identified, and crowd sourcing, as great as it is, is rather slow.
A Twitter app that broadcasts what a DJ is playing in real-time changes everything. Here is a list of instant benefits that I forsee:
The unsung heroes of dance music gain a voice
Dance music has always been an anonymous movement, with producers hiding behind aliases, and DJs being the public face and stars of the scene. With real-time tracklist broadcasting however, the artists that produce the amazing music behind it all will gain deserved visibility and valuable promotion.
Think how many new up and coming artists could gain important attention from the worldwide dance community if one of their tracks is played by a Sasha or a Pete Tong in a club in one far corner of the world.
Real-time data analysis will be powerful
If you thought Beatport’s Top 10 chart was a powerful indicator for what’s hot, imagine then, the possibilities of being able to see the most popular tracks being played in clubs right now. By aggregating the tracklists of all Traktor users who are tweeting, it will bring a level of transparency and vibrancy to global dance music culture like never before. We’ll be able to see the scene breathing, moving and reacting like an animal, akin to the volatility of the stock market.
New trends could be discovered through the statistics. For instance, in a time of recession, are DJs playing more dark and more stripped back music? In the summer are happy vocal records and melodies a big theme? What’s the biggest electro house record right now? Are there differences between countries? Is classic house music coming back? Is trance getting harder?
The questions are limitless, but the answers could be found through the analysis of such data.
Man hours saved, good for the environment
The culture of using digital cameras for the purpose of identifying good music later will be obsolete with the introduction of real-time tracklists. Think of the amount of man hours that will now be saved worldwide each year by people no longer having to encode and upload their videos for track ID purposes. From the DJ’s standpoint, that means no longer having to write down a tracklist after a set which has always been an annoying encumbrance. This all equates to energy saved, which could have a small and beneficial impact on the environment.
Leave us DJs alone
DJs will no longer be hassled by overzealous fans at the booth and will be able to concentrate on just playing. No more annoying phones in the face, no more taps on the shoulder. Whoopee!
Goodbye chin strokers
Chin strokers – those annoying nerds that stand next to the DJ booth showing off their ‘knowledge’ for shouting out the name of every single beat have just been replaced by Twitter on the iPhone (which smells a lot better).
Technology is accurate, humans are generally not. So those hard-to-pronounce German techno records will finally be spelled correctly.
Memory? Who needs memory?
How many times have you asked a DJ for the name of a record, only to forget later? With tracklists now appearing accurately on Twitter there’s no need to remember anything from a club, every again. Is that a good thing?
More sales, convenience
Us here at Beatport have already been speaking about the integration of Beatport links to any tracks that are tweeted and available to purchase. If that becomes a possibility, then that means more sales for labels and artists, and convenience for users who will not have to manually search for tracks online. Everyone wins.
Whilst there are obvious overwhelming benefits to broadcasting tracklists in real-time via Twitter, there are also a few cons.
The hype circle irrelevant, mystique gone, piracy up?
In the days of vinyl, the dance music hype circle – the idea that DJs hype music simply by playing it which brings more sales down the line – was rather large. Some estimates put it at about six months, and when you take into account the exclusive promo period that DJs enjoyed, the white labels and the test pressings, the second tier promo lists and radio play, that seems about right.
When CDs, the internet and digital downloading came along, the hype circle got squeezed. Information traveled faster, and knowledge was no longer the privilege of a dancefloor veteran. Information wanted to be free, and in dance music this could be seen by the end of an idiosyncratic era - the days of a DJ playing an unknown white label that took take six months to be identified was over.
And with each new technological development the hype circle has been getting smaller. Some labels now only promote a record once it’s available to legally purchase online because they’ve realised that hype these days only leads to piracy and illegal downloading if the music is not available. For better or worse, internet consumers has gotten used to the convenience of ‘now’.
The development of a Twitter app that allows for the broadcasting of DJs tracklists in real-time renders the hype circle pretty irrelevant. By the time Dubfire has finished his set in Tokyo, the exclusive promo white label that he dropped for the very first time that night has already been identified in Borneo. Its name is freely available on the internet and it has already virally self-promoted.
Fans will already be searching futilely to buy it, and the pressure for someone to rip and upload an illegal copy of it just went sky high.
More significantly perhaps, is the fact that the mystique surrounding what a DJ plays, the excitement of tracking down that amazing life-changing moment that you heard on a beach in Thailand, just disappeared. The satisfaction of finally ID’ing that bomb that you heard in Ibiza will no longer be realised.
Exposure too soon?
Twitter tracklists in real time will bring deserved attention to the producers behind the music, but is there a danger that an up and coming artist will get worldwide exposure too soon?
There is something valuable in the old process of hyping new talent. The top down table of exposing new talent in dance music – DJs recommending music to other DJs, which in turn leads to magazine and blog coverage, and then finally the public – generally gave the artist enough time to develop their sound. A slow rising push slowly brings attention and the early days can be very important to the career development of an artist.
With real-time music discovery taking place on Twitter, a new artist with a debut release could get global attention when they’re not quite ready for it. The subsequent pressure of producing an equally successful hit, and the pressure of signing to a label, might not be very beneficial.
The loss of context
A good DJ is greater than the sum of the tracks they play, but with tracklists appearing online in real-time, there is a danger that the other audience (online and not down front) will lose all context and gain critical potential.
Fans who were not able to attend a club gig in person, might watch the set unravel on Twitter and after a few minutes respond on their Twitter saying ‘By the looks of things, I’m not missing much’.
What’s more, the Twitter application will broadcast every track played regardless of whether it was actually audible – digital DJs are increasingly experimenting with the mixing of parts and loops, and the app will list a track when in fact only a four second loop of it was actually played.
Since writing this post, Minus have uploaded a press release about the app with some more interesting notes.
“By providing the necessary information to track what is really being played in clubs, the Twitter DJ application would not only drag the likes of GEMA, PRS and SOCAN kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but make sure the real artists get paid instead of performance payments simply being carved up between the Madonnas and U2s of the world. If record sales are slowing down and performance is now the key area where artists can achieve financial stability, better solutions need to be found and a workable structure put in place as soon as possible. We hope that our Twitter DJ application is a step forward in the development of these types of systems.“
That means that Minus have been thinking two steps ahead, and realise that their Twitter app is a much better system then the blanket public performance music licenses that most venues worldwide use. The hope is that the producers behind the music might actually receive money based on their contribution (the amount their music is played in clubs) rather than it just going to the major labels to spend as they will.
An excellent idea, but the reality is that GEMA, PRS and SOCAN probably can’t/don’t want to build a system that accurately collects data with such magnitude. There are probably too many venues in the world with too many songs being played for the performance payments to be carved up proportionally.
The gap just got wider
The gap between digital DJs and physical DJs just got a lot bigger with the introduction of real-time tracklist broadcasting. Physical DJs generally play tracks in their entirety and tell a story through their mixing, whilst digital DJs are increasingly mixing on a molecular level. With tracklists appearing in real-time, digital DJs are transparent, whilst physical DJs still have a certain mystique to them.
As a reaction to this we might see digital DJs in the future, who broadcast tracklists via Twitter, deliberately mislabeling their music or using anonymous phrases in place of track titles in order to retain exclusivity on some of their most upfront cuts.
These are just my initial thoughts and are not backed up by any data or facts. I would love to hear what you all think of this new and exciting development, and what it means for our scene.
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