If you follow the signs about the future of music distribution they all seem to be pointing toward streaming and away from downloading actual files. In general this makes a lot of sense. Having an entire music library accessible from anywhere, on any device, at any time is a great idea, especially once social features and sharing become more ubiquitous. It’s why services like Spotify and GrooveShark — and Netflix on the video side — are so popular, and it’s why mega-companies like Apple, Google and Amazon (for movies so far) are working on similar services.
This leaves me wondering about how DJs will adapt. In recent years, DJs media of choice have moved from vinyl and CD to laptop, using tools like Serato Scratch Live and Traktor Scratch which still give the feel of vinyl or CD but allow DJs to carry much more music with them in a compact form. I assume the next generation of DJs, who didn’t grow up using vinyl and CDs, will use a new wave of tools which will be even more portable; iPad apps for example. I’m also pretty sure there’ll be a retro resurgence of DJs who use actual vinyl again at some point, but I digress.
What I’m curious about here is what digital DJs will do when streaming takes over. Will DJs have to use specialized portals that allow actual file downloads? I imagine sites like Juno Download, Beatport, Bleep, Boomkat and TurntableLab won’t stop doing where they’re doing, but they carry very DJ specific music. You can’t go onto those sites and get, say, top 40 tunes for example. Will iTunes and Amazon MP3 continue selling downloads as an option once streaming takes over?
Tools for DJs to use audio streams will inevitably emerge, but as we know, internet connections are fickle which could lead to a very frustrated DJ and audience. That said, I’ve already been to a number of house parties where folks wind up playing YouTube videos or tracks from GrooveShark and it seems to work out OK. The only thing missing is the ability to beat-match, equalize, and mix those streaming tracks into a seamlessly engaging set.
Another very real possibility is that machines will eventually make DJs obsolete. What if IBM’s Watson was stuffed with every conceivable music recording and used The Echo Nest‘s spectral waveform analysis to determine similar tracks? Combine that with Pandora’s music genome info, Amazon and Netflix recommendation algorithms, sensors that could read and predict audience reaction, the ability to seamlessly mix tracks, and you just might have a recipe for a workable DJ replacement.
Mostly though, I’m just curious about what new tools DJs will use in the meantime.