Monday, April 6, 2009

Dance: Put the Needle on the Sound File


Dance: Put the Needle on the Sound File
By Ben Osborne of California Chronicle

First there was a gradual shift away from vinyl to recordable CDs but now with laptops running specific software, DJs are rushing headlong into a digital revolution and it is changing their business and their roles.

After decades resisting new formats, dance music is currently leaping into the digital future. It is a transformation that is both rapid and far reaching; changing not only the dance music business, but the role of the DJ and the music itself.

The rise in digital distribution of dance music is partly a reaction to market trends affecting other parts of the music industry, not least that digital sales are growing - especially in the dance-friendly singles market.

The figures are striking. Overall UK music sales dropped by 3% in 2008 (according to data from the Official Charts Co and the BPI), but singles sales in the UK rose by 33% to 115m units. Of these only 4.8m were physical sales - the remaining 110.2m were digital.

Given statistics like this, it is not surprising dance music is embracing digital distribution. But there are more compelling factors fuelling dance music's rapid digitisation. Traditionally dance music has been antagonistic towards new formats. DJs spent 20 years resisting the onset of CDs. The first serious challenge to vinyl DJing was the Pioneer CDJ 1000, which replicated the vinyl DJ experience on a CD deck to an extent that made CDs acceptable.

"There was much more emotional attachment to decks and vinyl in dance than other music scenes," says Tom Kihl, who recently left Ministry of Sound's online operations and started Alchemy Content, a digital content company with strong roots in dance music, of which he is now director.

"The tipping point was Pioneer's CDJ-1000 deck. Combined with CDRs and online distribution it was ideal for dance culture. This meant the dance scene was ready to adopt digital wholeheartedly, at a time when the mainstream was preoccupied with defending the [CD sales-centred] status quo," says Kihl.

Pioneer's CDJ-1000 created CD-playing DJs, but it failed to ignite a CD-buying culture among them. Instead it introduced DJs to the flexibility of digitally-distributed music, which they could burn onto CDRs.

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Music Week on digital DJ culture
Written by: Terry Church on Beat Portal

Leading British music industry publication Music Week recently published (California Chronicle syndicated the article) an article called ‘Put the Needle on the Sound File’, in which writer Ben Osborne dissects the current trend in DJ culture towards laptops.

In the article Osborne interviewed a number of people involved in the dance scene (including myself) and although the article doesn’t bring anything new to the debate for the hardcore electronic music enthusiasts who discuss this topic constantly, it is interesting to see such a high profile publication recognize the trend.

I answered a number of questions about this topic which weren’t included in the final piece, so for anyone who’s interested here are some answers to some important questions about digital DJing.

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