Pioneer’s aspirations for the DJ booth may be bigger than they first appear. And one clue is hidden in the news of the CDJ-shaped DJS-1000 sampler.
Let me spell it out for you:
“Support for DJS-TSP Project Creator2 – easily create projects and SCENE3 files on a PC/Mac.”
Yeah. That’s a big deal.
(See the full report: Pioneer made a CDJ-shaped sampler – what does that mean for DJs?)
Look, the actual reality of this may not be all that exciting. I’m contacting Pioneer to find out what the DJS-TSP software even looks like; maybe it’s just a simple utility for dumping some samples and being ready to go.
And take this with a grain of salt: I don’t expect the DJS-1000 to radically change how producers make music or how people want to play live, even if it is a big hit. It’s expensive, and it’s not anything like a given that clubs will want to invest in something beyond decks, or that typical DJs want to do much more than mix tracks.
But consider that in a relatively short time, Pioneer have succeeded in making DJs playing off laptops something of the past. Rekordbox has changed the world, and now might well replace Traktor and Serato on computers. You may literally be mocked by a tech for even showing up at a gig with a computer. And many DJs are happy to switch to USB sticks instead, and not have to worry about whether a macOS update will make them flop in front of a crowd.
Two Berlin giants of music software might want to start thinking about what this means. Look, the computer is still invaluable in homes and studios, or for on-the-road production. Laptops are great for making music on trains and in hotel rooms, they’re probably sitting next to modulars and machines for recording, they’re where nearly everyone finishes tracks. They’re unassailable production tools.
But laptops are starting to look really vulnerable in live use. And part of the value equation of Ableton Live or Native Instruments Maschine is what they bring to live sets, not just to production.
What happens if Pioneer starts convincing some DJs to carry USB sticks instead of road cases?
This doesn’t mean a whole lot to, say, Elektron owners. And indeed, Live and Maschine have already lost ground in live sets to musicians choosing an Octatrack instead (among other rigs).
But consider that we are where we are partly because Native Instruments saw into a future where native software was key (alongside Waves, Propellerhead, and some other players). NI also was early to the digital vinyl control revolution (Traktor Scratch). And NI were a leader in developing integrated hardware/software designed in combination (Maschine). Ableton (with partners Akai and Novation) pushed the grid forward, and controllers as hardware accessory, then showed that a full-blown DAW could get such a controller (Push).
It’s peculiar they didn’t make the next leap into working out what that same code would do if it were paired with hardware. Would I buy portable, standalone gear from NI that made it easy to play live with Maschine or Traktor? Would I buy a Push that worked without having to be tethered to a laptop?
Well, obviously, I would – even at a price premium. And because of the loyal user bases here, such a move would be earth-shaking if one of these companies pulled it off (maybe in a way that Akai’s recent MPCs hadn’t yet achieved).
It’s very possible that Ableton, NI, and others can continue to compete in computer-tethered software alone. And maybe you’ll just bounce out loops from their tools to that Pioneer software to play on the DJS-1000. But it’s hard not to see a possible missed opportunity here – and some competitive vulnerability if Pioneer, with their massive resources, double down.