Hmmm, kids seem to like Serato. Perhaps this is important technology. Makoto & Deeizm MC at Zerwick, Munich. Photo: AREALFAKE.

Serato announced yesterday that they’ll be joining Ableton in a “creative partnership.” It’s not too hard to parse what this means from the announcement, which notes that Ableton Live’s strength is production and real-time remixing and beats, and Serato Scratch Live is about digital vinyl control, library management, and scratching. (Or, to say it even more simply: Serato is built around digital vinyl metaphors, and Live around remixable digital clips.)

Serato and Ableton announce a creative partnership [Serato News]
Ableton and Serato to work together []

In fact, Ableton CEO Gerhard Behles spells out what this will mean fairly explicitly:

“Ableton and Serato take different approaches to modern musical performance”

Okay, so, Ableton fans worried that Live is going to just become a DJ tool, or Serato lovers who don’t want Scratch Live assimilated into Ableton, fear not.

Ableton has never had an answer for the DJ who wants vinyl control, and rather than try to emulate what Serato do so well, we simply make sure that our products work well together.

Got that? We hear DJs regularly complain about Ableton Live, that there’s not proper scratching control over waveforms, that you can’t see more than one audio waveform (“deck”) at one time, that it lacks vinyl control, and so on. But obviously, at least some of those metaphors don’t jive terribly well with Live’s clean, signature interface, which wasn’t built to do these things in a traditional way.

Sounds to me like the most likely result is some kind of Serato deck that runs inside Ableton. I feel safe in speculating about this because I haven’t heard anything from Ableton about this. And there’s cause for that, as well, as many Ableton Live users do Live PA, laptop sets with Live, and then turn elsewhere (often to Serato, if not to rival Traktor) for more conventional DJ sets. Regardless, those of you who could care less about conventional DJ features are likely to find this comforting news: Ableton probably isn’t going to muck around with your software to graft them in.

I think this could amp up the NI – Ableton rivalry; Native’s DJ division has been further beefing up their Traktor Scratch options. This comes right on the heels of NI’s own Traktor Scratch Pro offerings, but since I’ll be in Berlin by this time tomorrow and that’s a released product, I expect to talk to NI directly about that. (Of course, I’m horribly biased in that I’d personally rather hear sets with people doing strange things with Live and Reaktor, but that’s me.)

That said, clearly only Serato and not Native could partnership with Ableton, because Serato had “Live” in the name of their product. (Perhaps that was an early sign of Ableton envy?)

All of this probably reminds some of you of another strategic Ableton partnership, with Cycling ’74, makers of Max/MSP. When announced some time ago, the expectation was that some product would come of that. We haven’t seen that product yet, but sometimes these relationships take time to bear fruit. I wonder.

Incidentally, what gets us most excited about Serato round these parts? Visual vinyl. See the Create Digital Motion hands-on review.

Updated: I should add, it is possible to add DJ capabilities to Live now by using a DJ host that functions in plug-in mode, as a couple of commenters note. Pinko’s Max/MSP-based “Pinky Pluggo” is one option; another is Image Line’s Deckadance. Both allow you to do vinyl control, too; Deckadance will work with any controller. I’m particularly fond of Deckadance’s absurd-sounding effects, which I think could add the sort of digital grunge to a DJ set or loop that will appeal to a lot of the Ableton-using crowd. And these sorts of tools are shipping now.

But of course, we really have no idea what it is exactly that Ableton and Serato are planning, whether it’ll be a new Live instrument or some other form of integration.