We like observing trends at Crossfadr, from the shoes people take to the dance floor all the way up to the intangible swells that roll through the industry. We celebrate the differences between the Sydney and Seattle scenes. We’ve enjoyed watching jungle evolve through myriad hybrid faces and emerge again, victorious, as dubstep; the subtler themes that run through trance. We’ve mourned the bygone Technics as we revel in the breadth of tools with which to carve our creativity into the worlds we hear inside. We who’ve watched this forest sprout from the rock of poetry and activism and funk and soul, who watched it labour and stumble and then blossom and now stretches to the sky, we see the saturation now, the McDonald’s DJ happy toys and the My First DJ, chew-soft deck with USB and volume.
And in this tall, wild playground of ideas, the underbrush is choking with a glut of apps, too similar in price and functionality, distinguishable by interface alone. Companies with names we’ve never heard are making good with just the app stores for distribution, and the market’s new ubiquity is terraforming the DJ world, tossing up mountains and hacking ragged valleys where before there was a much more measured dynamism. There’s a battle between the big established brands and the bedroom startup devs.
So – why?
Well, ultimately it’s because there’s money there. For the DJs, producers, engineers, managers, manufacturers who rise to the top of their game, the wealth is ripe for the picking. And that’s because the market’s there, a tide of savvy kids who never knew the forest young. They dance and they consume and they impersonate their gods; they know what DJs do and more than ever, how they do it. They have little USB things they can plug into their laptops for a play, and they download apps for their phones and their tablets and their Macs. Disposable credit at the ready, they are a fatty cash cow, lowing to be milked.
The developers themselves run the gamut from the global corporate entity to the one-man bedroom band. Armed with free or inexpensive SDKs and a knack for writing code, these little guys machine software that may not challenge Traktor, but that is profitable at twenty quid and has more, if not more committed or sophisticated users. The lines of trade have utterly reformed for them; they seem purpose built for a virtual economy. Their overheads are non-events, their maintenance and marketing as heavy as they allow them to become. And most of all their distribution is a no-brainer, an automated funneling through online stores always hungry for new goods.
And let’s face it, what they build is not so hard, these days. The premise is a simple one, and half the work is done before you start. Some cash in the right hands and your audio decompression, your timestretching, your EQ processing is done. Slap a pretty shell on it and another thirty per cent to Apple and you’re home and hosed: twenty bucks on the app store and a six dollar profit for yourself. What’s six dollars times the number of heads in that swarm of iTunes customers? Incentive, that’s what.
In a sense, of course, we all win. Increased competition drives down prices, it fosters innovation – but the glint of gold fosters imitation, too, and couple this with the ease of distribution at our beck and call today and you’ve got a recipe for weeds. For all its rampant willfulness, a weed does have its place, though, and so long as the canopy above us doesn’t suffer for its nourishment, we’re free to cherry pick the things we like, avoid the rest, and find new gems to inspire us.