1. Alfonse – MPC Jam One
MPC 2500 on loan for a few days, so time to make some beats and see what ideas come out…
2. Alfonse “Subtract” – Korg iElectribe and iMS20 on iPad
All parts were performed using Korg’s iElectribe (beat) and iMS20 (synths) for iPad and each take was videoed as it was played. The parts were then mixed in Logic, adding some
Alexander Zolotov has released version 3.0 of Virtual ANS, a spectral synthesizer based on the ANS photoelectronic musical instrument by Russian engineer Evgeny Murzin. The update comes with MIDI mapping, polyphonic synth mode, AUv3, and many other new features. Virtual ANS is a software simulator of the unique Russian synthesizer ANS – photoelectronic musical instrument […]
Virtual ANS from prolific omni-platform developer Alexander Zolotov brings back spectral synthesis like it’s the mid-century USSR. But it also future-proofs that tech – full Android and iOS (plus desktop) support, and now a version that’s polyphonic and MIDI playable.
Alexander Zolotov can single-handedly make a mobile device useful. On my new Android phone, it was his stuff I grabbed first – and, well, last. Once you’ve got a tracker like SunVox that runs anywhere, what more do you need?
And for anyone bored with the world of knobs and subtractive synthesis (yawn), enter the eerily beautiful alien sound world of the ANS – an alternate timeline of synth history in which sound is painted as well as made electrical. The creation of Russian engineer Evgeny Murzin, the ANS used a unique analog-optical hybrid approach. Borrowing from the graphic scores used in early film audio, waveforms were optically produced. It’s What You See Is What You Get For Sound – the spectrogram is the interface as well as a representation of what you hear. This technique is what creates the gorgeous, otherworldly timbres of Tarkovsky’s Solaris – and now it can be on your phone.
The original ANS – its name drawn from the initials of Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, the synesthesia-experiencing esoteric composer – used a series of optical discs. It’s easier to do this in software, of course. Everything works in real time, you can have as many pure tone generators as you like (since you won’t just run out of optical-mechanical wheels), and you can convert to and from digital files of both images and sounds.
Sound from pictures, pictures from sounds.
Now with MIDI support on both Android and iOS (not to mention desktop OSes).
ANS 3.0 is a major update that moves the whole affair from fascinating proof of concept to a full-featured instrument. You can now map polyphony, and you can play your creations via MIDI – including via external MIDI controllers.
Adding MIDI controllers actually makes for a wild instrument:
Oh, and remember how I just said that AUv3 was the way forward on iOS? Well, Sasha is of course supporting AUv# – as he’s supported Audiobus, IAA, JACK, ALSA, OSS, MME, DirectSound, and ASIO in the past. (That long list of formats comes from supporting Mac, Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS all at once.)
And there’s more. On iOS, you get high-res support and MIDI. Android 6+ has MIDI support. Linux gets multitouch support. Files are accessible in the file system of both iOS and Android – including all those project, image, and sound files. There are more audio export options, new brushes, new lighten and darkening layering modes like you’d expect in Photoshop, and lots of shortcuts. Check the full changelog:
Of course, because it runs on every platform (well, every modern platform), you can sketch an idea on your Android phone, move to iPad and work some more, then load it onto your PC and drop it into a DAW.
Frankly, I think it’s more exciting than anything from Apple this week, but I am impossibly biased toward this esoterica so … that goes without saying.
Pioneer and Beatport this week announced new streaming offerings for DJs. And then lots of people kind of freaked out. Let’s see what’s actually going on, if any of it is useful to DJs and music lovers, and what we should or shouldn’t worry about.
Artists, labels, and DJs are understandably on edge about digital music subscriptions – and thoughtless DJing. Independent music makers tend not to see any useful revenue or fan acquisition from streaming. So the fear is that a move to the kinds of pricing on Spotify, Amazon, and Apple services would be devastating.
And, well – that’s totally right, you obviously should be afraid of those things if you’re making music. Forget even getting rich – if big services take over, just getting heard could become an expensive endeavor, a trend we’ve already begun to see.
So I talked to Beatport to get some clarity on what they’re doing. We’re fortunate now that the person doing artist and label relations for Beatport is Heiko Hoffmann, who has an enormous resume in the trenches of the German electronic underground, including some 17 years under his belt as editor of Groove, which has had about as much a reputation as any German-language rag when it comes to credibility.
Beatport LINK: fifteen bucks a month, but aimed at beginners – 128k only. Use it for previews if you’re a serious Beatport user, recommend it to your friends bugging you about how they should start DJing, and otherwise don’t worry about it.
Beatport CLOUD: five bucks a month, gives you sync for your Beatport collection. Included in the other stuff here and – saves you losing your Beatport purchases and gives you previews. 128k only. Will work with Rekordbox in the fall, but you’ll want to pay extra for extra features (or stick with your existing download approach).
Beatport LINK PRO: the real news – but it’s not here yet. Works with Rekordbox, costs 40-60 bucks, but isn’t entirely unlimited. Won’t destroy music (uh, not saying something else won’t, but this won’t). The first sign of real streaming DJs – but the companies catering to serious DJs aren’t going to give away the farm the way Apple and Spotify have. In fact, if there’s any problem here, it’s that no one will buy this – but that’s Beatport’s problem, not yours (as it should be).
WeDJ streaming is for beginners, not Pioneer pros
This first point is probably the most important. Beatport (and SoundCloud) have each created a subscription offering that works exclusively with Pioneer’s WeDJ mobile DJ tool. That is, neither of these works with Rekordbox – not yet.
Just in case there’s any doubt, Pioneer has literally made the dominant product image photo some people DJing in their kitchen. So there you go: Rekordbox and and CDJ and TORAIZ equals nightclub, WeDJ equals countertop next to a pan of fajitas.
So yeah, SoundCloud streaming is now in a DJ app. And Beatport is offering its catalog of tracks for US$14.99 a month for the beta, which is a pretty phenomenally low price – and one that would rightfully scare labels and artists.
But it’s important this is in WeDJ as far as DJing. Pioneer aren’t planning on endangering their business ecosystem in Rekordbox, higher-end controllers, and standalone hardware like the CDJ. They’re trying to attract the beginners in the hopes that some of those people will expand the high end market down the road.
By the same token, it’d be incredibly short-sighted if Beatport were to give up on customers paying a hundred bucks a month or so on downloads just to chase growth. Instead, Beatport will split its offerings into a consumer/beginner product (LINK for WeDJ) and two products for serious DJs (LINK Pro and Beatport CLOUD).
And there’s reason to believe that what disrupts the consumer/beginner side might not make ripples when it comes to pros – as we’ve been there already. Spotify is in Algoriddim’s djay. It’s actually a really solid product. But the djay user base doesn’t impact what people use in the clubs, where the CDJ (or sometimes Serato or TRAKTOR) reign supreme. So if streaming in DJ software were going to crash the download market, you could argue it would have happened already.
That’s still a precarious situation, so let’s break down the different Beatport options, both to see how they’ll impact music makers’ business – and whether they’re something you might want to use yourself.
Ce n’est pas un CDJ.
Beatport LINK – the beginner one
First, that consumer service – yeah, it’s fifteen bucks a month and includes the Beatport catalog. But it’s quality-limited and works only in the WeDJ app (and with the fairly toy-like new DDJ-200 controller, which I’ll look at separately).
Who’s it for? “The Beginner DJs that are just starting out will have millions of tracks to practice and play with,” says Heiko. “Previously, a lot of this market would have been lost to piracy. The bit rate is 128kbs AAC and is not meant for public performance.”
But us serious Beatport users might want to mess around with it, too – it’s a place you can audition new tracks for a fairly low monthly fee. “It’s like having a record shop in your home,” says Heiko.
Just don’t think Beatport are making this their new subscription offering. If you think fifteen bucks a month for everything Beatport is a terrible business idea, don’t worry – Beatport agree. “This is the first of our Beatport LINK products,” says Heiko. “This is not a ‘Spotify for dance music.’ It’s a streaming service for DJs and makes Beatport’s extensive electronic music catalog available to stream audio into the WeDJ app.” And yeah, Spotify want more money for that, which is good – because you want more money charged for that as a producer or label. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the locker, the other thing available now:
WeDJ – a mobile gateway drug for DJs, or so Pioneer hopes. (NI and Algoriddim did it first; let’s see who does it better.)
Beatport CLOUD – the locker/sync one
Okay, so streaming may be destroying music but … you’ve probably still sometimes wanted to have access to digital downloads you’ve bought without having to worry about hard drive management or drive and laptop failures. And there’s the “locker” concept.
Some folks will remember that Beatport bought the major “locker” service for digital music – when it acquired Pulselocker. [link to our friends at DJ TechTools]
Beatport CLOUD is the sync/locker making a comeback, with €/$ 4.99 a month fee and no obligation or contract. It’s also included free in LINK – so for me, for instance, since I hate promos and like to dig for my own music even as press and DJ, I’m seriously thinking of the fifteen bucks to get full streaming previews, mixing in WeDJ, and CLOUD.
There are some other features here, too:
Re-download anything, unlimited. I heard from a friend – let’s call him Pietro Kerning – that maybe a stupid amount of music he’d (uh, or “she’d”) bought on Beatport was now scattered across a random assortment of hard drives. I would never do such a thing, because I organize everything immaculately in all aspects of my life in a manner becoming a true professional, but now this “friend” will easily be able to grab music anywhere in the event of that last-minute DJ gig.
By the same token you can:
Filter all your existing music in a cloud library. Not that I need to, perfectly organized individual, but you slobs need this, of course.
Needle-drop full previews. Hear 120 seconds from anywhere in a track – for better informed purchases. (Frankly, this makes me calmer as a label owner, even – I would totally rather you hear more of our music.)
There should be some obvious bad news here – this only works with Beatport purchased music. You can’t upload music the way some sync/locker services have worked in the past. But I think given the current legal landscape, if you want that, set up your own backup server.
What I like about this, at least, is that this store isn’t losing stuff you’ve bought from them. I think other download sites should consider something similar. (Bandcamp does a nice job in this respect – and of course it’s the store I use the most when not using Beatport.)
The new Beatport cloud.
Beatport LINK Pro – what’s coming
There are very few cases where someone says, “hey, good news – this will be expensive.” But music right now is a special case. And it’s good news that Beatport is launching a more expensive service.
For labels and artists, it means a serious chance to stay alive. (I mean, even for a label doing a tiny amount of download sales, this can mean that little bit of cash to pay the mastering engineer and the person who did the design for the cover, or to host a showcase in your local club.)
For serious users using that service, it means a higher quality way of getting music than other subscription services – and that you support the people who make the music you love, so they keep using it.
Or, at least, that’s the hope.
What Beatport is offering at the “pro” tiers does more and costs more. Just like Pioneer doesn’t want you to stop buying CDJs just because they have a cheap controller and app, Beatport doesn’t want you to stop spending money for music just because they have a subscription for that controller and app. Heiko explains:
With the upcoming Pioneer rekordbox integration, Beatport will roll out two new plans – Beatport LINK Pro and Beatport LINK Pro+ – with an offline locker and 256kbps AAC audio quality (which is equivalent to 320kbps MP3, but you’re the expert here). This will be club ready, but will be aimed at DJs who take their laptops to clubs, for now. They will cost €39,99/month and €59,99/month depending on how many tracks you can put in the offline locker (50 and 100 respectively).
You’ll get streaming inside Rekordbox with the basic LINK, too – but only at 128k. So it’ll work for previewing and trying out mixes, but the idea is you’ll still pay more for higher quality. (And of course that also still means paying more to work with CDJs, which is also a big deal.)
And yeah, Beatport agree with me. “We think streaming for professional DJ use should be priced higher,” says Heiko. “And we also need to be sure that this is not biting into the indie labels and artists (and therefore also Beatport’s own) revenues,” he says.
What Heiko doesn’t say is that this could increase spending, but I think it actually could. Looking at my own purchase habits and talking to others, a lot of times you look back and spend $100 for a big gig, but then lapse a few months. A subscription fee might actually encourage you to spend more and keep your catalog up to date gig to gig.
It’s also fair to hope this could be good for under-the-radar labels and artists even relative to the status quo. If serious DJs are locked into subscription plans, they might well take a chance on lesser known labels and artists since they’re already paying. I don’t want to be overly optimistic, though – a lot of this will be down to how Beatport handles its editorial offerings and UX on the site as this subscription grows. That means it’s good someone like Heiko is handling relations, though, as I expect he’ll be hearing from us.
Really, one very plausible scenario is that streaming DJing doesn’t catch on initially because it’s more expensive – and people in the DJ world may stick to downloads. A lot of that in turn depends on things like how 5G rolls out worldwide (which right now involves a major battle between the US government and Chinese hardware vendor Huawei, among other things), plus how Pioneer deals with a “Streaming CDJ.”
The point is, you shouldn’t have to worry about any of that. And there’s no rush – smart companies like Beatport will charge sustainable amounts of money for subscriptions and move slowly. The thing to be afraid of is if Apple or Spotify rush out a DJ product and, like, destroy independent music. If they try it, we should fight back.
Will labels and artists benefit?
If it sounds like I’m trying to be a cheerleader for Beatport, I’m really not. If you look at the top charts in genres, a lot of Beatport is, frankly, dreck – even with great editorial teams trying to guide consumers to good stuff. And centralization in general has a poor track record when it comes to underground music.
No, what I am biased toward is products that are real, shipping, and based on serious economics. So much as I’m interested in radical ideas for decentralizing music distribution, I think those services have yet to prove their feasibility.
And I think it’s fair to give Beatport some credit for being a business that’s real, based on actual revenue that’s shared between labels and artists. It may mean little to your speedcore goth neo-Baroque label (BLACK HYPERACID LEIPZIG INDUSTRIES, obviously – please let’s make that). But Beatport really is a cornerstone for a lot of the people making dance music now, on a unique scale.
The vision for LINK seems to be solid when it comes to revenue. Heiko again:
LINK will provide an additional revenue source to the labels and artists. The people who are buying downloads on Beatport are doing so because they want to DJ/perform with them. LINK is not there to replace that.
But I think for the reason I’ve already repeated – that the “serious” and “amateur”/wedding/beginner DJ gulf is real and not just a thing snobs talk about – LINK and WeDJ probably won’t disrupt label business, even that much to the positive. Look ahead to Rekordbox integration and the higher tiers. And yeah, I’m happy to spend the money, because I never get tired of listening to music – really.
And what if you don’t like this? Talk to your label and distributor. And really, you should be doing that anyway. Heiko explains:
Unlike other DSP’s, Beatport LINK has been conceived and developed in close cooperation with the labels and distributors on Beatport. Over the past year, new contracts were signed and all music used for LINK has been licensed by the right holders. However, if labels whose distributors have signed the new contract don’t want their catalog to be available for LINK they can opt out. But again: LINK is meant to provide an additional revenue source to the labels and artists.
Have a good weekend, and let us know if you have questions or comments. I’ll be looking at this for sure, as I think there isn’t enough perspective coming from serious producers who care about the details of technology.
Swedish-based start up Freedrum has launched a sleek new update to the application for its virtual drum kit, allowing for a wider user experience and greater experimentation. Freedrum works via sensors connecting wirelessly to smartphones, tablets and computers. The sensors are placed on traditional drumsticks, or on the feet of the drummer. The musician is […]
If you snoozed on some deals this weekend, and you’re longing to build out your software arsenal, erm, legally, it’s not too late. Here are some of the best deals we missed over the weekend plus some Cyber Monday news.
And yes, if you think I’d do this just as an excuse to run an image of some Cybermen, vintage ones looking like BBC actors dressed in a combination of balaclavas and some combination of hardware store parts that make it look like they have an air conditioner strapped to their chest, oh absolutely I would.
Ah, back to deals.
pluginboutique.com continues the sale of the weekend with a bunch of Monday “flash” deals. That includes ROLI’s wonderful new Cypher2 synth on sale, Softube Tape for thirty bucks, and many others – plus loads of plug-ins are $1 or free meaning you can go shopping for next to nothing or actually nothing. Also, pluginboutique.com’s site is up, which isn’t always the case with some of these flash deals from plug-in developers, so they’re a good place to check out.
Harrison make wonderful consoles. Now Mixbus was already kind of ridiculously affordable – US$79 buys you a full console emulation that’s great for mixdowns and mastering and the like. But for Cyber Monday, that’s a “okay, you have to buy this” $19, which is just stupidly good. Alternatively get Mixbus plus 5 plug-ins for $39. They didn’t pay me to say that, either; at those prices, I don’t imagine they have much marketing budget!
Propellerhead have a huge Cyber Monday sale, and with loads of big discounts on Reason add-ons and the cheapest ever price on an upgrade, it’s nice fodder for their loyal users. Euclidean rhythms, the KORG Polysix, the Parsec “spectral synth,” the Resonans physical modeling synth – some serious goodies there on sale. And €99 for the upgrade means you can finally stop putting off getting the latest Reason 10. (Not only is VST compatibility in there, but the Props have done a lot lately on usability and stability meaning now seems a good time to jump for Reason users.)
Anthology XI for US$699 instead of the usual $1799 is especially notable. Having those 23 plug-ins feels a bit like you’ve just rented a serious studio, virtually.
If that’s too much to budget, consider also the new Elevate Bundle – makes your sounds utterly massive, and the three do fit well together, so $79 is a steal.
There’s also the excellent H3000 delay on steep discount, and the luscious Blackhole reverb for just $69. (Or for more studio reverb sounds, the ‘Heroes’/Visconti-inspired Tverb for $99.) And of course the rest of the lineup, too.
Waves had a big sale over the weekend, but for Cyber Monday they also have a new synth – the Flow Motion FM Synth. This crazy UI is certainly a new take on making FM easier to grasp, and it’s got an intro price of US$39. (I have no idea how good it is as I haven’t tried it yet, but they’ve got my attention – and NI aren’t shipping the new Massive yet, so Waves gets in here first with their own hybrid take!) And Waves are doing a buy 2 get 1 free deal, as well.
After introducing a vocal plug-in over the weekend, Waves are using Cyber Monday for a product launch, too – the Flow Motion FM synth seen here.
Steinberg have a big sale this week, including apps, with up to 60% off. That’s a big deal for fans of their production software and plug-ins, but also take note that their terrific mobile app Cubasis – perhaps the most feature-complete DAW for iOS – is half off, as is the Waves in-app purchase for the same.
App lovers, it’s worth checking the Android App Store / Google Play as a bunch of stuff is on sale now – too much to track, probably. But some top picks this week: Imaginando’s Traktor and Live controllers, iOS and Android, are all 40% off – everything.
KORG’s apps are still 50% off.
And the terrific MoMinstruments line is all on sale:
Elastic Drums: 10,99€ -> 5,49€, $9.99 -> $4.99
Elastic FX: 10,99€ -> 5,49€, $9.99 -> $4.99
iLep: 10,99€ -> 5,49€, $9.99 -> $4.99
fluXpad: 8,99€ -> 3,99, $7.99 -> $4.49
WretchUp: 4,49€ -> 2,29€, $3.99 -> $1.99
Still going… A lot of the deals I wrote up over the weekend are still on, including Arturia and Soundtoys.
Native Instruments have a 50% off sale still going. Tons of stuff in there, but Reaktor 6 for a hundred bucks – full version, meaning you don’t need a past version – that’s insane. That’s a hundred bucks to buy you what could be the last plug-in you ever need.
IRRUPT/audio have a 50% off deal on their unique sound selection if you enter code IRRUPT-VIP.
Need to learn things and not just buy them? Askvideo/Macprovideo have a deal for today only with US$75 for a yearly pass (the price that usually gets you just three months), or 75% off all à la carte training.
Image-Line has announced version 3.2 of FL Studio Mobile. The update focuses on workflow improvements as requested by customers on the FL Studio Mobile forum. FL Studio Mobile: Create and save complete multi-track music projects on your mobile Phone or Tablet (Android, iOS or Windows). Record, sequence, edit, mix and render complete songs. Music production […]
“Wide Blue Sound spreads ORBIT and ECLIPSE wings with SKYPAD controller alongside APEX and AETERNA expansions
LOS ANGELES, CA, USA: musical synth designers Wide Blue Sound is proud to announce availability of its SKYPAD controller app alongside APEX and AETERNA — the first official expansion packs for its award-winning ORBIT and ECLIPSE flagship
“ElliottGarage presents EGDR 808 for Android, a drum machine that emulates the vintage hardware from the 80’s.
EGDR 808 ha been reviewed as one of the best drum machines on the iOS world, and it’s now available for Andorid devices too.
Its realistic and clear interface recalls the analog machine from the past, for all the vintage fanatics.
You can play
iZotope has announced the availability of Spire Studio for Android. This one-touch, professional-quality, portable recording studio is a true zero-latency recording device for the platform, combating the sound delay frustrations many musicians experience when multitracking a song. With Spire Studio, songwriters and musicians of all genres can capture, edit and mix music, using both the […]