Apple’s platform squeeze holds back music and creativity, too – so will there be consequences?

Apple’s desire to tax and control its app ecosystem is earning outcry from developers, government, and outside observers. It’s a stand-off musicians and creators should watch closely.

The post Apple’s platform squeeze holds back music and creativity, too – so will there be consequences? appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Apple killing app affiliates is about more than just the affiliate program

Apple is terminating its affiliate program for iOS and Mac apps, effective October 1. That move is seeing a backlash from developers – and could discourage press outlets from covering apps.

Full disclosure: CDM added affiliate links for apps in our Apps section, which is helmed by Ashley Elsdon. In fact, this is at the moment how CDM supports Ashley’s contributions to CDM; we simply migrated his affiliate program from his former site Palm Sounds to CDM, and had planned to further develop this in the future.

But it’s not just media who are concerned about the change. I’ve heard from several developers who have emphasized that the move will cost them, too. Those developers often include affiliate links on their own sites, thus taking a portion of Apple’s own royalties. The logic is simple: if you go get an app through the developer’s site itself, it’s really their site, not the Apple App Store, that is helping you find that app. By eliminating the affiliate program, the argument goes, Apple is essentially claiming marketing services as part of their 30% royalty share without doing anything.

Some examples from public comments on Twitter:

(Intermorphic is the ground-breaking developer of interactive music tools that has worked with the likes of Brian Eno; David Lublin is a Mac developer and founder of Vidvox, creators of VDMX.)

This saga began effectively in 2017; Apple pledged to drop the commission rate from 7% to 2.5%, then, following a backlash, limited that change to In-App Purchases only.

The announcement from Apple is itself revealing:

With the launch of the new App Store on both iOS and macOS and their increased methods of app discovery, we will be removing apps from the affiliate program. … All other content types (music, movies, books, and TV) remain in the affiliate program.

[emphasis mine]

Forget 7% or 2.5% or 0%. The real story here is not just about affiliates, but about Apple’s intended avenue of discovery. That is, they want you to discover, learn about, and consume apps entirely on their platform. They’ve made moves to hire their own editorial staff. Effectively, they’re keeping resources inside Apple.

And that itself should be chilling. The Internet has transformed quickly in the face of dominance of a handful of corporations. And those corporations are all tightening their grip. In the phone market, two companies – Apple and Google – have an effective duopoly. In search, one company – Google. (One exception is the search recommendations provided by … Apple.) Online advertising is dominated by Google. Retail is dominated by Amazon. Social media is effectively now just Facebook (via Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp).

Long-time independent Apple publisher TidBITS has some tough words on the situation, from industry veteran Adam Engst. And you should listen to him, as Adam is very much in that “last man standing” category as we’ve watched independent technology media collapse.

Apple’s Termination of App Store Affiliate Payments Is Unnecessary, Mean-Spirited, and Harmful

I was going to say, it isn’t necessarily Apple’s obligation to keep us alive except … well, it absolutely is. Independent media contributed to the growth of Apple’s platforms, and now with iPhone device sales flattening, the massively wealthy corporation may actually be making a strategic error even as far as its own self interest.

But that aside, I think Adam says something here that’s bigger than app affiliate revenue or even Apple, rather reflecting on the state of the Internet:

Any media-savvy organization, whether it’s a multinational corporation or full-fledged government, can increasingly control public perception not just by manipulating social media but also by bringing content creation and dissemination in-house. It’s all about control in a media world that no longer has gatekeepers. Apple pulled out of Macworld Expo years ago because it could just as easily hold its own product release events, and now we’re seeing Apple do the same to industry publications by competing with them via App Store editorial.

And that’s really the issue. Whether Apple’s affiliate program makes sense either for Apple or for publishers, the message killing the program spells it out: Apple wants to be the editorial. And the companies I’ve mentioned (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) in various ways want to be the Internet. Those of us not working for those companies are free to criticize. And we may have to face the reality that this changes the practicality of our businesses. That may or may not be an existential crisis, but it isn’t something to ignore and wish away.

Developers will have to consider this in their business plans, particularly as Apple charges them for advertising on top of the share of revenue they take as a royalty. (This is one reason, among others, pro audio developers have almost universally rejected the desktop App Store.)

And publishers face a choice about whether we can compete with Apple, or whether we should exit the business entirely.

That said, even if this sounds bleak for us on the independent side, consider: Apple can only be Apple. They can only be in the business of selling their devices and apps. But we can easily switch business in a way that ceases to contribute to their business. In the long run, that may be more Apple’s problem than our own.

I hope that Apple will still reconsider the decision in the face of feedback from developers and press. I certainly don’t consider this to be typical of the treatment of media relations, who in my experience do still value the media (ahem) as part of their job role. And whatever Apple decides, my personal bias remains: businesses work better together than they do apart.

Addendum: the competition

I realize I focused entirely in this story on Apple, which isn’t entirely fair.

It’s worth noting that Google has not ever had an affiliate program.

Who does? Microsoft does, with a 7% commission rate. That is available with generous rewards for apps, in-app purchases, and – crucially, given that they’re much bigger ticket items – Microsoft hardware.

Using the Microsoft Affiliate Program to earn additional 7% on Windows Store sales [2016 Microsoft developer post, but still relevant and a good overview of how this works]

Now, does that make the Microsoft platform better for the user or developer? That’s arguable, clearly. But what I think it may demonstrate is a difference in philosophy and strategic positioning. Google, for all their claims of “openness,” are first and foremost an advertising – and by extension, content – platform. Microsoft built value around an ecosystem and interoperability of businesses inside that ecosystem. What’s interesting about the Apple affiliate decision is, since there wasn’t any particular urgency to making the change, it suggests Apple is shifting their strategy to take more control over content around their platform and not just what gets delivered through the store.

When the affiliate decision is long since forgotten, that strategic shift may prove to have been meaningful.

The post Apple killing app affiliates is about more than just the affiliate program appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

djay Pro 2 brings algorithms and machine learning to DJing

A.I.D.J.? The next-generation djay Pro 2 for Mac adds mixing and recommendations powered by machine learning – and more human-powered features, too.

When Big Data meets the DJ

The biggest break from how we’ve normally thought about DJ software comes in the form of automatic mixing and selection tools. One is powered by machine learning working with DJ sets, and one from data collected from listening (Spotify).

Automix AI is a new mixing technology. And hold on to your hats, folks, if the “sync” button was unnerving to you, this goes further.

When we say “A.I.,” we’re really talking machine learning – that is, “training” algorithms on large sets of data. In this case, that data comes from existing DJ sets. (Algoriddim tells CDM that was drawn from a variety of DJs, mostly in hip-hop and electronic genres.) Those sets were analyzed according to various sonic features, and the automixing applies those to your music. So this isn’t just about mixing two different techno tracks with mechanical efficiency – it’s meant to go further across different tempos and genres.

It’s also more than matching tempo. Automix AI will identify where the transition occurs, decide how long the fade should be, and apply filters and EQ. So, if you’ve ever listened to existing Automix features and how clumsy they are with starting and stopping tracks, this takes a different approach. Algoriddim explains to CDM:

The core of this tech is finding good start and end regions for transition between two songs, while also respecting the corresponding sound energies and choosing an appropriate transition accordingly (e.g. most likely EQ or short filter transition if you have two high energy parts of the song for the transition)

Then there’s “Morph” – which Algoriddim argue opens up new ways of mixing:

This actually goes beyond what a regular DJ can do with two hands. Morph not only syncs the songs but seamlessly ramps the changed tempo of the inactive deck to its regular speed as the transition progresses. E.g. in the past if you had a hip-hop song at say 95 BPM and an electronic track at 130 BPM, syncing the two and making a transition would leave the new track in an awkwardly rate changed state (even with time-stretching enabled). So as the transition starts, both songs (in this example) would be playing at 130 BPM but as we are doing a simultaneous tempo “crossfade”, the hip-hop track ends up being back at 95 BPM at the end of the transition. This ensures the tracks always play at their regular tempo and these types of mixes sound very natural, allowing for seamless cross-genre transitions.”

Also impressive: while you might think this sort of technology would be licensed externally, the whiz kids over at Algoriddim did all of this on their own, in-house.

On the Spotify integration side, and also related to automating DJing tasks, “Match” technology recommends music based on BPM, key, and music style. Existing Spotify users will be familiar with some of this recommendation engine already. Where it could be good for producers is, this means there’s an avenue by which your music gets exposed by algorithms. And that in turn is potentially good news, if you’re a producer whose music isn’t always charting the top of a genre on Beatport.

These “autopilot” features are all under your control, too: you can choose which parameters are used, choose your own tracks, switch it off at will – as you like. Or you can sit back and let djay Pro run in the background while you’re doing something else, if you want to let the machine do the DJing while you cook dinner, for instance.

Pro features, for humans

Okay, so at this point, djay Pro 2 may sound a bit like this:

But one of the disruptive things about Algoriddim’s approach to DJ software is, it has simultaneously challenged rivals both among entry level and casual users and more advanced users at the same time.

So, here’s the more “Pro” sounding side of this. Some of these are features that are either missing or not implemented quite the way we’d like in industry leaders like Serato and Traktor.

A new audio engine with master AU plug-ins. A rewrite of the engine now allows high-res waveforms, post-fader effects, higher-quality filters, plus the ability to add Audio Unit plug-ins as master output effects.

Integrated libraries. iTunes, Spotify, and music in the file system / Finder are now all integrated and can be viewed side-by-side.

Integrated library views bring together everything on your local machine as well as Spotify.

Smart filters. Set up dynamic playlists sorted by BPM, key, date, genre, and other metadata. (Those columns are available in other tools, but here you get them dynamically, a bit like the ones in iTunes.)

Keyboard Shortcuts Editor. There’s a full editor for assigning individual features to custom shortcuts – which in turn can also map to custom hardware or the MacBook Pro Touch Bar.

CDJ and third-party hardware support. Whereas some other players make their own hardware or limit compatibility (or even require specific hardware just to launch, ahem), Algoriddim’s approach is more open. So they’re fully certified by Pioneer for CDJ compatibility, and they include 60 MIDI controllers in the box, and they have an extensive MIDI learn function.

More cueing and looping. Version 2 now has up to eight cue points and loops, with naming, per song. (I recently lauded Soda for adding this.) You can also now assign loop triggers to cue points.

Single deck mode for preparation. Okay, some (cough, again Serato) lock you into this view if you don’t have authorized hardware plugged in. But here, it’s designed specifically for the purpose of making set prep easier.

Accessibility. VoiceOver support makes djay Pro 2 work for vision-impaired users. We really need more commitment to this in the industry; it’s also been great to see this technology from Algoriddim showcased at Apple’s developer conference. If you’re using this (and hopefully CDM is working well with screen readers), do let us know.

New photo / still image support.

And it does photos

Back to less club/pro features, the other breakthrough for casual users, weddings, and commercial gigs is photo integration. Drag and drop photos or albums onto the visual decks, and the software will make beat-matched slide shows.

The photo decks also work with existing, fairly powerful VJ features, which includes external output, effects, and the like. You can also adjust beat sync.

Still image support builds on an existing video/VJ facility.

Plus a no-brainer price

The other thing that’s disruptive about djay Pro 2: price. It’s US$49.99, with an intro price of US$39.99, on the App Store.

You’ll need Spotify Premium for those features, of course, and macOS 10.11 or later is required.

https://www.algoriddim.com/

The post djay Pro 2 brings algorithms and machine learning to DJing appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Plug-ins On Your iPad, iPhone – And on Mac App Store, Too?

auextensions

While some Apple watchers fear the transformation of OS X into iOS, it would be more accurate to say that Apple has gradually been bringing its next-generation architectures to both platforms. And in the process, iOS is able to perform feats formerly only possible on the Mac.

What’s next: Audio Unit “extensions points.” And the upshot of this will be plug-ins on your iPad and iPhone (and perhaps someday Apple Watch), all using a new framework that will work on both OS X and iOS.

The feature was buried in a slide deck in the WWDC keynote and appeared shortly after in draft developer documentation in iOS 9.0. Now, keep in mind, that doesn’t mean it’ll ship in this form, or in iOS 9.0 at all – features have been known to slip. But it does provide an indication of where Apple is headed.

“Extension points” are a new way of providing third-party functionality inside an app. (Other examples include VPN functionality and add-ons for Safari and Spotlight.) These are most interesting in iOS for audio,though. Whereas combining audio tools has so far meant connecting apps via Audiobus or Inter App Audio, you’ll be able to install Audio Unit from the App Store and, for instance, add a delay effect to your favorite production app on the iPad.

Here’s the description from the iOS 9 documentation:

The Audio Unit extension point allows your app to provide musical instruments, audio effects, sound generators, and more for use within apps like GarageBand, Logic, and other Audio Unit host apps. The extension point also brings a full audio plug-in model to iOS and lets you sell Audio Units on the App Store.

Architecturally, this is no huge jump. Audio apps already make use of the Audio Unit API to talk to the audio stack in the OS (it’s actually how we implemented libpd). What was missing was a way to distribute Audio Units as add-ons for apps; this provides just that. It seems that’ll make sense for things like simple effects; more complex processing can still use inter-app audio features and dedicated apps — iOS 9 even makes that more convenient with split-screen multitasking.

Think more like 99-cent delay effects than something fancier, at least on iOS. Extensions will have a UI, but a very basic one. Apple hasn’t written audio-specific documentation yet, but they do caution extension developers in general to simplify: “An extension’s UI should be simple, restrained, and focused on facilitating a single task. To improve performance and the user’s experience, avoid including extraneous UI that doesn’t support your extension’s main task.”

Making a basic distortion add-on for other tasks should be nice, though.

So, for iOS, this is good news. But it also almost certainly reflects a change in direction from Apple on plug-ins on OS X – something we’ve long expected. Third-party developers had told me they thought Apple would push sandboxing for audio plug-ins on the desktop. And note that the Audio Unit extension point isn’t just for iOS; it’s for OS X, too. This could change the way plug-ins work on the desktop, though keep in mind that hosts from Steinberg, MOTU, Ableton, and others will likely continue to support some mixture of VST and existing AU formats (plus AAX and the like from Avid).

And if it allows App Store purchases on iOS, it seems desktop OS X App Store purchases of plug-ins can’t be far behind. I’m only speculating, but this seemed strategically inevitable the day GarageBand and Logic moved to the OS X App Store. Extension points would provide a technical facility to do so.

For developers, it means you can create plug-ins once and then sell them to desktop and mobile users at the same time.

What that means for users actually consuming those plug-ins: well, that can only be answered when developers have had some time to work with the new operating systems.

If you are a developer, you can read up on this in the iOS 9.0 release notes and App Extension Programming Guide.

The post Plug-ins On Your iPad, iPhone – And on Mac App Store, Too? appeared first on Create Digital Music.

djay Pro for Mac: A Serious DJ App with Spotify Integration, US$49

7-spotify-light-mode

A full-featured DJ app can be yours for fifty bucks, and it can stream the songs you don’t have right off Spotify. djay Pro is here, and with it and a new generation of contenders come some serious shifts in digital DJing.

Algoriddim have been making user-friendly DJ apps for a while. That started with a beginner-friendly Mac app, but extended to iOS and the until-recently-neglected Android platform (which is now at last fairly viable for mobile DJing).

djay’s ease of use was already enough to make it appeal to casual DJs. Then, in May, Algoriddim pulled an ace out of their sleeve – Spotify integration. You still need a reliable WiFi connection, and streaming still isn’t quite as convenient as working from downloaded files, but for wedding DJs or anyone who has to take requests, it’s a boon.

Still, mobile gadgets are limited. Connecting hardware for control and sound is a pain compared to a desktop, and storage is restricted.

Today’s release of djay Pro is a serious salvo in the exploding DJ market. There are two big bombshells. One, Spotify DJing has just become a reality on desktop. Two, big players in the DJ market now have to contend with a friendly, affordable competitor.

And I don’t think that’s something to underestimate. In a world of DJ apps that looked like they were designed by Airbus engineers, djay (like rival Cross) represents something anyone can approach. Now, previously, that meant giving up some features serious DJs needed. But djay Pro closes a lot of that gap, without looking more complex.

Should makers of big DJ apps be a little worried? Absolutely. DJing is an expanding global market, and that puts lots of users on the table – and Spotify means some of those DJs would consider switching platforms. Traktor, which has cool-looking hardware but can be inflexible in what appears on the screen, I’m looking at you. Native Instruments’ own iOS efforts have shown that Traktor’s user experience could be better.

djay_pro_waveforms

Algoriddim promises “Pro” brings “pristine audio quality” – important, since other versions of djay suffer with time stretching and effects. They also say they’ve added high-definition waveforms in place of the crude representations of what’s onscreen. I’ll be testing that over our holiday break, but on paper, things do look nice:

Powerful DJ Interface: turntables, waveforms, four decks, sampler
Spotify Integration: instant access to over 20 million songs.
Music Library: Spotify + iTunes, history, queue, preview, search, light / dark switch
Four Deck Mixing: horizontal / vertical layouts, crossfader assignments
Waveform Layouts: horizontal / vertical, two deck / four deck, variable zoom level
Sampler: live sampling and presets editing, pre-bundled content
Recording: AAC / WAV, iTunes export
Advanced DJ Tools: sync, cue points, looping, skipping, slip, beat grids
Audio FX: 30 audio effects by Sugar Bytes (In-App Purchase), chain-able effects
Audio Processing: time stretching, pitch shifting, EQ, pan, highpass, lowpass, limiter
Audio Analysis: BPM with dynamic beats, colored waveforms, key, auto-gain
Hardware Integration: over 50 MIDI controllers, MIDI learn, multi-channel USB audio

1-turntables

5-four-deck-vertical

Effects are one area where something like Traktor is miles ahead – but Sugar Bytes makes great effects, so this is a horse race now.

And it’s likewise nice to see some hardware control options.

Spotify, though, is really the wild card here.

Cross DJ for Mac and PC – which offers the Windows support lacking here – is another major contender, and one I hope to write about in the next couple of weeks. It has deeper sampling and remix options, lots of Pioneer integration (important to those aforementioned “pros”), and vinyl control.

Here’s where things get interesting: Cross DJ does unlimited SoundCloud streaming, in place of Spotify. Pricing runs from free (!) up to US$129, with most functionality in the US$34 version.

You may have noticed Native Instruments steeply discounting their software lately. I really wonder if DJ software will get commodity pricing while makers like NI make up the difference on hardware.

But the other coming disruption really is streaming. With Cross with SoundCloud and djay with Spotify, others are sure to follow. I still love downloading music, and I’d never want to have a DJ set train wreck because of a WiFi connection, but it’s hard not to imagine a lot of DJs at least augmenting their setups with streams – especially those that do have to depend on requests. (And, let’s face it, the market for software has to encompass a lot of people who face that reality.)

By the way, this makes the news from Beatport this week even more interesting. Beatport downloads face competition direct from artists and labels – and streaming, too. The streaming service they’ve teased to The Wall Street Journal still isn’t available, while producers and labels are already used to uploading music to SoundCloud (where they have actual control over their content) and the public are used to Spotify. With Spotify and SoundCloud already integrated with these products, you wonder where the Beatport offering will even fit. Beatport has been integrated with Traktor before; maybe it’ll happen again. Otherwise, it seems like SoundCloud and Spotify may remain the bigger streaming players, with Beatport some sort of Raver Spotify for the Tomorrowland set.

Anyway, that’s the future.

Right now, djay Pro is a nice contender for casual DJs, for anyone wanting a fresh-faced app, or anyone who wants Spotify integration on the desktop. I look forward to reviewing this one.

Find it here:
http://www.algoriddim.com/djay-mac

djay Pro is for sale via Apple’s App Store at US$49.99, for a limited time.

The post djay Pro for Mac: A Serious DJ App with Spotify Integration, US$49 appeared first on Create Digital Music.

djay Pro for Mac: A Serious DJ App with Spotify Integration, US$49

7-spotify-light-mode

A full-featured DJ app can be yours for fifty bucks, and it can stream the songs you don’t have right off Spotify. djay Pro is here, and with it and a new generation of contenders come some serious shifts in digital DJing.

Algoriddim have been making user-friendly DJ apps for a while. That started with a beginner-friendly Mac app, but extended to iOS and the until-recently-neglected Android platform (which is now at last fairly viable for mobile DJing).

djay’s ease of use was already enough to make it appeal to casual DJs. Then, in May, Algoriddim pulled an ace out of their sleeve – Spotify integration. You still need a reliable WiFi connection, and streaming still isn’t quite as convenient as working from downloaded files, but for wedding DJs or anyone who has to take requests, it’s a boon.

Still, mobile gadgets are limited. Connecting hardware for control and sound is a pain compared to a desktop, and storage is restricted.

Today’s release of djay Pro is a serious salvo in the exploding DJ market. There are two big bombshells. One, Spotify DJing has just become a reality on desktop. Two, big players in the DJ market now have to contend with a friendly, affordable competitor.

And I don’t think that’s something to underestimate. In a world of DJ apps that looked like they were designed by Airbus engineers, djay (like rival Cross) represents something anyone can approach. Now, previously, that meant giving up some features serious DJs needed. But djay Pro closes a lot of that gap, without looking more complex.

Should makers of big DJ apps be a little worried? Absolutely. DJing is an expanding global market, and that puts lots of users on the table – and Spotify means some of those DJs would consider switching platforms. Traktor, which has cool-looking hardware but can be inflexible in what appears on the screen, I’m looking at you. Native Instruments’ own iOS efforts have shown that Traktor’s user experience could be better.

djay_pro_waveforms

Algoriddim promises “Pro” brings “pristine audio quality” – important, since other versions of djay suffer with time stretching and effects. They also say they’ve added high-definition waveforms in place of the crude representations of what’s onscreen. I’ll be testing that over our holiday break, but on paper, things do look nice:

Powerful DJ Interface: turntables, waveforms, four decks, sampler
Spotify Integration: instant access to over 20 million songs.
Music Library: Spotify + iTunes, history, queue, preview, search, light / dark switch
Four Deck Mixing: horizontal / vertical layouts, crossfader assignments
Waveform Layouts: horizontal / vertical, two deck / four deck, variable zoom level
Sampler: live sampling and presets editing, pre-bundled content
Recording: AAC / WAV, iTunes export
Advanced DJ Tools: sync, cue points, looping, skipping, slip, beat grids
Audio FX: 30 audio effects by Sugar Bytes (In-App Purchase), chain-able effects
Audio Processing: time stretching, pitch shifting, EQ, pan, highpass, lowpass, limiter
Audio Analysis: BPM with dynamic beats, colored waveforms, key, auto-gain
Hardware Integration: over 50 MIDI controllers, MIDI learn, multi-channel USB audio

1-turntables

5-four-deck-vertical

Effects are one area where something like Traktor is miles ahead – but Sugar Bytes makes great effects, so this is a horse race now.

And it’s likewise nice to see some hardware control options.

Spotify, though, is really the wild card here.

Cross DJ for Mac and PC – which offers the Windows support lacking here – is another major contender, and one I hope to write about in the next couple of weeks. It has deeper sampling and remix options, lots of Pioneer integration (important to those aforementioned “pros”), and vinyl control.

Here’s where things get interesting: Cross DJ does unlimited SoundCloud streaming, in place of Spotify. Pricing runs from free (!) up to US$129, with most functionality in the US$34 version.

You may have noticed Native Instruments steeply discounting their software lately. I really wonder if DJ software will get commodity pricing while makers like NI make up the difference on hardware.

But the other coming disruption really is streaming. With Cross with SoundCloud and djay with Spotify, others are sure to follow. I still love downloading music, and I’d never want to have a DJ set train wreck because of a WiFi connection, but it’s hard not to imagine a lot of DJs at least augmenting their setups with streams – especially those that do have to depend on requests. (And, let’s face it, the market for software has to encompass a lot of people who face that reality.)

By the way, this makes the news from Beatport this week even more interesting. Beatport downloads face competition direct from artists and labels – and streaming, too. The streaming service they’ve teased to The Wall Street Journal still isn’t available, while producers and labels are already used to uploading music to SoundCloud (where they have actual control over their content) and the public are used to Spotify. With Spotify and SoundCloud already integrated with these products, you wonder where the Beatport offering will even fit. Beatport has been integrated with Traktor before; maybe it’ll happen again. Otherwise, it seems like SoundCloud and Spotify may remain the bigger streaming players, with Beatport some sort of Raver Spotify for the Tomorrowland set.

Anyway, that’s the future.

Right now, djay Pro is a nice contender for casual DJs, for anyone wanting a fresh-faced app, or anyone who wants Spotify integration on the desktop. I look forward to reviewing this one.

Find it here:
http://www.algoriddim.com/djay-mac

djay Pro is for sale via Apple’s App Store at US$49.99, for a limited time.

The post djay Pro for Mac: A Serious DJ App with Spotify Integration, US$49 appeared first on Create Digital Music.

djay Pro for Mac: A Serious DJ App with Spotify Integration, US$49

7-spotify-light-mode

A full-featured DJ app can be yours for fifty bucks, and it can stream the songs you don’t have right off Spotify. djay Pro is here, and with it and a new generation of contenders come some serious shifts in digital DJing.

Algoriddim have been making user-friendly DJ apps for a while. That started with a beginner-friendly Mac app, but extended to iOS and the until-recently-neglected Android platform (which is now at last fairly viable for mobile DJing).

djay’s ease of use was already enough to make it appeal to casual DJs. Then, in May, Algoriddim pulled an ace out of their sleeve – Spotify integration. You still need a reliable WiFi connection, and streaming still isn’t quite as convenient as working from downloaded files, but for wedding DJs or anyone who has to take requests, it’s a boon.

Still, mobile gadgets are limited. Connecting hardware for control and sound is a pain compared to a desktop, and storage is restricted.

Today’s release of djay Pro is a serious salvo in the exploding DJ market. There are two big bombshells. One, Spotify DJing has just become a reality on desktop. Two, big players in the DJ market now have to contend with a friendly, affordable competitor.

And I don’t think that’s something to underestimate. In a world of DJ apps that looked like they were designed by Airbus engineers, djay (like rival Cross) represents something anyone can approach. Now, previously, that meant giving up some features serious DJs needed. But djay Pro closes a lot of that gap, without looking more complex.

Should makers of big DJ apps be a little worried? Absolutely. DJing is an expanding global market, and that puts lots of users on the table – and Spotify means some of those DJs would consider switching platforms. Traktor, which has cool-looking hardware but can be inflexible in what appears on the screen, I’m looking at you. Native Instruments’ own iOS efforts have shown that Traktor’s user experience could be better.

djay_pro_waveforms

Algoriddim promises “Pro” brings “pristine audio quality” – important, since other versions of djay suffer with time stretching and effects. They also say they’ve added high-definition waveforms in place of the crude representations of what’s onscreen. I’ll be testing that over our holiday break, but on paper, things do look nice:

Powerful DJ Interface: turntables, waveforms, four decks, sampler
Spotify Integration: instant access to over 20 million songs.
Music Library: Spotify + iTunes, history, queue, preview, search, light / dark switch
Four Deck Mixing: horizontal / vertical layouts, crossfader assignments
Waveform Layouts: horizontal / vertical, two deck / four deck, variable zoom level
Sampler: live sampling and presets editing, pre-bundled content
Recording: AAC / WAV, iTunes export
Advanced DJ Tools: sync, cue points, looping, skipping, slip, beat grids
Audio FX: 30 audio effects by Sugar Bytes (In-App Purchase), chain-able effects
Audio Processing: time stretching, pitch shifting, EQ, pan, highpass, lowpass, limiter
Audio Analysis: BPM with dynamic beats, colored waveforms, key, auto-gain
Hardware Integration: over 50 MIDI controllers, MIDI learn, multi-channel USB audio

1-turntables

5-four-deck-vertical

Effects are one area where something like Traktor is miles ahead – but Sugar Bytes makes great effects, so this is a horse race now.

And it’s likewise nice to see some hardware control options.

Spotify, though, is really the wild card here.

Cross DJ for Mac and PC – which offers the Windows support lacking here – is another major contender, and one I hope to write about in the next couple of weeks. It has deeper sampling and remix options, lots of Pioneer integration (important to those aforementioned “pros”), and vinyl control.

Here’s where things get interesting: Cross DJ does unlimited SoundCloud streaming, in place of Spotify. Pricing runs from free (!) up to US$129, with most functionality in the US$34 version.

You may have noticed Native Instruments steeply discounting their software lately. I really wonder if DJ software will get commodity pricing while makers like NI make up the difference on hardware.

But the other coming disruption really is streaming. With Cross with SoundCloud and djay with Spotify, others are sure to follow. I still love downloading music, and I’d never want to have a DJ set train wreck because of a WiFi connection, but it’s hard not to imagine a lot of DJs at least augmenting their setups with streams – especially those that do have to depend on requests. (And, let’s face it, the market for software has to encompass a lot of people who face that reality.)

By the way, this makes the news from Beatport this week even more interesting. Beatport downloads face competition direct from artists and labels – and streaming, too. The streaming service they’ve teased to The Wall Street Journal still isn’t available, while producers and labels are already used to uploading music to SoundCloud (where they have actual control over their content) and the public are used to Spotify. With Spotify and SoundCloud already integrated with these products, you wonder where the Beatport offering will even fit. Beatport has been integrated with Traktor before; maybe it’ll happen again. Otherwise, it seems like SoundCloud and Spotify may remain the bigger streaming players, with Beatport some sort of Raver Spotify for the Tomorrowland set.

Anyway, that’s the future.

Right now, djay Pro is a nice contender for casual DJs, for anyone wanting a fresh-faced app, or anyone who wants Spotify integration on the desktop. I look forward to reviewing this one.

Find it here:
http://www.algoriddim.com/djay-mac

djay Pro is for sale via Apple’s App Store at US$49.99, for a limited time.

The post djay Pro for Mac: A Serious DJ App with Spotify Integration, US$49 appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Polymer Makes Multiple Synths into One [Exclusive]

polymerscreenshot

So, you’ve assembled a nice collection of synthesizers. Maybe there’s hardware – some KORG volcas, a MeeBlip or two, or even modular. And of course, you have software synths, as well. Playing each individually – that’s kind of limited. Why not treat these as the digital instruments they are?

That’s the idea behind Polymer, a new Mac app out today on the Mac App Store. It can turn multiple monophonic synths into a polyphonic synth – making a “giant mutant polysynth” out of devices you’ve got. In fact, you don’t even have to use hardware exclusively – it works with software apps, too. Having covered hardware earlier today, many of you complained that you don’t have the money for hardware. Here, a couple of cheap monosynths can be a polysynth; a MeeBlip and Massive can turn into a hybrid software/hardware instrument.

Basically, if it uses MIDI – hardware or software – you can now treat it as one instrument. This was certainly possible before, sure. But it’s never been quite this easy.

CDM got an exclusive advance look at the app. Our full review and some demos will come shortly, but I’m already really impressed.

Here’s how it works:

Polymer-Promo-Screenshot-No-Words

First, select the inputs you want to use – software or hardware.

Then, select the outputs you want to use – again, software or hardware. Each gets a nifty colored circle, which animates as you use the app so you can see what you’re using.

What’s really cool about this is that after just those few clicks, notes are routed to any combination of synths as if they were all one instrument. You simply choose to route notes polyphonically, or via voice stealing, one note per synth in the order they’re played. (The latter I quite like, as it emulates one of the nicest features of the KORG Mono/Poly.)

You can also choose direction: forward, reverse, or random, and distribute notes either by rotating from the same voice each time, or cycling through them round-robin style.

Of course, this isn’t limited to monosynths, either; you can create interesting cycles of notes across polysynths or massive stacks.

When Polymer first released some teasers, many folks expressed some skepticism about whether this was really needed. But it’s the speed with which you can configure Polymer that makes it a formidable tool: suddenly, all that mucking about with channels and configuration is reduced to steps that literally take only moments. It’s also a useful way to contend with multiple MIDI interfaces (for instance, a dedicated MIDI interface and one of the MIDI ports you got “for free” on a controller or audio box).

You can control up to 32 channels, merge between unlimited MIDI channels, and send velocity, pitch bend, and mod automatically. All you need is a USB MIDI interface and a Mac running OS X 10.7 or later – sorry, no Windows or Linux version. Another good idea: get a MIDI Thru box like the Kenton – if you lack extra MIDI ports, it saves you money and extra gear in your bag.

It’s easy to imagine some features that Polymer could add, though it’s already great to have this in a single window.

Price: US$19.99.

On the App Store

Official site: http://polymer-app.com

Polymer-Logo

The post Polymer Makes Multiple Synths into One [Exclusive] appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Shake-to-Get-a-Free-Album: Apple Called it Useless, Now You Can Try It

Nid & Sancy – The Cut up Jeans Technique app from Lab101 on Vimeo.

Like an attention-starved Tamagotchi – or a two-and-a-half year-old toddler – this is an app that wants to shake around and gets easily bored.

Yes, we’ve seen endless predictions that apps might replace albums. (I said it on a panel once, so I’m guilty.) But… how, exactly? In a novel and entertainingly-juvenile concept, the app R.A.N.D.Y. is a handheld dancing character who wants to be shaken around in order to keep the music playing.

Worth it? Well, with the funky sounds of Belgian electronic/punk act Nid & Sancy, yes. And in exchange for shaking your phone around, you get the album for free.

Apparently getting this into the App Store was more challenging, however. Apple hit the developers with multiple rejections for being “useless.” (Oh, sure, and sliding squares around until you get fired from your job, that’s useful?)

Somehow, that makes us like it … more.

Reader Kris Meeusen worked on this, and made use of free software libraries (creative coding platform Cinder), with a heavy dose of OpenGL and GLSL to keep all the animations happening interactively, in real-time.

I say keep the uselessness coming.

http://www.lab101.be/projects/nid-and-sancy.html

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The post Shake-to-Get-a-Free-Album: Apple Called it Useless, Now You Can Try It appeared first on Create Digital Music.

Apple’s App Store Now Lets You Download ‘Last Compatible Version’ Of Apps For Older Devices

Apple has quietly updated the App Store so that owners of out of production devices can download older, compatible versions of applications. Reddit user Justinbeiberispoop notes “People with old iOS devices: You can now install the last compatible version of an … Continue reading