Earlier this year, Richie Hawtin began experimenting with broadcasting the track information of his DJ sets live through Traktor to his Twitter feed. Now Hawtin’s record label Minus has released Twitter DJ to be used by fellow Traktor Pro 1.2 users. With Hawtin’s input, Minus’ Byan McDade developed the Twitter DJ app as a way to inform fans about the music they’re hearing and to promote the creators of that music. After the jump, we look at what Twitter DJ does, how to use it and interview McDade on the inspiration behind the app and what it could lead to for independent producers.
TWEETED TRACK LISTS
Twitter DJ uses Traktor Pro 1.2’s standard broadcasting technology to automatically send “now playing” tweets every 60 seconds if a new track is playing. Hawtin’s Twitter posts (www.twitter.com/rhawtin) using Twitter DJ look like this:
is now playing: CITIZEN KAIN & PHUTURE TRAXX – Cameleon (Pfirter Remix)
9:19 PM Sep 26th from Twitt3r_DJ
is now playing: Julien Chaptal Remix – YAKINE – STICKNEY (JULIEN CHAPTAL’S E DAY MIX) V1
9:18 PM Sep 26th from Twitt3r_DJ
is now playing: 2000 and One – Honey Bush [Tobi Neumann RMX]
9:15 PM Sep 26th from Twitt3r_DJ
• Native Instruments Traktor Pro 1.2
• Twitter DJ (free download)
• Icecast Streaming Media Server (free download)
• Mac OS 10.5 or higher on an Intel processor
The process of installing and setting everything up to work involves a few different apps and some Terminal commands, so it’s not for the squeamish, but Minus has a walkthrough video to help you along.
Twitter DJ itself is a simple-looking utility with just a Start/Stop button to begin your tweets once it is synced to Traktor, and a field for sending tweets directly from the program.
On the surface, Twitter DJ seems like a gracious gesture from a DJ to solve the age-old problem of fans not knowing what the amazing track they’re hearing is called and who made it, as well as a boon for often small-time music producers to get some well-deserved props.
However, Minus also sees this software as having implications for leveling the playing field for independent artists who tend to get looked over by performance rights organizations such as ASCAP and SESAC when it comes to royalty payments. If it does, it will be another feather in the cap of Hawtin, who has already had a hand in developing the first DVS system and MIDI-enabled DJ mixers. We talked to the software developer Bryan McDade about the present and potential future significance of Twitter DJ:
WHAT FIRST INSPIRED THE IDEA TO CREATE THIS APP?
I guess the inspiration would be from Richie wanting to connect more with the audience during a show. For the Contakt shows in 2008 we created a system that would allow Richie to send SMS to members who had registered for an RFID card that would make contact with The Cube. We expanded that in Tokyo to allow members to receive SMS updates. We then talked about expanding this to anyone, and Twitter came up because we would not have to build the infrastructure or manage the users. Track updates were the perfect information updates, since Richie moved to a digital platform with Traktor Pro. Twitter was relatively unknown in Europe when we discussed it, and it still isn’t nearly as popular in Europe due to SMS charges by providers.
WHAT WAS NATIVE INSTRUMENTS’ INVOLVEMENT IN DEVELOPING THIS APP?
Native provided us with insight to how they would provide artist and track names. They also created a beta version of Traktor Pro for Richie that had a necessary key feature for creating something like this so early. Unfortunately, the creating of a Twitter connector in Traktor Pro was not part of their development, so we had to write it ourself. This really came about as a push forward of the use of technology by Richie. He actually debuted the first copy of the program and sent updates to Twitter at Timewarp in May 2009.
HOW HAS THE RESPONSE TO TWITTER DJ BEEN FROM OTHER DJS?
There will always be DJs who don’t want anyone to know what that great track is that they’re playing. This program is not for those people; it’s for DJs who want to have others know exactly what those great tracks and artist are. In most cases, the response has been positive. Lots of DJs just want to get good music out to people. We have had the program downloaded and used all over the world — places like Japan and South America where I didn’t expect any interest. As for notable DJs using it, right now it’s mostly people within the extended Minus family, but I feel that is because everyone is coming off the summer, which is always so busy for a DJ. They haven’t had time to look into it yet.
IF THE HOPE IS THAT THIS TECHNOLOGY HELPS LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD FOR INDEPENDENT ARTIST WITH PERFORMANCE RIGHTS AGENCIES, CAN YOU ESTIMATE HOW MUCH INDEPENDENT ARTISTS ARE MISSING OUT ON DUE TO THEIR UNDERVALUATION?
The motivation for creating the application wasn’t about rights agencies; the idea was to expose people to great music and artists. Often DJs play these great tracks that might have shown up as a demo or remix, but people never find out what it is. The “trainspotters” intently listen and try to figure out what that white-label track is, but for the most part people don’t find that track. I think Richie will agree that the days of the “mysterious white label” are becoming a thing of the past, with instant downloads and digital copies.
As far as rights agencies and royalties coming to artists and labels, that will be something further down the road. Right now it’s almost impossible to guess how much smaller labels and artists are missing out on, because the numbers for those calculations just don’t exist.
SO DOWN THE ROAD, WILL THERE BE AN EFFORT TO FEED THIS INFORMATION TO THE RELEVANT PERFORMANCE RIGHTS AGENCIES?
Yes, this is just the first step toward having rights agencies pay attention to the independent artists, labels and DJs playing in clubs and festivals. Right now the data that Twitter DJ creates isn’t enough to submit to a rights agency, but it’s the beginning of making such a change.
ARE THERE PLANS TO MAKE TWITTER DJ FUNCTIONAL WITH OTHER DJ SOFTWARE AS WELL, SUCH AS SERATO SCRATCH LIVE?
We have been looking towards releasing something for Windows, due to the interest in that platform, as well. We would also like a feature to use it with Serato, but right now we have limited knowledge of the Serato platform.
RICHIE HAWTIN PHOTO:
NOTE: There is a similar app — not created by Minus — available for Windows computers called Traktor Scrobbler.