Adam Gorley is BlogCampaigning’s resident copy-editor, but he also moonlights as a DJ. Here’s his take on using a laptop to spin tracks.

Imagine this: you’re the DJ at a bar—the night’s entertainment. You’re using a laptop; you’ve got some software that you’ve tried out before and you like better than anything else you’ve tried for the purpose.

Things are going pretty well, until right in the middle of the tenth song or so the application quits unexpectedly with no warning and no message—what! You scramble to switch to another program (iTunes is all you’ve got available) and find a song quickly to fill the gap. Then you load up the application again—it probably just crashed, right?—surely it won’t happen again. But no, it does happen again after another ten songs, and you realize it’s because you’re using a trial version of the software. Well, bloody hell, a little warning somewhere would have been nice, you think, and you spend the rest of the night cueing songs in iTunes and hoping nobody notices—and of course, cursing the company that made that other application.

Well, that happened to me about eight weeks ago at The Painted Lady—the first time I played at that bar—and, man, was I unhappy about it, by which I mean Embarrassed. I won’t name the application that closed down on me, because I don’t want anyone to use it, which is a shame, because otherwise it’s a decent lightweight laptop DJing app.

I might sound like an ass for trying to use a software trial to DJ a party, but, you know what? To me, that’s the purpose of a trial: to try the product out—not for ten songs, not for 100 songs, but until I’m ready to buy it. I would prefer to have the functionality of the application somehow restricted rather than face a completely unexpected shutdown. All I’m asking for is a warning here software developers, that’s all I’m saying.

It turns out that iTunes is an acceptable—if very weak—substitute for bare bones software. (You might laugh—please feel free—but I can say this confidently because I’ve had to use it exclusively on three occasions now.) And by adding a few features, it could actually be good—yes, iTunes could be a reasonably good (basic) DJing application, with the addition of greater crossfading control, current song protection, and two music windows. That’s all. It would be far from great, but in a pinch, I wouldn’t worry about using it.

Of course, none of that can take away the fact that I’m using a laptop and a mouse (or, worse, a trackpad) to DJ, but that’s another story.

So, maybe you can help me find a good free/open source mixing application for Macs?—the simpler the better. And if it’s compatible with the M-Audio Torq Xponent, I like that too.

-Adam Gorley

Check out Gorley’s playlist from that night on 199x.org

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11 Responses to “The DJ Edits My Blog”

  • Justin:

    If I saw a DJ using itunes in a club I would boo them off stage. what ever happened to Dj’s knowing how to match a beat using their ear.

    This is the reason with ever increasing frequency you go out and think to yourself “wow this dj really sucks.”

    its because the DJ is some bar owners cousin who downloaded a trial version of some crappy software and pulled out their cool headkandy headphones…so sad

  • Hi Justin, thanks for your comment.

    I agree with you to some extent, but I think you might be a bit too quick in your judgment.

    I am a DJ with a dozen years of experience in several clubs and venues in Toronto and Montréal. I know how to match a beat with my ear, and I do it well.

    However, I don’t own turntables, and neither does the club where I DJ. Therefore, I’ve decided to try something that, previously, I thought I would never do: use a laptop to play songs.

    This story is about my transition from “regular” DJing to laptop DJing, and what I’ve gone through in doing so.

    It’s far from ideal, and I think I made that reasonably clear in my post. iTunes would never be my first choice as a DJ application.

    Anyway, thanks again for your comment. Maybe some day I can change your mind about laptop DJs in clubs.

  • ...:

    hmm, I the fact that the application you were using crashed after 10 songs surprised you completely contradicts what you said in the opening paragraph. You know, the part about where you said you tried out the software before you went out. I’m sorry but you either didn’t read what the software restrictions were, or you barely tried it out. and a Dj for 12 years that doesn’t own turntables is kind of wierd. I don’t even care as much about the fact you used Itunes to finish out the night, but don’t get angry that your software crashed, TOTALLY your fault man. and very poor planning on the part of a Dj, someone who is supposed to be a professional entertainer for the night. Imagine if that was a wedding or something, even a small gap would cause some serious issues…

  • To “…”:

    While I agree that it was my responsibility (and therefore my fault) to make sure that all my gear was functioning, I have to disagree with the rest.

    I tried a friend’s fully licensed copy of the software. You’re right; I didn’t read the restrictions, and that was totally my bad, but is my expectation unfair? Should I not expect a piece of trial software to offer me a proper trial?

    Anyway, I don’t make my living DJing, but whenever I perform I do act professionally, and I have never let a night fall apart—or even suffer an interruption—because of a technical difficulty or any other problem. Every time I’ve DJed with a laptop I’ve made sure that I had a backup option. Unfortunately iTunes was the easiest option!

    I should write an update to this piece. I don’t like laptop DJing, and if I can I avoid it as best I can. There are things that make it a better experience, but it’s still not like using records.

    Thanks for the comment.

  • AJ:

    It’s a bit short-sighted of you to go for some trial version of a programme before you would actually go for some trial and tested.

    If you have been in the game for dozens of years and still don’t know what makes the standards and what doesnt, then you have been living in a bubble.

    Anyway,if you have a laptop,(but no turntables)…set some folders up and use ableton, or just try paying for something,it will stand by you.

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