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9 Predictions For Dance Music, Audio Production, and DJ-ing in 2011

Image Credit: Yotsuba&!

I’ve always considered myself a sucker around this time in December for reading blog posts across various industries that predict what is going to happen in the following year, both good and bad. In similar fashion, here are nine different things I anticipate happening in the world of dance and electronic music in 2011. Now these don’t necessary reflect things I do or do NOT want to happen, but they are merely based on my personal observations. At the end of 2011, I am going to try doing a follow-up piece to this to reflect on how accurate these predictions actually are!

So without further ado, here are my 9 predictions for the world dance and electronic music in 2011.


1. An iPad App will be released by at least one major software DAW manufacturer.

As predicted by many people a year ago when first announced, the iPad has opened the floodgates for live performance and audio production. Right now the majority of its music-based apps are either one-trick ponies (basic drum machines and synths) or are designed to wirelessly control a DAW running on another computer (touchOSC, Griid, etc).

This leaves a giant opportunity for a popular DAW manufacturer develop a modified version of whatever their flagship program is exclusively for the iPad. It would not surprise me if Ableton or Apple’s own Logic are the first ones to the finish line, but I have no doubts that many developers are working frantically to port their DAW’s over to the highly popular tablet.

Either way, I predict there will be at least one reasonably priced app, modified from a popular DAW, that will make its way to the iPad.

It is estimated that Apple has sold upwards of 6 million iPads in 2010, one third of this being in the first month after launch alone. If the iPad shares anything in common to the iPhone in its second year sales-wise, expect it to be significantly higher in 2011.


2. Increased demand for vintage samplers

This prediction is sort of interesting because of what I see trending currently. For the past several years, producers have been shelling out big bucks to scoop up any vintage synthesizers they can get their hands on. Despite the popularity of software synths, these gear-heads are looking for other ways to inject authentic sounds into their work, which a vintage Juno or RX-7 can provide. Prices for some have been skyrocketing.

Recent waves of electronic music have been extracting bits and pieces of house, techno, even jungle, consolidating them all under one a single roof. There seems to be a big interest in creatively working with large libraries of sampled material once again. Many producers are trying to re-create the same vibe that many classic songs from the early 1990s had, and in this case, synths can often take a back seat to samplers.

Although Akai’s original MPC series will always command a fortune on the second hand market, I can see other samplers, such as the S-950 and S-1000, enjoying a small resurgence over the coming months.

Obviously even today’s most basic DAW’s can run circles around an old-school sampler in the name of both features as well as functionality. Similar to early synthesizers, however, these hardware samplers inject an authentic (and often lo-fi) sound that is difficult to re-create on the software side of the equation. Forget about hooking one up directly to a computer though, as most models came out long before USB was even a concept; only a select few even had SCSI capabilities for that matter. Routing RCA cables directly to your mixer/soundcard and triggering the samples via a MIDI keyboard hooked up through the sampler is a snap though.


3. A BIG year for Ableton and Soundcloud

Ableton and Soundcloud have both gained massive ground in the past two years; but I think 2011 is going to prove an even more successful year than ever before for both companies.

Two years following Ableton’s release of Live 8, there is a great deal of speculation on what they could possibly have up their sleeves. They have worked out many of the kinks in Live 8, as well as unleashed their Bridge partnership with Serato, over the past year.

I not only predict that Bridge will become massively popular in the DJ world, but we will see a new version of Live sometime in 2011 as well.

What might Live 9 have in store for us? Support for 64-bit processors will probably be the name of the game. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see plenty of minor yet practical advancements, such as Bezier curves for automation envelopes, better reverb filters, and hopefully revisiting the “share” feature to collaborate on projects remotely with other users (which was supposed to be implemented in Live 8, but binned shortly after its release). I’m also betting on seeing another instrument to be bundled with the Suite, probably one that was either heavily influenced from a Max4Live instrument, or Reason (hehe).

Meanwhile, in the other corner, Soundcloud has taken the torch passed on to them from MySpace in the name of independent music promotion via the Web 2.0. They are now essentially the aural version of what Flickr is for photography. 

In the coming year, I would not be surprised to find musical content becoming more search-optimized than ever before: similar to YouTube, it will become tailored to your interests, preferences, and listening history. Expect tighter integration with their official and third party mobile apps, as well as with every social platform under the sun. I also predict a podcasting feature to be introduced (something I’ve always thought they could greatly benefit from). And even though the core user-base is still electronic and dance music, I expect to see a wide array of rock, indie, and hip hop artists getting on the bandwagon as well. This will DEFINITELY help the ‘Cloud rise to a whole new level of popularity.


4. More “Vinyl-Only” themed nights

I’ve seen nights like this already start popping up around New England. I think it’s a bit of a gimmick, but the nostalgic value seems to appeal to the elder generation of dance music fans, as well as curious youngsters. Parties where only vinyl is played exposes people to a variety of lost and long-forgotten musical gems from years ago, giving them a chance to hear music they don’t normally get to hear on a daily basis.

And speaking of vinyl, I think that sales of it will more-or-less remain the same next year. Maybe slightly higher if the economy finally improves.


Image Credit: http://relliott4.files.wordpress.com

5. The further merging of different genres, and continued dominance of dubstep

Superstar DJ’s such as Diplo and the late DJ AM brought multi-genre sets and styles of music to the spotlight during the latter half of the ‘oughties. Expect to see the walls between different genres come down even further in 2011. House is working its way into UK Garage and Funky, Techno is working its way into Dubstep, even the frantic breakbeats of Drum and Bass merging into a wide array of slower-tempo styles. DJ’s will incorporate multiple styles, even tempos, into single sets. And to think that ten years ago, producers and DJ’s who catered to more than a single style were frowned upon!

And there is little more to say about Dubstep than the fact that it will be enjoying another prosperous year in 2011. With the rulebook to the genre still pretty much unwritten, it continues to be appealing to producers who enjoy the creative freedom of being able to inject a wide palette of sounds into it. This certainly won’t last forever, but dubstep has plenty of life left in it.


6. More artists will release music on their own

With digital DJ-ing becoming the norm in 2011, the playing field has been leveled between long-established record labels and young, independent artists who know a thing or two about self promotion and distribution.  Over the course of 2011, it will become more widely accepted that you do not essentially need to be signed on a record label to get recognition for your music. 

Now do not think for a SECOND that this will make it easier for budding producers to get their work out to the masses. It’s going to be just as, if not more, difficult than ever before to build a following of listeners. This is especially true with the barrier of entry to become a producer and build a brand being decimated, and the signal-to-noise ratio of content on the Internet is at its pinnacle.

If an artist wants to take this route, they will have to play the role of the marketer, blogger, PR spokesperson, and then some, in addition to crafting music that people want. However, it is no longer next-to-impossible to become self-made if you are willing to work your rear end off to get there.

Record labels are not going away any time soon, but I do perceive their role to become diminished over the following year. The ones who thrive are the ones who are able to help nurture the careers of the artists they are signed to, and utilize every social media channel possible to keep their fanbase interested in the products and services they provide.


7. Every DJ will perform on unique equipment

What has made DJ-ing interesting nowadays is technology. You no longer have to shell out a tenner for a 12” single, or even go to the record store for that matter. Researching which tracks work on the floor in a specific environment is a breeze. Plus, with hosts of MIDI controllers, along with different mediums (vinyl, CD’s, MP3 via a laptop, etc.), every DJ plays on a slightly different configuration.

In 2011, it will become the norm for every DJ to be playing on both a platform and medium different than the DJ playing either before, or after, her/him.

8. More stems and remix projects made open to the public

Remix contests are a great way for established producers to engage with their fans and allow them to re-interpret their work. I can even see many older producers holding remix contests for classic songs they penned in the 1990s as a way to bring in new fans.  They are a great way for newer producers to establish themselves, and holding these contests via Soundcloud has proven to be successful for many already.

Some have began making their stems of their tracks available online as well for DJ’s to work with, but it’s still a grey area in which the waters haven’t been tested much. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more producers releasing stems and components of their released tracks for mass consumption over the coming year. 


Image Credit: crystalhickox.wordpress.com

9. The death of the pre-recorded DJ studio mix

Traditionally, the intention of the DJ was not only to expose listeners to new or different music, but to also send them on a musical “journey” over the duration of their set (which was often hand distributed on CD’s or cassette tapes). I have witnessed this role change completely during the past decade.

Many listeners nowadays tend to poke through mixes they find online to preview just a few specific songs, and no longer have the time to sit through and digest the whole thing. The DJ mix is no longer a linear, start-to-end listening experience. This could be due to the easy access of sets on the Internet, the overall democratization of music that Web 2.0 has made possible, or even shorter attention spans. Regardless, the original journey the DJ prescribed has been lost in translation.

People seem to only want to listen to pre-recorded mixes to hear select works of the producers, not the collective work of the DJ.

I honestly wish I could say that the situation is different. As a DJ myself, I enjoy creating mixes that tell a story or build progressively over the course of time. I also like listening to other people’s mixes while I’m working or driving in the car. Hate to say it, but based on the lack of reaction I see when people (especially local or non-producing DJ’s) post their mixes online, I think I’m in the minority here.

Think of how many mixes get posted to Facebook, Soundcloud, and on various message board forums every day. The number is staggering! With all the clutter, it can be overwhelming for the average listener to even figure out how to start sifting through it all.

The need for a DJ to play music at an event will not be going away any time soon, but in 2011 they will have to find different avenues besides studio mixes to promote themselves and add value to the music community.

How can a DJ “add value”? The key is to not be afraid of experimentation. Consider blogging, or promoting music you enjoy across various social and mobile platforms. Have you thought of launching a record label or starting your own night? Always keep in mind that whatever you do, be sure that you are promoting the music you believe in.

Also, pre-recorded mixes carry far less weight when it comes down to how promoters hand pick which DJ’s they want playing their events nowadays. What really matters to them is how a jock is able to perform on-the-spot in a live setting, how they engage the crowd, and the number of people they bring through the doors.

So there it is folks, my predictions for 2011. Feel free to weigh in with your own predictions, or if you have anything you want to discuss about these thoughts!

Reader Comments (7)

Hey I think some of these predictions are spot on! If Ableton doesn't make a full studio tool I at least need something that will help me warp on the go.

And Soundcloud adding the record feature was a huge addition to the app.

December 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermr. tunes

great post!

i agree with the part about dj mixes. i work really hard at making them too. i've found people do like them a lot when you make them short and memorable.

1 hr plus house mixes will put anyone to sleep unless it's exceptional (and that almost never happens).

-Mike @dubtapemike

December 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Over the past year I've been trying to make a better effort at listening to DJ mixes myself- at the end of the day they are still a great promotional tool, not just for the DJ, but also in regards to the tracks they include. It's tough to deny that a lot of people only listen to mixes to get a preview of unreleased or unheard music these days, but I have found that a good balance between playing brand new content mixed alongside older or more obscure tracks will help ensure they have a longer shelf life.

December 28, 2010 | Registered Commenternickdawg

Hey, interesting predictions there... I am sure you're right about the DAW iPad software... it makes no sense not to happen.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Morse

it seems to me that the processor / memory on the ipad will be enough to do any serious DAW work.


January 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Very interesting article... Especially the last point, as I am trying to get me mix heard through soundcloud and facebook... This is why I'm trying to keep them short (usually around 25 minutes) otherwise and try to really bring something with the mix/transition that just a collection of tracks... Back in the days, you would discover music with dj mixes and sometimes listening to a mix was the only way to listen to some of those sounds. Now every music is a few clicks away...
So you better bring something more with your mix than just bpm-mix some tracks!

Also about Live, I really love this soft, even if for my type of music, mostly hip hop, it is not convenient for mixing live... I'm thinking about purchasing it though, because of the bridge, especially the ability to record a live mix on different tracks for later editing ;-)

January 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDJ Dirty Swift

Dirty Swift- I have become a big fan of shorter mixes. We seem to be in the age of short attention spans and people demanding new content more frequently. I know a lot of artists have started experimenting with releasing 3-4 song EP's every few months, as opposed to an album every 1 or 2 years. A constant stream of new, bite-sized content will keep the name of the artist more fresh within the minds of listeners who are now easily distracted by the vast quantity of information online. Shorter DJ mixes, coupled with a slightly more frequent release schedule, might work a little better. Unless you're playing something like prog house or trance where all the tracks are longer, 25 minutes gives you plenty of opportunity to show the listener what your tastes are by being able to squeeze in (roughly) 10-12 tracks.

Mike- The iPad is a bit compromised at the moment because of the smaller hard drive (except in the most expensive version), but within the next few years there will be plenty of space to fit a vast music and sample collection on them for either DJ-ing or production. The processor should be fast enough to run the programs (which, for at least the next few years, are still going to be stripped-down versions of their flagship DAWs).

January 5, 2011 | Registered Commenternickdawg

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