Beatport DJ was already excellent. And the Party Mode update moves it one step closer to becoming a default tool in the multiplayer metaverse future ahead of us. But there's only one thing stopping it for the time being. And that's DJ culture.
I've written before about the paradox of DJ culture, where the social signals and the image created by brand marketing go directly against the "all about the music" origins of the culture. Beatport DJ is a defiance of of that. The free demo live on the website right now, requiring no login or registration or even your own music collection to start, is the kind of miraculous invention that would have blown the minds of the likes of Kool Herc or Larry Levan or François K that the contemporry purists might refer back to. Such is the clouding effect of nostalgia over time. If it's about the music, then we can appreciate what a leap forward this is in global, immersive, and collaborative music appareciation.
Mix together from anywhere
This update to Beatport DJ adds a latency-free multi-player mode that currently allows "up to four DJs at once from any location worldwide" who can play to an audience of up to 100 fans. In practice this holds up, and is a lot of fun, albeit with the slight twist of my own post-pandemic distribution of producer and DJ friends around the world meaning we're juggling a few timezones... and the resulting mismatch of peak and downtimes for partying. It's more than a little amusing to wake a friend up halfway around the world and ask them to cue up a track while the party rages on over here.
Okay so multi-player is great for B2B sets. But what else can it do? One of the interesting uses of Party Mode is set preparation, making it easy to collectively dig through Beatport's catalog, suggest and share music together, and create playlists in realtime. This is an obviously cool feature for giving DJ lessons, or for DJ duos or party organisers, but also great for producers or recording artists creating reference libraries ahead of a session. There are tools like LANDR Sessions that specialise in this kind of thing, but we like to tell ourselves that dance music production and DJing culture advanced via off-label uses of technology and gear, which is literally part of the 303 and 808 genesis mythology, so there's no question creative uses of Beatport DJ will emerge similarly.
First steps towards the metaverse
I would be genuinely surprised if the product team hasn't got "the metaverse" somewhere on their roadmap. While this release has a limit of 100 participants in the Party Mode performance, the interaction and functionality is already keeping pace with streaming product patterns. Viewers can chat and (uh oh) request songs, and even save shared playlists that are generated in the session. This gives some clues as to how Beatport might choose to integrate a streaming DJ platform more deeply in both their core offering, and the other services across parent company LiveStyle's stable of products. Not to mention open APIs for other services across financial, social, and content realms, let alone the untapped and evolving potential of web3 music technology.
If we look back at the virtual festivals that Defected Records threw during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can see the kind of exploration of Youtube Live and Twitch, and then multi-casting tools like OBS, that moved dance music culture a step further into the digital world. These tools were suitable, but not built for purpose or particularly integrated, so Beatport has a real opportunity to keep pushing ahead. I'm sure many of you reading this now will already, at the time of writing, know of many possible digital DJing tools evolving into viable streaming and performance platforms. And that's a good thing. We will almost certainly see the increasing move towards augmented or virtual reality performances creating more opportunities for more technology and performance tools to be used. And not a moment too soon. I wonder if the rise of virtual or abstracted experiences will allow a return to more adventurous forms of deeper engagement with the music itself. Rather than engagement with a video camera (and five GoPros and a drone and film crew and...).
Beatport DJ and the Party Mode feature might not teleport us back to the dark and anonymous dancefloors before social media turned the lights up and cameras on, but it will definitely play a part in bringing fun, collaboration, and curiosity back to DJing without all the self-conscious handwaving. Not to mention the potential of creating unique musical experiences across the real and virtual worlds. And it's here right now, so go check it out.