Sunday, July 31, 2011



Your Guide to Stepping Up and Playing a Big Room

So you’ve rocked your bedroom and the local bar, next stop superclub main room! A hefty sound system in a large space is an entirely different challenge, so what are the key technical aspects you should know before you step into the big league? Sankeys in the UK has hosted the biggest international DJs and was voted DJ Magazine’s number one club in the world in 2010.  Here are some tips from their sound engineer Rob Thomas and resident DJ Jozef K on how to play a big room.

1. Bring earplugs!
Sankeys’ Phazon system reaches 120 db (equivalent to a loud rock concert).  Described by Rob as ‘sillily loud’, the sheer size of the sound can be overwhelming to a new DJ.
“At first it scares you,” says Jozef K, who had to upgrade his headphones after they blew on his first gig there, “you put your tune on and think “fuckin hell” because there’s so much bass there, but you get used it.”
Rob confirms that all the top DJs now use earplugs – except some of the older ones because “they’ve already buggered their ears up!” – but earplugs dull the higher frequencies, so be careful not to over-compensate.
2. Mind your monitors!
At these volumes managing the way you listen to the output becomes vital – you don’t want to burst your eardrums by whacking up the monitor speakers, but they must be louder than the reverberated sound from the dancefloor, otherwise your mixing will be constantly out of time due to the delay.
Jozef K says: “I’m quite cautious with my hearing – sometimes I turn my monitors down between mixing.  Normally DJs have the headphones on full blast (dial at six o’clock) but I’m usually two or three o’clock.”
Preferences vary among top DJs according to Rob: “Some have told me they don’t need to use monitors, others ask for the monitors to be louder to cut through the ear plugs.  But I ask them: ‘why not take out your ear plugs and turn the monitors down?!’
“Others will mix in their headphones – Laidback Luke used in-ear monitors the other week. They tend to only turn up the monitor speakers for the benefit of mates in the booth and also so they can feel it.”

Laidback Luke using in-ear monitors
Check out: The best in ear monitors for DJs and DJing with in-ears
3. Sounds jump out on a big system
Jozef K says: “You get used to it and usually you know which sounds are gonna come alive, but even people who’ve been playing here for ages can get surprised.
“I had this tune called DimDim by Sis – when I heard it in my headphones the vibe of the track was pretty relaxed, but when I played it on the big system the kick drum was so banging and there were lots of tough sounds – I thought ‘Sh*t! I shouldn’t be playing this in a warm-up set!’”
He advises to choose more groovy tunes rather than percussive for warm-up sets.
The  below video shows how the music changes during a warm-up:

4. Be prepared to adjust your mixing style
For Jozef K the big sound requires a different method: “When you’re playing at home in your bedroom you can hear every tiny sound, but when you’re playing in a room like this when it’s loud as fuck and there’s loads of reverb the sounds aren’t as intricate, so I like to do a nice bold mix.
“Just go ‘bam’ swop the kick drums over, then you’ll wait for a good bit when the melody’s running out, swop that one in – you’re just a bit more aggressive with your mixing style when it’s so loud.”
But at least, he says, the less detailed sound means you have a bigger margin for error.
5. How far should you turn up the music?
You are in control of the booth mixer but the engineer has overall control from upstairs – even down to individual speaker stacks.
“It’s generally a no-no for me to touch the [booth] mixer,” says Rob, “but if you max it out then the sound is going to distort and I have had to have a word in the past.
“Everything’s limited so there’s protection there, but there’s no limiter fast enough all the time that will catch everything – once in a while they will pop something.”
Also, people act as sound absorbers, so the busier the dancefloor the more volume is needed.
Rob says: “To us they are water bags. The more people you get in, the more they mask how loud it is.   So if you have it at full blast when there’s hardly anyone in, it’ll just rattle about all over the place.”
6. Pre-gig
So you get the call – the club wants you to play – but what happens with equipment?
Rob explains: “The headline DJ always gets priority – their spec supercedes what anyone else wants – this or that mixer.
“Here it’s mainly a fight between the DJM800 [Pioneer] and the Allen And Heath [Xone 92] though Armin van Buuren requested the Pioneer DJM2000 mixer to go with the CDJ2000s.
If you’re bringing other gear (controller with a laptop etc) it’s a good idea to warn the engineer because at Sankeys he will be the one plugging it into the mixer.
“Most of my trouble comes from the DJ changeovers – sometimes I have to say to the DJ ‘look you’re not gonna do that tonight mate’”, adds Rob.

Jozef K working the CDJ2000s – would you be comfortable using this gear?
7. I wanna scratch!
With scratch DJs and turntablists the harsh mids can be an issue at a club.
“Some of the bigger scratch DJs will come in and do a sound-check beforehand and we’ll EQ a system to what they want – we just have a chat with them about their requirements”, says Rob.
However, unless you’re a big name it’s unlikely you’ll get this opportunity – but do at least warn the engineer you might be scratching.
8. A big system will expose poor file quality
Rob says: “With some MP3s you’re like “oooh god” – I have to run upstairs and take the top end out because you can just hear them straight away.
“The higher quality MP3s are ok but if it’s below 192 kbits/sec you really start noticing it, in fact once you go below 320 you start to hear it.”
Jozef K prefers not to mix WAVs with 320s during a set: “I get the piss taken out of me for it, but I think the change in dynamics is too noticeable on these massive speakers.”
You don’t want to undermine an intense breakdown like the one below with poor MP3s:

9. Alternative DJs beware!
Keep in mind that that the system is not designed for a country and western – rock – blues mashup.
Rob says: “It wouldn’t sound great because it’s been set up for dance music. It’s been tweaked and tweaked and tweaked but always around the dance genre.  Every once in a while we do get the occasional band here and we can tweak things to sound better for bands but most of the time there’s no need for that.”
10. Know your shit!
Rob says: “Never turn up to a venue with something you don’t know how to use.  I’ve had kids turn up with Serato and never used it before!
“Because for us house engineers – all we need to know is how to plug it in and how to look out for errors on it – we don’t need to know how it works.
“But some DJs will think we know how to use everything – but there are too many things out there. A guitarist wouldn’t ask the engineer to tune up for him.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Exclusive Review! Novation Twitch Dj Controller and Serato Itch

For too long, the DJ industry has been going round in circles – literally. Novation’s latest offering to the DJ world eschews the entire ‘wheels of steel’ principle and tries to show us another way. We took a look to see whether or not it’s the right way to turn.


Product: Novation Twitch
Price: £399/$499
Connection: USB
Ships with: Serato Itch
I/O: ¼” master, RCA booth, and headphone (3.5mm and ¼”) out, RCA and ¼” mic in.
Available: End of July


  • Slicer mode is superb
  • Eminently portable
  • Professionally printed Traktor mapping overlay
  • Touch strip is a clever way to save space and facilitate easy adjustment of many parameters


  • Slightly loose channel faders
  • Lights are a bit dim in bright conditions


In daring to think outside the box, Novation have really come up trumps with Twitch. It looks good, feels sturdy, and the Slicer mode in Itch is a lot of fun.


Twitch is small and light enough to sling into a bag with a distinct lack of fuss. Construction wise it’s actually quite similar to the NI Kontrol X1 and Maschine, with lightweight plastic body, a brushed metal fascia, and rubber buttons. Totally bus powered and with the audio interface onboard, portability is a high scoring area for Twitch.
Inputs and outputs are ¼” TRS for master, RCA for booth, headphones with both size connectors on board and a discreet input that will accept RCA input round the back and ¼” mic on the front. Booth output can be switched between master and cue operation, and all in all the audio quality from the 24/48 audio interface is both loud and clear.

It’s no mean feat to power a unit with as many flashing lights as Twitch, whose dashboard is somewhere between space shuttle and KITT (90s babies may, regretfully, miss out on this reference). The relatively small amount of juice that the unit can draw through USB means the lighting lacks a certain radiance in direct light, although it’s still clear.
The size of the unit really feels just right. Because the touch strip, faders and pads are all within easy reach of each other experimenting with tricks and effects feels natural. If I had one qualm it’d be that the main effects are in the corner away from the action, but even mulling that over made me consider that as a cue for the audience to really connect with you as a performer, a little movement around the interface is a good thing.


Twitch’s USP is the fact that rather than emulating the turntable based DJing paradigm, it focuses on buttons and touch strips to control the action. This might seem a small point to some, especially those that have never focused their attention on turntables or platters, but in operation it turns the Twitch experience into something that feels fresh and, dare I say it, pioneering. Invariably when confronted with a new controller, I go through the motions of exploring its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to scratching emulation and transferring the tried and tested DJing paradigm to its controls, and it usually feels like the manufacturer has had a very similar process during design. Twitch is completely different, and because there’s very little common ground between it and what we already know, I found myself immediately trying new things and exploring new ideas rather than rehashing (and often compromising) skills I learned on vinyl.

Of course I did try to see how the touch strip performed for scratching and manipulation, unsurprisingly the scratching sounds aren’t really worth playing with, as the small touch strip doesn’t give the accuracy required for anything approaching a party ready sound effect. That said the spinbacks sound great – we heard from Serato that despite the linear nature of transport in Twitch the deck is still modeled on a rotary platter, so flinging the playhead back and forth sounds pretty authentic.
What the touch strip really shines for is fine pitch adjustments and seeking, and in a stroke of genius parameter adjustment of the pads using swipes and gestures; because the touch strip is in easy reach of the pads it allows for some complicated fills and transitions to come to life.


Slicer mode works by creating a section on the track and splitting that section into eight evenly spaced cue points, which are triggered by the pads. There are two modes: one press of Slicer mode makes the section shift forward continuously, letting the track play as normal, and two presses actually loops the section. Section length can be adjusted with a pinch gesture, so if set to one bar you get to play with and rearrange 8th notes of the track, if set to two bars each pad lands on a beat, and so on. As the sequence plays, triggering a pad will rearrange the playing audio but the track will always resume where it would have been; it’s akin to loop roll. The timing of the triggering can be adjusted with a single finger swipe of the touch strip too, from extremely quick stutter effects when the pad is held down to the length of the slices or longer, which has the effect of quantising the button presses. There’s one more aspect of Slicer mode, and that’s that if you’re in the middle of a slice juggling pattern when the track would normally move on, it remains locked. Put all this together and you get a function that you can get really creative with, from things as simple as an advanced loop roll all the way to live remixing.


Fader effects are another great addition to the unit. With the tap of a button the faders change from track volume to effect parameters, and the ergonomic advantages to having effects right in the centre of the action are huge. It really does highlight the limitations of Itch though, if you’re used to complicated fader effects arrays like those facilitated by Traktor in the Midi Fighter Pro mappings, and I’m looking forward to the forthcoming Itch 2 release which should hopefully improve the effects support of the software line.
As a way round the long annoying ‘pitch fader conundrum’, Novation have plumped for a rotary encoder for Twitch’s decks, and it’s implemented fantastically. Single clicks of rotation will adjust the pitch by 0.01%, but acceleration compensation kicks in for fast turns and a quick half twist will shift the pitch 3% or so. Of course, manual pitch adjustment is becoming less and less important, but it’s still handy to have, and combined with the touch slider’s pitch bending capabilities it gives you, arguably, even more control than a CDJ when it comes to riding tracks with tempo drifts (on that note, here’s hoping the Itch 2 update allows for more advanced beat gridding).
The only build quality issue I have with Twitch is the faders, as the channel faders are perhaps a little bit waggly (that’s the technical term). The crossfader has about the same cut lag as a Pioneer DJM-800, so whilst it’s not perfect it does work for some cutting when using Twitch as an internal mixer for a Traktor Scratch setup, and something that I just started to really get to grips with before the review. At the moment I’m trying to squeeze a moment of genius out of my noggin that’ll allow me to hack together a Slicer mode for Traktor, but I have a nasty feeling it’s not possible right now. If and when it is, though, Twitch could really be amazing as a Traktor Scratch mixer (required purchase of a NI audio interface notwithstanding).


Twitch is primarily an Itch controller, and the Slicer mode is a genuinely innovative feature that’s not on any other DJ software out of the box. That said, Twitch works very well with Traktor and Ableton Live (the touchstrip definitely feels best in Itch, though), and indeed there’s a pre-printed overlay for the included Traktor mapping in the box. The bottom line is that Twitch is still definitely a DJ controller, not a generic MIDI controller with DJ capability shoehorned onto its buttons, but it takes things in an interesting new direction. It’s a slice of forward thinking (geddit?) that’ll hopefully persuade other manufacturers to be braver with their designs.

Sorting Your DJ Music Library: The Klay System

These days, it seems like every DJ is using a laptop but they feel like a double edged sword, providing opportunity and creating new obstacles to creativity at the same time. Have you ever been stuck at a critical moment thinking, “Sh&%- what was the name of that song?! – It would be perfect!” Only to watch the countdown wind down to zero and then have no choice but to drop a dancefloor killer. In this article I will attempt to provide a few suggestions for music tagging that will help organize your giant collection into something more navigable.

This article concentrates on the NI Traktor software I use, but the idea can be used for other software as well. We advocate using the tools that fit your needs best, not necessarily the specific brands covered. The first thing I do when purchasing music is to edit the MP3 tags and fill in the critical details for Artist, Title, Key, Genre, Import Date, Comments and finally Rating. Today, we are going to focus on the last three.


For many of you the rating may seem totally useless. Where is the sense in rating your tracks from one star to five when five stars means it´s a great track and one star means that it´s bad? Why would you even keep a bad track you don´t like on your hard drive? personally I don’t rate the quality of the tracks, but the FEEL. More specifically: The vibe it would create in my sets or when it might be played. Think about these basic ideas:
  • 1 star tracks: These are tracks which you would play in the opening period of your sets, the hours when the club just opened or which create such a feeling for you. The beginning. The deepest or “softest” sounds you own.
  • 3 star tracks: These tracks are best used in the main hours of your set. When you play these tracks, you’re right in the middle of your set and keep the vibe going. Or again they create such a vibe for you.
  • 5 star tracks: Right here you have the peak time tracks, the banging stuff, the closing tracks, the hardest stuff on your hard drive,… You get the idea.
You may be wondering, what about the 2 and 4 star ratings? Well, you are welcome to use shades of grey (not every track can be a 5 star banger) but its helpful to focus on 3 main groupings.
This doesn’t mean that you play 1 star track after 1 star track, then switch to a 2 star track and go on to a 3 star track. Its neither a mathematical scheme, nor a “dummy list” for untalented DJs. This is a handy reference for remembering important details about songs in a large library. The biggest advantage is to be able to sort your library by rating.


The next important thing for me to focus on is the “Comments” tag. Fill in any information you think of when listening to the track, Ideally Something that will trigger a memory of the sound. Without cover art, its hard to get a feeling for a song with just text so the description should be just that – descriptive! It can be the lyrics of the vocals, a personalized description of the sound (deep techy latin groover), a name of a festival where I heard it first, or another track it would fit perfectly with.
That results in comments like :
  • “Vocal and groovy”, “Latin”, “Percussive”, “Circo Loco”, “6.15 in the morning”, “Perfect for acapellas”, “Miami bomb”, “Deep & atmospherique”, “Robot vocals”, “Tool”.
These types of comments provide a little reminder of the track`s spirit. It also helps quickly find a vocal track to play after a period of groovy and instrumental tracks to keep the vibe fresh and balanced.
Keeping the “Ratings” and “Comments” in mind when you DJ with somebody else, you can theoretically even share your library with him/her as they can see the rating, read the comments and possibly find a suitable track until you return from the bathroom. Remember that I said THEORETICALLY. Its always best, when you know the tracks you´re playing.


I would never leave out this tag in the sortable column because it is the the fastest way to find the freshest tracks. Just click on it and your tree gets sorted by the date you added the track to the collection. So in any folder with one click you have the latest additions and can easily find that fresh new record. For the CD-DJs this is like the latest sleeve of your CD case. It also helps me to refresh my playlist folders as I normally delete some of the oldest additions to clean it up a bit.


A good thing about the digital DJ softwares is the endless supply of “crates” or “folders”. In Traktor you also have the possibility to make them favorites and place them above your browser tree for easy access (crates). Now how can you categorize these folders?
The first folder I created is called “DJ Bag”. Thinking of back in the days when I started to DJ with my vinyls, the “Track Collection” folder is like the whole vinyl collection you have at home and the “DJ Bag” folder is the record bag you pack before a gig and where you put selected tracks that would fit best for the set.

Its important to keep the “DJ Bag” fresh and up-to-date, so make sure not to spam it and to refresh it from time to time by deleting some of the tracks in there. Don´t be afraid, they will only be deleted from the folder “DJ Bag” if you do it right and are still available in the “Track Collection”. Don’t add too many tracks in there, in my case its a number between 100 – 120 for a normal set.
My second folder is called “Big Ones” where I put in all the big bombs, the timeless highlights and my little secret diamonds. I only delete tracks there when I get tired of a track or when it´s no longer a biggie for me. When the time has come for a music bomb, or a track to blow the crowd away, quickly jump to this folder and you will have a long list to choose from.
The third folder is called “Classics & Hits” where I add some of the well known tracks or famous classics to be prepared if the crowd asks for some tracks they know or can sing to. Usually the big Miami/Ibiza anthems of the season or old classics.
The fourth folder is called “Acapellas & Tools”. The name says it all.
The fifth folder is titled “Own Tools”. That’s the library of my own samples which I produced, or recorded using live loops or the loop recorder in Traktor 2.
Please don’t take these methods as the best for you. They work well for me in my radio show and live shows so please pick and choose if anything seems like a good fit for you. This is not a step-by-step-introduction of how to DJ right, the love for the music and the DJs passion has to come first always. It’s just a little help when you need a hand for finding the perfect next track. Don´t follow these systems all the time as inspiration is way more important.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pioneer DJM-T1 Traktor Certified Mixer

Pioneer and Native Instruments are still sitting in that kissing tree, and following the DDJ-T1 controller and the DJM-900 nexus Traktor Certified mixer is the brand new DJM-T1, a two channel mixer that’s got its eye on the DVS market. Of course, we took a good look at it.

Product: Pioneer DJM-T1
Price: £1279/$1599
Connections: 2 channel Phono & Line, dynamic mic input and RCA aux in, XLR, TRS and RCA out.
Ships with: Traktor Scratch Duo (incl. vinyl and CD)
Audio interface: 24bit/48kHz






  • Great build.
  • Flawless Traktor Duo implementation.


  • No channel fader curve adjust.
  • Jaw dropping price.
  • No post fader effects implementation.


The DJM-T1 is a great mixer that brings together Pioneer’s sound and looks, Traktor scratch certification, and MIDI control in one box. There’s definitely a price to pay for that convenience though, and there are some issues – no upfader curve adjust is perhaps the biggest. That said, if you love Pioneer, scratching and Traktor, hate cables and bulk and have the readies, it might just be for you.


The sound quality on the unit is very good, capable of a lot of loudness for very little noise and a lot of headroom throughout. There’s no doubt that the DJM-T1 sounds great, but it does have a very crisp sound that you may find slightly hollow if you’re used to more saturating analogue mixers. When it comes to connections, Pioneer have ensured that the DJM-T1 isn’t wanting for much. XLR, 1/4″ TRS and RCA connections are all available round the back, as are the phono/line inputs per channel and USB (which we’re glad is on the back rather than the top of the mixer).
On the front of the mixer are the mic inputs and headphone outs, as well as aux in. At first I wasn’t quite sure about the front mounted inputs, as it can be frustrating to have a mic cable dancing in front of your body and for many DJs who are used to having a session input to use as a pseudo third channel (perhaps to play loops from a computer to practice scratching) plugging in from the front looks and feels messy, but considering that the DJM-T1 comes with drivers to operate as an audio interface, the aforementioned situation is rendered moot by setting the computer output via USB.
It would have been fantastic to see a true internal effects send/return for post fader effects operation and, like the DJM-T1’s most obvious competitor the Rane 57, some basic hardware effects. As it is, the absence of external send/return when the mixer’s not connected to a computer there’s no effects capability on the mixer at all.


Looking in many aspects like the younger, slimmer cousin of the other top flight mixers in Pioneer’s product line, the DJM-T1 features Pioneer’s lacquered speckled metal fascia and bold multi coloured LED controls.
The layout of the DJM-T1 is as clean as a whistle. The fader section is devoid of any nagging buttons or screws, the cue buttons hide out around the edges, and the top half is neat and symmetrical with bright LED buttons guiding your eyes and fingers to their targets. Considering the DJM-T1 is a standard 12” form factor it gets – I almost wrote crams but it doesn’t feel appropriate – a lot of controls on without being intimidating.
The knobs and faders are typical Pioneer, with fairly stiff channel faders by scratch mixer standards but a smooth crossfader – which is magnetic and features tension adjust and onboard lag and fade controls. It may seem strange for a mixer that doubtlessly nods to the scratch DJ market not to have curve adjust knobs and merely a cut/fade mode, but adjustments are performed digitally and at their sharpest are very sharp – perhaps 1mm cut lag on the model I have in front of me but tolerances in manufacturing may mean that at its sharpest it is even less on some mixers. Upfader adjustment is…well, missing, unfortunately. It’s tough not to see that as a pretty clumsily dropped ball.


The entire unit, bar the master, booth, and mic attenuation knobs, sends MIDI information. It’s simple to edit mappings in Traktor (and the device controls are all properly named, making it easy to decipher the mappings)  and just as easy to control other MIDI software. There are two MIDI channel buttons – we’re not sure whether adding in a second channel is something Pioneer plans in a future driver update (and we’ll update when we find out) but at the moment only one MIDI channel works and there’s no setting in the driver to set the second channel. When switched on, the entire mixer sends MIDI. When off, the mixer section doesn’t.

It’s completely painless to use the DJM-T1 to control Traktor directly, as its controls are well laid out and there are no potentially disastrous combinations of shift that could lead to a halted set and distinctly unimpressed crowd. The growing trend of using a single actual deck to control all of Traktor’s virtual ones is really easy to do with the deck duplicate (Instant Doubles, to Serato users) feature simply a Shift-press of the load button. The DJM-T1 ships with Traktor Scratch Duo and thus is restricted to group effects, but it does have settings built in for advanced effect control. It doesn’t, however, have support for four effects banks – and inevitably four decks is off the cards. The sample deck functions get the thumbs up from us though, working flawlessly.

Pioneer’s approach to their new generation of software integrating mixers and controllers is to bolster the capability of the software by adding things in hardware that make up for its limitations. The DJM-T1 features MIDI LFO, which amounts to six LFOs that each modulate a MIDI CC. This function operates at a base hardware level (it can be switched off in settings, though) and doesn’t require Traktor at all – it’s a brilliant feature for automating effects although the lack of tempo sync means that accuracy is down to your ears.


So the DJM-T1 has a big sound, big feature set, big ideas and yes you guessed it: big price… and at £1279/$1599 I’m not entirely sure ‘big’ covers it. If you add up what you’re actually getting with the DJM-T1 – pro audio quality, MIDI control and a two in two out stereo audio interface with Traktor certification, you can see where the price has come from, but there’s a definite premium placed on it being an all in one unit. The things that have been missed off the feature list mar what is otherwise a fantastic mixer, and if you can look past those things – the lack of send/return and channel fader curve adjustment the principle omissions – then the DJM-T1 is still very good.
Let us know what you think in the comments!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Power Promotion: Soundcloud Pro Tips

Here at DJ Tech Tools we understand and promote the idea that a very important part of being a DJ is your image, because how people relate to you and what they expect will set the boundaries for what people will allow you to get away with (and how you can push and subvert those boundaries!). With that in mind we’re going to be looking at how you can focus, refine, and promote your image in some upcoming DJ Tech Tools articles.
Remember our article on how to ‘win’ at Soundcloud (click here!)? Funnily enough it was around the time Charlie Sheen was in the news a fair bit. It showed a few things that Soundcloud does that you might not consider straight away, and we’ve decided to follow up with even more power user tips. Rather than poke around ourselves we decided to go straight to the horse’s mouth and ask Soundcloud’s own David Adams how you can use Soundcloud to improve your DJing.

Audio Tweeting

Audio blog, audio messaging, audio tweeting. Whatever you want to call it, SoundCloud is an ideal way to push out a quick audio message to the web – you can easily use our Record function to record your audio tweet to your SoundCloud profile.  Accessible via the website or SoundCloud app for iPhone or Android, the record feature enables anyone to capture sound on the move and then, in the embeddable waveform player, share it anywhere and tag locations – it’s a simple case of configuring your social networks and opting to share your audio tweet; you can even check the stats of your audio tweets or make comments on them!
Tech Ed’s Note – A picture tells a thousand words and we’re not sure how many pictures a sound can conjure, so 140 characters is categorically less interesting than a 15 second sting of your latest controllerist moves and a shout out to your latest gig, right?!


Going back to the many uses of our Record Function, why not switch things up a little and conduct a few informal interviews on the fly – become a journalist for the day like the winners of our Camden Crawl competition (check out the interviews here), if you’re out on tour consider interviewing a bunch of different artists, grab an audio snippet of their tour experience and share it between both sets of fans!
Tech Ed’s Note – We really are all in this together, stronger when we collaborate, and so on; having something to share with two fan bases is an excellent way to get out there! You’ll also get some valuable experience with the often bizarre world of interviews – and who knows, you might find journalism’s a love you never knew you had! Just don’t go putting me out of a job. Please.


TakesQuestions is all about social audio in the form of Q&A. It’s an exciting and unique way to engage with fans. The concept was first conceived and tested at Midem Hack Day with Imogen Heap and due to huge demand we decided to launch SoundCloud Labs to showcase experimental apps + features made by SC developers and extend the idea into a fully customizable, easy to use web app. TakesQuestions works best for artists that are engaged with their fans, have a strong twitter following and ideally have an iPhone or Android phone. Simply set up a TakesQuestions account, wait for your fans to submit questions to you, then record an interactive response using the record function on your iPhone or Android phone!
Tech Ed’s Note – We love this – you could even invite fans and collaborators to take part in some call and response type musical trickery!

Take Requests!

No, not another experimental web app, but a few simple ideas for you to take requests for your next gig – perhaps encourage fans to submit audio snippets of them requesting their most favourite track and explaining why they love it.  You could even request that fans submit audio clips of anything to you, and use these in a set to really engage with your fan base.  Tim Exile recently took full advantage of our record function and hosted a live, interactive jam session for SoundCloud global meetup day where he asked fans to record and upload sounds which he then manipulated, mixed and worked into the music, live that evening.  Imogen Heap also reached out to her creative fanbase and asked them to record and upload sounds via SoundCloud to be incorporated in her next single, which she then released two weeks later.
Tech Ed’s Note – We see controllerism as the ideal way to engage your audience – sounds have never been so quick to turn into our own and for that, personalising your set based on fan participation is an amazing idea. Maybe you could even do it on the fly at a gig!

Search for samples

Sticking with the crowdsourcing theme, you too can seek out sounds and samples using SoundCloud.  When you upload tracks, you can choose to protect your work with a conventional copyright or opt instead for a Creative Commons license. Naturally, this means not only that you can upload works, but that SoundCloud has become a rich repository for CC-licensed work to use as video soundtracks or samples. Back when this launched, we created a drop box for Creative Commons-licensed works before proceeding to showcase all the submitted tracks at a party!

Premiere your new album

There’s nothing quite as exciting as an album premiere. As a fan, it will be the first time you’re able to listen to your favorite artist’s new record. As an artist, you’ll finally be able to hear what your fans think of all those late nights in the studio. But what makes a good album premiere online?
Fans are looking for a very simple, aesthetically pleasing, premiere player that they can listen to from anywhere. Artists need a structure that maximizes both the viral reach and sale of the record. We’ve created a nice mix of both. It’s called SoundCloud Premiere. Used by the likes of Beastie Boys and Foo Fighters, the Premiere app is a simple and effective way of showcasing your new album.
Tech Ed’s Note – Controllerism makes you an artist – whether you are creating an incredible multi layered mixtape or taking your art to the next level and want to make a totally controllerist album, you can really regain the wow factor that pieces of work lost when tapes and CDs fell to digital downloads.

Throw a contest into the mix

Previously used by the likes of Ministry of Sound, Chase & Status, Local Natives and R√∂yksopp, we offer a variety of different options to running a contest, each with their own different benefits to suit your needs.  You can set up a group, embed your stems onto a landing page and include a dropbox widget linked to the group for submissions like this example from Two Door Cinema Club, or you could take it one step further and utilise our Remix App, which allows you to fully customize the whole experience and add all sorts of engaging social features like voting and sharing, check out this great example from Soulstice.
Not only do we have a super effective platform for contests, we also have a huge community of audio creators just waiting to get their hands on your stems, you can even promote your contest in our dedicated Remix Competitions Forum.
Tech Ed’s Note – Live remixing can really take your DJing and controllerism to the next level, so even if you’re not creating tracks yourself you’d do well to get over and have a look at these remix contests!

So there we have it: another seven expert tips to help give your DJing a boost. Do you have any that haven’t been mentioned? Share them – and let us know who, what, and where the next thing you want tips on is!
Original header art based on photo by: Lin Mei