At Midem Hack Day 2014, Yuli Levtov presented DJ Spotify, an app allowing you to do a DJ set with streamed music content. Reactify‘s director explains how he created the hack and what happened to his invention since last year’s memorable Midem Hack Day.
midemblog: Could you please describe the hack you developed? (including the tech it uses)
Yuli Levtov: DJ Spotify is made up of two parts. The first is the ability to play two consecutive Spotify streams with full control over playback speed, effectively allowing you to beat-match and, theoretically, do a whole DJ with streamed content. The second part is a Spotify App which retrieves key and BPM information for tracks from EchoNest and adds that information to your playlists in Spotify. Here’s a diagram of how the hack works.
> Why did you decide to make this hack in particular? What problem were you aiming to solve?
Having been a very early adopter of Spotify means that I don’t really own any downloads or CDs (and I never bought vinyl in the first place), which became a bit of a problem when I wanted to start DJing. I made this hack so that I could combine all the music I had been ‘collecting’ in playlists and discovering through streaming music services with the ability to beatmatch and create DJ sets. As streaming services continue to become more ubiquitous, my situation of not owning digital copies of tracks to use with CDJs will become more and more common among future generations of DJs, so I guess this hack was trying to offer a solution to that problem.
> What other hacks or innovations inspired your hack, if any?
Spotify and streaming services in general inspired this hack. I knew it would be technically possible because of Max For Live, as well, which is a graphical programming language I was quite new to at the time. It was also just observing how the industry was going – companies like Native Instruments, Serato, Spotify and Beatport all have the technical capacity to make a fully integrated solution happen, so it was just a matter of time.
> What was the hardest thing about making it?
As with any hack, making things truly useable beyond the demo is the hard part. I managed to make a pretty decent iPad interface for the system which mimicked the controls of a traditional CDJ set-up, complete with effects and cue mix, but to be honest, I knew from the start that this hack would be so impractical to recreate on anyone else’s laptop that it wouldn’t really have a lifespan beyond the hack day! It was just a bit of fun, really.
> What happened to the hack since? Was it used for anything else? Did it inspire other developers? Or even go commercial?
The concept did go commercial, but it was nothing to do with DJ Spotify – since the hack, we’ve had Pacemaker for iOS (came out exactly one day after DJ Spotify!) and DJay for iOS and desktop both integrate Spotify to offer exactly what my hack sets out to do, but with the added benefit of much better UIs. There’s no way I can claim to have inspired these developers, however – it was always just a matter of time that these things would come out. The one feature that both of these “proper” apps are missing is offline sync, meaning that you still need an active internet connection to play. That’s a major problem if this concept is ever to be taken seriously by professional DJs. I also followed up the hack with a blog post analysing exactly how the industry could change and benefit by seriously adopting streaming solutions into professional software, which was well received.
This is the fourth and last in a series of posts celebrating the fifth anniversary of Midem Hack Day, which will return next Midem, June 2015! More soon…