NYC Electro

Are MP3s melting our Vinyl? a DJ’s perspective

With Serato, Tractor, and other DJ software (combined with high quality MP3s) are we looking at the last leg for records as we know them? Will we all be staring into our computer screens instead of the crowd? Read more, and more pictures after the jump:

Digital DJ

Back in the day (not that long ago), good music was something that was somewhat hard to get, hard to find and pretty expensive. I remember, as a teenager, hoarding my CD collection and being very careful on whom I would let borrow what CD. They would also go missing/get stolen constantly, which totally sucked because they were so expensive. A few years later, CDs became burnable and totally lost their value. Also, virtually at the same time, MP3s were born and started floating around for easy download via Napster, Audio Galaxy and news groups (i loved Audio Galaxy). But still, in those times with music becoming easier to share, the only way to really DJ was with Vinyl. There were some CD-DJing options out there, but they were very expensive at the time and did not allow for the same level of control as a record.

I personally amassed a huge collection of vinyl at that time. The records would come from pools, from stores, from local radio stations, garage sales, flee markets, basically wherever i could get my hands on them them. My friends and I would go digging together all the time. A friend of mine bought a Fisher Price portable turntable, and made our lives much easier. There would be stacks of records surrounding me, that I had hand picked. My fingers were dusty from their jackets and my ears in tune to the groove playing on portable player. Digging was a way of life for the DJ at the time. But oh how times have-a-changed.

My friend, DJ Nitekrawler still digs all the time. But we have gone in different directions DJing wise. He focuses on an older genre that usually was only produced on LPs and 45s. As for me, physical digging through records is a thing of the past due to Tractor Scratch (originally called Final Scratch, remember that one), and Serato Scratch Live. For many DJs out there, this is the same. Even for some, Digging is completely off their radar, having never experienced the need for records. DJs today only really dig for music online. Its much faster, you can listen to your track on most sites and have it downloaded within minutes to your computer, all while in your underwear eating a bowl of Cap'n Crunch. Then later that night, you take that new banger strait from the computers to the crowd. This makes digging for actual vinyl is a thing of the past for most DJs. So where does that leave the state of vinyl?

Well,  lets start with a look at the past. Everyone used to buy records. For well over a hundred years, records were the only way to record your music for playback. Flash forward to the 70's, record players would come built in with your stereo system with mechanisms to start and stop or drop the next record automatically. But that was a long time ago. As a child though, i barely new what records were. To me they were the things collecting dust in a cabinet no where near the actual stereo. And this was the case until hip-hop became popular and reached my hometown. Until then, all i knew were cassette tapes. Tapes became very popular and ate into the sales of records big time. Once CDs hit, records sales fell into obscurity. That was the one-two punch to knock record sales to about 1% of all sales. But records hung on, partly due to DJs keeping records alive. DJs were buying the latest popular tracks to play at the club to keep people dancing. But don't forget that musicians/producers (whether it be hip-hop or punk or whatever) pumped out records of their new stuff because it was far cheaper than tapes and CDs at the time.

Now the trend has shifted. Music is easier to produce on your computer and output to MP3 or CD, and DJs are not really buying records anymore. Regular people have returned to buying vinyl. Not in a huge way, and mainly they are vinyl enthusiasts, but the us a return none-the-less.  According to, record sales jumped to 1.88 million from 988,000 in 2007. And an article from the ABC News site found that, as of 2009, record sales are still increasing. People seem to want to actually hold the music in their hand. MP3s are so disposable and often sound bad if you get one with a low bit rate or digital skip. They are convenient but intangible. Not to mention, that most people agree that music just sounds better on Vinyl. But in this flip-flop of who is buying records again, the DJ is less and less likely spending their hard earned cash on the fresh pressed wax. DJs helped keep it alive, but now, not so much.

With DJs not really buying vinyl, will we be living in a world without records anytime soon? I seriously doubt it. People like vinyl and those numbers seem to be growing. However, as far as DJs go, vinyl is out and Serato/Tractor, or other digital solutions, are in. Its not because anyone hates vinyl, on the contrary most DJs absolutely love vinyl, DJs just don't like carrying them all over town/the country, those suckers are heavy (especially when you have hundreds). These newer software solutions also allow DJs to be super portable, as well as mix and apply effects like never before.

What, then, is the verdict? Looks like records will be sticking around for a long time, maybe forever. They will be collecting dust in a regular person's/enthusiast's cabinet for many many years to come, but the DJ will not be using them. That means that when you go out to your favorite to the club and/or bar, expect to see your favorite DJ's face lit up by the computer screen while he/she gawks at the monitor, searching for the next hit to load to the virtual deck.


DJ Color TV

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