At the Mozilla Festival in London last weekend, I took part in a Hack the DJ workshop, looking at ways to take digital DJ’ing to the next level. One of the ideas proposed was stem mixing, using multichannel files in DJ applications. A proprietary implementation of this idea is Fireplayer (itunes.apple.com/gb/app/fireplay … 91455?mt=8) but this app is built with the intention that users will buy remixable versions of (a very limited number of) well-known songs from an in-app store. I would like to work towards a new open standard for stem mixing, something that is compatible with sharing our mixes on the open web - legally, of course - but could also be used by record labels that sell tracks to DJs.
For example, eight channel Ogg Vorbis files where the first two tracks are a stereo mix of the drums, third and fourth stereo bass, fifth and sixth stereo vocals, and seventh and eighth tracks everything else. This means that you can mute or solo individual stems in the mix, giving you the versatility of four-deck or eight-deck mixing but without the problems of keeping many decks in sync, since the stems within a single file are locked on the same timeline. Also, it makes using the mixer a lot simpler than for many-deck mixing, because you don’t need to keep assigning the crossfader to the various different decks.
Of course this means that the eight channel .ogg file has to be prepared specially for DJ’ing, but this is already possible in Audacity. So we have a file format, and an editor, but what we don’t yet have is full support for stem mixing in open source DJ applications. Sweep supports scratching on eight-channel files, but it doesn’t have a mixer. Mixxx has a mixer, but doesn’t support multichannel Ogg files (yet), as far as I can see.
So, what do you think? Is stem mixing a genuinely useful feature that will allow DJs to be more creative, or will it fail if the best music continues to be available in stereo only? Please add your comments below