Although challenges are always omnipresent, there’s definite optimism to go around. One place this optimism shows up in spades is the DJ/lighting category. Manufacturers in this category are excited about what the future holds. This optimism is led by ever-expanding technologies, as well as consumers who continue to be hungry to join this exciting industry. In honor of our DJ/lighting issue, we called upon three manufacturers to provide their thoughts on the industry: Will Komassa, “chairman of the bored” at Blizzard Lighting; Christopher Roman, senior DJ and lighting product manager, inMusic Brands, known for the Alesis, Denon, Marantz, Numark and Rane brands, among others; and Gabriel Menashe, president of ProX.
“We are optimistic about the future of the DJ industry,” said Komassa. “Every new day gives birth to the opportunity for groundbreaking musical exploration. At this very moment, the next great pioneer in electronic music is embarking on a personal journey of sonic discovery that could change the course of the universe. We get to be part of that. We’ve got the most incredible LED lights and video walls the universe has ever seen to provide a visual match to the sonic mastery.”
Komassa continued, “For each one of those aural geniuses, there are 10,000 more DJs holding headphones up to one ear, leaning over their MacBook queuing up ‘Dancing Queen.’ They’ll play it right after Aunt Susan’s request of ‘This Is How We Do It’ by Montell Jordan. Aunt Susan loves that song. She always requests it at weddings, especially when there are single groomsmen in their 40s. She digs younger men. Those 10,000 DJs have an important job, too. They help make a wedding night memorable… for the bride, the groom… and for Aunt Susan. We’ve got the gear for those guys, too. We don’t specifically make DJ lights, but we bring affordable innovation to fixtures meant for high-end professional designs. Our Hypno Spot and Hypno Beam are great examples. They’re a sensational add to a professional DJ’s light show and bring the quality of a touring production, but are under $500 each.”
Added Roman, “At inMusic, we are very pleased with the growth [of the DJ and lighting market] and its future potential, along with our technology integration among our five core brands in these two categories — Denon DJ, Rane, Numark in DJ playback control, plus Marq and SoundSwitch in DJ Lighting. Following the evolving needs of our customers, we have planned for the future in our technology development.
“Industrywide, we continue to find the market very active in all segments and price points,” continued Roman. “Interest by segment is always cyclical, and it seems as one subcategory grows others shift and adjust, but overall, we are seeing a strong and growing 2018.”
Menashe offered this take: “The DJ industry as a whole has changed radically in the last 10 to 15 years. In the past, if someone asked you what you did for a living and you said DJ, they would respond with either ‘what radio station?’ or ‘what is your real job?’ With the popularity of EDM music a few years ago, some ‘rock star’ DJs have become almost household names, and the perception of a DJ has changed overall with the public. However, during that same 10- or 15-year time, with the advances in technology (particularly software and controllers) and the ability to illegally download large numbers of songs from the internet, the market is flooded with unskilled and unqualified so-called DJs.
“There are essentially four distinct types of DJs now: the rock star pros that demand very large amounts of money for performances, the mobile DJ who does weddings and parties, still a few real radio DJs, and the amateur (bedroom) DJ that should really stick to the bedroom until they can apprentice with a well-trained and experienced mobile DJ until they develop the skills to properly do special events and be able to earn a living as a DJ. Only about 5 percent of all the DJs in the world are in that well-trained, qualified and experienced category and get paid well for their services. There truly is a bell curve of DJs everywhere. The upper 5 percent or 10 percent at the high end of the scale are considered outstanding, another 10 percent or so at the bottom end are considered horrible and the rest fall in the middle as just average or mediocre.
“As for lighting, much of the same has occurred with the technology revolution,” Menashe continued. “Good or great lighting products were very expensive and not readily available to the average DJ. Today,
with the advances in LED lighting led by Philips Color Changing technology, good lighting products are available at reasonable prices, and even the exceptional professional lighting products available at much lower prices. However, these same technological advances have created another problem in the lighting industry: That is, the Chinese manufacturers selling directly to end users who import them illegally (pay no duty) and do not pay the licensing fees required by Philips. Many of these same manufacturers are
now warehousing their products in the USA and are still not paying the required licensing fees to Philips. These ‘illegal’ sales also have no warranties in most cases. These factors are affecting the manufacturers and importers that are doing it the right way by paying duties and licensing and providing full warranties, but are being hurt by those avoiding fees and selling usually inferior products in the open marketplace.”
“Despite the factors outlined above, I am very convinced that the move by DJs to controllers is creating a huge marketplace for cases and accessories,” concluded Menashe. “The mid-level and above DJs are also creating a demand for TV stands, facades, lighting and cabling to improve their performances and appearance. Those same DJs are also demanding high-quality lighting with unique effects and great warranties, all of which we provide at ProX. The increases in live shows continues to create a high demand for trussing (and accessories), staging and other products to create those shows.”
Of course, being a quality DJ is difficult, as is being a musician. But for those who don’t possess the musical skillset, DJing provides an option, and some get paid well to do so. According to our panelists,
consumers are still hungry to become professional DJs. “Absolutely!” responded Roman, as to the vigor of consumers to become professional DJs. “Of course, the majority of market sales are to those testing the waters, but there is a real need for both the new generation of professionals, as well as a couple of technology shifts for the existing segments we are building on now.
“Is this helping your business because it is not just a discretionary product but one these people need? Just as people still have weddings with dancing, and there is the human need to socialize and party, there will always be a need for gatherings and people to be entertained and directed by professional DJs,” he added. “Making that job more fun and effective for the pro in the club or at the party is what we do. With Denon DJ, our full-on control of standalone with the Prime Series of gear is finally giving DJs the tools and feature sets they previously could only enjoy with a computer. With Rane, touring DJs are now replacing their turntables with the Twelve, a skip-proof and bass-lifting control system with a legacy vinyl performance workflow. You not only need to feel good about what you do as
a DJ, but you need to look good doing it.”
“It is the entry-level people that have their eye on becoming professionals that are key customers of ProX,” noted Menashe. “We offer products that fit their needs, protect their equipment and build their shows without breaking the bank. All the products we build at ProX can fill the needs of a startup DJ all the way to the most highly paid ‘rock star’ DJ, and everyone in between.”
Noted Komassa, “DJs get paid throw parties. Of course consumers are still hungry to be DJs. More DJs don’t necessarily help our business, though, unless they are committed to truly not ‘sucking.’ Professional DJs are looking to separate themselves from the terrible ones. That is what is helping our business. The pros keep investing in their displays to distinguish themselves. I’m not only talking about a quality light show to complement the music. The best ones also invest in architectural lighting to transform the entire party space for their clients.”
So, what are consumers buying from these manufacturers? “Without a doubt, our best-selling products are the Controller Cases for the Pioneer DDJ series of controllers—in particular, the DDJ-SX2, DDJ-SX3 and DDJ-RR controllers, and we have cases for each of them in various colors and accents,” said Menashe. “Our ProX Digital Media controller cases are manufactured with the exclusive honeycomb laminated surface design, made with the super-sleek look of honeycomb hexagon grids on all shell surfaces, which gives the cases an almost alien look! Also, as opposed to regular laminated plywood cases from other manufacturers, the ProX honeycomb design helps prevent minor to mild scratches
and has a unique appearance. Our Cold Spark Blitzz machines are selling faster than we can manufacture them, and we have waiting lists from dealers wanting them. This product will likely be the best-selling cold spark machine in North America. Another popular item is our Trussing and Stage Roofing Packages. This gives show producers and rigging companies a turnkey package with everything they need under a single part number, in various sizes, and all put together within the safety margins of our trussing systems.”
“The biggest game changer for the market is our IRiS LED video walls,” responded Komassa. “A few years ago, they weren’t cost-effective for most DJs, but the prices have come down while the quality has gone up. They are so easy to use, and the NovaStar processors provide such a smooth user interface, it’s easy for high-end DJs to take their shows to the next level. If you are a pro and want to distinguish yourself, you’ve got to be looking at an LED video wall.”
Answered Roman, “Numark covers those testing the waters in a fun way, right up to full-on professionals looking for value-driven solutions with a bit of innovation. We have done very well with the Party Mix for those testing the waters. Including the lights in the unit really shows off the importance of lighting elements in our industry. Professionals also can’t seem to get enough of the
DJ2GO2, which is the perfect backup or even small bar Serato controller. The updated NS6II continues to do very well for us due the ability to have your backup computer always connected. [It is] really mobile [in] size and weight, but [offers] a fully professional feature set at a great price.
“Denon DJ has been doing very well in the two areas of Mobile and Club Professional DJ,” he continued. “First, the MCX8000 continues to increase in sales month over month. The ability of this system to be able to be used both as a controller and standalone unit at the same time really sets it apart. Recent additions to the metal-bodied controller now include Engine PRIME library software support, so whether you use this as your primary Serato controller, or choose to go standalone, you
will have a truly great experience. The area of standalone is where Denon DJ really shines with the PRIME series of products that are growing fast. The SC5000s with full onboard processors let you leave the computer behind, and they have dramatically expanded the creative possibilities for the professionals that use them. The integration with the X1800 PRIME mixer and network connections onstage are really changing live performance standards at the highest of professional levels.
Roman added, “Rane DJ released two new pieces of gear this year that continue to stock out in the Turntablism categories. The Rane SEVENTY-TWO is the brand’s latest battle mixer, and it opens up the creative juices that were limited by previous options available in this business. At the same time, the Rane TWELVE motorized platter continues to replace turntables everywhere, especially onstage where these professionals need to be seen alongside these touring artists with real vinyl, yet can’t afford bass feedback or skipping needles.”
As for recent releases or products soon to be released that can become the next top sellers, Roman told the Music & Sound Retailer, “We plan to evolve and innovate in all categories and price points of the DJ and lighting segments and have separate engineering teams by brand to cover them all. We feel very strongly about the Engine PRIME computerless solutions, and continue to deeply develop this area, so definitely keep an eye on Denon DJ and PRIME moving forward. For retailers, this is ‘gold,’ since they will not need a computer to demo the gear. Obviously, Rane and Numark will continue to evolve in their areas, and our lighting brands have a lot of activity right now.”
“Besides the IRiS LED video walls, professionals should be looking at our moving heads. The Hypno Spot and Hypno Beam have been getting fantastic reviews. The Wink and Loop are also solid professional design products that translate well for high-end DJs,” responded Komassa.
“Without question, our most exciting new product is the Blitzz Cold Spark Machine,” relayed Menashe. “This machine creates a breathtaking indoor fireworks-style display. The Cold Spark Blitzz Machine, also known as a cold spark effect, is a safe-to-use spark machine, as it emits cold sparks at around 60 degrees, which are not subject to catching fire. This device is not pyrotechnics, but a simulated pyrotechnic experience. The Cold Spark Machine allows its user to customize how the sparks should appear. The users have the luxury of controlling the sparks’ timing, volume, as well as how high they rise for whatever production. And it can be synchronized to the music and other lighting effects using DMX controls or just operated with the included wired or wireless remote controls.”
There’s no doubt that technology and DJ and lighting go hand in hand. It’s always hard to determine, but what could be a future game-changing technology? “In the DJ category, our standalone and control solutions will continue to evolve and innovate in flexible and creative ways to tap into the latest improvements available to us,” said Roman. “All I can say is ‘stay tuned.’ In the lighting category, we are very excited to have the team at SoundSwitch join the other engineering teams at inMusic Brands. Lighting is often a mystery to DJs, and making it easy to integrate a light show into your setup and music has historically been a challenge. With SoundSwitch, we recognized right away the power that this solution offers to solve both problems. Expect to see real integration of sound to lights moving forward.”
Said Menashe: “The current technological advances in LEDs has been changing lighting for some time — some bigger and brighter, others with multiple color abilities (including infrared), and some very small and bright. Video walls and floors are continuing to evolve with better resolution, pressure sensitive and touchscreen abilities and prices are falling. Another amazing technology is the rapidly advancing In Ear Monitor (IEM) business. Manufactures are able to pack so much audio ability inside a custom molded earpiece that reproduces sounds at a level never even imagined just a few years ago. Multiple drivers and subwoofers are giving users (and DJs) the ability to hear all the frequencies across the music range at perfect reproduction, which in turn improves their ability to mix and blend transitions seamlessly. Also, DJs that use IEMs can go cordless with no delays or latency to worry about utilizing a bodypack receiver and a transmitter on their console. This provides a mobile DJ the ability to move around without being tethered by a cord, and still able to hear the music perfectly.”
“I believe that one of the hottest technologies for the future of the DJ industry specifically, and will work into the lighting side as well, is artificial intelligence,” he continued. “Artificial intelligence (AI) is almost everywhere today; in business, the stock market, the movie industry and on the internet. Predictive technology utilizing AI can determine actions and reactions that can drive playlists, videos, lighting and more for the working DJ. Utilizing interfaces between the DJ controller (knowing what is playing) and video and audio inputs from the audience can predict reactions to music being played, analyze the music library and predict what music should be played next, or to create a suggested playlist based on that information. Highly skilled DJs can already ‘read the crowd,’ but those with that ability are very much in the minority. AI will likely be able to offer that ability to anyone that can purchase the technology.”
We wrap up our DJ/lighting update with some advice on how MI retailers can best sell their products in store.
Komassa shared this viewpoint: “We’re not a DJ lighting company. We make professional lights that successful DJs can also afford. That is the best way to sell our stuff to DJs. Tell them it wasn’t meant for them. People always want what they aren’t supposed to have,” he said.
“The best advice I could give a retailer is to place our ProX products next to the competitors’
products so that end users could make a direct comparison,” added Menashe. “I feel confident that they will choose the ProX product most of the time because of the overall value we provide. Our unique features, great fit and finish, and prices will stand out. I would also suggest to put our exclusive items in high-traffic areas to provide a ‘wow, look at that’ response from their customers. As for sales approach, if the customer is just shown what ProX offers, the products will sell themselves (no pitch required). We also try to have very good descriptions and feature listings on our website proxdirect.com that dealers can use on their own websites and/or refer customers to the website to look at what is available. Since there is no pricing information on our website, dealers can use this a tool to introduce customers to the products, and then be able to follow up with price quotations and sales assistance.”
“The challenge at retail, of course, is trying to keep up with technology changes, turning product and, of course, making sales that make repeat or additional sales possible at time of purchase and the future. The fact of the matter is technology is going to change, whether we like it or not, so first thing is to make sure you embrace and understand the changes and benefits,” stated Roman.
“The majority of DJ and electronic music customers embrace technology, unlike the traditional analog/acoustic musician, which is where the opportunity to sell again or more comes in,” he continued. “These customers are obsessive, and with new features come new sales opportunities. They want their gear to still seem familiar, however, so things might look similar to tradition, but once you play on the new gear, it changes everything, and a new sale is possible. If it stays in the box, no sale. The smartest thing any brick-and-mortar retailer can do is get the new technologically-advanced gear out on display and touchable, with music! Don’t wait for a video or marketing campaign to drive a customer to your store (they might as well just go online to buy), otherwise the DJ isn’t going to say it’s a must have because they won’t know, and you won’t see a sale.
“If you are an online retailer, then link videos of the gear in action to your product pages and, of course, make sure you are carrying the value-driven gear with the bells and whistles, too, and don’t be afraid to show it. Make that impulse sale,” Roman concluded. “Sometimes, customers are merely looking for something fun to dabble with, and the more attractive and fun that thing is, the more likely they will come back to get the bigger and more profitable version. We try to put demo modes in most gear so when you plug it in, customers are attracted to it, but you have to plug it in first!”