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Complete Control: The DJ Controller Market in 2020

Christian Wissmuller • October 2020Roundtable • September 28, 2020

While in-person DJ performances have been nearly completely shut down during the pandemic, at-home immersion in learning or advancing DJ skills has seen a serious uptick in recent months, as have sales of DJ Controllers. With stages no longer an option, practitioners are making use of streaming, green screen, and other tech-savvy methods of sharing their creativity with others.

MMR touched base with five of the biggest names in DJ gear to learn about what models and types of Controllers are resonating with end-users during this highly unusual year.

Obviously COVID-19/lockdown has had a devastating impact on live performance and that’s, of course, impacted DJs. How has this all been affecting DJ Controller sales?

David Morbey

David Morbey: Our Xone:K2 controller is hugely popular with live/ touring artists, so we have obviously not seen the usual sales to that segment. However, with the world on lockdown we have seen many DJs invest in their home setups, so actually sales of the K2 are up significantly year on year. The fact that the K2 is generic/non-software specific means it’s the perfect add-on for so many setups and can be freely mapped to perform many different functions. We have even seen them being used as lighting controllers!

Ben Blakesley

Ben Blakesley: It has certainly been a challenging time for nearly all business learning how to navigate the current state of the world. Supply chain and manufacturing challenges have arisen, but overall, sales have been up for us. What’s really been interesting is that we’re seeing product usage spike substantially (particularly early on in the pandemic) as new and aspiring DJs finally get around to using gear that they may have received or purchased previously. With more time on their hands, many people are getting more into music, which is a good thing!

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee: Roland is seeing an uptick in DJ controller sales during these times. While lockdown in most parts of the country has greatly affected income streams of performing DJ’s, it seems as though people who may have been on the fence about getting into DJing have the time to explore and commit to learning now.

Jay Cunningham

Jay Cunningham: It’s certainly been challenging for all areas of the DJ sector and for us, supply chain and manufacturing have been the toughest. We’ve been proactively working in all areas to ensure that we’re keeping stock flowing around the world to get kit into DJs hands. We had a big start to the year announcing five new products, so ensuring these get out there has been our top priority! Overall sales have been up for us.

For your brand, what are currently the hottest selling DJ Controllers?

BB: For Numark, we’ve seen great sales success this year with our newest offerings: DJ2GO2 Touch and the Mixtrack Platinum FX and Mixtrack Pro FX.

DL: Roland’s hottest selling controllers right now are the DJ- 202, DJ-505 and DJ-707M. The DJ-202 includes the full version of Serato DJ Pro, if purchased in the U.S., so you’re getting a top-tier experience at a budget price. There’s also a drum machine on board that allows for live-remixing or re-drumming on the fly. The DJ-505 sits in that “intermediate” range, and allows easier access to programming the drum machine with unique features like step loop. The DJ-707M is doing well too because of its ability to livestream to a capable smartphone, like an iPhone. Since there are two USB-B ports you can use the first USB port to connect to your laptop and control Serato DJ Pro, and then use the second USB port to connect straight into your phone via USB dongle.

JC: PRIME 4, PRIME 2 and PRIME GO, our standalone DJ consoles, have been in high demand this year and we’re excited to see DJs showing us what they can do with them.

DM: Well, we only have the one model, so it’s the Xone:K2! But it’s a scalable system… as well as being a standalone device, the K2 can be connected to any of our mixers featuring an X:LINK port. This port carries data and power to the K2 from the mixer allowing a single USB connection to the PC/Mac. The mixers themselves can be MIDI mapped to software and multiple K2’s can be daisy chained together via X:LINK to create some very interesting and individual setups… we are not talking simply two decks and a mixer here.

Aside from pandemic-related issues, what trends have you been noticing in this market segment? Are there any features or recent breakthroughs which are in especially high demand?

DL: Streaming! What’s unique about Roland is that, in addition to creating DJ controllers, we manufacture livestream-ready tools at a variety of different price points. Since live streamed DJ sets are the new norm, we’ve seen DJs like D-Nice rule the internet on platforms like Instagram utilizing the GO:MIXER. Also, since copyright laws haven’t caught up yet, DJs have migrated and settled on platforms like Twitch. So, you’re seeing a lot of people adapt to utilizing green screen, and guys like Buck Rogers are using the VR-4HD to create these elaborate backdrops and keep listeners entertained.

DM: Innovation in hardware for this segment has been pretty static. Lots of dual platter/mixer controllers at every price point. The real innovation seems to be in software with both Virtual DJ 2021 and Algoriddim’s DJAY PRO AI offering new real-time source separation of tracks. I think this is game-changing for many DJs. The beauty of a generic controller like the K2 means these new features can be easily mapped without having to wait for dedicated hardware to hit the market.

JC: Internal Wi-Fi and streaming are hot topics around our range and have been very well received across the board. We now have four streaming partners (Beatport, Beatsource, Soundcloud Go, and TIDAL) and just recently announced our free Dropbox integration with our latest public beta for Engine OS and Engine Prime.

BB: It’s becoming clearer and clearer that streaming music services are now playing, and will play, a significant role for DJs of nearly all skill levels going forward. Simplicity of use, ease of setup, but robust features are all super important right now as well.

Do you have any upcoming or recent product introductions you’d like to bring to our readers’ attention?

JC: We’re only nine months into the year and we’ve added so many new features and products to our range, I can’t go into detail, but I can tell you we’re not stopping here – far from it.

BB: We’ve got plenty of new things cooking that I can’t mention yet, but the new Mixtrack FX units are great for new and aspiring DJs and also for those semi-pros who need solid features without spending a ton of money.

DM: Depends how you define recent. The cornerstones of our range are our analog mixers which can often have a very long lifespan. For instance, Xone:92 is heading towards its 20th year and show no signs of losing its revered status. More recently we introduced Xone:96, which takes the legendary analog soul of the original 92 and serves it up in a remastered format with some feature enhancements and state-of-the-art digital connectivity. And of course we’re always working on the next big thing.

DL: Not yet!

Expectations for the coming months regarding DJ Controller sales?

DM: More of the same. As we head in to the traditional retail season we see no sign of demand for the K2 slowing. Many users will be new to DJing or have rekindled an old hobby. They perhaps started earlier in the year and are now looking to expand or accessorize their setup. The Xone:K2 is the perfect complement to any setup.

DL: With the holiday season coming up, we’re expecting to see the increased trend in DJ controller sales to continue. We’re hoping more people get into DJing, and we want to help inspire/cultivate to ultimately grow the culture. This is why we provide free, online, in-person lessons through our platform called Roland Cloud Academy to make sure that we’re listening and connecting to our community.

BB: It will be interesting to see if people will continue to take up new hobbies like DJing as they did early in the pandemic. And it will also be interesting to see how music is incorporated into how the economy and society begin to reopen to the public. I don’t see large crowds of people getting out on the dance floor anytime soon, but I think there will still be a demand for DJs to use music to connect to people and those DJs will need great gear to help them do it.

JC: These are unprecedented times and understanding where this will go in the coming months is a challenge, we’ve had a good year so far and remain extremely competitive price wise in the market.

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