‘Hey, Mr. DJ, Put a Record On…’ The DJ Mixer Market in 2019

Christian Wissmuller • October 2019Roundtable • October 4, 2019

In the world of acoustic instruments, we continue to marvel at the ongoing strength of the ukulele market (see our September 2019 cover feature). Over in the digital realm, few segments are quite as robust as DJ gear.

As the backbone of live EDM, hip hop, dance, and many other popular formats, in many ways the DJ is the most in-demand musical performer of the modern era. Add in more traditional “DJ gigs” – weddings, parties, dances, et. al – and you’re looking at a market with relative ease of entry and expansive room for growth.

One of the most essential and increasingly versatile weapons in a DJ’s arsenal is the DJ mixer. In this issue’s supplier roundtable we speak with individuals representing five of the most sought-after and innovative brands in this world to learn about what’s hot, what’s on the horizon, and how successful retailers are tapping into this market.

How would you characterize this market segment in 2019? Are sales up down, or level when compared to last year?

David Morbey: Sales are up year on year for us, especially at the premium end of the market where sales to pro DJs, venues, and rental have been strengthened by the introduction of our Xone:96 last year and the strong artist and rider acceptance of this new model.

Chris Roman: Despite the popularity of DJ controllers and now stand-alone solutions, this category is still strong because the turntablism category remains strong. Add in innovative solutions like the RANE TWELVE, [and] this has furthered the need for high-end DJ mixers, for RANE sales are way up. This is simply because the market was looking for real innovation in the category, and the RANE SEVENTY-TWO has delivered on this need. Until very recently, the market offerings on DJ mixers – particularly scratch mixers – has gone in two directions: those priced over $1,500 for top-end quality, and less expensive ones that, unfortunately, seem to be missing the features that DJs expect and demand in 2019. Numark’s market segment is generally under $1,000, so this year we released a compelling, affordable scratch mixer solution – the Numark Scratch – that delivered high-end features at an amazing $499 price point. This has really shaken things up.

Matt Chicoine: Taken on a whole, we are seeing relatively level sales [of] DJ products this year, with entry level products continuing to show good growth with more people taking their first step into DJing.

For your brand, what’s the current “hot model” of DJ mixer?

CR: The RANE SEVENTY-TWO is selling extremely well. Part of the reason is the value it delivers at $1,899. It’s just a bullet-proof tank of a product. It screams “quality!” DJs just love it to death. This coupled with the clean interface created with the RANE TWELVE motorized platter turntable alternative and the 1:1 touch screen integration with Serato makes it unique and highly desirable. The Numark Scratch is selling like crazy. This guy has generated a buzz and excitement that very few products ever do, in any category. Everyone is talking about this one and most people are just shaking their head and saying, “How’d they do that?” For $499 we include not only a full Serato DVS software solution, but also include pads for triggering cues, knobs for rolls, paddles for effects, and the industry standard innofader. No other mixer under $1,000 has any of these features. It’s made the scratch community very happy. With its rock-solid, all-steel construction, its quality is frankly unheard of at $499. It’s doing very well, to put it mildly.

MC: Our newest offering, the DJ-707M, represents a fresh concept for the DJ market and has garnered great reviews and genuine excitement from mobile DJs. We developed it with input from the mobile DJ community. Mobile DJs have been looking for a portable controller/mixer that handles a lot of the audio issues common during the events where they play.

DM: Xone:96. It is a hot seller at the moment and is getting a lot of buzz. We responded to feedback from Xone users, and the :96 is the much-anticipated follow-up to the club favorite Xone:92. :96 gives DJs a second completely independent headphone cueing system and a dual soundcard, alongside signature Xone features like 4-band EQ and our classic VCF filters. Xone:96 has been honored with a number of DJ product awards lately and we see more and more :96s showing up at events across the DJ performance spectrum.

Jason Stout: Our flagship 4-channel club mixer is the X1800 Prime. The X1800 is the most versatile and best-sounding mixer we’ve designed to date. The mixer will forever be the centerpiece of any DJ’s live rig so it’s vitally important the layout and feature set are capable of handling the demands of today’s DJ/producer. That is why the X1800 offers Line/Phono/Digital inputs, two microphones, dual USB, MIDI out, and a built-in 5-port Ethernet hub.

When the X1800 is linked with our Prime Series media players via built-in hub, the setup offers a variety of interconnectivity and functional advantages over competing mixers, such as direct BPM from the players for synchronized effects, CUE button colors that match platter color for aided visual reference, on-air deck indicator set by channel fader position, and StagelinQ protocol for synchronizing lights, pyro, and video perfectly with the audio. The mixer also features 2 OLED displays that provide pertinent information to the DJ when mixing. The displays also enable us to add/improve features throughout the product’s lifecycle. For instance, in one of our recent updates, we added new effects and parameters. This just wouldn’t be possible without a display to tell the story. At Denon DJ, we aim to future-proof our products as much as possible so we can bring exciting new capabilities to the product during its lifespan.

When it comes to sizes, functionality, materials used, et cetera, what significant trends have you been noticing when it comes to DJ mixer sales?

MC: There are several trends in the market right now. More DJs are introducing production skills like finger drumming and remixing into their sets, so syncing with sequencers and good pads for drumming are key. Other DJs are looking to do more with less, so while some controllers have gotten bigger without adding functions, we are introducing more features into smaller form factors.

JS: For the most part, the form factor of DJ mixers has remained relatively consistent. When designing products, it’s important to consider the replacement process. Many clubs, venues, radio stations, and backlines, already have custom booths/desks/cases designed to fit existing hardware. To limit resistance and ease the upgrade process, we try to be as accommodating as possible. The internal components and feature set on the control surface are a completely different story. This is where we really take advantage of today’s technology and challenge ourselves to innovate new possibilities. When designing a professional mixer, you have to consider the different  environments and situations the product will be subjected to. Professional DJs expect their gear to withstand life on the road and daily use. That’s why our professional club mixers have always been and will continue to be manufactured with rugged metal chassis.

DM: There are a number of shifts going on right now in the DJ space for sure. At the pro end of the market there is a drive towards ever more complex/modular setups and a trend for DJs to either offer a “DJ set” or a “live” performance when booking. These complex setups generally require more channels and I/O flexibility – this is where we are gaining market share with products like the Xone:96 and PLAYdifferently Model 1, which both provide 6-plus channels of flexibility in a traditional 4 channel mixer footprint.

CR: More creativity and control are always sought. Look at all the DJ competitions now – not only including scratch skills but live beat-making skills as well. The RANE SEVENTY-TWO was the mixer of choice by the beat-making winner of the Goldie awards last year. To further this the DMC champion for 2018 used the RANE SEVENTY-TWO in his winning routine, taking advantage of its advanced technology in his creative approach. The SEVENTY-TWO’s technology and capability have spoiled DJs everywhere. It’s now expected. Adding pad control and toggles for effects is a general direction of improvement. At Numark, we always use metal in our chassis designs for mixers, and we have the pad technology we use in our various other engineering groups like Akai Professional, RANE, etc. to pull from.

Have you observed any particular strategies in terms of display, promotion, and the like being employed by retailers who are particularly successful selling DJ mixers?

CR: We’ve noticed customer education is key, which is why we have generated a series of videos with our retail partners that show the benefits of the entire RANE setup. We have partnered with several DJ schools with the release of the Numark Scratch. By doing so we have really pushed home the message of the affordable professional solution that this mixer is. It’s still too early to note what the brick and mortar segment might do.

JS: In order for any product to be successful, the customer needs to know the features, capabilities and understand how the product will improve their quality of life, or in our world, their performance on stage. With any new product announcement, we release a number of tutorial videos and written guides to help the customer familiarize themselves with the product. Some consumers (myself included) require a more hands-on experience to help them with the buying decision. To aid this potential customer, we work with our retailer partners to create product experience stations. The experience stations are fully interactive with audio content which allows for a hands-on experience to further inform the customer during the purchase period. As far as promotions go, some retailers will bundle the mixer with the players as a package, which is great since it often offers a price break for the consumer.

DM: Our most successful dealers are those that have recognized the importance of customer loyalty and are making great strides in both the initial offer – like extended payment options – and in after-sales care. We sell complex products and dealers who invest time in knowledgeable staff and then work to build a personal relationship with end users are the ones who are winning.

MC: Keeping an in-store DJ display functioning for a retailer is tough, but it is the key to sales and becoming the local “go-to” for DJs. Keeping software up-to-date and music current is easier when there is a DJ on staff or a local DJ that can come in and consult. Retailers that introduce DJ lessons also have a higher rate of sales. Roland has a program that can help dealers get started with DJ education in their store.

What are your expectations for this market segment in the coming months?

DM: As we move out of the summer months, we see a shift of sales from “pro users” to more consumer sales. This is normal seasonality and we have a busy few months of retail sales ahead. There is a definite “halo effect” from our high-end products that filters down to those users wanting to emulate in-home DJ/studio environments. So, we plan and fully expect to continue to grow and take share in the DJ mixer segment.

MC: The number of customers interested in DJing keeps growing and retailers should take advantage of the trend of young DJs expanding into production and making music. The divide between playing music and making music continues to narrow, and customers will increasingly be looking for products that can help them do both.

CR: We expect a continued demand for innovative solutions, and as such we plan to deliver new products that continually push the boundaries and redefine the limits, which will lead to further growth. We have actually seen continued growth, specifically in the scratch community category for several years. As you might be aware our PT01 Scratch Turntable has done very well, and this market segment is shared with that.

JS: The recent market trends have proven that DJ’s are playing on a variety of modular media sources, so the 2-channel and 4-channel variant aren’t going away anytime soon. I expect [that] sometime in the near future, you will see the mixer doing a lot more than just mixing multiple audio sources.

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