Canadian Music Trade December / January 2023 | Page 27

It was a lot of garbage in , garbage out . So , it ’ s about using a little bit of what we had and what they had , the two different technologies , and now we have a better product .
So , I wasn ’ t directly involved in the decision to do this , but I understand the direction . I think a lot of this began with the fact that artists are asking for this . They want fair compensation . Artists are our lifeblood , so if we can do something to support them , we will . And I mean , buying part of DJ Monitor is an investment and I ’ m sure it will produce very good results . They ’ re a successful company . So , by buying into them , we can partner more closely and we both benefit from it .
CMT : I ’ m always interested in the innovation and R & D process . It ’ s easy to iterate on an existing product and add incremental new features . But when you see a big leap forward , whether a completely new product or an eye-catching new feature , that takes a lot of monetary investment , a lot of man hours , a lot of research , and you ’ re never really sure how it ’ s going to be received . So , how difficult is it to predict what users want and will buy ? And how long does it take to develop and perfect a significant new product ?
Powell : It ’ s difficult to give you a general answer because depends on the complexity of the product . If you ’ re taking a mainline pro product , like a player or a mixer , there ’ s a lot . It ’ s usually at least a three-year process . Sometimes it ’ s an evolution and some products are more a small step forward , others are a leap forward . Sometimes that ’ s based on the technological piece , like maybe a new DSP or semiconductor that gives you a lot more capability than you previously had or something we ’ ve just kind of thought about and come up with a way to provide that . So , sometimes it ’ s a simpler thing , like adding more effects , and other times it ’ s changing the workflow completely , like with our DDJ-REV7 , which was a massive step forward for us . It was a controller with motorized platters . We weren ’ t the first to do it , but we spent the time to do it right . It ’ s a product that we ’ re very proud of and it was a long development ; it was years in the making . I think it was identified as a need but there was a debate over whether DJs wanted a motorized platter . It was almost like going from a gasoline car to electric car — it was a big change . I mean , Rane were the first to do it and they proved the point that , yes , DJs will accept this . We were already working on it , but then we knew we weren ’ t wasting our time . But will we add it to every single product ? No , because not everybody wants it . But that ’ s just one example .
So , I would say for most products , there ’ s a three-year development . There ’ s stuff in our pipeline we ’ re looking to introduce in 2025 and we have a lot of exciting products coming out [ in 2023 ] as well …
We ’ re definitely always talking to tons of people . We have a lot of guys who work for us who we call “ demo DJs ” and they ’ re a big source of our input . They also cover a wide variety of different applications . So , we can get a lot of feedback internally on things . But there ’ s multiple steps . It ’ s from concept and then you ’ ve got drawings and we ’ re asking them , “ What do you think about this ? Should we move this ?” Then you get to a markup , and then you get to a first article . I mean , there are lots of steps and there ’ s a lot of evaluations and a lot of time spent interviewing and talking to people about these products . So yes , it definitely doesn ’ t happen in a vacuum . When a product launches , there ’ s scores of people who know about it beforehand and they ’ ve been working on it for a couple of years , probably , because it definitely is a process and a slightly different one depending on the product . But of all the companies I ’ ve worked for in the MI industry , this is definitely the one that gets the most feedback from artists .
CMT : In terms of market competition , I read an interview you gave in 2020 where you ’ d said , at that time , Pioneer DJ had a 60 % market share and its biggest competition was coming from Rane and Denon DJ . So , to get an update on that , what is the state of the competitive market and Pioneer DJ ’ s place in it ?
Powell : It ’ s difficult to say , and that number was for the U . S . market . I don ’ t have the data for other markets . But yes , it ’ s difficult to say right now , and I ’ m not trying to dodge the question . It ’ s probably similar . But with supply chain issues , there will be a month where maybe Rane gets a bunch of mixers in and we have nothing on the shelves , so they ’ ll jump ahead and then the next month it reverses . So , looking at what you see with some of our competitors , it comes from MI SalesTrak and that ’ s polling independent retailers , which is a small part of overall sales , maybe 6-8 % of the market . But it is usually pretty accurate as far as getting a beat on things , but it ’ s hard to say right now because of the supply chain difficulties . I ’ d say the ratios are fairly similar but it varies .
I think we were fortunate that we continued to do what works for us and be very much in tune with the artists by asking what they want and trying to deliver what they want . We don ’ t always hit it out of the park . We have plenty of products that are just kind of plugging along and there ’ s other ones where it ’ s like , “ Oh my god , why didn ’ t we think of this years ago ?” Every manufacturer has that . But I think the fact that we focus almost exclusively DJ products really helps us and we work closely with artists .
CMT : Lastly , I ’ m curious where the market is headed in terms of innovation ? A decade ago , integrating streaming into a DJ controller was not something that was conceivable or even doable just five years ago , and now we ’ re seeing it in loads of new DJ products . So , to the extent that you can say publicly , what do you predict is the next big jump forward in DJ product innovation ?
Powell : I think you ’ ll see streaming become a more consistent and viable part of it and become more reliable as the ability to download without interruption becomes better . That ’ s already starting to happen and it will become more prevalent . It ’ s going to be an accepted form of getting the content .
Beyond that , I mean , we look at other industries outside of what we do to get some ideas . Streaming was something that wasn ’ t part of our world . So , we look at the gaming industry and what are they doing ? I mean , VR and AR is already part of our world . So , I think they may come into it more . During the pandemic you could attend a virtual festival . So , I think that has a lot of potential .
As well , wireless technologies that can enhance the DJ ’ s performance . So , not just streaming but the outbound ; meaning , sending it out wirelessly . There ’ s a lot of things that as technologies evolve , we have to figure if it makes sense to incorporate it , in some form or fashion , and ask , “ Do DJs want that ?”
I think those are things , probably , we ’ ll see over the next 10 years , or at least some of those elements become part of our systems .
Michael Raine is the Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Music Trade .