Here's something really, really interesting that could turn into something DJs, live performers and mixing engineers come to rely on in the very near future: STEMS. We're talking a multi-channel audio format developed by Native Instruments that allows you to mix the individual "stems" in the Stem file independently. You'll be able to rename, tag, mix, remix, and do a range of things with one audio file format! Plus a bunch of forward-thinking labels and artists are already providing their full support and backing.
Did I mention it's an open-standard too? Lots of potential here not only for live performers and DJs but also for audio post in the film and game fields in my opinion. Here's what happened at the recent Winter Music Conference in Miami when STEMS was shown to a small, select group of industry insiders...
MIAMI 2015 – Stems – a new, multi-channel audio format has been unveiled at WMC (Winter Music Conference) in Miami. A Stem file allows DJs and live performers to interact with different musical elements of a track independently by accessing four different 'stem' parts such as the bass, drums, melody, or vocals. This type of mixing introduces new performance possibilities and enriches the listening experience for music lovers. As a premium file format, Stems can also create new revenue streams for music labels and online retailers to grow their business. Developed by software and hardware DSP specialists Native Instruments, Stems is an open file format designed to benefit the entire music industry.
L to R: Luciano, David Morgan (Juno), Brian Tappert (Traxsource), DJ Craze, Mate Galic (Native Instruments), Jason Bentley KCRW)
Stems was introduced this past Friday, March 27 at a WMC discussion panel moderated by KCRW Los Angeles Music Director Jason Bentley. Online music retailers Juno and Traxsource joined five-time DMC World Champion DJ Craze and DJ-producer virtuoso Luciano in engaging discussion – sharing their early impressions about the forthcoming technology. The format was highly regarded as inspiring, easy-to-use technology for DJs and live performers to interact differently with a track's musical elements. Stem parts can be modified independently to create spontaneous instrumentals while effects can be applied to specific parts of the track. Transitions between tracks can be mixed part-by-part rather than using global volume and EQ control for the entire track.
Mate Galic (Native Instruments).
As an open format, anyone will be able to create, perform with, and distribute Stems in any way possible. Producers, DJs, and labels will be able to author their own Stem files using a free standalone application called the Stem Creator Tool. Developers will have full access to format specifications and code examples for them to integrate Stem support into future music performance and production tools.
Jason Bentley (KCRW).
Stem files use the mp4 container format to store the four individual stems of a track within a single file. This single file can be managed as easily as an mp3 file, which can even be played as a normal stereo audio track with any mp4-compatible audio player such as iTunes. To play with Stems' individual parts, Stem-supported software and hardware will be required. Native Instruments' TRAKTOR software will be the first to offer Stem support this summer – opening the gates for further integration.
Eric Goldstein (Native Instruments).
In the coming months, select artists, labels, production companies and Native Instruments will begin supporting the format step by step. A website containing all technical specifications, source code, tutorials, and downloads will launch Stems this coming June.
FAQ's on Stems
The industry reacts to Stems:
“The Stems format is very exciting to me because I come from the generation where records have 1/Instrumental/Acapella and Dubapellas, so now I'll be able to get way more creative with my sets and have fun combining elements from tunes I like.”
“The Stems are the most innovative idea for DJing because they push creativity to the next level and they push DJs and producers into a new era for dance music. We are finally to the point where it's not about playing A with B anymore, but we can take the essence of A and adding C, D and B and splitting this upside down with an absolute freedom of composition. It's time for a creative era.”
“Stems is just what the industry needed. It will change the way music is mixed down from a producer's standpoint. It will make producers think more about what they are actually doing when they make music for DJs to play.”
“The world of electronic music is always evolving, both culturally and technologically. Beatport is therefore proud to support the new Stems initiative as a retail partner to continue serving DJs in any format they desire.” - Rich Ziade, Chief Product Officer
“Stems is a truly exciting development for DJ and live music performance. It strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and flexibility, and incredibly, it's all achieved with a universally compatible file format. We couldn't be more pleased to give Stems our full support, and look forward to adding the download option to our site in the coming months.”
“Traxsource is 100% behind Stems and we are extremely excited by the possibilities.”
“We couldn't be more excited about putting together an exclusive release for this new format, just when we were all looking for the next major step forward in DJ technology, this came along! The possibilities really do seem endless, and with the open source format everyone can get involved. We feel something big on the horizon here.”
“Cr2 Records will continue to support the evolution of the modern day DJ. With Cr2 Traktor Tools combined with our releases for the revolutionary Stems technology, our DJ fan base will be able to provide the ultimate in live performance.”
“Remember the days when DJs had to carry very heavy reel to reel tape recorders into the club in order to make their sets special, to play around with basslines and drums and loop songs into danceable tracks? No? Well we do, and we still remember the pain of the physical implication. Hence we think Stems is a great idea to bring back that fantastic tool into the world of DJing without having to carry around these heavy machines!”
“InFiné is music, art, and technology and so is the new Stem format. This is opening new creative doors for us!”
“We are happy to provide these tools to the DJs who love to entertain with creative sets and play with the music from our artists.”
“It was always part of Mobilee's mission to embrace new technologies and innovations for DJ and club culture. We learned that every generation is discovering music production and DJ performance in its very own way. Stems will be the next big thing to add new opportunities to DJs' creativity. And the fact that it is an open format proves Native Instruments' passion for music and technology.”
Modeselektor (Monkeytown Records & 50 Weapons)
“Hi-hat in, hi-hat out, ride in, kick in, clap in, everything out... Being able to break down all tracks to your favorite elements will bring loads of fun!”
“Once you see, hear, feel, and try it... It's AWESOME!”
“Stem files offer DJs the creative freedom to control different elements of a track, blurring the lines between DJ and live sets. We are happy to be part of this exciting new concept with our labels GREEN and Rejected.”
“We have always encouraged the evolution of DJing, providing an expanding market with the musical tools it demands to make a DJ set reflect an individual's sound. For us, DJing has always been about owning a sound and style. From the early Hip Hop years of looping the break on 2 decks to Richie Hawtin's Closer To The Edit album, the idea of creative manipulation has always driven our scene forward. We are once again pleased to be working on a project that allows for this to happen.”
Labels who are officially supporting Stems:
- Baroque Records
- Cr2 Records
- Get Physical
- Herzblut Recordings
- Kling Klong
- Mobilee Records
- Monkeytown Records
- Noir Music
- Toolroom Records
- 50 Weapons
L to R: David Morgan (Juno), Luciano, Brian Tappert (Traxsource), DJ Craze, Jason Bentley KCRW), Mate Galic (Native Instruments).