Across The City, disc jockeys who play clubs and parties are dropping pounds of vinyl in favor of either CDs or an interesting piece of technology that replicates the look and motions of turntable styling while hooked up to a computer.
Those who have made the change say it allows them to carry a lot more music with a lot less weight.
“We’re going digital. And that’s it,” said 23-year DJ veteran Dimitris Tsichlas, who plays under the name Dimitris Mykonos. He finally stopped using vinyl a year ago, though he still buys records. “Carrying vinyl all the time, it got a little old after a while. I stayed a true believer for many years.”
Like Tsichlas, local tribal progressive house DJ Christopher Kramer, aka DJ Kramer, has moved to the CDJ-1000 system made by Pioneer Electronics Inc. of Japan, which allows DJs to manipulate music on compact discs. Others are turning to products similar to the Rane Serato Scratch made by Rane Corp. of Mukilteo, Wash. That $540 device allows DJs to hook up a computer to a traditional turntable with a blank record, so they can scratch and manipulate their digital music as if it were on vinyl.
“Lately, it seems like all DJs have to buy their digital computer interfacing hardware and software,” said Bryce Graven, a department manager at Guitar Center in San Francisco. “It would appear to everybody that you’re playing a record, when really you’re playing a program on your computer. It’s like virtual reality for DJs.”
Atom Hannon, an assistant manager at Guitar Center who plays drum and bass and jungle music as DJ Atom, said there have been steadily increasing sales of the product after its debut a few years ago.
“We sell tons of those,” Hannon said. “I would say it’s the industry standard now.”
JK Sound Inc., a San Francisco DJ-equipment rental shop, recently purchased a Serato Scratch because of customer demand, Operations Manager Chris Luden said. Not everyone is convinced that the product is the best technology for DJs, especially those who would have CDs for the time being. A computer can crash and lose data, whereas CDs provide tangible music backup, Kramer said.
“I did use it for over a year and then I dropped it,” Tsichlas said. “I used it because it has a wonderful organizational tool … I ended up dropping it was because of a slight delay between the time-coded vinyl and the DJ. Nobody gets benefited if you pretend you’re spinning vinyl.”
In 2001, after Matt Kramer decided the film industry was no longer for him, he moved to San Francisco and started focusing on two things he loved: making things and being a disc jockey.
Today, he makes console structures for disc jockeys, elaborate pieces of furniture that hold turntables, CD players, mixers, laptop computers and other essential paraphernalia. And recently, he said he has seen greater-than-usual success, with a very strong 2006 fourth quarter carrying over into a strong first quarter 2007.
“We … are putting out at least three to four a week. Before, it was two to three a week,” he said. “I don’t have a real reason for it. For some reason in January and February, we got slammed.”
Kramer, who is DJ Christopher Kramer’s brother, typically does all his work himself in his Palou Avenue workshop. But recently, he has had to use contract help to meet his orders, and is contemplating hiring his first workers. The consoles cost $1,500 in standard maple with a clear finish, not counting shipping and crating.
“The first one I made was one of the floating consoles … rigged up to the ceiling with airplane cable,” he said, adding that it’s less popular than the earthbound version. “The look of it is fantastic.”
The consoles account for 90 percent of his business, and he sells to both professionals and home hobbyists, he said.
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