Digital DJs mix and Scratch

Last updated 00:16 21/07/2008
JOHN SELKIRK/Dominion Post
SCRATCHING AN ITCH: Scott Bulloch of Serato Audio Research with some old records and the DJ equipment called Itch.

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Serato Audio Research started on the right note and, having revolutionised the DJ scene worldwide, is scratching around for more.

Co-founder Steve West developed an algorithm in 1994 that could lengthen music notes without losing the correct pitch.

Through that innovation, sound-recording "Pitch 'n Time" software was developed and has been selling worldwide for 10 years, mainly to the film industry. It has been used by filmmaker David Lynch and the BeeGees.

A more recent development, called Scratch Live, has made Serato a name in DJ circles around the world, marketing manager Scott Bulloch says.

Collaborating with an American hardware manufacturer as it did with its first product, Serato has turned out a system linking DJ turntables, which are traditionally used for playing vinyl records, to digital files so they can be "scratched" as if they were physically on a turntable.

"It just feels like you are playing a record," Mr Bulloch said.

The partnership turned out to be their saving grace when a competitive product launched nine months before Scratch Live went to market, but could not find a manufacturer to match Serato's quality.

"They ended up with a less reliable product, and we focused on making sure ours was reliable. We ended up with a benchmark that Serato just doesn't fail."

Live DJs initially frowned on using computers because of their propensity to crash mid-performance, but Serato's reputation is such that every live radio mix DJ in the United States - about 600 of them - uses Scratch Live.

"We were astounded [to find that out]. We thought maybe 80 per cent. It's clearly No1," Mr Bulloch said.

Since then, Scratch Live has survived ongoing development of rival products and won several awards, but it is also credited with "keeping vinyl alive". Mr Bulloch said leading DJs had thousands of records, some rare and valuable, which could be recorded digitally and played consistently on Serato's product while keeping the original record out of harm's way.

Serato has tripled its staff at its Auckland base in the past two years and is consistently ploughing revenue back into research and development. That accounts for half of its 27 staff.

Its latest product, a virtual-turntable and mixer-combined unit called Itch, was launched in its main market, the US, this year and Serato has linked up with record labels to provide free promotional music files through its products, giving its clients an advantage.

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"The growth of the digital DJ market is huge. In the last year our volume has gone crazy," Mr Bulloch said.

 

- The Dominion Post

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