These days, new forms of technology and software seem to be saturating the dance music circuit on a weekly basis, with DJs, producers, and fans getting to reap the benefits of the current revolution. When completely new additions are made to commonly used pieces of equipment and proceed to become the norm, it’s often difficult to remember what it was like beforehand. We never truly realize the potential of new technology until we can compare it to its previous absence in the marketplace. This week, Native Instruments may have just catalyzed the next big step for DJs everywhere.
NI has finally put out a new music format file type that they’ve dubbed a “STEMS File.” Inside, producers are able to include up to four stems. The song’s components can be divided up in any way, giving the artist the capability for endless creative leniency. For instance, after making a complete track, the drums, lead synths, vocals, and harmonies can all be sectioned into different stems. Then, using NI’s Traktor or any other STEMS-compatible mixing tools, the DJ will be able to strip away and mangle multiple tracks together like never before. Imagine the percussion from one track, completely devoid of any muddy crossover from the other instruments, soloed against the crisp vocals of another song. Until now, a capellas and instrumentals have been the only real way to get a perfectly clean mashup, unless you have the official stems. Now, with the STEMS file, the world of mixing is our oyster.
The format. . . will allow DJs for the first time to be able to purchase not only complete songs but also the individual track parts that make them up.
The file type has already received support from major labels OWSLA, Planet-E, Cr2, Dirtybird and many more. Clark Warner, Beatport’s Executive Creative Director, describes it as such:
Native Instruments’ Stems format is a ground-breaking step in the evolution of DJ technology and we are proud to feature tracks using it. Hundreds of tracks are available in the Beatport Pro store today, and we encourage all labels and artists to support this multi-track format going forward.
To make these files, users can access Native Instrument’s Stem File Creator Tool. The files output in MP4, and can be played without difficulty in iTunes and on devices. The file type is open to public use, and can therefore be used by other technology companies to be included in their products for free. This is important, as NI is encouraging its spread and unrestricted use outside of their own line. For now, DJs will be able to use STEMS in Traktor Pro using Traktor Kontrol S8, D2 and F1.
For this exciting and potentially game-changing file type to succeed, however, its acceptance and application must be wide. Until a large number of tracks are converted to STEMS, users will have very few to choose from in their sets. If the community embraces these new methods, it may lead to some of the most creative and exhilarating live sets and mixes we’ve ever seen.
STEMS have the ability to truly expand and personalize the way DJs perform. Given the proper usage and commitment, we may witness an entirely new side to what our artists have to offer.