By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
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It seems like the world can't shut up about Twitter lately. The micro-blogging network has exploded to more than 25 million users, what with celebrities like Oprah joining along with their mindless minion hordes. But beyond providing us with the irritating mundanities of our friends' day-to-day lives, it now appears that Twitter is on its way to revolutionizing the world of DJing and the music industry as we know it.
Renowned DJ, producer and techno magnate Richie Hawtin has announced the development of a new Twitter application that allows real-time broadcasting of track IDs during a DJ set. As minimal techno's mad scientist of sorts, Hawtin has already spent much of his career pioneering new DJ technologies, including important innovations in MIDI and Final Scratch. This new Twitter app broadcasts 30-second updates of what Hawtin is playing live, allowing anyone following him on the network to see the playlist in real time, track by track.
While it was only a matter of time before this type of info-age breakthrough came about, the DJ world might view it ambivalently, mainly because they've always been a bit secretive and hermetic about their track selections. In fact, in the old days, many DJs used to obscure the labels on their vinyl records to keep the competition from eyeballing LPs at the DJ booth and ripping off their secret weapons. It's precisely an ability to unearth those obscure gems — and then drop them unexpectedly — that gives DJs their hype and mystique. And Twitter, of course, has a tendency to trivialize. There's also the double-edged sword of exposure and commercial success this medium might offer unrecognized producers, as well as the possibility of even more illegal file-sharing of digital music. With tracks getting instantaneous recognition and viral exposure online, the pressure to rip them off will also increase. However, as Hawtin himself has expounded on a Minus label press release, the potential advantages of this new app are incredibly far-reaching — and will ultimately outweigh the cons:
"By providing the necessary information to track what is really being played in clubs, the Twitter DJ application would make sure the real artists get paid instead of performance payments simply being carved up between the Madonnas and U2s of the world. If record sales are slowing down, and performance is now the key area where artists can achieve financial stability, better solutions need to be found and a workable structure put in place as soon as possible. We hope that our Twitter DJ application is a step forward in the development of these types of systems."
I say it's time we give Bono a run for his money. Find out when Richie Hawtin's next live Twitter broadcast is scheduled by tuning in at www.twitter.com/rhawtin.