A DJ without music makes for a pretty dull concert. For DJ John DeAscentis, that means protecting his valuable collection of high-end music files is a top priority.
DeAscentis first began experimenting with DJ software his sophomore year of college. He grew up playing instruments, so he was familiar with the basic tenants of music, but Electronic Dance Music (EDM) was a far cry from the guitar and violin.
After graduating, DeAscentis returned home to Boston where he began to play more shows throughout the New England area whenever he could find the time. Slowly, he began to meet other DJs and became a part of the growing EDM scene. As his music library expanded, he started seeking out new backup methods — and new ways to share his music.
“You know how a lesser-quality video is more grainy?” DeAscentis asks. “It’s the same thing with MP3 files. You want to be using the highest quality you have."
MP3 files have different bit rates, with 320 being the highest. Each high-quality file is about 10 to 12 megabytes, as opposed to the 3 to 6 megabytes per song an average consumer might listen to. For these higher-quality tunes, DeAscentis purchases music from iTunes, Amazon or beatport.com.
Midway through the week he’ll start preparing for his hour-long set, which involves organizing his music library on a number of devices.
The main piece of equipment he uses makes CDs work like turntables, allowing him to slow down and adjust the music. Occasionally, he’ll also use a controller that hooks up to his laptop. “Depending on what I’m going to be using that night, I’ll put my music on a flash drive or I’ll burn it onto CDs,” he explains.
DeAscentis says this method is pretty typical for all the DJs he works with. “Occasionally people do vinyl sets, but since almost everything is digital now that gives you a lot more flexibility to adjust what’s going on,” he says. DeAscentis prepares more music than he needs, because he says it’s good to be able to adjust on the fly to match the crowd.
DeAscentis uses a 32-gigabyte thumb drive to transport the music he’ll play at that night's gig. He uses a 3-terabyte external hard drive to back up all of his music files, playlists and personal recordings from his computer. He also stores music on his iPod and laptop for further protection.
In addition to his own website, DeAscentis uses SoundCloud to share his music — and for an additional layer of protection. “From what I’ve seen, SoundCloud ends up being a lot more important than a website,” he says. “It’s like your DJ business card. If you’re out and people want to know what you do, they can get a quick bio on you and listen to what you’ve done,” he adds.
SoundCloud provides a place online to promote his music, but it services another purpose: It enables DeAscentis to handle product work with other DJs remotely. “I can put something together and send it to someone else to work on, and lock it down to private in the meantime so people can’t listen to it before it’s done,” he explains.
Biggest Data Disaster
“I haven’t had any serious computer blowup or anything,” DeAscentis says. “As a DJ, you really wouldn’t want that to happen. I have a huge amount of music to lose, and it would be a big pain and expensive to replace."
However, DeAscentis says that saving files in the cloud has helped him avoid some show catastrophes. “I’ve had instances where my laptop is down and the gear setup isn’t what I thought it would be. Having files in the cloud let’s me pull things up and be more reactive,” he says.
Even though he’s been able to skirt disaster, DeAscentis reports that other DJs have lost a good chunk, if not all of their music because they haven’t backed up their files. “I’ve seen Facebook posts about DJs who have a gig coming up, and are begging for music from people, so it definitely happens."
When it comes down to it, DeAscentis says there are two main things that are important to protect his work as a DJ: “I’ve learned to have everything backed up securely somewhere, and to have the stuff I’m using more often readily available."
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