Ready to Steele home: the company is back in the game with a retooled line of softball bats and balls

After years of merely floating along on inertia, Steele’s is firing up its engines and is launching retooled lines of its balls and girls softball bats for the 2003 softball season.

Steele’s was purchased by Reda, which has a core competency in team sports, in early ’01 after it recognized the potential in Steele’s equity and under-leveraged brand name. The ’02 line was introduced after the purchase, but the ’03 line is where Steele’s expects to make an impact.

In addition to the grassroots marketing and sponsorships that are the company’s long-time staple, the ’03 Steele’s line will be supported with POP and graphics marketing plans that “are still in the works,” according to Reda president and GM Craig Scott.

“Our objective is to reach the core consumer through a series of local sponsorships and to get people curios about Steele’s,” says Scott. “We’re convinced that once [core consumers] see these products, they’ll be hooked.”

For ’03, Steele’s will roll out a new line of softballs, upgrades on its existing bats (including the innovative Ax Handle bats), and a line of accessories.

The Skyhawk line of balls feature an upgraded cover in both genuine and synthetic leather, as well as improved glue quality used to adhere the cover to the polyurethane core. The balls are not only designed for durability, but to give players better feel and grip. The balls are available in 11-inch and 12-inch models and in a variety of stitch colors including white, red (ASA), gold (ASA and USSA), black (NSA), blue (USSA), and green (ISA). Optic yellow balls are available in ASA and NSA models in 11-inch and 12-inch sizes. A women’s fastpitch bail with raised seems is also available in optic yellow.

Four re-tooled bats will also be rolled out for ’03. For serious slow-pitch players, Steele’s has the Triple XXX, the Triple XXX Ax Handle, and the Shark. For women’s fast-pitch, Steele’s is introducing the Ball Blaster. Both Triple XXX bats are designed with extra-long handles for less bulk and wind resistance, resulting in quicker bat speed. The Shark is one of the industry’s most durable single-wall bats and its barrel-to-handle width ratio also makes it one of the most balanced. The Ball Blaster is a bottled bat with an extra-large sweet spot for women’s fast-pitch players seeking high performance.

Exploring the female side

Facts and figures show that the market for girls’ fashion athletic shoes is oversaturated. The keys to success in that market are a well-designed pricing strategy and product differentiation, according to executives. Footwear Market Insights figures show that competition in the girls’ market is fierce, with discounters accounting for over 39% of girls’ shoe sales in 1995.

Somewhere between Nike’s high-tech domain and Wal-Mart’s $3.99 canvas shoe lies a fashion athletic shoe market for girls. While some say this niche is showing strong sales, the facts and figures reveal an oversaturated market. So what can manufacturers do for an encore?

In the past, the untapped potential in this niche market has lured a number of manufacturers into the fold. Now the question is, how is this increasingly competitive and crowded category evolving as the major players scramble to hit girls with hybrid athletic styles?

Executives say the young women’s athletic market calls for product differentiation as well as well-defined pricing strategies – under $25 seems to be the magic number. According to Footwear Market Insights, Nashville, the average (regular, not sale priced) price of a pair of girls’ dress shoes for plantar fasciitis is $20.

The competition at retail is fierce, with a huge chunk of the business – over 39 percent of the total pairs of (all types) girls’ shoes purchased in 1995 – sold by discounters, according to FMI. Mike Kormos, president of FMI, noted that many kids have been bombarded with athletic shoes since the ’80s. And while the category has received more attention of late from vendors, sales have eroded since 1990. In 1995, athletic shoes made up 45.4 percent of the total pairs sold, according to FMI, but that number has dropped steadily since five years prior when athletic shoes totaled 51.4 percent of total pairs sold for the period. The sales decline has forced many players to develop new hybrid lines for girls. While style changes, such as rubber soles in wedge shapes, high heels and mule looks, may have spruced up the active casual market, they do not replace those dress shoes for bunions made for sports. It’s a tricky market, with the infringing active-shoe market giving the athletics market a run for its money.

As a result, a number of executives said that athletics with basic styling are what’s selling best for girls. At Guess Athletic, Sylmar, Calif., clean, fashion-forward styles have been the star performers, even for little girls ages 4-10, according to Randi Berger, marketing director. The company is presently trying to expand its distribution outside of its existing independent, sporting goods and mid-tier department store base to more upscale stores including the likes of Federated, said to Berger. But despite successes, she said there is a serious challenge in this saturated market to figure out what styles work for each type of store.

“We go up against Vans, Skechers… Where we are it’s a saturated market. It’s always a challenge to find innovative and different product,” noted Berger. Guess Athletic has found the most success with its active-casual category: shoes designed for activities, but without high-performance features. While she realizes “we’re not competing with the Nike and Asics, high-performance customer,” she said, the company does sport-specific shoes for walking, jogging and crosstraining, which are targeted for young women ages 12 and up.

What Guess Athletic and others contend with are constant shifts in supply and demand. While they will never rival Nike or Reebok’s market share, a number of clever niche players could grab a small bite of the fashion athletics pie. Rebels, Los Angeles, for example, introduced two fashion athletic styles for spring, the company’s first step into this category. Priced around $22.50 wholesale, the rubber-bottomed, suede or fabric-upper shoes for high instep are targeted towards department stores and boutiques.

“We introduced the kids’ styles because we were doing well on the women’s level,” said Kellee McCormack, co-owner.

Then there’s the important upscale casual athletics niche – exemplified by Italian import Superga, shown by Foreign Invasions, New York – that can be found in better specialty stores such as Barney’s, and independents such as Little Eric. And another section of the girls’ market, Oshkosh B’Gosh, Oshkosh, Wis., does well based on the strong brand recognition factor. At Oshkosh, as with Guess Athletic, basics perform the best at retail. Jennifer May, product manager, said the company has two categories – a basic, lower-priced group, and a more elaborately patterned higher-priced category. The number one athletic shoe in the lower-priced category is a basic leather lace-to-toe at an entry level price point of $12.50. The best seller last fall in the higher price range was a girls’ leather high-top athletic wholesaling for $17.75.

Like many other vendors, May said the OshKosh athletic category is not yet fully established and sales have been flat so far this year “The whole category is tough,” she said. “Either someone is marketing a gimmick that is unisex, so you have that choice, or they are doing something very feminine. We’ve chosen to do something specifically for girls.”

But despite the challenges, many remain optimistic. At L.A. Gear; the girls fashion athletic business is growing, in both specialty athletic and department store channels, said Jim Moodhe, vice president design, marketing and development. He therefore doesn’t feel the market is saturated, and said L.A. Gear will continue tooput emphasis on product specifically designed for young girls.

“The market is so wide open for girls’ athletics,” said Glenn Spencer, who heads up the Esprit kids division at Vida Shoes, New York Another niche player with potential for capitalizing on its recognizable brand, Esprit has bumped up the classic flower-embroidery idea by using vivid color combinations and touches like zigzag stitching and patent

While girls often buy shoes designed for boys, Esprit hopes to use its girl-specific designs and sizing as its bargaining chip. “Sam & Libby is delivering. And Reebok and Nike are moving into it, but they are more function over fashion,” said Spencer. There’s a tremendous opportunity for the mainline retailer to get into this business and get some of the thunder from it”.

A filter phrasebook

Guitarists haven’t embraced the new wave of filter effects with the same fervor as DJs and remixers, but that just means there’s more room for the filter fiends among us. Here are some tips to help you speak fluent filterese.

Filtering simply means boosting or cutting particular frequencies within a signal. The tone controls on a guitar or amp are filters. But when we speak of filter effects, we usually mean a process where the blend of frequencies changes over time. Consider the wah-wah pedal–the one filtering effect every electric guitarist knows. Wah pedals are bandpass filters, which means they boost specific frequencies within a signal while removing those above and below. Pushing the pedal changes the pitch, or frequency, of the filter. Bandwidth (sometimes called Q) refers to how wide a swath of frequencies is affected. Differences in bandwidth are among the traits that distinguish different wah pedals.

Notch filtering is the inverse of bandpass filtering, as a usually narrow frequency band is removed. Notch filtering is most often used to diminish unwanted noises, but it can also create subtle phase-shifted sounds.

The sweeping sound associated with analog synthesizers is lowpass filtering. Here, only the lower frequencies are allowed through the filter. The cutoff frequency (the highest frequency that can pass through the filter) can be defined by the music’s dynamics or by an envelope generator–a synthesizer circuit that lets you specify how quickly the filter opens, and how long it remains open. Guitarists are most aware of envelope generation through envelope followers–such as the Electro-Harmonix Q-Tron and that ’70s classic, the Mu-Tron III–where the filter envelope (and thus its cut-off frequency) is controlled by the player’s picking dynamics. The usual formula is louder equals brighter, but some devices let you reverse the equation.

Most synths and filter pedals also let you specify the amount of resonance-that is, the amount of emphasis the cutoff frequency receives. Resonance (sometimes referred to as regeneration) can add anything from a subtle edge to a brain-scrambling shriek. If you hear a high, whistling sound that swoops down in pitch as the filter closes, that means the tone has a lot of resonance.

Highpass filtering reverses the lowpass formula-only the upper frequencies make it past the filter. It’s less common as a guitar effect, but it can be great for generating eerie crackling sounds that can cut through any mix.

Using Waist Cinchers – Three Stages to Do It Right

Waist training is the technique of slowly narrowing the size of the waist by utilizing a corset. The process was used widely in the Victorian period, but went out of fashion some time later. In the last few years, the use has made resurgence – mainly due to celebrities like Kim Kardashian using waist cincher openly. The use of a cincher, along with a proper diet and good exercises, can slim down your waist well enough. It can give you a sexier body shape and you can permanently remove the extra pounds from your waist.

The First Stage

While you are training your waist, you have to remember that your waist would slowly get accustomed to the constriction of the corset. You need to allow some time to your corset and break it in so that your body and your dress do not suffer any damage. You need not train too much in the initial weeks of your waist training. During the first week, you need to wear it for anywhere from 1-3 hours only. Your corset wearing should not exceed over 3 days every week. You should reduce your span of corset wearing until you get comfortable enough inside it. You should increase the span of wearing slowly, once you get adjusted. You are advised to always remove your corsets while taking steam or sauna baths or while taking showers or swimming.

The Second Stage

Gradually go on increasing the span of wearing a exercise waist trainer by 1 to 2 hours until the time that you feel comfortable wearing it throughout the day. Wear the dress on the first clasp set and it is only when it has been used enough that you should begin to use the second clasp set in order to tighten the corset. As your waist size gets reduced in size, you will not feel your corset sitting as tight on you as before. You will get more and more comfortable with time. You can move on to the next size so that you can go on with your waist cinching regimen. In the course of a few months, you will feel comfortable wearing the dress for a maximum of 10 hours every day.

The Third Stage

With a good corset bought from this blog, you can get rid of the first 2 to 4 inches quite easily. However, it is the last 4 or 5 inches that take about 1 – 3 months to be eliminated from your waist area. However, reducing every half inch from then on can take about 6 months to a whole year. In the first few weeks, your body can be compressed by some measure very easily. After that, the corset begins to compress your bones and internal organs. As a result of this, you should move down your corset size with care and ideally with proper consultation with your physician at every step of the process. Keep in mind that the body shape of every individual is different and you need to proceed with your waist cinching regimen at a pace that suits you the best.

Creating the market, not following it

In the early ’80s urban music pioneers began artfully scratching, slowing down, and reversing LP records, giving rise to the DJ art form. It was only natural that the turntable would emerge as their primary creative tool: The LP record was still the most widely used format for listening to music, and there was at least one turntable in just about every household. In the ensuing 25 years consumers abandoned their turntables and LP records, first for cassette tapes, then CDs, and now, mp3 files and the immensely popular iPod. Yet the sonic effects achieved by a deft hand manipulating an LP still define the DJ’s craft. Harnessing this advancing digital technology while facilitating analog-based performance techniques has created what Jack O’Donnell describes as a “transitional” period in the DJ market. As CEO of the Numark Group, he enjoys a unique vantage point. Aside from being a leading purveyor of DJ gear, the organization also serves as a corporate umbrella for the Alesis and Akai product lines.

To grasp what O’Donnell means by “transitional,” you only have to take a cursory look at the dramatic expansion of the Numark product line. Fifteen years ago the company effectively served the market with a selection of traditional turntables, phono cartridges, and analog DJ mixers. Today the market requires a much broader product range. Traditional turntables, like the popular TTX model are still very much in evidence in Numark’s product lineup. However, there are also a dizzying number of products that marry traditional turntable feel with various digital storage formats. There’s the new HDX, which combines a removable 80-gigabyte hard-disk and a standard size turntable platter, allowing the DJ to transport thousands of songs to a job and still enjoy traditional turntable performance. The iDJ and the iDJ2 are slick, portable units that turn a standard iPod into a full-featured DJ rig. Debuting at Summer NAMM is the iCDX, a control surface that enables the DJ to scratch, loop, and play songs from any device equipped with a USB port, whether it’s a laptop or a portable disk drive. The HD MIX is a self-contained system combining a hard drive, two jog wheels for scratching, and a mixer, centralizing all DJ controls and music in a single, portable unit. And, then there are over a dozen rack-mounted variants that offer different combinations of scratch capabilities and digital storage formats.

Assessing this varied product selection, spread out in a conference room at Numark’s spacious headquarters in Rhode Island, O’Donnell steers clear of expressing personal preferences and refrains from sweeping predictions about the future of the market. Part of this stance is the by-product of humility acquired in over two decades of product management. “Fifteen years ago I predicted that the phono cartridge would be dead in five years,” he jokes. “It’s still an important part of our business today and I’m a little less willing to make predictions.” More importantly though, his outlook reflects the conviction that DJs, along with the R&D staff at Numark, are still in the process of sorting through the different product configurations and have yet to render a verdict on the optimal format.

The first generation of DJs grew up working with the most common form of playback of the day, the turntable,” he observes. “The newer crop of DJs has grown up in the world of digital music formats and have an entirely different outlook. Our job is to offer products for both groups, as well as those users who occupy a middle ground. That’s why there are so many products in our line. We can’t foresee the next format, so we experiment, listen to our customers with an open mind, and remain flexible.”

While O’Donnell may not be entirely clear about what the ideal DJ rig will look like in five years, he has no doubt about what Numark needs to do to remain successful. In short, it all comes down to a heavy investment in digital technology and R&D. He says that in the “pre-transition” era any distributor could link up with OEM manufacturers in Taiwan, make some modifications on consumer audio products, and come up with a reasonably competitive DJ line. It’s not that easy anymore. Existing consumer audio products no longer lend themselves to DJ applications. (Ever try scratching or reversing a tune on an iPod?) This forces companies like Numark to develop a much higher level of engineering expertise. “The digital signal processing capability that allows you to manipulate a stream of digital audio and scratch, play backward, or change tempo in real-time is not something that you can buy off the shelf,” he explains. “You need a lot of in-house engineering skills.”

O’Donnell was one of the first in the industry to recognize this need for advanced R&D capabilities, and over six years ago, began positioning Numark with series of strategic investments and acquisitions. In 2001, he purchased Alesis, a pioneer in digital effects processing and recording technology. In late 2005, he acquired Akai, the company that virtually invented digital sampling. Akai and Alesis continue as strong product lines in their own right, and a conscious effort has been made to maintain each brand indentity. However, marrying three product lines under a single corporate umbrella has provided a foundation of digital expertise. This capability is evident both at Numark headquarters in Rhode Island and at the company’s engineering facility in England. It’s also reflected at Wavefront Semiconductors, an independent subsidiary based in Seattle that develops digital microprocessors for other music products manufacturers.

Pooling the engineering resources has resulted in a range of potent synergies. Some are straightforward, like being able to order Motorola microprocessors in higher volumes to get better pricing. Others are less obvious, like developing cross-platform operating systems that can manage effects processing in products ranging from an Alesis Fusion workstation to an Akai MIDI sequencer. Most importantly, this collective R&D effort has spawned a steady stream of innovative new products that open creative horizons and generate new sales opportunities for retailers.

Under Alesis banner, the company is offering a line of products that taps into the growing interest in “podcasting”: posting on the internet for downloading. At Summer NAMM, Alesis will be exhibiting two complete podcasting kits, one based on Firewire, the other on USB, that offer everything you need to mix and record eight channels of audio for placement on the web. O’Donnell says that this new product category will appeal to a nearly limitless range of users. “Just about anyone could find a use for this,” he contends.

At Akai, advanced technology is evident in the new MPD24 USB/MIDI Pad Control Unit. The new unit borrows the velocity and pressure sensitive pads that made Akai’s previous “Music Production Centers” the standard among hip-hop performers. However, it can interface more effectively with external storage devices, making it virtually impossible for DJs or producers to run out of space for their assigned sound.

Numark is pushing the product envelope with new applications that enable the DJ to seamlessly incorporate visual images with music. The NuVJ video controller is the first offering in what promises to be a rapidly expanding family of products. Designed in partnership with ArKaos, a leading developer of video processing software, the NuVJ console allows DJs to trigger images and video clips, add effects to them, and mix them with a cross-fader tool that looks a feels like a standard DJ mixer.

The hardware controller works seamlessly with existing DJ gear and the software is compatible with most computers and laptops. “In the past, the ability to incorporate video With music was constrained by the cost of processing power,” says O’Donnell. “Now that that’s no longer an issue, we’re working to create an entirely new video-based product category. Every DJ isn’t going to rush to incorporate video, but for some, video can be a beautiful complement to the music. We think this has tremendous potential.”

Over the past three years retailers have reported that the DJ market has suffered from flat sales. O’Donnell shrugs off the complaint, in part because Numark’s sales have been on a steady upward curve, but also because he feels that the market is on the cusp of significant growth. Drawing an analogy with the consumer electronics business, he relates, “Five years ago, if you talked to any big electronics retailer, they would tell you that their television business was dead. Consumers were content with their Sony Trinitrons and didn’t see any reason to upgrade. Then you had the introduction of these great flat screen plasma televisions, consumers got excited, and all of a sudden, televisions became the industry’s hottest product category.” Can Numark’s expanding array of digital DJ gear have a similar affect on the DJ market? O’Donnell answers with an emphatic affirmative. “We’re not just reacting to market trends, we’re creating trends with innovative new products,” he says. “Our current array of gear, not to mention the stuff we have in the pipeline, will bring people into stores and spark demand. We are giving DJs reasons to upgrade their rigs.”

Throughout his career, Jack O’Donnell has demonstrated an uncanny sense for harnessing technology to address consumer needs and wants. In the late ’80s, as a vice-president of Stanton Electronics, he was one of the first to appreciate the emergence of the DJ market, and tried to persuade his superiors to address it. When they shrugged off his suggestions, he acquired Numark and pursued the market himself. With similar acumen, he identified opportunities at both Alesis and Akai that others in the industry overlooked. Given this track record, his bullish forecast for a coming DJ boom deserves more than a respectful hearing.

Grab a Partner: Working with DJs

Occasionally I’m asked why I collaborate with DJs when I do a dance remix project. In fact, the question usually comes out like this: “Why do you work with DJs? You’re already a keyboardist and a producer. What the heck does the DJ do when you’re remixing a track?

The answer is as varied as the collaborations themselves. Some DJs have experience with grooveboxes and wave editors. Other DJs have an encyclopedic knowledge of music and beats. Consider how much time you spend learning about filters, sequencers, and the latest effects plug-ins. Well, professional DJs spend the same amount of time honing their craft, perfecting segues, checking out new tracks, and spinning live sets.

While I love doing remixes on my own, there’s a lot of knowledge that these cats bring to the table, and we all know that more knowledge is a good thing, right? So this month, we’ll be covering the various ways that you can collaborate with DJs to break new ground with your sound.

THE COLLEGE OF MUSICAL KNOWLEDGE

One of the indicators that a DJ is worth his or her salt is the depth of their musical knowledge. If they’re obsessed with having the latest tracks before everyone else and they can rattle off a litany of every significant hit and underground white label record – organized by genre, label and year – then you know you’ve struck gold.

Why’s this important? Well, for one thing, someone with this degree of meticulous attention can turn you on to tons of new tracks that are likely inspire and move you. For another, they can listen to your mixes and make recommendations based on what the current trends are. Like it or not, remixes are to music what fashion is to clothing. If you’re doing something that’s sooooo last month, a good DJ will steer you in the right direction.

What’s more, because of their practical experience in clubs, they know what the crowds like. Accordingly, they can tell you what kind of response your track will get, and what labels will be most receptive to your sound. In a way, knowing a successful and knowledgeable DJ is almost like having a virtual A&R veep around.

ARRANGEMENTS

Arranging a dance mix is very different from writing a three-minute pop song. Often, newbie remixers miscalculate how long the various segments of a remix should be, with introductions that are too short and breakdowns that aren’t long enough. One of the keys to dance floor success is to build momentum with your arrangement.

Because their livelihoods depend on it, good DJs instinctively understand the elements of a good remix arrangement. They know how to hype up a crowd with the right type of breakdown, and how to bring the choruses back at the right time for maximum impact. For example, Licious, one of the DJs I’ve been working with for the past year or so, has helped me develop some techniques for constructing killer intros that are easy for novice DJs to mix into, yet are also interesting enough to keep the crowd’s attention as they evolve. One very simple formula he uses is to start with drums or percussion only, introducing new elements every eight measures. Then he waits at least 24 bars before bringing in the bass or rhythmic synth parts.

MASTERING

Club sound systems often sound radically different than your home studio monitors. It can be hard to get a handle on how to deal with the low end, much less the overall EQ and dynamics of your mix. If you’ve partnered with a DJ who has a residency at a local club, they’ll often let you try out your mixes on the club system before the crowd arrives Better still, your DJ can mix your tune into another song, so you can hear your track in relationship to an established hit. This ear-opening courtesy has saved my butt on more than one occasion. Until I heard them on the club system, I would’ve sworn those mixes were club-ready. While the track plays at the club, grab some paper and take notes. Sometimes there are many subtle adjustments that you’ll want to make, and your notes will ensure that you remember them all.

THE MIX MAN COMETH

Gabriel & Dresden are quickly becoming one of the hottest progressive remixing teams around, reworking tracks from top artists like Annie Lennox and Britney Spears. In a recent discussion with Josh, the keyboard-playing and programming half of the duo, explained how working with Dave Dresden raises his mixes to new heights.

“With over 30 remixes under our collective belt,” says Josh, “I can tell you without a doubt that working with Dave has changed the way I make – and think about – music, for the better. Dave’s 17 years of buying music and DJing gives him a perspective that is unique. His ear is tuned to what will work on the dance floor as well as what will still be remembered when the lights turn on.

“I’ll admit that it took me a while to get used to the idea of working with someone who wasn’t a Logic wizard or a synth-programming god, but now that we’ve done so much together, the lines between the technical and creative roles have blurred. We communicate on a musical level, and whatever needs to be done on the computer to make that happen, I just do it. I view him as an equal even though I’m working the gear. It’s sometimes hard for us super-technical geeks to let a bull/DJ into our china shop/studio, but I couldn’t recommend it more. It will seriously change the way you do things in ways you couldn’t predict.” Coming from a source as successful as Josh, this is sound advice to consider.

How to market to DJs – A guide for mi retailers

The DJ products business is exploding. Sales for the entire market, including CD players, turntables, DJ mixers, and special-effects lighting units, are up 22.7 percent since 1997. But while many music retailers would love to get a piece of the action, for some, the nascent mini-culture developing around DJ performance and technology represents strange, uncharted territory. Being hip (or faking it convincingly) to the ‘clientele in this decidedly youth-oriented medium could provide a material advantage in selling the gear, so Music Trades asked Tascam’s new DJ product specialist, DJ Davey Dave (a.k.a. Dave Arevalo), to help bring us up to speed.

Dave Arevalo was first drawn to DJ’ing when, at the age of 12, he saw a Malcolm McLaren music video that featured a group of New York DJs called the World Famous Supreme Team. “They were using turntables like a new instrument,” he recalls. “I’d never seen anything like it. I got my first turntable a year later, and since then I’ve never stopped.”

In the fifteen years that he’s been spinning, Davey Dave has established himself as a leading DJ artist. He was working on record label radio promotions for Geffen Records, doing studio DJ work with various artists, and producing records when he was recommended to Tascam in 1999. Tascam, the professional division of TEAC Corporation, was seeking the services of an expert consultant to develop its line of products for the fast-growing D Jmarket. Arevalo “proved himself” for a year by demonstrating equipment at NAMM shows and conducting educational clinics at retail stores. Then in January 2001 Tascam hired him as its full-time DJ product specialist.

Retailer education is one of Davey Dave’s primary responsibilities at Tascam. “I show dealers how the products work, give them tricks and tips, and get them excited about selling the gear,” he says. But the lesson that he is currently stressing is that DJs are not all alike. In fact, there are four basic types of DJs, each with distinct equipment needs.

“Scratch DJs use a turntable as a musical instrument, much like a guitarist uses a guitar,” he explains. “They use special `scratch sample’ records that contain popular samples and bits of music to create and manipulate sounds and create percussive rhythms. Dirtstyle Recordings is a popular brand of scratch record. Scratch DJs typically perform at hip hop events, DJ competitions, often within a band. The best scratch DJ right now is an artist named DJQ-bert. A performance/rave DJ uses both CDs and vinyl records in conjunction with other instruments such as a drum machine, a sampler, keyboard synths, etc. to create a musical performance. The style of music they create is referred to as `electronica,’ and their venues include raves and concerts.” [Although Arevalo was too modest to admit it, Uberzone, a duo featuring him and writer/producer Q, is considered a leading proponent of the performance/rave genre.] “A mobile DJ plays recorded music primarily for dancing at weddings and other formal functions. The musical styles they usually cover include current top 40 hits, oldies, or disco selections. And, as its name suggests, a club DJ might perform in nightclubs, playing various styles from electronica to rap depending on the theme of the night.”

Being aware of these distinctions is key to a retailer’s success in selling the right products, Dave emphasizes. “For example, you wouldn’t sell a mobile DJ’s CD player to a scratch DJ. A scratch DJ primarily uses vinyl, and he’ll want, say, a simple two-channel mixer, whereas a mobile DJ might not even touch vinyl. He’ll want a dual CD player. You have to know your customer.”

Tascam is in the process of expanding its DJ product lineup to serve all these categories, but it has already been especially successful in the performance/rave market with its CD-302 dual CD player and X-9 digital DJ mixer. Davey Dave comments, “From a dealer’s perspective, the performance/rave DJ might be considered the prime market, because he’s the one who’s looking to buy the most equipment, and the most high-end gear.”

Dave explains that over the years DJs have pushed the idiom’s technology envelope by demanding more functionality out of the gear. “It’s really taken off over the last three years,” he says. “Five years ago, who would have thought that you could scratch on a CD? And not long ago there was no such thing as a mixer with a built-in sampler. Now there are units with one or two built-in samplers, and more and more DJs are buying those mixers and using audio samples in their performances. In the future, I’m sure we’ll see more DJs incorporating computers and MP3 sets in their setups. I’m experimenting with that right now.”

Keeping up with fast-evolving DJ equipment technology presents a real challenge to retailers, but also an opportunity, since customers will be frequently stimulated to upgrade. Dave points to the advent of scratchable CDs spawning a new market sub-segment called digital turntablists who do vinyl-type scratching on CDs. “Even so,” he says, “CDs will probably never totally eliminate vinyl. First, there are certain specialized scratching techniques you can only do on vinyl. Also, vinyl scratching is just so imbedded in the market. But the CD provides its own unique possibilities, such as looping a four-bar phrase of the music on-the-fly. You can’t do that on a vinyl turntable.”

Tascam’s cutting-edge DJ product development is the factor that most attracted Davey Dave to the company. He is openly proud to represent products like its CD-302 and X-9 to music dealers. “They’re both high-end pieces aimed at the professional performance DJ market,” he says. And by performing year ’round–about every second night during the peak summer season–Davey Dave is a powerful emissary for Tascam’s wares.

“We’re excited to have Davey as one of our product specialists,” says Tascam Product Training Manager Karl Moet. “DJ products are becoming a crucial part of Tascam’s line, and with Davey’s background and 15 years’ experience, he’ll be a tremendous asset to our DJ products development process.”

Traditionalists might scoff at how the DJ equipment has “lowered the bar” for participation in music-making, but retailers would be wise not to. It is precisely because of the craft’s gentle learning curve that it is being swarmed by a previously unreachable population–customers who needn’t be whipped, tricked, or cajoled into practicing, whose motivation is not tied to the vagaries of publicly funded school programs, and whose equipment pricing is being fanned by their high expectations of a young technology.

“You don’t have to be able to read or write music to be a DJ,” says DJ Davey Dave. “When you want to play guitar, you have to learn how the chords and various playing techniques. In DJ’ing, the possibilities are endless. There are no rules; how you want to play the music or scratch the CD or record is totally up to you. You’re only limited by your own creativity. That’s why it appeals to so many people.”