We sent Simon Huxtable and Daz Pearson (two of our nerdiest, techy, geeky DJ gadget lovers) to Birmingham’s BPM exhibition and they loved it

This was our first time at BPM, but not my first exhibition. I thought I would be prepared for what the next two days would hold. I was not. Over 10,000 visitors, more than 400 artists and speakers, 300 brands, 80 learning sessions and panels across 15,000 square meters of exhibition hall, the sheer size of it blew our minds. Accompanying me on this 2 day tech bender was Daz, our global radio operations manager.

BPM is a whirling fireball of energy, noise and excitement that illuminates the nights sky and blinds you with its brilliance. The first thing that really registers on entry to the event, is the noise. Its deafening. Stall upon stall playing a cross section of music, or showcasing turntablism, or the latest DJ gadgets. Its a tech geek paradise.

The second great thing about shows like BPM, is its very hands -on. Anyone who DJs, produces, or even has a more then mild interest in the scene, has the opportunity to touch, feel and try everything from Korgs’ brilliant Volca range of synths, to Rolands flagship new Aira products. It was very clear who the big players were too, with a massive Pioneer stage right in the entrance next door to an Allen & Heath X:one stage. Some of the bigger DJ stores were also well represented like DJKit.com who were packed from start to finish selling all manner of gear at discount prices.

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BPM is no one dimensional beast, in the learning zone we found many things of interest to us. Point Blank tutors gave regular talks and demonstrations of using Traktor as well as useful creative techniques which may have been overlooked by digital DJs like phasing, using duplicate tracks, acapella mixing and much more. Native Instruments were also well represented promoting their new Stems project, which personally, I think is way, way better than remix decks, and sure to really come into its own in the next 12 months. Point Blank is an approved training centre for Apple, Ableton, Steinberg and Native Instruments based in London, Los Angeles and online. Voted ‘Best DJ & Production School’ by DJ Mag for six years running providing professional tutor lead music courses and learning programs.

‘Creative Mixing 101’ and an ‘Essential DJ skills introduction’ covered a multitude of basics in mixing techniques such as ‘drop mixing’ and ‘key mixing’ through to more technical scratching techniques, looping and manual ways of creating effects such as delay and echo should the club equipment you may be faced with in certain scenarios not be up to a satisfactory standard.

“…it’s always advantageous and encourages students to learn the manual way of performing certain effects instead of just pushing a button which does it for you” explained tutor Ben Bristow.

Mr. Bristow was very informative and knowledgeable not just in his technical DJ methods but also in future updates forthcoming in Traktor to support the new ‘Stems’ functionality. The latest update in the Traktor Scratch Pro 2.9 software does offer a stems deck option however it does not currently display the four individual stem channels like the D2 controller. He did however advise NI were working on an update available from the service centre post-Christmas which will address the high CPU issues in running four stem decks in each individual track deck. He also touched on areas such as TSI (Traktor System Information) templates which you can search for using Google, iTunes Smart Playlists for better music management in Traktor, Gemini Duplicate Finder (Mac only) which scans your music folders for duplicate tracks giving the option to delete duplicate music files. Also the differences in how Traktor and Mixed in Key both display the key analysed in scanned music files within their own software.

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What particularity got our attention was how to create a bass line effect using loops and echo effects with hi-pass filters to cut through and create your own patterns to play over your master track. It was quirky tips and tricks like this we were hoping to learn and walk away with from these workshops. Finally, and somewhat fitting as it was also the DMC UK Finals at this year’s BPM, Ben talked us through the art of scratching explaining and demonstrating the ‘transform (closed fader to open)’ and ‘flare (open fader to closed)’ technique using both beats and accapella’s. Something I will now practise myself. The workshops were engaging with plenty of questions being asked from the floor from all levels of experience whether they were, bedroom, club or radio DJs. I highly recommend checking out Point Black’s website for tutorials and online courses.

For us, the panels at a conference or exhibition can really add depth and spark much needed discussion, however, they aren’t always the best attended or promoted aspects on the whole. Therefore, items like ‘Standing Out as a DJ’ and ‘What a Club Manager looks for when booking DJs’ were typically busy, everyone whats to know the secret and have that edge, but the more interesting ones, such as Discussing the future of synthesisers, or how DJing will change over the next 10 years were very sparsely populated – in fact DJing: The Next Decade, which I thoroughly enjoyed had about 10 people, 8 of which were press! BPM also gave back, and realised that the music business is a two way street now, so it was with some curiosity that we attended the Demo Listening panel to hear what the next generation of producers were making.

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‘Breaking into Radio’ was a seminar held in the green learning area hosted by Digital DJ Tips. An obvious area of interest to myself we decided to head on over for a very informative presentation by radio guru David Dunne. David has produced and/or presented over 2000 dance music radio shows in his career so far. There were a mixture of people in attendance from pirate radio producers, live radio producers and syndicated radio shows. His wealth of knowledge was projected smooth and precise covering all types of radio shows and which types of stations to contact including online, community to FM stations and how to pitch your show respectively.

What Daz liked about the seminar was how he engaged with us to create individual case study scenarios giving examples of difference ways to approach getting your radio shows on air and out to the public. Advice including who to pitch your radio show to and the best methods in doing so, how your radio show should be structured, what financial return you can expect from radio broadcasting, material and language you should avoid if your radio show is on a global scale were all in his tight but well-presented itinerary.

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Aside from the DMC Finals, we also stumbled upon a freestyle DJ competition judged by, among others, The Tidy Boys. Following some polite advice from the presenter on use of bad language, Amo uttered the greatest statement of anyone judging a competition has ever said, “As a DJ you have to stand out. Theres two ways of doing that; playing some nice music or showing us your willy. Thankfully, you chose to play nice music, because I didn’t want to see your cock!” Simon Cowell, eat your heart out!

DMC UK finals were something special to round off a brilliant exhibition. The level of skill displayed by these guys was truly inspirational, and for a complete beginner like me, as infuriatingly mesmeric as it was magical. As we waited for the winner to be announced, we were treated to an off the cuff performance from beatboxer MC Khan and the 2014 DMC World Champion Mr Switch. For the first time ever in their 30 year history, 2 DJs shared the title, and both will receive gold plated Rane mixers!