Thoughts on DJZ: the new EDM startup so crazy, it just might work
The latest company to throw its hat in the EDM web property ring is DJZ, a company founded by Seth Goldstein, the man responsible for making last summer less boring with the then-venerable Turntable.fm. This time around, however, Seth is going after a far more lucrative — not to mention sizable — demographic of 12-20 year olds, and he’s cookie-cutting the genre to make it easily digestible for future generations.
DJZ consists of two main components: a web-based platform with news and DJ/event information, and an iOS app called DJZTxT that is basically the bastard child of a drumpad and Emoji. The website has a news component meant to keep readers coming back daily, but also contains constantly-updating DJ profile pages which pull content from Instagram, Twitter, SongKick (for upcoming concerts), and recent news posts. The content is conveniently broken down into sub-sections of things to watch, stuff to listen to, and news articles to read, making it easy to occupy your time with whatever type of media you’re in the mood for.
There are things like YouTube videos from big-name DJs and SoundCloud mixes updated with some regularity, but the content is rather rudimentary at this point. That certainly fits to the casual or completely new dance music fans Goldstein seeks to attract, but it also severely limits its adoption as a reputable news source by more serious listeners. Despite the jarring colors and childish design aesthetic, it is a slickly designed and built website that is far better than most “music blogs” out there. Where it lacks — at this point at least — is in content.
The second part of the DJZ equation is DJZTxT, an iOS app that let’s you instant message Twitter and Facebook friends “tracks” composed of Emoji. It’s a bit jarring at first and there isn’t much logical progression between the icons and sounds (though the “okay” hand gesture does comically invoke Lil’ Jon’s instantly recognizable catch phrase), but it does get fun after you play with it a bit. Unfortunately it also gets old kind of fast. Friends I showed the app to found it oddly intriguing, but shared similar sentiments about its ability to keep peoples’ attention. You can send traditional text messages along with your musical compositions, but the keyboard defaults to Emoji and text messages play second fiddle.
One function I am not a fan of is the app’s tendency to auto-play mini-mixes whenever you switch to it from the notification bar – regardless of whether or not your phone is in silent mode. It makes the whole experience rather awkward in places like restaurants and movie theaters, and drives home the reality that this isn’t going to replace the quieter iMessaging or texting that so many high school students do in class already these days. If anything, the app should act as a gateway to DJZ’s other online offerings, but there’s nary a mention of things like DJ pages or news content anywhere within it. I am sure (read: hope) this is planned down the line, but right now the app feels more like a novelty than a way to sell people on DJZs other services. Then again, with plans to sell samples from popular songs as in-app purchases, the app’s true utility may be a moot point if people actually continue to use it.
DJZ has a lot of potential, but the first incarnation is caught somewhere in the middle of being too basic for advanced listeners and too curated for newcomers to the dance space. Though Goldstein and his team seem to have a grip on the younger crowd (a crowd which I am admittedly not a part of), it’s important to remember that 13 year-olds amused by Emoji songs don’t necessarily have the ability to purchase concert tickets — and possibly not even MP3s. Marketers and advertisers could find DJZ to be the ideal medium to reach this demographic, but I’m not sure how desirable this class of kids even is. Most folks over 35 completely reject the dance craze altogether, leaving DJZ with one other very desirable demographic to go for: those who are already going to parties all the time.
Removing some of the cheesiness — or at least adding more utility — to the app could bring in droves of new users in the 18-35 demographic. Combined with a more robust content arm, the combination could make DJZ the next big brand in dance music. Group messaging at festivals is notoriously treacherous, and a future incarnation of DJZTxT could be the answer many event-goers have all been waiting for, and possible festival and brand partnerships could lead to major revenue streams for the company. Regardless, it seems impossible to me that DJZ will become more than a novelty without a major investment in content to keep a captive audience focused on the brand. Effectively integrating that content with a more functional mobile app could help DJZ become the pop culture powerhouse of the current party-going generation.
Goldstein is taking a bold move by going after the largely-untapped market of middle and high-school aged kids with DJZ, and the company’s kid-friendly design is a testament to that. The DJZTxT app could become a hit and follow a similar viral trajectory to a service like SnapChat, or it could completely fail to catch on. It remains to be seen whether this group of kids even cares about dance culture just yet, and even if they do, whether the “kiddie” design of DJZ will be perceived as a turnoff.
The company will no doubt undergo many changes as it develops as a brand and as a voice, but who it ultimately decides to appeal to — and how well it succeeds at satisfying them — will be the deciding factor in whether DJZ becomes the next voice of the EDM generation, or just another byproduct of the EDM craze.
PS: The avatars are pretty awesome.