Native Instruments has announced a new multitrack file format for DJs and producers called "Stems," which breaks down song into 4 isolated stereo parts or stems. This allows DJs more control of the parts (think bass, synths, lead and backgrounds), giving them the ability to add effects on just one part of the song.
There are already a number of multitrack file formats available like the good old Broadcast Wave file, FLAC, or the new MPEG-H or multitrack Ogg (.mogg), but the Stem format has a couple of things going for it that none of the others have.
First, it comes from Native Instruments, who will be incorporating it into its popular Traktor app later in the year.
Secondly, the format will also be available for sale on the Juno, Beatport and Traxsource sites starting in June. Having store support gives the format a legitimacy that others failed to achieve.
Probably the best part of the format is that its open source and not proprietary, with all details on how to create Stem files soon to be made public. A Stem Creator Tool app will also be available.
Also, Stem files are based on the MP4 format, which means that you'll be able to treat them like MP3s in terms of ID-3 metadata editing, which is an extremely important part of music creation these days. You'll also be able to play them back on any audio player, although you won't have control of the individual elements.
The new format will carry a ".stem.mp4" file extension.
While this tool is squarely aimed at DJs, it will be interesting to see if other audio sectors come up with ideas of how to implement it as well. Maybe the days of easily being able to "create your own mix" are right around the corner.
Here's a video that explains Stems in more detail.
Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.