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Top 10 iPhone tricks for DJs

By Francis Preve
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Now that the cat is out of the bag on the iPhone 3G, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the new $199 price tag will propel it into the mainstream – perhaps even ubiquity.

It’s going to take a while to assess the full impact of GPS and 3G network speeds, since the truly life-changing apps haven’t even been created.

So for now, let’s take a look at the present possibilities of the platform as they apply to the DJ community at large.

Whether you own a 2G or 3G iPhone, its true power still lies in the creative application of basic tools like email, productivity tools (calendar, notes), browsing and maps.

We’ve assembled a list of ten things you can do right now to enhance your career as a DJ and/or producer.

Before you dive in, there’s one task you should do immediately.

Password protect your iPhone.

Many of these tasks involve personal information, so if you’re not already protecting your identity and privacy, we urge you to give it further consideration before implementing any of these tips.

Let’s begin…

1. Contact info email template

Sometimes opportunity knocks and you’ve got to quickly get your info to a promoter, club owner, producer, DJ or label.

This is where the iPhone’s email app comes in really handy.

First, send yourself an email with your business contact info, as well as your MySpace and other website links.

Second, send yourself another email with the same info, but also include a few paragraphs of bio info and – if you’ve got one – a really good, cheese-free press photo.

Next time someone important asks for more info, choose the applicable email and forward it immediately before you forget.

Sometimes opportunity knocks once and only briefly, so immediate action is key.

2. Gig announcements and flyers.

Another great use for iPhone email is gig flyers.

Keep your current gig calendar and associated show flyers in a third email, ready to forward at a moment’s notice to a new fan or interested buddy.

There are three caveats here… You’ll need to keep that email up to date at all times, the show flyers should be under 200 kb, and never ever spam.

Announcements once a month should be more than sufficient – and only with explicit permission.

There’s a DJ in my town who’s constantly sending out unsolicited SMS gig announcements, sometimes multiple times in a single week!

Uncool.

3. Custom ring tones

Whether you call it vanity, pride or self-promotion, if you’ve got a Mac with the latest version of iLife, you can use your original tracks as custom ringtones.

How?

Absolutely anything you create in GarageBand can be exported as a ringtone.

First, you need to update GarageBand to version 4.1.1 or later.

Start by dragging an audio file (in any supported, unprotected format) to the arrange window.

Then create a “cycle” or loop in GarageBand and edit it down to under 40 seconds.

Once you’ve got a segment you like, select the Share menu pull-down.

There, you’ll see an option called “Send ringtone to iTunes.”

Choose that option, then open up iTunes and check your ringtones library.

Rename the new ringtone as needed and transfer it to your iPhone.

Next time your phone rings in a crowded room, everyone will hear your new track – and if people inquire about it, you’ve got an opening to talk a bit about your work.

The key here is to be succinct, humble and not come off like a vain blowhard.

But you’re a pro, so this shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Right?

4. Google maps = lifesaver.

If you travel for gigs, either regionally or nationally, it’s always a good idea to bookmark destinations like hotel and venue in advance, so you have them available in Google Maps.

This is obviously useful when driving to a gig, but it’s even more valuable when you’re in a strange city and the cab driver doesn’t have a clue.

An ounce of preparation…

5. Address book essentials on the road

Speaking of preparation, you should always have appropriate contact information when you travel.

This includes, but is by no means limited to: promoter, venue, hotel, and an area cab company (you can get this at the airport). Fill out as many fields as possible, including physical address, URL and email, as well as phone number.

It’s also a good idea to temporarily add these to your favorite contacts before you embark on your adventures.

You might also want to add regional buddies and fans, just in case there’s a good post-gig afterhours party. ;)

6. Rescue tracks

This one’s more for laptoppers than CD/vinyl DJs.

For traditional DJs, the solution for a CD or vinyl skipping is to quickly switch to the next deck.

For laptoppers, skipping isn’t a problem but crashes are a possibility, so a lot of laptop DJs bring along a CD of one or two tracks to spin in an emergency.

With an iPhone, there’s an even cooler trick.

Create a mix of two or three cool and classic tracks that aren’t in your current crate, but can maintain audience momentum.

Then, in this mix, add a sound effect for the intro – like a noise sweep or clever sampled dialogue section.

Then export the results and add it to iTunes with a name like “Rescue Mix.”

When you set up for your gig, just run an extra minijack-to-RCA connector into the mixer and if trouble strikes, plug in the iPhone and fire up the rescue MP3.

Note: First generation iPhones may require an adapter like this one.

7. Duly noted

In our opinion, the Notes application is slightly undervalued by many iPhone users.

Here’s a really good reason to start using it: Insurance.

If you already have an iPhone and an insurance policy, copy your gear inventory – including serial numbers and your insurance policy information – into your iPhone.

If you’re at away from your home or studio and tragedy strikes, it’s more likely that you’ll have your phone with you, right?

This will enable you to act immediately to start fixing the situation, which is way better than the frustration that could result otherwise.

Other uses include storing easily forgotten tech tips, like exotic key commands for resetting hardware synths.

Another great use is gear inventories for laptop gigs to ensure you arrive and depart with all your belongings.

Note: If you do this, password protection is mandatory.

8. Stupid calendar tricks

If you’re not already using your iPhone for managing your calendar, you’re really missing out on a great feature.

Obvious uses include keeping track of gigs, meetings and second dates, but here’s one that will help your production in an unusual manner.

Log your studio sessions.

Why is that cool?

Think of it this way… If you add a calendar entry every time you sit down to work on a track – including track name and start/end times – then when you’re done with the track, you can look back and determine the exact time spent on each track.

Now, this isn’t a race with yourself or anyone else, for that matter.

Some tracks take longer than others and rushing an idea is never a good strategy.

But it’s neat to look back on your finished material and say, “this track took a week, whereas this one took a month of fussing.”

If you’re a session programmer working for hourly rates, it can also really help with invoicing.

Most importantly, using the calendar in this manner helps keep you focused, because we all know it’s easy to procrastinate – and procrastination is not the path to success.

9. Uploading gig pics on the fly

One of the treasured pastimes of clubgoers and DJs alike is snapping gig photos of fans, friends and random hotties.

Well you can obviously do that on an iPhone, but did you know you can also instantly upload those images to Flickr or if you’re a subscriber, .Mac (which will soon be called MobileMe).

For Flickr, just set up your Flickr account to automatically post when it receives an appropriate email.

For .Mac a.k.a MobileMe, it’s an integrated iPhone pop-up option in your photo viewer.

As for MySpace and other social networking sites, it’s probably just a matter of time before this option becomes available in one form or another – and it’s a certainty that new iPhone 2.0 apps will take this even further, like the upcoming TypePad tool.

10. Music web sites

Okay, this one’s kind of obvious, but it’s certainly worth repeating.

Since you can add menu buttons that directly link to your favorite websites, why not create a full page of professional links.

If you’re a MySpace or Facebook user, you can even set up your preferences to notify you immediately of new messages and friend requests via email or SMS.

Here’s a brief list of relevant sites to get you started after you add Beatportal.

MySpace

Facebook (Love ‘em or hate ‘em, their iPhone-centric mobile site is incredible.)

Create Digital Music

Music Thing

Harmony Central

KVR Audio

Vintage Synth Explorer

Ebay