It’s tough times for SoundCloud DJs.
The streaming service has been the go-to place for DJs to upload mixes for several years now, but following a deal with Zefr – the same company that YouTube use to scan for content uploaded without permission – more and more mixes have being removed from SoundCloud’s servers (including some of FACT’s, as well as other websites’ mix series such as Truants).
So, if you are a DJ, where do you go from here? We’ve weighed up the pros and cons of six alternative mix-hosting services, and highlighted a few smaller options to check out (though it’s worth remembering, if any of those do reach SoundCloud’s size, then they could be subject to the same issues).
Mixcloud is the most obvious current alternative to Soundcloud. It’s already used as a first port of call by radio stations like NTS, as there are no copyright issues to worry about, and it embeds neatly into websites (again, NTS is a good example of someone integrating it seamlessly into their site design). The main downfall? It’s simply not as big as Soundcloud, and doesn’t share its emphasis on reposting and sharing (it’s also a bit of a pain to skip through longer mixes, especially when you’re US-based). It’s hard to imagine a big mix on Mixcloud racking up the sort of 100k playcount that it might on Soundcloud at the moment, but if DJs need a new home for their sets, then it’s the most obvious place to start.
Official FM doubles as a way to store mixes (Sonic Router use it, as did Andrew Ryce’s Futureproofing blog) and a private promo service for labels (Hyperdub have dabbled with it for their promos). On the plus side, it looks beautiful: big images, big pages and minimal text. On the negative, although it’s billed as a place to “discover and share” music, Mixcloud’s charts mean that people are more likely to discover your mixes over there. If you’re bigger on aesthetics than you are numbers then knock yourself out, though having to request an invite rather than being able to sign up and upload straight away is a downer.
In terms of people discovering your uploads, YouTube might well be unmatched – start getting featured on that Related Video tab, and you’re potentially onto a goldmine. The playlist function also means that you don’t need to just be uploading mixed material: some of the most popular videos on the whole of YouTube simply accumulate other people’s uploads (see some of FACT’s YT playlists for examples), and if you are uploading stuff that’s not yours to share, you’re more likely to have it monetised by ads than taken down outright. It’s an endless sea of content you’re competing with, however, and only a proportion of the audience is made up of music fans.
Mixes was introduced by Beatport in 2012 as a service for its users to upload an sell mixes legally, with Beatport handling the tricky business (payment to labels and organisations like PRS). That’s a big advantage over Soundcloud right there, but don’t jump for joy too quick: to cover your back, you still need to be sourcing the material for your mixes entirely from Beatport. If you consider yourself a crate-digger, then this isn’t the choice for you – but then, Beatport probably wasn’t your thing in the first place.
The biggest advantage Mixcrate has over a lot of rival platforms is that it puts the DJ first. It bills itself as a social network by DJs, for DJs, and there’s a very clear set of rules as to what constitutes a legitimate upload (don’t play each song on average for more than four minutes, don’t upload a mix if “beatmatching and creative transitions are not apparent”). Every track on a mix, in theory, supports the artist through an Amazon link (though this often doesn’t work in practise), but the fact that there’s still no embeddable player is a real disadvantage.
Go Old School
Sorry for pissing in the way of progress, but maybe Soundcloud just made things too easy. Blogs may not be the force they once were (though we’d argue there’s certainly more good ones around than there was this time three years ago, whether they’re editorially driven or simply rips of rare records), but they allow you more personality and individuality than any Soundcloud page will. Think back to pre-Soundcloud mix series like Allez Allez – maybe, in 2015, the best way to make your mixes stand out is to look back, and compared to casually flicking through streams, people are more likely to listen to something if they take the time to download it. Get a Blogspot or WordPress account, bookmark WeTransfer, and start building your (technically illegal, but hardly prone to label interference) archive. And don’t forget – there’s still that iTunes option, or if you really want to take things back, burn some CDRs and hit the streets.
Note: These are far from the only SoundCloud alternatives on the net, though some options (Hearthis) feel a little like SoundCloud-lite, while others (audioBoom, Bandcamp) don’t quite fit the bill, but could be used in this way. Still, they might do the job for you, so check them out along with Play.FM.