SoundCloud has become a big hit with digital DJs wanting to get both their own tracks and their mixes out to the public, and we've recommended it in the past. But that's all ending, due to SoundCloud's recent policy of policing uploads for copyrighted material, sending automated messages to users informing them of violations, and unceremoniously removing their mixes from the site.
Since its launch, SoundCloud has become a creative hotbed for DJs and producers, with remixes, reworks and DJ sets fuelling its growth so far. Here's what DJ and Fool's Gold label cofounder Nick Catchdubs told the Chicago Reader: "I know DJs who play sets now completely comprised of stuff they find on SoundCloud because it's so underground. Like you'll find remixes that you've never heard before. You'll find artists that you've never heard before, before they even get to the point of being blogged or being Hype Machined."
But while the law may be grey, at least in the US (how do you apply "fair use" to DJ mixes?), SoundCloud's terms and conditions are clear: Uploading copyrighted material is not permitted. Nonetheless, this hasn't stopped the website tolerating it up until now. But as it has grown, just like other similar sites, it seems the need to assuage the copyright owners has meant it has had to take measures that aren't good news for DJs.
Because while not all copyrighted material is likely to be flagged, as SoundCloud will only take action if the copyright owner requests it (many copyright owners see services like SoundCloud as a promotional mechanism, after all), the fact is that you can no longer trust a DJ mix posted on SoundCloud to remain there.
Many DJs feel irritated by SoundCloud's policy. After all, they argue, it's not as if SoundCloud is like RapidShare or MediaFire, in allowing blatant pirating of whole albums - most of the material on SoundCloud of interest to DJs comprises DJ mixes or reworks, remakes and remixes that can't be found through official channels. Nonetheless, we are where we are, and with multiple reports of mixes being removed without warning, we can no longer recommend SoundCloud as a viable place to showcase your talents.
Our current recommendations for sharing
The service you use will depend on what you want to share. Also it's worth pointing out that in our experience, the more "commercial" the material you're trying to share in your mixes, the harder a time you're likely to have.
- If you're wanting to get your DJ mix out to the world, we advise that you don't use SoundCloud any more. We currently recommend Mixcloud, as it's free, you get unlimited uploads, and it's specifically set up to help you share your DJ mixes
- If you're uploading re-edits, reworks or remixes you've made, our current advice would be to continue using SoundCloud (Mixcloud is only for mixes, not individual tracks), but to always credit your sources and disable the download function. This means that (if you get past the auto-filtering algorithm), the copyright owner is less likely to request removal of your work, as you're crediting your sources and making copying harder. Be aware that your work might disappear, though
- If you're sharing your own original material, continue using SoundCloud, as you are operating within SoundCloud's terms and conditions
But is Mixcloud itself legal? Well, it operates from the UK, and this is what it says:
"Mixcloud has an objective to provide a superior legal alternative to file sharing. As such, Mixcloud is fully licensed by the PRS for Music and the PPL, and all playback of copyrighted songs contained within the tracklists on the site are reported so that the correct licensing royalties can be attributed to the artists."
So it appears that your mixes will remain safe on the Mixcloud site, at least for the foreseeable future.
Have you had your work removed from SoundCloud? Do you use Mixcloud? If not, where do you host your mixes online? Do you think it's right or wrong for DJs to be stopped from showcasing their talents in this way? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.