We've long warned DJs that they should not upload DJ mixes to SoundCloud - the popular audio sharing platform - because of the risk that their mixes will be removed for alleged copyright violation/s. It seems things have just gone from bad to worse in this respect, with a shocking piece of evidence that further reinforces that the platform really is utterly unsuitable for sharing DJ mixes on.
This week it has emerged on Do Androids Dance that SoundCloud has apparently granted Universal Music Group (one of the "big three" record labels alongside Warner and Sony) the right to remove content that it believes infringes its copyrights, without any involvement from SoundCloud itself in the process at all. This was revealed in an email trail involving a DJ called Greg Morris ("Mr Brainz" on SoundCloud) and the "SoundCloud Copyright Team", in which they revealed to him that Universal is blocking content as it sees fit without SoundCloud's involvement at all. Here's that part of the alleged email trail:
What this reinforces, alongside years of evidence that DJ mixes are taken down regularly and without warning (everything from radio shows to amateur mixes, although curiously big names seem to get away with it more), is that increasingly SoundCloud simply isn't a safe place to upload your DJ mixes to.
Now, let's put aside arguments over copyright here for a second: After all, "mix tapes" have always been a grey area (are they exploitative or promotional for the artists featured?) and indeed, Warner (for example) actually uses SoundCloud itself, unlike Universal which conspicuously doesn't. Plus, we're not talking about DJs making moey from their mixes, after all; we're simply talking about being able to share our work. Instead, let's look at the problem for DJs and how they can solve this.
The problem is that you need a way to show the world what you bring to the table as a DJ, and DJs by definition play other people's music. That means copyright issues, and we've hopefully shown you that SoundCloud does not have your back on this. At best, you'll put a great mix up, share the link with your friends and DJs, promoters etc, and when they come to listen, it'll be gone due to a dreaded copyright removal. At worst, you'll lose your work, have no backup of it, and it'll be gone forever.
The fact is that for material you own the copyright in or have permission to use, SoundCloud is a great platform (we use it for our artist interviews in courses like the Digital DJ Masterclass, for instance), but for DJ mixes, it really is a complete no-go zone.
Alternatives to SoundCloud
So what are you to do? As ever, we recommend services like Mixcloud. Mixcloud may look similar, but it operates on a different type of licence. One of the stipulations of Mixcloud's licence is that mixes on the service aren't downloadable (an option you don't have to have switched on in SoundCloud either, and which removes one of the bugbears of the piracy argument, although as you can see, that won't stop your mix being removed), and also it is harder to reach a big audience on Mixcloud than SoundCloud, but you've not really got much choice in that. Similar services include House Mixes and Mixcrate. Find one you like and rest assured they're made for DJs, not producers, and so your work should be safer on one of these.
Alternatively, you could host your mixes on your own site. Of course, you're still technically potentially breaking the law depending upon where you are and how / where you're hosting your mixes, but if you're doing it for artistic expression or promotional reasons (ie not offering or worse, selling, downloads) and you have both a bit of technical knowledge and a bit of cash for the bandwidth, this can be an effective way of getting your work out there. Respecting any copyright infringement requests that come in would likely be advisable (unless you want Universal's lawyers on your back, for instance), but you are crumbs in their big pie and it's my guess you'd never have an issue (Note: I am not a lawyer.)
Me? It has to be Mixcloud - worry removed from your shoulders and your mixes safely available on a smart, stable platform. But whatever you choose, please stay away from SoundCloud. They don't want you and it's getting worse.
Have you had an issue with your mixes being removed from SoundCloud? Or have you always used the service with no problems? Do you think it's unfair to have mixes removed without notice, or do you think copyright infringing mixes shouldn't have been there in the first place? Please share your thoughts in the comments.