3 Vital Steps For DJing On YouTube (Without Copyright Hassle)

Last updated 16 November, 2021

7978

Watch the video


Prefer me to talk you through this? Check out this quick step by step tutorial video on avoiding YouTube copyright takedowns while playing a DJ set.

When it comes to livestreaming your DJ sets online, there are lots of potential choices – Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so on all have livestreaming options, and of course there are DJ-specific services, the biggest being Mixcloud.

Read this next: The Ultimate Guide To DJ Livestreaming

As soon as you try to do this though, it doesn’t take long to realise that most mainstream social media services are a no-go: Facebook and Instagram for instance are highly aggressive towards streaming copyrighted material. Mixcloud is promising but doesn’t save a video recording of your set, and building an audience is a challenge.

Turns out that if you want to livestream AND keep a recording of your stream online afterwards, there is currently only one option: YouTube.

However, while it is actually unusual to get copyright strikes on YouTube (of the “three and you’re out!” type) simply from livestreaming, it is almost certain that livestreams and videos that feature copyrighted material (ie all DJ sets) will get “flagged”. This is where YouTube recognises the copyrighted material, and takes one of a number of actions, depending on what the owner of the copyright wants.

1. YouTube bars your full recording, worldwide – nobody can see it at all
2. YouTube bars the recording in certain territories – nobody there can see it at all
3. YouTube stops you monetising your recording, but takes no further action – your recording remains playable

An example of what viewers see on the other end of this, blocked by WMG in this case.

The best outcome for you is always going to be number 3. You’re never going to be able to take the ad revenue and therefore make money from playing other people’s music on YouTube, but if your livestream and recording stay up, that’s a win.

The question is, how do you ensure that when you go live, you get outcome 3?

You do it by uploading a test recording that features all the music you want to use in your livestream, to see what YouTube does.

Learn how to perform DJ livestreams like a pro: DJ Livestreaming Made Easy

Depending on the outcome of your test, you’ll know whether you can use all the tracks you wanted to use, or whether you need to avoid one or more of them.

We know this, because it’s exactly how we “pre-approve” tracks for our own DJ livestreams, and have done for several years.

DJ streaming on YouTube
A recent DJ livestream on the Digital DJ Tips YouTube page, where all the tracks had been pre-approved using this method.

So now you know the secret, here’s how to do it. I explain the whole thing in the talkthrough video, too, which you may want to watch alongside or instead of these instructions.

How To DJ On YouTube Without Copyright Issues

1. Make and upload a test recording

Using any movie making software on your laptop (iMovie, Final Cut Pro, Movie Maker etc), make a “movie” featuring all of the music you want to play.

Easiest way is to drag all your music into your movie making software as the audio track, drag any old photo in to use as the visual element, and output the finished “video”. This video will feature all the tracks you may want to play (and have the arbitrary photo as something to look at, simply because you can’t just upload audio to YouTube).

Output this at the lowest resolution possible, as it’ll likely be quite a big file. Now, upload this as an Unlisted or Draft video (ie don’t make it public) to your YouTube channel, and wait until YouTube has processed it.

2. Drill down to identify and remove the problem tracks

Within a few minutes of processing being complete, you’ll see “Copyright claim” written by your video’s listing in YouTube Studio, hopefully with a grey “eye” or other symbol in the “Visibility” column. Don’t worry – this is normal! Indeed, it means you’re good to go and none of the tunes will get your livestream blocked.

But a yellow or red “eye” (accompanied respectively by the words “partially blocked” or “blocked”) means you have issues, and need to investigate further.

Testing videos for copyright on YouTube
All copyright claims are not equal! Here you see examples of uploads that will be fine (the grey symbols) and those that won’t and require further investigation (the yellow and red symbols).

If you see the dreaded red eye, click on the copyright claim notice to drill down to see the individual tracks YouTube has identified as being the issue. Basically, any that have a red dot next to them cannot be used in your actual livestream, so you need to get them out of your set. You’re not in trouble, and nothing’s actually happened (because the recording isn’t live), but now you know there’s an issue.

On drilling down, we see that “Your Love” by Frankie Knuckles would cause our stream/video to be blocked worldwide, and so should not be used.

Uploads with the yellow symbol and the words “Partially blocked” still have issues, but would not trigger a worldwide ban, instead, only a ban in certain countries. Again, drilling down will find the culprits. It’s up to you whether you use these tracks or not, depending on how important it is to you that people in those territories are able to view your video.

In our experience (and with apologies to people in these places), the current culprits are Iran, Syria, sometimes Denmark, and one or two others, although this does change over time. As I say, your call on these.

An example of a track you can't DJ with on YouTube
Here, “Whisper” by Dennis Ferrer and Disciples is causing the video to be blocked, but only in Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria.

So now, head back to your DJ software, and remove those tracks from your playlist so you don’t accidentally play any of them when you’re live.

3. Check your recording after you have performed your livestream

Nearly every time, if you do the above to identify tracks that will get you blocked, your livestream will go well and your recording will stay on YouTube in its entirety, no issues. But this isn’t guaranteed.

So, the next step is that as soon as you have finished your livestream and your recording is live, you should check that the actual recording itself doesn’t have any rogue tracks that have triggered a red dot – which to remind you, means that your recording is not visible to anyone worldwide.

Most of the time this livestream “pre-check” works, but occasionally, your stream still gets blocked (as happened with “Still Believe” and “Put Your Hands Together”). Trim those out to get your video public again.

If it does, you have these choices, which will be offered to you by YouTube:

1. Mute the audio from your video for the duration of the offending material (so your video will be quiet for that period of time)
2. Cut out the material entirely
3. Replace the music with something else

Of course, none of these are good (and good luck if you choose to go with option 3!). For my money, you should definitely take the second option, which will just cut out the track or tracks that are getting your video blocked, leading to your video being live again and with actual music playing beginning to end, just with a part or parts completely missing.

Read this next: How To Use Livestreaming To Get Noticed As A DJ

To put this into context, this has happened to us maybe once or twice in hundreds of livestreams, meaning probably 99% of the time, if you do steps 1 and 2, you’ll be good.

Finally…

This may seem like an awful lot of work just to livestream, but YouTube at least has robust copyright systems in place that most of the industry seems to buy into, and if you play by the rules, that means you can DJ on the service without issues the vast majority of the time.

Of course, YouTube will never encourage you to do this, and when playing with copyrighted material you always run the risk of real, serious copyright strikes. Also, there is always the chance that something will change in the future – just because all is good today with your recording, doesn’t mean all will be good tomorrow.

Get the course: DJ Livestreaming Made Easy

Ultimately, all we can do is give you the benefit of our own experience. As I said at the beginning, if you want to livestream on a mainstream service and also keep the recording, YouTube currently stands alone.

One final tip if you’re really paranoid about getting your channel into trouble is to set up a second channel just for testing videos on (you’ll notice that’s what we’ve done here). Do steps 1 and 2 on that channel, and switch to your real channel for the actual livestream itself.

Completely new to this?

Going live can be daunting, but it’s so much fun that it really is worth mastering the skill. Did you know, for instance, that on YouTube, you need at least 1,000 subscribers to go live through their “official route” – but that there are easy ways around this?

To learn how to do this right – how to get good audio, video, choose your channels, practice, prepare, perform and promote your livestreams – the fastest way is to be taken through the whole process from start to end by someone who knows.

So if that sounds like it would be of interest to you, take a look at our DJ Livestreaming Made Easy course. It’s helped 1,000s of DJs just like you to go from zero to successfully livestreaming their sets.

Black Friday Sale