2020 what a year it has been, so far. Back in March, almost overnight life as we knew it seemingly ceased to exist as the whole country was plunged into lockdown to protect us all from the dreaded lurgy. All non-essential shops, restaurants, gyms, theatres, and of course bars and nightclubs shut their doors to the public. This meant the entertainment industry, for the first time, just stopped. It meant actors, entertainers, and of course DJs were without work.
As the weeks rolled on it became apparent that life would not be returning to normal any time soon as festivals and major music events were being pushed back, postponed, and even canceled. For the first time in their careers, DJ's were gig-less. There were no dance floors to rock, no crowds to play to, no bookings coming in, and lots of spare time on their hands.
CUE - Livestreaming. While DJ live streams had been around for a long while, 2020 created a DJ live streaming boom. From the professionals such as Louis Vega, Carl Cox, and Fatboy Slim to Defected Records Virtual Festival making the headlines on BBC news, it was apparent that this was the new "normal" for the major players of the DJ world. But it didn't just stop with the superstar DJ's. Even novice, bedroom DJs, wedding DJ's and your regular club DJs jumped in on the action. DJ's all over the world were turning to live streaming their DJ sets to fill all the spare time they had as well as keeping everyone entertained in what was, let's face it uncertain and pretty grim times.
Anyone with a DJ set up and a phone, tablet, or laptop could go live and share their music and skills with the world. Sales for items such as USB sound cards, TRRS cables, iRigs, and even the pricer items such as the Evermix Box rocketed and soon enough these items had sold out almost everywhere. OBS and Streamlabs became a software that wasn't just for gamers streaming on Twitch anymore, It became standard software for DJ's all over the world.
In the early days of lockdown festivals that were due to take place became 'virtual' and staying in became the new going out. Facebook became the new nightclub and your lounge carpet a dance floor. You couldn't log on to Facebook without seeing at least one DJ live stream.
DJ's rejoiced that they could stream live across the biggest social network to their friends and fans. Well, that was until Facebook put a stop to it! Unless of course, you are Armin van Burren or David Guetta.
I'm sure, like me, you noticed that you were watching a live stream or even streaming yourself, and midway through an absolute banger of a tune, the stream would cut off?! Well, that was Facebook and it's algorithm tackling copyright. Mutes, Bans, and even Blocks all became keywords and hot topics of conversation amongst DJs. It soon became apparent that Facebook was not the place to stream your music to the world. Unless like I mentioned you are a superstar DJ with millions of followers that seemed to avoid the whole copyright issue and could stream interrupted for hours on end. I guess that will remain a mystery as to how and why they are/were immune.
So what next?
Instagram, Youtube, Twitch, Periscope, and even Zoom... DJs turned to other platforms to keep the party going but these too were riddled with issues. Twitch required the DJ to build an audience amongst thousands of users that use the platform for gaming and ask their friends and fans to leave Facebook and step into the unknown to tune in. Twitch then tightened its copyright belt, mutes and the threat of bans became a thing. Youtube, again Youtube has copyright algorithms in place the same as Instagram. And periscope, well put it this way I have never watched a DJ live stream on periscope this is probably the least popular platform of them all.
Mixcloud came to the rescue. You know that place you have posted your mixes for years, yes them. They launched a legal way for DJ's to live stream, albeit in Beta. They even gave away 3 months free subscription for anyone wanting to try this feature. *Shameless plug* You can check out our honest review of Mixcloud's streaming platform here. Great... But what's the catch?! There wasn't a catch as such but there wasn't a ready-made audience like you would have on the social networks. And being in Beta it was glitchy and had its niggles. So DJ's continued to use Facebook with it's ready-made, captive audiences and risk mutes, cut-offs and ultimately bans.
Fast forward to September 2020, Facebook has updated its user terms and conditions which come in to effect on October 1st, 2020. One of these is an outright ban on DJ live streams citing copyright legalities as one of the reasons. We have noticed that fewer live streams are popping up on our news feeds but why?
This is because Facebook is now cutting off the stream and disabling the share feature. The video is no longer saved with parts muted, it is deleted entirely. Rule breakers and repeat offenders face much harsher punishments. You risk being banned from live streaming or even worse, banned from Facebook for an unknown length of time. We have also noticed that we no longer receive that notification that says "One of your videos was affected by copyright issues." Instead, it says "Your video has been blocked for copyright issues." So no more appealing those copyright notices!
So what does this mean now for DJ Live Streaming?
Well with a new spike of the dreaded lurgy on the horizon and harsher restrictions being placed on our social lives once more, it is becoming clear that nightclubs and festivals will not be resuming this year. That means that live streaming isn't going away any time soon either.
We now know that social media is not the best place to stream your DJ set from your lounge to the world and that Mixcloud at £9 per month (a little steep for DJ's out of work) is going to require you to compete with hundreds if not thousands of other DJ's streaming live simultaneously on its platform for you to build a loyal audience. DJ's are going to need to think outside of the box to get seen or heard.
So where can DJ's play and build an audience?
Podcast - Although not live streaming podcasts are a great way of getting your sound out there. Weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly mixtapes are a great way to build an audience.
Internet Radio - This platform has been around for years and is often overlooked. Often internet radio stations are free to play platform for DJs of all skill levels to play to a global audience every week. Many Internet Radio stations have loyal fan bases already in place. Some even have adopted legal ways to stream live video not just audio if visuals are your thing.
Soundcloud/Mixcloud - Posting mixes to both of these platforms seems like an obvious one and of course Mixcloud does have the option to stream live for a fee as a bonus. These are both very competitive platforms that seem to be 98% DJ's 2% listeners. Consistency is key with both Soundcloud and Mixcloud. Regularly posting mixes helps and there is nothing in the rule book that states you can't share the links to your mixes on social media.
What's your view on copyright and live streaming in 2020? Let us know what platforms you use and how you have grown your audience.