First Floor #34 – Mixcloud Live: A Legal Way to Livestream?
a.k.a. An interview with Mixcloud co-founder Nico Perez about their new livestreaming platform.
|Shawn Reynaldo||Apr 21|| 3||1|
Hello there. I’m Shawn Reynaldo, and welcome to First Floor, a weekly electronic music digest that includes news, my favorite new tracks and (usually) some of my thoughts on the issues affecting the larger scene / industry that surrounds the music. If you haven’t done so already, please consider subscribing to the newsletter by clicking the button below.
ON MY MIND
Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a lot about livestreaming. (In fact, two different editions of the newsletter have been devoted to the topic.) With everyone stuck at home and mass gatherings unlikely to come back anytime soon, more and more DJs are taking their craft online. People can debate whether that’s a good or bad thing, but either way, it’s happening, and opening up all sorts of new things in the process.
Just yesterday, Mixcloud announced the launch of Mixcloud Live, a new livestreaming functionality that will piggyback on its existing streaming platform. (There’s no official announcement page on their site yet, probably because it’s still in beta, but some information has been posted in their Help Center.) For the electronic music world, this is a particularly intriguing development, as Mixcloud Live represents the possibility of a completely legal platform for DJs looking to livestream. Even better, it’s coming from a company that is already a widespread go-to for many DJs—especially those with radio shows—who want to post their mixes online.
As someone who’s taken a keen interest in the idea of artists being compensated when their music is played (both online and in the club), the idea of a potential livestream platform that both understands electronic music culture and values getting everyone paid is exciting. Curious to find out more, I asked Mixcloud co-founder Nico Perez if he’d be up for a little interview. He agreed, and our Q&A, which was conducted via email, is as follows:
Shawn Reynaldo: What exactly is Mixcloud Live?
Nico Perez: A purpose-built livestreaming platform for DJs, artists and audio creators of all kinds.
To confirm, Mixcloud Live works with both audio and video livestreams?
Yes, it works with both, though the video is optional.
Will the video be streamed through Mixcloud's own player, or have you partnered with another platform / company?
All audio / video is streamed through a Mixcloud player.
Was Mixcloud Live in the works before the COVID-19 crisis, or is it something your company has put together during the past month?
During the past month, mainly due to COVID-19, we’ve received an unprecedented level of demand from the Mixcloud community to build livestreaming functionality. It’s a massive task that we’ve been working on day and night to get into everyone's hands as fast as possible.
The current version of Mixcloud Live is a beta. What additional features / functionalities are planned and when can we expect to see them?
Auto-archiving to Mixcloud, emoji reactions and much more that I can't talk about yet!
To confirm, Mixcloud Live is only available to Mixcloud Pro subscribers?
Are there any plans to open up Mixcloud Live to non-subscribers? If not, why?
Livestreaming takes a large amount of bandwidth and infrastructure costs, so it is only available for Mixcloud Pro members.
Are livestreams covered by Mixcloud's existing licensing agreements with labels and / or performance rights organizations?
Livestreaming, like radio, requires a license through performance / collective rights organizations.
Is there any possibility that a livestream through Mixcloud Live could be taken down due to copyright / licensing issues?
There is a possibility that someone who is not a member of any collective rights organizations could request a DMCA take-down, but in practice it is extremely rare.
Will Mixcloud Live include any sort of tipping / donation functionality for creators looking to monetize their livestreams?
The Mixcloud Select program has been built into Live from day one. Launched last year, the program enables creators to earn an income directly from their fans who support their channel for a small monthly contribution, and we believe this is a more sustainable model than tipping. We're passionate about enabling more creators to earn an income this way, and pushing new models and new systems in response to COVID-19.
Will some sort of song-identification software be running during Mixcloud Live livestreams? Is it equipped to identify songs in the moment?
Yes, we will run our Content ID over all livestreams once they are completed.
For artists whose music is played by Mixcloud Live users (e.g. DJs), what kinds of royalties are being paid to rightsholders?
Royalties are paid on a per-track basis. Many of the deals we have are confidential, but some of the rates are public; for example, the SoundExchange rates in the USA are here.
Is any integration with other platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, YouTube) planned for Mixcloud Live?
Not at this time.
Will video livestreams through Mixcloud Live be archived on the site?
The audio will be archived, but not video since that would require an entirely different right (sync).
Are the royalties paid on archived livestreams the same as what is paid for the initial live broadcast?
Archive or listen-again rates are slightly higher.
Will Mixcloud Live users have the option to submit full tracklists once their livestreams are complete?
Will archived livestreams be playable if a full tracklist has not be submitted?
Yes. We run our Content ID over everything uploaded, so the user-inputted tracklist is not obligatory.
Will Mixcloud listeners / viewers be able to skip forward and backward when checking out an archived Mixcloud Live session? Will that functionality be affected by whether or not a full tracklist has been submitted?
Forward scrubbing is available for everyone. Backward scrubbing is available for Mixcloud Premium subscribers across the whole platform, and Mixcloud Select subscribers for a particular channel, regardless of whether a user tracklist has been submitted.
— — — —
It’s obviously too early to tell if Mixcloud Live can gain a foothold in what’s already a crowded livestreaming landscape, but seeing how this all plays out will be interesting. Right off the bat, it’s encouraging that livestreams will now be possible on a platform that most DJs are already familiar with, especially one that has made artist income and sustainability a part of its stated mission. (Mixcloud Live certainly seems more compatible with DJ culture than Twitch, a largely gaming-focused company owned by Amazon.)
At the same time, I would have preferred to see Mixcloud Live made available to all users; while I can certainly understand Mixcloud’s impulse to generate additional revenue, requiring potential livestreamers to have a paid subscription to their Pro service is a paywall that will likely discourage a lot of DJs from giving it a try. I also question their decision to filter all monetization through Mixcloud Select; that option may make sense for artists who plan to livestream and provide content to their fans on a regular basis, but it won’t help DJs looking to drum up a little monetary support from viewers while doing a one-off livestream. (Of course, they could potentially post their Paypal or Venmo information and ask for donations that way, but perhaps Mixcloud is missing an opportunity to set up something that’s more direct / easier for both artists and viewers alike.)
Beyond that, there are basic technical and functionality concerns of course; for example, will the new Mixcloud video player look good? Will it be easy to navigate? Will their Content ID program ever be able to identify (and preferably post) the names of tracks in the moment, as they’re being played? And while the emphasis of livestreaming does tend to be on the “live” aspect, it’s unfortunate that the video portion of Mixcloud Live streams won’t be archived. Intentional or not, Mixcloud already has an important archival role in the electronic music world, and ideally they could figure out a way to navigate the legal issues and extend that role to video as well.
Mixcloud Live may not be perfect, and the royalties it generates for most artists will likely be minuscule, but at the very least, its foundation appears to be solid. It’s not often that I would describe myself as even cautiously optimistic about anything related to the music industry—especially when tech is involved—but it feels like there’s potential here, and I’m excited to see what happens.
(Quick editorial note: This is the first time I’ve ever run an interview here in the newsletter. Please let me know if this is something you enjoyed and / or would like to see more of in the future.)
ANOTHER THING I WROTE
Every month, DJ Mag highlights of batch of “emerging” artists that deserve your attention, and the freshly published April edition kicks off with a blurb I wrote about talented NYC selector, booker, writer and radio presenter DJ Voices.
A round-up of the week’s most interesting electronic music news, plus links to mixes, articles and other things I think are worth sharing.
First Floor won a grant! Last month, Substack (the platform I use to publish this newsletter) announced a grant program to help writers who’d been affected economically by the pandemic. I applied—as did nearly 600 other newsletter writers—and somehow First Floor was among the 44 winners chosen. It’s an honor to be among such great company, including my former RBMA colleague Anupa Mistry and many other excellent writers, and of course the money will be a big help too. Thanks so much to Substack and of course to everyone who’s been reading and supporting First Floor over the past eight months. I continue to be amazed (and flattered) that people are actually reading this thing every week.
Bandcamp is doing it again. Although the full announcement won’t be made until next Monday, reports are circulating that the platform will once again be supporting artists by waiving its usual 10-15% percentage of sales revenue for 24 hours on Friday, May 1. The first time Bandcamp did this (back on March 20), the site made $4.3 million in sales, about 15 times more than usual.
Writing for the Guardian, Gabriel Szatan laid out the perilous state of the international festival circuit, which at this point is largely at the mercy of forces beyond organizers’ control (including regional and national governments and what decisions they make about mass gatherings in the months ahead).
Jamie xx surprised everyone with a new single called “Idontknow.” It’s his first new solo material since 2015, and the response so far has been pretty mixed, but you can decide for yourself—the song is streaming in full here.
Dekmantel has added Upsammy to its impressive stable of artists, and will be releasing her new album Zoom on June 8. In the meantime, LP cut “It Drips” is streaming here.
Galcher Lustwerk has adopted a new moniker, 420. To kick off the project, he’s released a collection of 16 untitled tracks on Bandcamp. Each one is exactly 4:20 in length and costs $4.20 to purchase—the whole release is $69—and despite the seemingly tongue-in-cheek nature of the whole endeavor, the tunes honestly aren’t half bad.
Berlin-based Finnish duo Amnesia Scanner has a new album on the way. Entitled Tearless, it’s set to arrive on June 5 via PAN, and seems poised to continue the group’s warped radio pop-meets-futuristic club explorations. A couple of tracks from the LP are already available to stream, “AS Going (feat. LYZZA)” and “AS Acá (feat. Lalita).”
UK techno veteran Shifted announced a new album, The Dirt on Our Hands, which is scheduled for release on June 8 through his own Avian label. LP cut “Eso” is streaming here, and for those who missed it, he also quietly released an EP called Too Stupid to Be Anxious earlier this month.
Detroit staple Kyle Hall released a new EP on his Forget the Clock label yesterday. Entitled The Shark, it only seems to be available on vinyl at the moment, but the (sort of) title track, “Shark,” is streaming here.
Matthew Dear has unveiled a new alias, Brain, that will debut on Carl Craig’s Planet E label with an EP entitled The World. It’s set for release on May 15, but lead track “Boss” is already streaming here.
Fresh off his collaborative album with Alessandro Cortini—which I quite liked—UK producer Daniel Avery will soon be debuting Noun, a joint project with Roman Flügel. Their first EP, Meeting of the Minds, was apparently recorded several years ago, but will be seeing the light of day on May 1 via the Live at Robert Johnson label. Previews of its two tracks are streaming here.
The pandemic-inspired benefit compilations keep on coming, and this week’s more intriguing offerings include:
I Hope You Are Well During These Strange Times is a collection of techno-bass mutations from the Fever AM label that features new tunes from artists like 96 Back, Private Caller, DJ Tess and other up-and-coming producers.
Awesome Aid features unreleased tracks from Awesome Agency acts like Wasted Fates, Jasmine Infiniti, Loraine James, Traxman and others.
A Permanent Vacation Dance Therapy - Fundraiser For Refugees finds the long-running Munich label digging into its vaults to benefit the work of refugee organization Sea Watch. Included are tracks from Tuff City Kids, Octo Octa, Lauer, Lord of the Isles, Cooper Saver, Terr and many more.
MY WIFE HAS BETTER TASTE THAN I DO
My wife Dania is a wonderful person, but she has little regard for my taste in electronic music. As the head of the Paralaxe Editions label, she often describes the music I like with words like “cheesy,” “simple,” “predictable,” “boring” and, worst of all (in her mind), “happy.” In contrast, I think she has a fantastic ear, and I’m constantly amazed by the obscure gems she unearths, both from record bins and the dark corners of the internet. Given that, I’ve asked Dania to share some of her finds with the First Floor audience. Each week, she highlights something that she’s currently digging, and adds some of her thoughts as to why it’s worth our attention.
Hello. I don’t know how I first got onto Mark Shreeve’s Ursa Major, but it was probably through some insomnia-induced blog digging. The tape came out in 1980, and as far as I can tell, there is exactly one (very expensive) copy left for sale on Discogs.
Fun fact: Mark Shreeve also wrote Samantha Fox’s 1986 pop hit “Touch Me (I Want Your Body).” I have fond memories of my mother singing that song in a heavy Arabic accent and then telling herself it was “haram.”
NEW THIS WEEK
The following is a rundown of my favorite tunes that came out during the past week. Click on the track titles to hear each song individually, or you can also just head over to this convenient Buy Music Club list to find them all in one place.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the strange fate of albums that happen to be coming out in the middle of the global pandemic we’re all living through. That essay was inspired by the debut LP from Minor Science (which, again, is excellent), but it just as easily could have been written about Shadows in Blue, the long-awaited first full-length from Bristol producer Hodge. Over the past decade, he’s proven to be one of the UK’s most versatile and prolific talents, blurring the boundaries between techno and bass music while consistently dipping into different styles, sound palettes and moods. As such, it’s no surprise that Shadows in Blue is a sonically diverse effort, albeit one that feels remarkably coherent, maintaining a enchanting sort of symphonic flair in both its most meditative and most banging moments. The bouncy title track falls into the latter category, adorning a ’90s Detroit rhythm (think Underground Resistance-era Rolando) with woozy horns and swirly Fourth World flourishes. “The World Is New Again,” is similarly baroque, but it’s a headier cut; its bold synth melody recalls vintage new age, while its pert strings sound like the sort of thing Kate Bush used to sing over. Both tunes are special, and they represent only two slices of the album’s surprisingly ornate vision. Checking out the rest is highly recommended.
Over the past month, many electronic music fans have lost their appetite for club- and dancefloor-oriented sounds, and while it’s not a feeling that I share (at least not all the time), I can certainly understand the impulse to seek out something a bit more soothing while we’re all stuck at home. These two tracks come from different releases—the former is the b-side of the new Zenzizenz cassette Create Greenness, while the latter is taken from Experimental Bliss, a recording of a live performance that took place in January—but they both offer an immersive, richly melodic aural experience with an eye toward calm and healing. “Overgrowth” is nearly 21 minutes long, and finds the UK producer (who also makes music as Viers, LK and Unklone) moving through passages of delicate chimes and meditative spoken word before the song’s final act suddenly blossoms with a jaunty beat and invigorating blasts of color. More sedate is the 17-minute-long “Dynamic Rhythmicals,” on which LA-based artist and Leaving Records founder Matthewdavid bathes tinkling vibraphone melodies in a light glaze of reverb, making for a wonderfully hypnotic listen.
The Dial label has a long history of releasing gently melodic sounds that straddle the line between ambient and house music, and Genuine Silk, the debut album from Russian-born, Berlin-based artist Soela, fits perfectly into that lineage. The silky “Hold On” is one of the LP’s highlights, a sparse cut with a sneakily propulsive beat, delicate melodies and a whole lot of Soela’s ethereal voice. It’s very Dial, but the track is also reminiscent of the post-dubstep era, specifically the work of acts like Sepalcure, early Joy Orbison and other artists who were releasing on labels like Hotflush around 2009-2010.
It’s easy to say that something sounds like the ’90s, but “The Moon Landing Was a Hoax” channels the euphoric sci-fi bounce of that seminal decade. With its bubbling acid, playfully soaring strings and cheeky little vocal sample, this extended mix of the track is a lot of fun, and conjures that transportive feeling of walking into a rave and immediately losing yourself in a blur of neon lights, sweaty bodies and smiling faces. I don’t usually go in for nostalgia, but Reznik & Mikesh have done more than recreate the sound of the ’90s; they’ve recaptured the era’s carefree spirit, and that’s worth celebrating.
Speaking of the ’90s, “Aquamarine” was first released in 1992 as part of the Everybody's Kissing Everyone album by German producer Jörg Burger, a key player in the so-called Sound of Cologne. Although he’s arguably best known for his later, often more minimal efforts as The Modernist and his many collaborations with Wolfgang Voigt, this Bionaut album—the reissue of which was originally commissioned for this year’s now-postponed Record Store Day—was a notably upbeat and pop-influenced work. With its piano riffs, breathy vocal and shuffling rhythms, “Aquamarine” shares some DNA with the crossover dance hits of the early ’90s, but there are also parallels with the Italian dream house that was coming out around the same time. However you slice it though, this is classic stuff.
London producer Ikonika has been releasing music for more than a decade now, and though much of it has been excellent, her work has never felt explicitly autobiographical. Her new Bodies EP, however, bucks that trend, as it’s said to explore issues of substance abuse, PTSD, sexuality and body image. “Bodied (Roller Mix)” is a new version of a track that first appeared on Laurel Halo’s 2019 DJ-Kicks, and it’s arguably the most upfront tune on the record. The drums, equal parts Night Slugs and classic Miami bass, are striking, and while other tracks on the EP are more introspective, the melodies here still feel a bit deeper than we’re accustomed to hearing from Ikonika. She hasn’t stopped dealing in neon, but she’s dialed down the brightness a bit, leaving room for something more profound to shine through.
Inspired in part by the now defunct FabricLive mix series, RollageLive Vol. 1: Nightfall is the latest dispatch from London bass specialists Dusk + Blackdown. Part album, part mix, it consists entirely of their own productions, almost all of which were previously unreleased. Followers of their Keysound label and especially their long-running Rinse FM show know that these guys are fascinated by the many possibilities of what can happen at 130 bpm, and RollageLive Vol. 1 finds them welding together bits of house, techno, grime, garage, dubstep and more. It’s a dark and uniquely British brand of hybrid dance music, and while it’s probably best consumed as a whole, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite cuts. “Fight Back,” a collaboration with New Zealand producer ebb, is a high-stepping track with crunchy dubstep wobble and lazer-like bass blasts, while “Peng One Two VIP” is a swaggering grime-techno mutant. Blackdown flies solo on “This Journey,” closing out the mix with an infectiously chunky bassline and an uplifting, sermon-like diva vocal. There’s a lot of fantastic stuff here, and the mix itself is more proof that the UK often does its best work when genre lines are being blurred.
Another bass mutation, this time from a producer out of Moscow. “Autonomy,” the title track of his new EP, is built atop swinging breakbeats, but the the song’s serrated synths are what truly stands out. Sweeping back and forth like a giant buzzsaw, they bring an element of menace to what’s otherwise an agreeably upbeat tune.
This UK producer is often described as a drumfunk artist—and in all honesty, I’m not entirely sure what that genre is—but “AF0156984,” which appears on his new Undesignated Proximate album, simply sounds like a stripped-down drum & bass cut. Faint melodies and vocal snippets fill out the composition, but as with all dgoHn productions, the drums are the star here. There’s something remarkably human about the percussion, and while the song’s crisp rhythms do add a bit of a jazz flavor, the track ultimately recalls the streamlined elegance of ’90s efforts from drum & bass giants like Klute and Photek.
That’s it for this week’s edition of the newsletter. Thank you so much for reading First Floor and, as always, I hope you enjoyed the tunes. (Don’t forget, you can find them all on this handy Buy Music Club list, and if you like them, please buy them.)
Stay safe and have a good week.