Mixcloud’s Place In Digital Music’s Brave New World
The thing that would set a podcast apart [from Mixcloud] is that you would actually download it to your phone. To do that legally is incredibly difficult, as you have to obtain clearances for all of the songs and clearances to download. That is something that we’ve steered away from, conducting the streaming model. Because of that, we got the licenses needed for streaming and we pay royalties to the artists listened to in the stream.
We’re slightly different in that we are a radio service and you can’t come to Mixcloud and select a song that you want to listen to and hit play, unlike the Spotifys and Soundclouds of the world. That said, a subscription service that would make sense could be of interest to us, it’s just question of working out the economics and make sure that they work for everybody. Something not too expensive, not the ten dollars you would pay per month for Spotify, because at the end of the day you’re not going to have access to 30 million songs on demand. It’s a different sort of service.
Mixcloud is party to its own legal maneuvering in providing DJ mix content, as observant US-based users may have noticed. In this country, track lists are not available until the mix has been played in full (though skipping ahead sometimes makes them visible), and mixes containing the same artist more than four times are blocked. There’s also the inability to scrub backward in a mix, and of course the ‘no download’ thing (though, of course, that applies globally). These are all restrictions in place due to royalty and licensing laws here – as regulated by SoundExchange – in an attempt to keep Mixcloud free of major label meddling and out of SoundCloud’s present hot water. I feel the Mixcloud-as-radio-station strategy is a good one, and reportedly the service aims to strengthen the radio association by adding live ‘broadcasts’. Some may balk at these restrictions, but users need to realize that total freedom of content access comes at a cost to the services (especially with regards to DJ mixes) and isn’t sustainable. Mixcloud has its flaws, but they are thinking ahead and implementing these restrictions in ways that aren’t sudden and antagonistic to its users. They’ve also worked out a way to pay out some royalty to rightsholders, keeping them at bay (for now). SoundCloud should take note.