Have you ever just wanted to upload your own MP3’s to an easy to use web site, program those tracks sequentially, then send all your friends a link to listen your custom mix? Well, now you can with 8tracks, a new service providing anyone with the ability to become their own play list master and superstar online radio DJ.
Sure, you can go to iTunes and download music, but how do you share legally with friends without having to worry about the dreaded RIAA or their sinister cousin, SoundExchange, from draining your bank account with legal fees?
After all, you thought it was okay to uploaded your grandmother’s fav Frank Sinatra track to your blog so she could listen on the laptop you bought her for Christmas. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but you get the point. Sharing music is illegal and there are a few companies now trying to solve that problem.
The recent buzz has been focused on Muxtape.com, a simple service catering to the music discovery and play list creation community. Despite the cool factor, it’s a pretty rudimentary tool with few community tools and other features available to create a network around your play lists. Another major issue with Muxtape is that anyone can right-click on a track title from within the services pages and actually download the music files. That puts the service squarely in the legal grey area. Internet music strategists are watching to see how far Muxtape will get before hitting the legal wall.
Many web developers have been implementing an open source solution, the XSPF Music Player, into their clients web pages. Mostly, record labels who need a player and own their own content, which they can stream legally since they own the rights. Although a decent solution, there’s a bit of a learning curve on the technology side.
First, you have to upload your tracks to a server. Well, that’s if you have or rent server space in the first place. Although some fifteen year-old’s know how to FTP, it’s not the majority. Second, you have to edit a configuration file to point to the folder where your tracks reside, in order for the player to load files for playback. And third, you have to embed the player in your web page, social network or blog. That can be a challenge for 90 percent of the population who want to create mixes, but have no HTML skills, since you have to create the embed code yourself, instead of someone providing an embed code for you.
Of course, streaming music over the Internet without a license is a no-no. It’s surely a buzz kill when the summons shows up in your snail mailbox and you have to ask mom for $20K for to cover your lawyer costs.
Leave it do David Porter, CEO and founder of 8tracks (http://www.8tracks.com), to figure out a way to create and share play lists legally. A former player over at Live365,, the Internet’s first successful user generated streaming radio service, David knows the ins and outs of streaming radio operations and Internet licensing parameters. Seizing the opportunity to create an elegant solution that would be easy to use while protecting users legally, he and some friends banded together to launch the service, which is coming out of its private beta on Friday, August 8.
(Before I go any further, let me disclose that I am an adviser to 8tracks for the DJ market.)
I’ve been playing with the service from its alpha to beta and now the public release. It’s a really neat and I’m sure it will be a hit. As always with bootstrapped start-ups, there are features yet to be implemented, but the basics are there and new tools will be rolled out over the next 6 months.
It’s pretty simple to use. Just register and then start creating your mix by uploading a minimum of 8 individual tracks, which is approximately 30 minutes of music. You can upload more if you like, but 8 tracks is the minimum, mainly for legal reasons and branding purposes. No one track can be over twenty minutes long and you can’t play two tracks by the same artist from the same album. Another legality, but that’s okay because your playing DJ, not record label A&R executive.
The cool thing about 8tracks is that you can also browse other users play lists and drag and drop their tracks into your mixes. This is the ultimate mash-up for online radio programming. Don’t feel like uploading today, simply search within 8tracks for music you like, create a new play list based on those selections and then publish and share your mix.
Files encoded as MP3 must be used, as other formats will not work. You can’t, for example, upload music from your iTunes library. You must convert it to MP3 first, by burning your tracks to CD then ripping them back down to your computer in MP3 format…but don’t tell anyone we told you how to do that. 🙂
Once you create your playlist, you can use your mouse to drag and drop titles in the order you want. AfterÂ you’ve done that, it’s as simple as sending out the URL provided to share your mix with your friends. They can either visit the URL you’ve sent them by email or you can publish your player to your web site, blog or social network and drive people there. That way, you can promote yourself in one place, without having to drive people somewhere else just to hear your mix.
David Porter says, “8tracks believes handcrafted music programming trumps algorithms. Think radio in the 1970s, mixtapes in the 1980s, and DJ culture of the 1990s through today. DJs share their talent in taste making, providing exposure for artists. Listeners get a unique blend of word-of-mouth sharing and radio programming â€” long the trusted means for music discovery â€” on a global scale.”
The company will most likely monetize the service with a mix of advertising and tiered services. For the time being, the goal is to get user adoption while working on a parallel track to implement the revenue model. Initially, the service has an affiliate relationship with Amazon.com, which may also be expanded to other services, like Emusic or Beatport, as the need arises. Users can purchase any track, as long as they are available through Amazon.com.
I’m working with 8tracks to create DJ-centric tools to allow professional DJs expanded capabilities. Those type of special DJ features will come down the road. For now, test out the service and let the guys at 8tracks know what you think through the prominent, red “feedback” tab provided.
Check out our first mixes on the 8tracks service: