Tag: social media

SoundCloud and Audible Magic infringement policy frustrating DJs

For a long time, everyone loved SoundCloud, including many of the world’s most influential DJs. The love affair DJs had with SoundCloud is on the rocks now that SoundCloud has implemented the integration of Audible Magic’s SmartID and CopySense® technology into the service, which will help the company protect copyright owners from infringement. DJs? Well, they’re starting to feel the pinch and its leaving a sour taste in their mouths, while also forcing them to divorce themselves from SoundCloud and post their DJ mixes elsewhere.


The Mix Tape

Ever since the advent of the DJ, there’s been the recorded “mix tape,” which – depending on who’s definition you get – is also called a “dj mix,” “dj set,” or  “mix show.” The latter is generally used to describe a live or pre-recorded mix broadcast in a pre-defined time slot on terrestrial, satellite and Internet radio. DJs have passed around their mix tapes using many differing recorded formats, including vinyl, reel to reel, cassette, 8-track, mini-disc (MD), digital audio tape (DAT) and compact disc (CD). Many DJs today strictly distribute their mixes as MP3 or FLAC digital audio files. Purists will even go far as to share uncompressed .WAV or .AIFF digital audio files.

SoundCloud, like its video-oriented cousin, YouTube, allows the owner of a sound recording to upload audio content to its website, where it can then be streamed using a highly customized audio player experience that allows for user-generated comments along the audio timeline – in essence, making the audio track “social.” By simply adding the a SoundCloud URL to a Facebook status update, a SoundCloud audio player “widget” can be published into a Facebook status update, or special code provided by SoundCloud will allow the audio player widget to be embedded in a blog post or webpage. Listeners can comment at points on the audio timeline, favorite tracks to their SoundCloud profiles and Tweet or re-share them into their own Facebook profiles.

Below is an example of a SoundCloud embeddable widget for the Kaskade vs. Albin Myer‘s track, “Don’t Stop Hells Bells.”

In the early pre-MP3 days of the Internet, many DJs used Real Networks RealAudio®, Microsoft’s WindowsMedia® or Apple’s QuickTime® technology to stream their mix shows, but in each case, the cost of maintaining the streaming technology was prohibitively expensive.  The implosion of Internet services in the Dotcom 1.0 era (roughly 2000 to 2004) made it difficult for independent webcasters to generate ad revenue that would support broadcasting niche formats like underground techno DJs mixes. A DJ needed a contract with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) that operated a streaming server from one of the aforementioned major tech companies.

Not only was accessing a streaming server costly, but ISPs also charge for bandwidth. The more traffic, the higher the cost. In addition to bandwidth fees, new licensing rules were put in place by the passage of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which forced many DJ sites to pay public performance royalties to songwriters through ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, as well as to artists through SoundExchange (for non-interactive streaming only). Things were getting way too expensive for the average DJ to be able to afford webcasting and many DJs operating streaming mix show sites, including this site, had to shut their doors or find alternatives while the industry sorted itself out and new technologies arrived to lower costs.

Fortunately, along came webcasting providers like Live365, who bundled the cost of streaming with performance royalty licensing. Live365 negotiated direct deals with the PROs on behalf of their account holders, so that would take the onus off of the DJ to report daily spins of music over webcasts.

But, Live365 was just that – live! Not every DJ can program a 24-hour a day radio station. That’s when many Internet radio DJs turned to open source webcasting tools like ShoutCast and IceCast, which provided free webcasting software that could be installed and run on an ISP’s server or even your own computer acting as a server (Macs can easily do this), while using your cable provider as an ISP. Of course, today, many cable providers are throttling bandwidth, making hosting your own webcasting server a problem.

MP3s Change the Game

The mass adoption of the MP3 format was a game changer. Not only could a DJ stream their mixes without having to use streaming server technology, but they could also provide mixes in podcast format. On a parallel track, as more people migrated to MP3, blogging technology like Movable Type and WordPress gave DJs the ability to post their mixes to their blogs utilizing enclosures and open source, javascript audio players. DJs could then feature mixes that listeners could subscribe to and receive notifications from their blogs when new mixes were posted. While podcasting is still a fantastic way to broadcast DJ mixes, there was still the sticky issue of paying rights holders. There may be podcasting aggregators who, like Live365, offer PRO services.

That’s just about when SoundCloud came along. We can’t say for absolute certain that the founders of SoundCloud created the service for DJ mixes or as a service for artists and labels to post single tracks, but once DJs learned they could post their mixes to the SoundCloud system, many started gravitating to the service for a few reasons.

First, uploading to SoundCloud and having your mix playback immediately in a unique player experience, which could then be embedded into blogs and social networks took the onus off of the DJ to have to support their own website and podcasts. Second, SoundCloud’s social timeline, where users comment along the audio timeline, was an innovation that is simply not available to DJs using open source audio players for their podcasts. Lastly, DJs could upload and control their mix in block formats and then shares those mixes exactly as intended – in the mix-tape format. No longer did DJs have to maintain live feeds or submit to other Internet radio stations and wait to hear their mix. They could provide their mixes direct to fan in a matter of seconds, disrupting the entire underground DJ mix market, which had thrived for years in “mom and pop” record shops, which would sell those illegal mixes from behind the counter.

DJs, Infringement and PROs

Thousands of DJs use SoundCloud for their mixes today, but they’re now finding out that the party is over. Before SoundCloud raised over $50M in a round of recent venture capital funding, they were predominantly a European-based service operating in the grey area of performance rights, where the rules may be different than in the USA around paying public performance royalties to the PROs. Honestly, we don’t know what the difference in the rules are, but it always seems like these services start in Europe and once they become large enough where major labels and the RIAA take notice, they quickly have to ensure their in compliance with the DMCA. Since SoundCloud is considered interactive and not non-interactive, the company is not eligible for a compulsory license, so if the site were found to house copyrighted content, it could be sued by the copyright owner. For user-generated content sites like SoundCloud, ensuring their in compliance with the DMCA is now a cost of doing business in the United States.

SoundCloud could exist and still accept DJs mixes if they hadn’t had much grander plans. But something as cool as SoundCloud could operate under the radar only for so long. Once the VCs funded them, it’s safe to say that a pre-condition of that funding was that SoundCloud would have to ensure that the company adhered to the letter of the law as defined by the DMCA and subsequent legislation around paying the PROs performance royalties. They would also have to provide some type of technology to identify infringing content, should copyright owners want to leverage the powers of the DMCA to notify SoundCloud that someone had infringed on their copyright by posting their content to the service without permission. These are the same rules that YouTube or any other UGC (user-generated content) service must adhere to, which is where Audible Magic comes into play.

Hector Romero Facebook Wall Post about SoundCloud and Audible MagicNetmix has learned through conversations with many DJs that SoundCloud’s new Audible Magic technology implementation has been flagging and removing their DJ mixes for infringing content. In fact, there was a massive discussion on DJ, Hector Romero of Def Mix Productions wall, where Romero had posted this happened to him and he wasn’t sure why.


We don’t have screen shots of this process, but in our conversations on Hec’s Facebook wall, through Twitter posts and other discussions, Netmix learned the following:

  • DJ creates mix and uploads it to SoundCloud
  • SoundCloud’s Audible Magic technology integration identifies the mix as “infringing” and automatically issues a take down notice to the DJ.
  • The DJs mix is removed from the site.
  • The DJ can appeal the take down.
  • If the appeal is successful, the mix wil be restored. If not, the mix will not be restored.

Sounds simple, right? Audible Magic reads the tracks in the DJ mix, recognizing some infringing content and then automatically issues a takedown.

Well, here’s what we found out from a few DJs this has happened to. SoundCloud has to provide a mechanism for the account owner (the DJ) to appeal the take down. We have learned from one DJ that he has appealed a couple of times, even though he doesn’t own the copyright to the songs in the mix. SoundCloud has reinstated the mix, solely based on receiving the appeal. That begets the question: is it really that easy to fool SoundCloud and get them to restore your DJ mix, simply by challenging the takedown notification?

We also found that a few DJs started to see a pattern in Audible Magic’s scanning on their mixes. When the DJs first uploaded their mix and SoundCloud issued a takedown, they tried to fool Audible Magic by removing the first track in their mix. This is possible by either editing out the mix using a free sound editing tool like Audacity, or if you’re a digital DJ and use a digital audio workstation like Ableton Live, you could just remove the first track, re-export your mix and then re-upload it to SoundCloud.

What these DJs found is that by removing the first track, they could easily re-upload their mix and Audible Magic would’t flag the re-upload mix as infringing. How is this possible? We’re thinking it could be Audible Magic’s technology only scans the first few seconds or minutes of the upload to see if the content is infringing and that it doesn’t take snapshots along the mix timeline. While the first few seconds to minutes may have been infringing, once the mix is re-uploaded, we think that Audible Magic doesn’t scan the mix again. It already scanned the first go’round, so why scan a second time? Scanning multiple times take processing power of the servers that run the scan software. It can only scan so many tracks at one time. Since thousands of songs are being uploaded every day, the technology has to run the scans in a cue and each song or a set of songs wait their turn, depending on how many servers are employed by Audible Magic to perform the scans.

Of course, many DJs are not going to waste their time or energy trying to fool Audible Magic, so they can post their mixes to SoundCloud. What’s a DJ to do? Fortunately, a few competing service have come along. The most popular being MixCloud, which is free to post and is supported not be audio ads, but by users who will pay to ensure that their mix is featured on the site’s home page for a period of page impressions. There’s also a service out of Austria, Play.fm, that we love. They’ve been at it a while and their site and service is top notch.

BTW, Netmix has a MixCloud here: http://www.mixcloud.com/netmix. We hope you’ll follow us and share our mixes with your friends!

What the UMG and EMI merger means for social music

Last week, the world’s largest music company, Universal Music Group CEO Lucian Grainge, testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, in a bid to defend the company’s intended merger with EMI Group’s music labels. A merger would give the combined companies an estimated 40% market share and shrink even further the major label system from 4 to 3: a combined UMG-EMI, Sony Music and Warner Music Group.

A proponent of the merger, EMI Group’s CEO Roger Faxon recently said, “Good music quickly rises to the top. The skill is in finding that music, and helping to connect it with an audience — and that skill is not confined to one company or group of companies… Major record companies are no longer the gatekeepers.”

Opponents of the merger, including Beggars Group founder/chairman Martin Mills, Gigi Sohn of consumer group Public Knowledge and Warner Music Group director, Edgar Bronfman Jr., argue that approving the merger would give a combined UMG-EMI a monopoly position in the marketplace and the power to dictate terms of digital licensing, which would stifle innovation and affect consumer pricing. In Bronfman’s testimony before the committee, he said, “As the market becomes more concentrated, as one company essentially controls half of the hits and 40% of the overall market, the ability for a third company to influence the outcome becomes smaller and smaller … At 50% of the hits, Universal can say no to anything.”

The power major labels have over digital music services is clearly apparent when you look at the list of shareholders in Spotify, the popular digital music service from Sweden, which operates a streaming music model. Tech Crunch uncovered a list of investors by percentage of ownership in Spotify, which shows that Sony Music owns the largest share of the service among the major labels at 5.8%. Universal Music Group owns 4.8%, Warner Music Group hold 3.8% and EMI has 1.9% of the company. What this means for start-ups or other companies seeking to license major label catalogs for their emerging music services, is that they not only need to negotiate a license fee for use of major label artists in their services, but they may also have to give up a share of their company in order to fully develop their services into offerings that would appeal to the mass market music consumer.

Is there justification for major labels to ask for a share of a digital music start-up in addition to a license fee? That depends on who you ask, but generally speaking, whoever controls the content is in a strong market position to dictate the terms of the deal. Digital music services, for all intent and purpose, depend on access to major label content to power their apps and websites. The road is littered with defunct services who have collectively paid the major labels millions of non-refundable dollars for access to content, but could not survive because they could not make a return on their investment.

Sure, there’s an argument to be made by Business Development executives at major labels who might say major labels bear little responsiblity for whether a new digital music service survives or fails. That would be true if your of the school that believes labels have zero responsibility in working with their new digital partners to see that these services survive and thrive, but major labels are very selective about who they license to, because there is a risk in licensing content to services who water down your content or treat it in a way that might devalue that content to the end user.

The fact is, a combined UMG-EMI merger would almost certainly make it onerous for new digital music services to come online and innovate. Since Spotify arrived and Turntable.fm exploded (and then waned), there haven’t been very many digital music initiatives announced. Sure, MySpace is trying to make a go out of relaunching their service, but it remains to be seen how they will use major labels music, if at all.

Each time the major labels license a service and then control a percentage stock in the new company, doesn’t it stand to reason that if a competitor were to try and come online, major labels might act to protect their investments by making it onerous for the new company to get a fair deal? At this point, if you wanted to launch a new digital music service that competes with the likes of Spotify, wouldn’t Spotify’s CEO make a phone call to the four major labels that hold an interest in Spotify to influence the outcome?

Another issue that is always overlooked when licensing digital music services is: who still works at a label to help these services work with the content and the artists? As more digital music services vye for market position, they require the expertise, knowledge and relationships labels have built with artists and manager over time. Given that labels have axed hundreds of staffers in layoff after layoff, is there really anyone left at a label to give these services the appropriate level of account management it takes to support new initiatives?

The number one issue that most services run into when working with major labels, is that major labels do not control what an artist does or does not do, when it comes to using the artists likeness and image in 3rd party websites or applications. There are artists who, even after you have licensed their music content from the major labels for $1M minimum guarantee, will demand additional minimum guarantees to use their image in your service. New social music services might be able to license a catalog from a major label, but that does not mean they get artist or management by in to any co-marketing initiatives or promotions. The artist still has to agree to whatever it is the service wants to plan, beyond just selling music. The artist can say no and the label can’t much do anything about it. Sure, they can tell the artist it’s in their best interest to work with a service who makes an inquiry, but with if one service gets favored nation treatment from a label, then all the others will say, “what about us?”

The best path forward to next generation social music services might then be to do direct deals with independent artists and labels with terms may certainly be much more favorable. For thriving services like Reverb Nation, BandCamp, BandZoogle and new ones coming online like Conquer Entertainment (disclosure: I am the Director of Product Development, Music Services), the best path forward is to grow these businesses to the point that consumers look to these companies for music discovery.

In order to thrive, these companies must attract and maintain their audiences through innovative technology and a suite of services that help artists reach new fans and fans discover new music that is worthy of following. New social music services must tie online to offline and grow through traditional channels like events and touring and merchandising. Or, find new streams of revenue for artists through licensing or brand partnerships.

As the music marketplace becomes saturated with major label, pop content, it’s very important to think like a major and not only serve your audience online, but serve them offline as well.





Moderate your Twitter feed using TweetRiver or TidyTweet

Tweet RiverOkay, we all know the power Twitter now wields over unfettered thought on the web. However, if you’re a company who has set up their first Twitter feed, only to find that competitors and those who either hate you or want to see you fail start posting things you might not want your mother to see, then check out two new services that will allow you to moderate Tweets before they hit your feed.

TweetRiver.com recently provided moderation services for the first Twitter conference, TWTRCON, in San Francisco. A few bloggers are already talking about the service.

From their web site:

TweetRiver delivers innovative and exciting solutions for a broad spectrum of companies and organizations. Some customers are simply trying to get a moderated Twitter stream onto their website. Some are trying to redefine how they engage customers from first-touch through customer support.

We know that each of our customers has individual needs. What solution can we deliver for you?

News & Media

  • Publish a moderated news feed on your website
  • Interact with an online community or fan group
  • Curate tweets (or links in tweets) about news and events
  • Aggregate tweets from multiple personalities into a single stream


  • Notify customers and prospects of news or events
  • Publish a moderated product feed on your website
  • Respond to customer support issues
  • Capture product, service, or company recommendations
  • Power digital signage with tweets from customers or about your market

Large Enterprise

  • Personalize a brand with tweets from key employees or executives
  • Drive thought leadership about products or solutions
  • Augment the call center with the crowd conversation
  • Enable customers to collaborate via social media


  • Cross-promote links and keywords from tweets to your website
  • Publish buzz about new products or events
  • Feature tweets from key influencers on your website
  • Respond to local product and service requests

TidyTweet.com Not to be outdone, there’s a newbie on the block. TidyTweet.com promises to do the following:

  • Automatic or Manual Approval of Tweets
  • Custom Bad Word Filtering
  • Whitelist or Blacklist Twitter Users
  • Auto-rejection of Tweets from New Accounts
  • Auto-rejection of Tweets with Multiple Trending Topics

TidyTweet is currently in private beta. Sign up for an account to test it out. It looks like it will be free for personal users. Business customers will have to fork over the toll.

Social Influence and the SIM Score

A recent report from Razorfish released today indicates that about 33 percent of consumers are not connecting with brands on social networks. There are of course two ways to look at this. One, it could be that this large untapped audience presents a terrific opportunity for marketers. The second scenario is that brands are avoiding social media.

Only 1 online music company at O'Reilly Web 2.0 Expo?

Where are all the Music 2.0 companies at Web 2.0 Expo. Not many here. I'm a bit disappointed, but I guess it's what I expected. This is more social media than music, but music is dependent upon social media, which is why I find it funny that no one I know is here. Maybe they're waiting for Web 2.0 NYC in September.

Read more