At the center of the DJ world is the mix itself.
Mixing, as we know, involves mixing and blending tracks together from many different artists into one seamless sonic experience.
Once you’ve got some sets together and you’ve nailed your transitions, you’ll probably be looking for ways to upload your work so the world can listen to it.
There are 2 ways that DJs may need to stream music:
- Live streaming for your DJ mixes
Live streaming is very much in the vogue. It provides DJs with an opportunity to play live to anyone in the world. People can tune in, chat, and even tip you!
- Streaming and music upload sites for streaming music for your DJ sets
The second way DJs might want to stream is for their own DJ sets. It’s now possible to stream music directly to your DJ hardware. First, you no longer needed CDs or vinyls, but now you don’t need anything at all – just stream music from online!
Part 1: Live Streaming your DJ Sets
Let’s first look at sites where you can stream your DJ sets live. That means hooking up your equipment to an audio interface and webcam and streaming audio and video live.
When it comes to live streaming for DJs, copyright is an issue. Whilst your own productions are your own property and are thus copyrighted under your name, your DJ mixes are likely to contain music that you do not own.
This complicates things for DJs. If streaming sites detect that you’re playing songs that aren’t yours, they’ll probably cut you off under copyright laws, restrict you from streaming or even outright ban you.
Copyright law is complex but ultimately, if you’re playing someone’s music without their express permission – and you don’t hold a license – then you can be penalized.
So How Do People Get Away With It?
There are loads of mixes on SoundCloud, YouTube and loads of other major streaming platforms, so how do they get away with it?
Well, first off, it depends on the platform and their relationship with licensing companies.
For example, in 2016, SoundCloud announced that they’d reached negotiations with licensing companies to not take down DJ sets that infringe copyright.
They will only remove copyrighted material if this is requested. After all, DJ mixes are great promo for the artist a lot of the time, and when it comes to underground music, most producers are absolutely agreeable that their music should be incorporated in a mix.
But, other platforms are much stricter and use advanced automation to scan music and block any copyrighted material.
Lately, this problem has got worse with many DJs that stream on Facebook Live, YouTube, and Instagram suffering account lockdowns due to their streams.
However, if you mix underground genres that are likely off-catalog, or published by smaller indie labels, then you might be ok.
It’s become a kind of trial for DJs – can you mix tunes well enough to trick the AI into not detecting your music?!
Live Streaming: What Do You Need?
First, you’ll need a soundcard or a mixer with a USB output. A USB output enables you to connect your mixer directly to a PC or laptop. You can then select this as an audio input from your broadcasting app.
A soundcard with a simple phono input is cheap and there are many designed specifically for live streaming DJs.
Once you’ve got that, you’ll need a broadcasting app.
This enables you to broadcast your set to any of the available platforms.
- OBS: OBS is probably the go-to option.
- Ecamm Live: for Mac only
- XSplit Broadcaster: another broadcasting app option
- Yellow Duck: Instagram only
The Best Live Streaming Sites
The main live streaming sites for DJs are:
Facebook Live and Instagram
Facebook Live and Instagram are under the same ownership. Both are popular with many DJs who stream live video and audio regularly.
Facebook and Instagram are really cracking down on DJ sets, citing in their October 2020 terms; “ We want you to be able to enjoy videos posted by family and friends. However, if you use videos on our Products to create a music listening experience for yourself or for others, your videos will be blocked and your page, profile or group may be deleted. This includes Live.”
However, people are still obviously doing it all the time and so long as you mix tracks quickly, properly, and avoid mainstream genres and remixes then you’ll probably be fine.
The obvious advantage of streaming to Facebook Live is that you can stream from your artist page and post your stream to Facebook groups that follow your genre.
Similar applies to Instagram and you’ll also be able to post excerpts of your stream to your profile.
Facebook and Instagram Live Pros:
- Instant access to your followers
- Can promote with hashtags
- Can link the stream to groups and pages
- Easy to share the streams
- Copyright issues are rife for any mildly mainstream music
- Repeated copyright strikes may get you perma-banned
Unfortunately, YouTube is similarly rocky for copyright. But, again, DJs still regularly stream to YouTube and release their DJ mixes too.
Well, the copyright AI will only detect music that has been put in the copyright database by the license holder. Often, this will be automatic – when a producer releases a tune, it’ll be uploaded to these databases.
But, DJs still get away with it when spinning underground tunes quickly and with modified tempos, FX, etc. It just depends on your genre. If you’re mixing the latest house charts, you’ve basically got no chance. DnB vinyl from the early 90s? It’s more than likely you’ll be fine!
YouTube Live Pros
- Easy to promote across different social media
- Saves to your profile
- Great networking with users
- High quality and super-stable and easy to set up
- Again, copyright issues are rife. If you stick to the underground then you’ve still got a good chance.
When streaming to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube:
- Keep things super-underground – no remixes with obvious vocal lines or easily detectable material
- Mix quickly and get a good blend going
- Play at altered BPMs from the original
- Don’t push it too far if you get cut off – stop and move to a different platform
Once a fairly niche platform used primarily by gamers, Twitch is now one of the biggest streaming sites in the world. As you might know or have guessed, it’s full of DJ refugees that have been caught out on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
The thing is, a Twitch account is more expendable than a Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube account – you’ll probably want to keep those clean.
Also, whilst Twitch is technically not ok with DJ sets, they do offer a feature called Soundtrack where many tracks are ‘cleared’ on their AI and will not trigger copyright issues.
But otherwise, they’re generally less militant with copyright and will likely only mute your stream temporarily IF they detect that you’re playing copyrighted material.
Again, the same principles apply. Keep things mixed thoroughly, stay away from the mainstream and react when the same tunes keep seeming to get flagged.
- Tons of users
- Very reliable
- More passive stance to copyright
- Methods to monetize your work
- Tightening restrictions on DJs
As DJs fled the main players, Zoom has repeatedly cropped up as an excellent option for DJ streaming free from copyright issues.
Zoom is more of a video conference tool than a purpose-built app, but still, it does the job really well and you can link it to your social media.
One cool feature of Zoom is that you can have parties of up to 100 people in the Free version or 1000 for the reasonably priced Pro option. Everyone can tune in and see each other which is awesome too. The Free version is limited to 40-minute sessions, which can also be a pain.
Most importantly, though, because of the nature of Zoom, it’s extremely hard for them to track down copyrighted music and mute the stream – nearly impossible, in fact. This might change at any time, but right now, Zoom is a superb choice for DJs.
- No copyright issues
- Up to 100 people in a stream for Free or 1000 for Pro
- Easy to set up
- Audio quality can be lacking (tick ‘preserve original sound’ in the settings to improve this)
Mixcloud Live has stepped into a confusing live streaming market to offer what is becoming the go-to for DJ streaming without copyright issues.
Mixcloud has already agreed to deals with many major labels including Universal Music Group (UMG), Warner Music Group (WMG), and Merlin. They essentially pay for your license to play DJ sets without infringement. Of course, the motive behind this is to get those artists coverage and airtime, much like a radio station.
It’s how it should be. So long as streamers are responsible when it comes to buying the tracks in the first place and providing song IDs and tracklists, live streaming should be seen as great promo for artists.
How many tunes have you tracked down from YouTube mixes, etc? That’s the whole point and it’s great that Mixcloud realized this through their Live platform.
Mixcloud Live Pros
- Above-board with copyright
- Excellent platform
- Growing audience
- Reliable and great audio quality
- Will still take a while for DJs and users to migrate and get used to the platform
Not a live streaming app per se, but a clever tool to stream your DJ sets to tons of streaming (30+ in total), all from the same interface.
Sounds complicated? It is, a bit, but it means you can be everywhere at once across YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, etc. It will even connect you to some niche radio and audio-only style streaming services.
All of your messages will be aggregated into Restream too, so you can control and respond to all of your feeds.
It’s serious stuff but it’s well worth trying for DJs who want to maximize their audience.
Part 2: Streaming for DJ Sets
In Part 1, we explored live streaming sites.
Here, we’ll be exploring streaming sites for streaming the tracks themselves to your DJ set.
You don’t even need digital music files to mix these days. You can stream your DJ set straight from the internet into your hardware.
This provides you with a flexible library that you can access anywhere. It also means you can take requests and switch genres effortlessly. Also, no stress and hassle of keeping hold of USB sticks!
To do this, you’ll need an all-digital setup with DJ software such as Serato, RekordBox, or Virtual DJ (not Traktor).
DJ software enables you to stream music from major streaming platforms like Beatport, Tidal, Deezer and SoundCloud Go+.
Here’s a rundown of each:
Available in: Serato DJ Pro, Rekordbox, Virtual DJ
SoundCloud Go is a paid streaming service that gives you a super catalog of mainstream and major releases as well as access to tons of independent labels and self-published artists.
For those that mix underground genres and lesser-known songs, SoundCloud Go is an excellent option.
Available in: Serato DJ Pro
Tidal is Serato-only. It has a lot of songs on it, though, and the reliability of streaming and integration with Serato is excellent.
Tidal could be one of the best options for mainstream music streaming directly into Serato.
Available in: Rekordbox, Virtual DJ
Beatsource is main-label focussed. It’s full of pop tunes, reggae, RnB, trap, and house. Setlists are ‘curated’ and easily navigable by style and genre.
Beatsource is pretty similar to Beatport.
Available in: Rekordbox, Virtual DJ
Beatport is a favorite streaming service for underground artists, self-publishers, and other indie labels. Beatport has a diverse catalog spanning almost every genre – and it’s particularly good for electronic dance music.
There are tons of live-streaming platforms already. More will more likely crop up as artists and DJs dodge copyright issues.
For the most part, copyright issues are worse for those playing commercial genres but almost any track released on a digital service provider (DSP) can flag your stream.
It’s just one of those things. DJs are adapting and if you can’t get along with the main players, you’ll have to try Mixcloud Live and Zoom. Soundcloud will probably release a competitor soon too.
For now, there’s a lot for any DJ to get their teeth into!
You may also like: