The SoundCloud-challenging startup has upgraded its options for hosting DJ mixes. We find out what the changes mean, and how they’ll ensure artists are more likely to get paid.
When social music platform Orfium launched last year, co-founders Drew Dellis and Chris Mohoney laid out a list of features which were likely to be added as the site developed. Since going live, Orfium has become one of the most exciting music startups, offering something of a cross between SoundCloud and Bandcamp in terms of allowing musicians and producers to share and sell their work.
The latest updates to the platform focus around DJ mixes, with the ability to upload them as sets and tag individual tracks. We speak to Orfium’s Chris Mohoney to find out what the changes mean for DJs and producers…
Attack: Can you explain what’s included in the latest update to Orfium and what it offers to both producers and DJs?
Chris Mohoney: We are constantly making updates, but one of the more significant additions we made recently is that we added official support for live sets and DJ mixes. When you upload a set or mix, you can input the track list information including the timestamps at which each track appears in the recording along with onsite or offsite links to where the listener can find the track. This makes it easy for listeners to identify what song they are listening to and also allows them to skip back and listen to it again in just one click.
Another area where we have made a lot of progress is with our rights management services, in particular YouTube monetisation. We have many users earning thousands of dollars from Content ID, though the majority of artists still don’t know that it exists or how it works. A common confusion we see is that people don’t realise that YouTube Content ID and monetising your own YouTube channel are not the same thing. Content ID is much more powerful in that it allows us to detect and monetise every video around the world on YouTube containing their music that is not on their own channel. For example, some of our users have single tracks that have been detected in over 9,000 different videos across YouTube, and more are being detected and matched every day. Every time these videos are being watched, our clients are earning money. We also have a similar deal with Facebook but are just waiting for Facebook to finish setting up their system, which we hear is coming very soon.
We have many users earning thousands of dollars from Content ID, though the majority of artists still don’t know that it exists or how it works.
It’s really a great feeling knowing that we have made a working, sustainable system that is not only completely free for artists to host their music, but also generates significant revenue for them. This is completely opposite of the status quo where other services mostly just charge artists and only make money for the big music companies. Our community is still young, since we’ve only been public for less than a year, and up to now we put most of our resources into building the best system rather than on premature marketing. However now that the platform is evolving to an advanced state and the engines are running, the community is growing at a faster pace as more and more people learn Orfium exists, which will accelerate further as we shift more resources to spreading awareness. In fact, lately more than half of all first time visitors are registering for accounts – which tells me that we are ready to scale.
How did you conceive of the idea? Was this something that you planned all along or are you reacting to user feedback here?
Both. For years I’ve been a fan of podcasts such as Eric Prydz’ Epic Radio and the DJ mixes that Desert Hearts Records uploads to their SoundCloud. We planned to build official support for these features from the beginning, it’s just that with a small team we can’t build everything at once so we have to prioritise what to build now and plan what to add later.
We are always looking for ways to make the experience more simple, intuitive and elegant, which user feedback helps a lot with.
We also listen to user feedback and that actually drives most of our current developments and rearrangements of priorities. A lot of users had asked for DJ mix support so we listened and made it a higher priority. Also, with any new feature we roll out we will probably make some tweaks based on feedback. We are always looking for ways to make the experience more simple, intuitive and elegant, which user feedback helps a lot with.
How is this different to the way SoundCloud and Mixcloud handle this issue?
On SoundCloud, DJ mixes are uploaded as tracks, or not uploaded at all because they often get taken down [for copyright infringement]. It’s really improper to upload a DJ mix as a track because a DJ mix contains multiple tracks. Also on SoundCloud the only place to put the track list is to list is in the description but it does not provide any sort of interactivity with the playback.
Mixcloud obviously supports DJ mixes as it is the only type of content that can be uploaded. I thought maybe they had a track list feature but after poking around a few popular mixes on their site I don’t see any track list feature like ours. The reason Mixcloud does not support any uploads other than DJ mixes is because it allows them to hide behind the laws and be treated like a radio station so that they only have to pay the standard performance royalty rates to the publishers, but it also limits the ability of Mixcloud to be a complete music solution. At Orfium we don’t compromise what features are available to consumers and what royalties are available to artists and rightsholders.
The reason Mixcloud only allows DJ mixes is because it allows them to hide behind the laws and be treated like a radio station so that they only have to pay the standard performance royalty rates to the publishers
Does it work the same for podcasts as it does for DJ mixes?
Currently yes, as it generally makes most sense to upload a podcast episode right now as a set. However we are planning to enhance this soon so that a podcast series can be created to contain podcast episodes and consumers will be able to follow the podcast series and get notifications when new episodes are added.
Isn’t there a risk that users will skip to the track they want to hear and not listen to the mix as a whole?
Some might, depending on how they are feeling, but if that’s what they want to do then why inconvenience them? Give them what they want and they are more likely to stick around rather than leaving to find music somewhere else. I do think that most people will turn on a good mix and listen to it all the way through, as the whole point of it is to allow a knowledgeable curator to play a nice sequence of good music for you and help you discover music you’ve never heard.