Mixcloud announced in its newsletter today that it relocated its headquarters from London to New York, and will celebrate by a SXSW party tonight in Austin — which will also serve to promote its DJ-upload service.
Founded in September, 2008, Mixcloud (“Making Radio Better”) is a music-sharing service that solicits user-DJ uploads and pays the royalties to rights-holders to keep the whole thing legal. (The service brags, “No takedowns.”) The essential programming block in Mixcloud is “an extended piece of audio,” according to founder Nico Perez. That can be any collection of songs that any user can upload as a playlist, or a professionally produced podcast, or a radio program, or a DJ set.
Mixcloud’s niche presents interesting comparisons:
- SoundCloud is a user-generated listening site geared to music producers. In SoundCloud the uploads are wholly owned by the uploader, and unowned content is blocked. Originally started as a musicians’ collaborative site, SoundCloud has evolved into a general listening platform featuring a wide range of headline artists and fringe content produced by amateurs and semi-pros. SoundCloud’s upload model is individual songs, which can be grouped into sets by either the uploader or the listener.
- Another service that features the programming acumen of its users is 8tracks, which makes it easy by providing access to music already in the cloud — no uploading required. [NOTE: See 8tracks founder David Porter’s comment below this article. Porter notes that 8tracks allows both uploading and scraping from Soundcloud. Most 8tracks DJs do upload music from their personal collections.] The appeal for the user-programmers who create mixes is similar to sharing a playlist on Spotify, but with more extensive profiling, tagging, and sharing features. In Spotify and other on-demand services that provide user-created playlists, that feature is an add-on to the main jukebox focus. In 8tracks, it’s all about crowd programming.
- Then there is YouTube, the world’s largest listening platform and upload site. Because video files are larger than audio files, uploading an hour-long mix requires time and effort. Finding DJ-style mixes is tough, too, in what might be characterized as the YouTube jungle.
- Any on-demand service that offers in-house playlist programming. Beats Music comes to mind, as the service whose marketing most emphasizes high-quality playlists. The question Mixcloud implicitly poses to Beats is whether celebrity programmers create better playlists (for $10 a month) than DJs and crowd programmers (for free).
Mixcloud bears some resemblance to a podcast platform, with an emphasis on music programming that normally isn’t found in podcasting. (Mixcloud also welcomes talk programming.) In fact, Mixcloud serves as a distribution point for established podcasts from NPR and other creators.
In our listening, Mixcloud is rewarding and satisfying. A genre directory gets you started listening, enhanced by custom categories like “Best of 2013.” For anyone accustomed to single-song increments of traditional online music services, Mixcloud takes some getting used to. Clicking the “add to playlist” icon for a song you love, for example, doesn’t add that song — it adds the entire programming block in which the song resides. This is long-form, lean-back listening. As such, Mixcloud provides an outstanding experience.