24 February 2020
DJs just want to share music with people, and an affordable licensing system would be the solution. Photo: Facebook
DJs just want to share music with people, and an affordable licensing system would be the solution. Photo: Facebook

Time for common sense in online streaming

The advent of streaming online was a godsend for many DJs and Hong Kong joined the worldwide craze over the last two years. While stations are still going strong in the city – Hong Kong Community Radio and Fauve Radio, in particular – the underlying sentiment among DJ streamers is that it has become more pain than gain of late.

Streaming is difficult to do well, with the need to format audio and visuals correctly, connecting everything to a broadcasting system and social media portal, all while keeping equipment powered to get the optimum result for viewers on mobile or desktop at home.

When it works, it is a thing of beauty, allowing viewers to interact with DJs in real time. While there may be some trolls, they are the least of your problems. After you have technically set up and nothing goes wrong (a minor miracle), the latest scourge of the DJ streamer is copyright violations.

Because of the social element, Facebook and YouTube are the preferred options for streams, although some DJs have used more niche services like Twitch or Chew tv. Typically during a Facebook Live or YouTube set, your streams will be scanned for content violations, and if found will most likely be taken down or muted. You might finish your set to find notifications from major record companies informing you that copyright has been infringed and your video is now muted or not even available.

This has occurred for people posting harmless meme videos, and even has affected videos of static or cats purring. For viewers, it causes severe frustration because they join a live stream only for the sound to not be there or the link completed removed. It is a reason why many online radio stations have moved more towards underground or original music without copyright restrictions.

While protecting the rights of a musician or producer is certainly important, DJs are caught in the middle because they are splicing, sampling and recreating music from samples. No DJ I know has made money from streaming; they do it for the love of music, have already bought the music they are playing, and are essentially providing free promotion.

Not that you would know it from how major record companies behave: the wide reach of their libraries means that even rare tunes are often subject to copyright. Most of DJs have spent small fortunes on every format from vinyl, to cassette, MiniDisc, Mp3 and streaming services, and to be denied the opportunity to share music is a slap in the face. 

While the gaming industry thrives, its musical cousins remain in the doldrums because they refuse to embrace change and have fought every innovation. When Napster signaled the end of mainstream physical music purchases, the industry held on to its physical formats for dear life and now no one is making decent money from streaming, and most bands have to endlessly tour and sell merch to make a living. 

DJs just want to share music with people, and an affordable licensing system would be the solution. The media landscape is now dominated by remixed music and visuals and the repurposing of culture. Today’s sources of creativity are derived from a hybrid of originality and inspiration.

By blocking DJs, all the social media and music industry are doing is to lessen the power of their platforms, in a world where creativity is the new oil. For the music industry that is already facing its death knell, failure to listen is yet another nail in its coffin.

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EJI contributor