I was straight at this from the start in early March, broadcasting from my studio and kitchen on a number of occasions, and it’s been something that’s always fascinated me as a DJ.
The possibilities of working from home in this way have always been really cool, and when Facebook first enabled their live streaming about 6 years ago there was a bit of a golden window for such streams.
Sadly, it didn’t last long. At the start Facebook themselves used actively promote live streaming and I remember doing shows that had thousands of viewers, but it wasn’t long before copyright issues came to the fore. The major record companies and Facebook have software that will detect fairly quickly whether you are using music that belongs to them, and quite simply, more often or not, most DJs won’t have the rights to play that music. Sometimes the stream will survive but sometimes it will be interrupted or taken down on the spot. Instagram is pretty much the same as it’s closely related to Facebook, while Youtube also has its issues.
Some platforms, such as Twitch, seem a bit more relaxed about things, but ultimately, most streams won’t survive for later viewing, if they are lucky enough to avoid the earlier takedowns. There are ways around this. Underground or obscure music, or heavily tampered with music or remixes, is less likely to get detected, but it all depends really. The major record companies are good at finding out where their owned music is being used, and they don’t leave anything slide.
Ironically, back in the day, many of these record companies used actively support what was effectively an illegal scene, when mixtape culture was very popular. In the 90s, while on both pirate radio and in the clubs here, I used receive sometimes upward of 30 or 40 records a week from major labels in both Ireland and England, and sometimes, even the US. Sony UK ran an urban division and they used send me mountains of fresh music weekly, often records that wouldn’t be released until a few months after. They knew the DJs were promoting the music on a street level and in a pre social media era, it was essential from both a marketing and promotional perspective to give them to those who were helping shape the tastes in the clubs.
The industry has completely changed since, and those glory days are long gone. DJs are still tastemakers but these days music doesn’t get leaked until it’s actually released, and even record company employees are often in the dark until the music reaches streaming services. DJ’s will continue to stream though, and even though its got very saturated in the last few weeks, it’s been a great opportunity to watch some of the best DJs during the lockdown.
Just last weekend I watched some of the worlds greatest; such as Jazzy Jeff, A Trak, Black Coffee, DJ Revolution, DJ Dez, Cut Killer, DJ Reborn, and many more, get very creative on their decks at home. On Instagram DJ Premier and Rza ran through some of their own respective best productions, in a bunch of tracks which helped define hip-hop history. Locally the Community scratch games showcased some of Irelands finest turntable and DJ talent, while even a cursory skip through any social media will have given any music fan an opportunity to see their friends DJ on their various streams.
As someone who is used to working every weekend, I’ve rarely had the time to watch such sets in normal times, but i’ve used the lockdown to try and breath some more of them in. There is less time constraints than the club so many DJs can express themselves pretty good in these circumstances, and some of these are the world’s finest. I’ve been lucky enough to DJ with the likes of Jazzy Jeff and others many times, and each time I’ve got inspired. This lockdown sucks but you might aswell take advantage of anything that can make you better as a DJ. I’ve tried to be more creative myself with some of my own self isolation parties, and I’ve been busy doing parties for both kids and older fans, while DJing for UCC, Kaleidescope Festival and Cork Pride. The beats won’t stop, and we can hopefully all become better DJs/artists or musicians in Quarantine!