Live-streaming brings an entirely new dimension to your Mixcloud shows. Real-time interaction with your listeners and exciting visuals allow you to experiment with creative ideas and reach new audiences. But where to begin, and how to stand out from the crowd?
In 2020, a group of friends formed Pound and Yam, a Mixcloud Live station and self-named 'TV channel' that takes as much inspiration from Adult Swim as your classic DJ stream. Pound and Yam - started by Michael Olajide, Tasim Chowdhry and Foday, with Lauren Arch joining in 2022 - streams every Sunday from its London studio via Mixcloud Live, with a range of programming spanning all genres from DJs around the world. Oh Annie Oh, Martelo and Vanessa Maria are just a few names that have graced the station in its three-year history.
Pound and Yam prides itself on its visual identity and, by live-streaming, they’ve placed that identity to the forefront, with a range of weird and wonderful effects projected on a green screen whenever DJs play. The backdrops can be as straightforward as a reflection of the DJs themselves, or as random as a TV floating in outer space. But one thing is for certain: the station creates an unforgettable immersive experience. We caught up with one-third of Pound and Yam, Michael Olajide, to discuss the brand’s origins, the best equipment for live-streaming and how they created an entirely unique creative medium powered by Mixcloud.
Tell us about the story of Pound and Yam. How did you come together to create the platform?
It was just a group of friends who really love music and going to events and we wanted to channel that into something. I met Tasim and Foday just by going out. At first I wanted to do a magazine but a station is something I started to really envision us doing. Because we talk about music and DJs all the time, it just made sense. When COVID hit, I reached out to Tasim and Foday to get this off the ground.
I got our studio in the first year of lockdown and it was all really new to us because none of us had worked in radio. But my mentality was that we would figure it out. We did a lot of test runs and streams and were posting on our individual socials and people were watching and feeling them, so we knew we were onto something. It was very stop and start because we were trying to find the best days to stream and the best equipment that suited us. Last year, Lauren joined the team and gave us a lot of structure with her experience in radio and we did a soft launch and we’ve been consistent ever since.
Give us a flavor of what fans tuning in can expect?
Every Sunday we stream from 1-7pm and we direct our audience to the stream on Mixcloud Live. We always wanted to start with the live element and play into the interactivity aspect of it. Then we archive the audio of each live-stream on our channel.
Mixcloud allows us the medium to make the content we want, how we want. Especially when it comes to licensing. We’ve had takedown problems in the past and with Mixcloud, it's one less thing to worry about and it takes a big weight off your shoulders. We now know that we can upload a DJ mix without fear of it being taken down. That’s a huge benefit for us. Mixcloud is the platform Pound and Yam needed to get our content out.
What kind of music is usually spinning on Pound and Yam?
On any given day, you can hear literally anything. Our programming is so diverse and not genre specific. Everything from dance and club music to chillout music to study to. Electronic, Breakbeat, Trance, Hip-Hop, Drill. We just tell DJs to be themselves, to come as they are and do as they please. That’s why the music is so varied.
You call yourselves a ‘TV channel’ - how does this branding empower you to do things differently?
Our platform is a mix of the audio and the visual element. So we say ‘TV channel’ just because it's a bit different. It gives you as a fan the option to watch and see as well as listen. But we also see ourselves as an internet radio station. For every stream, we use our green screen to create custom visuals and that really helps our creativity and how we want to be seen. Our residents can also have their own visuals if they want, so someone like Kibo can come in with his own crazy visuals and that only helps the brand expand its creativity in a way that we see fit.
You’ve developed a really unique audio-visual style, what was the inspiration behind it?
One of my biggest visual inspirations hands down is Adult Swim. The way they incorporate animation and music is so crazy! I was only a kid watching and not understanding any of it but I was always drawn to the variety of what I was seeing. I think you can kind of see the inspiration whenever you tune into Pound and Yam, it's a huge reference point in a sense.
Mainly we have a group chat where we share ideas for Foday to create, but we keep a certain mantra: it’s not that deep. We don’t need to take things too seriously. Our visuals allow us to set our tone of voice and personality as a brand. That’s why you might see a random tiger or a goat walking around during a stream or Nollywood references; we’re just messing about! We want you to have fun and enjoy, that’s the main takeaway.
Talk to us about the technical side of things, what goes into a typical day of live-streaming?
It usually takes about an hour to set up, so as long as we come in an hour before we go live, it's fine. That one hour used to be three hours back in the day but we’ve definitely become more efficient as time has gone. Once we have a lineup announced for the day, the only thing we need prior to going live is knowing if our residents are coming in with their custom visuals or logos, so we can get them in and to incorporate.
Having our own physical space is the biggest help because we can come in early on a Sunday, have a checklist of things to prepare for and it's really just the setting up. We have a one sheet to share to DJs with all of the studio information and we try to make sure everyone is well prepared and organized. That’s what you need for a stream to go well.
And it comes down to making errors. You have to make errors because you need to know what to do and how to act in a situation because in a live stream, anything can happen. Someone can come late, so what do you do when that happens? If the Internet goes or the cameras bug out, or you start running out of memory on your hard drive or SD card when you’re recording, you need to know how to react. We’ve learned a lot from making these errors so I think it's key.
How has live-streaming impacted the creativity of the brand?
When we started Pound and Yam, I didn't have that experience in radio or streaming or creating content. I didn't know what to expect from those things. But the social element of it, the interactivity of it, being able to engage with your audience; that's what live-streaming does for us, we can engage with people. Some of the residents do live call ins. They’ll talk to people on the Mixcloud Live chat. Kibo once did a call-in with YT who is a sick artist and they had such a fun vibe.
It gives us more of a community feel and shows we’re not just making the content and putting it out. We’re doing more with it in real time and it adds depth to the brand. I just feel like the live aspect of it helps us to be present in the moment and roll with the punches. On a live-stream, anything can go down, so many random things happen and we just roll with it. And then that just kind of feeds into the content as well, you get candid moments, which are pretty dope. As long as you embrace it.
What is one thing everyone should know about live-streaming that isn’t common knowledge?
This might sound obvious but most important, above everything, is making sure you have a good Wi-Fi connection! There have been some times when we’re streaming where it might come off, so you just have to check for these things. There's a huge social element to this and you kind of have to play into it and utilize it. I’m not the biggest social media guy but you have to be open to every platform because a lot of the time, that element is what will bring your content to people’s attention.
When it comes to the basics, what essential equipment do you need for a live-stream?
You have to have CDJs or a controller, whatever’s in your means. A sound card to record the audio because, if the cameras bug out, at least we’ll still have the live audio to fall back on. You’ll need cameras as well. We’re also fortunate enough to have our own space where everything is already set up and makes life a lot easier.
What advice would you give to creators who, like Pound and Yam, want to stand out from the crowd?
Be consistent. We’ve had a time for going live and we’ve stuck to it and I’ve seen the benefits it has. People know what time and place you’ll be and it helps them stay aware of you. It’s hard to stay consistent, but we’re fortunate enough to have an amazing team that is dedicated to that cause. It’s important to have structure. I thought we were always structured but having people like Tasim and Lauren coming in has opened my eyes to organizing. Mastering simple things like writing stuff down! Having a Google doc or a one-sheet at hand to keep information; it's really helpful. Then I would say you should engage with your community; asking people for their thoughts and feedback on your show. Being outside going to events and seeing how others stream and that will really help your own creativity.
What does the future look like for Pound and Yam?
World domination! I want us to be viewed by as many people as possible, and for them to enjoy it. When I see people tuning in from places like Melbourne I realize how far this can go and that global reach. We want to open up the programming to more days and DJs because there are so many people we want to get on. I’d love to have an alumni of residents and shows that you can look back on and say, ‘wow, they were on Pound and Yam and now they have this Rinse residency.’ I want people to use us as a springboard for their future success. The same way you look at magazines for a specific point of time, for us to be viewed that way would be amazing.
Check out more stories from creators using Mixcloud Live to power their brand, including this guide on how to grow a live stream audience with King Shine.