Since Mixcloud LIVE launched last year, we’ve had a regular question from users: why doesn’t Mixcloud offer VOD of live streams?

YouTube, Facebook and Twitch offer the option to archive their live streams as an on-demand video (commonly known as a “VOD”). Unlike these other platforms, Mixcloud doesn’t offer VODs. Instead, we archive live streams as on-demand audio shows.

So far, we have done a poor job of explaining why we archive to audio over VODs. In fact, we’ve not really explained it at all. So here goes…

Short version:

Mixcloud does not offer VODs because there is no legal way to do so. Adding VODs would break our core principles — that we are building a safe and sustainable ecosystem for any music to be played. Instead, Mixcloud is the only platform that legally and safely saves live streams as audio. This is a safe and ethical alternative that ensures creators don’t suffer takedowns and artists get paid.

Long version:

Everything Mixcloud offers is underpinned by a unique and comprehensive music copyright management system. This system gives you the freedom to play and share any music you like on Mixcloud, regardless of whether you own the copyright. It identifies, reports and pays royalties out on tens of millions of tracks, played by millions of Mixcloud creators, and owned by hundreds of thousands of different artists and songwriters.

Central to this system is a complex network of licenses from publishers, labels and other licensing organizations. Mixcloud needs separate licenses for different types of copyrights, different territories, and different parts of the Mixcloud toolkit. These licenses are blanket (meaning they cover a whole repertoire of songs), bespoke, and have taken many years to negotiate.

Unfortunately, a blanket license for VOD does not exist.

When a song is played within a VOD, you need something called a synchronization license from whoever owns the publishing rights to that song. These licenses are not available in a blanket form. Instead, they are all negotiated on a case-by-case, song-by-song, and songwriter-by-songwriter basis.

This is how the TV, film and advertising industry works. If a studio wants to use a song in their video they must get a synchronization deal with whoever owns the publishing rights to that specific song. And to make matters worse, the ownership of that song’s publishing rights is frequently split across many different people or organizations.

Unlike a movie studio, it is not feasible for us to manually negotiate individual  synchronization deals for all the songs being played, which runs into the millions. Because of this, if we implemented VODs we would have to do so without the copyrights cleared.

This would break two of Mixcloud’s founding principles: firstly, that Mixcloud is a safe space for people to play and share any music, regardless of whether they own the copyright or not. And secondly, that artists who get played should get paid.

But how, you might ask, can Facebook and Amazon’s Twitch offer VODs? The answer is that these services are not built for music. Creators using them for music can and do face mutings, strikes, takedowns and profile deletions. Rather than catering for music creators, they specifically prohibit the use of copyrighted music in their terms and conditions, and—we believe—treat music creators as third-class users.

We don’t want the content takedown and profile deletion troubles that plague those platforms to exist on Mixcloud. Archiving live streams to on-demand audio is a safe, legal alternative.

We know that the complexities and limitations of music licensing are frustrating. We know that many of you want VODs. We know that some of you calculate the risks of using unlicensed platforms, and decide that the pros outweigh the cons. We pass no judgement on that.

But we are building a more sustainable and ethical alternative — something that’s built for music. And every day you use Mixcloud, you are helping us with that mission.

Thank you.

Ben Lawrence