In our third detailed review of DJ-centered SoundCloud Alternatives, we turn to Mixcloud: the party with many DJs and not so many dancers.
God help the one that pleases the Google gods and gets a high page ranking for his work. Since I wrote the very first piece in this series on alternatives to SoundCloud, I’ve been inundated by smiling PR people who are insistently friendly and eager to “help” (the women sign their letters with “xoxo,” the men with a hearty verbal handshake. Both like to ask if I have any weekend plans despite living on separate continents.)
They’re all promoting their company’s SoundCloud alternatives, most of which you’ve never heard of and will never use before someone unplugs the server and they vanish into the ether with some sad sack’s life work some day. Actually, you couldn’t tell most of them apart. There must be some script that craps out these streaming sites and apps, which have all of the character of a website squeezed out of a tube.
I’ve never seen a link to audiomack.com in the wild. None of the other friendly publicists with handshakes and xoxos who work on the recording side of the industry have ever sent me a link to this site, nor have any artists, nor have I seen them posted on social media. That’s not to say that nobody uses it – they clearly do – but nobody I know does, and I wouldn’t have found it on my own had I not heard from a publicist (a male this time, presenting handshakes again) urging me to edit my article on SoundCloud alternatives to add reference to their website.
With unlimited uploads, data and no monthly fees, Audiomack presses basically every button you want pressed as a DJ.
Probably half of the reviews in my original feature were negative – there are a lot of shitty streaming sites catering to DJs, you understand – so it’s not like he was unaware of this possibility when bringing Audiomack to my attention.
And while using Audiomack was an overall negative experience, there’s the germ of something interesting here – a different approach to the business of streaming. Considering nobody has made very much profit off streaming at all, new approaches toward the idea of a sustainable streaming model are desperately needed and should be welcomed.
What Audiomack Costs and What You Get.
By general description, Audiomack presses basically every button you want pressed if you’re a DJ:
- Unlimited uploads
- Unlimited data
- Completely free
That’s right: Audiomack won’t cost you a dollar. It’s completely free. There’s no cap, no advanced functions that cripple the product and require a few bucks a month to unlock.
At least not yet – and probably not for a long time, as Audiomack is really hyping up “the free factor” to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
What you get for “free” is… fairly robust, to be honest. Audiomack plays up their data tracking as another reason to use the site – to know at any given moment “what’s hot.” In fact, this is probably the essential reason for Audiomack’s existence: to make songs easy and free to upload, so the site can acquire as many tracks as possible and rank them by a quantifiable popularity that makes other sites’ Top 10 lists look like checkers to Audiomack’s data-driven chess. A 2015 article in The Fader suggests that some mainstream record producers value this quite a lot:
Uploading presents a warning that unauthorized music will be flagged and deleted, and also that each song upload is limited to 250 mb in size. That’s right on the borderline of acceptable for DJ mixes (for a 320kps mix of a couple of hours, you’ll likely bump into this). For larger files, Audiomack makes the helpful observation that you can just go ahead and lower the bitrate and upload it again. Th-thanks!
Audiomack only permits uploads of mp3s, which is also pretty annoying. You can upload by pasting a link to a track on SoundCloud, though with the caveat that downloads need to be enabled on SoundCloud first. A bulk import tool would have been helpful if they want disaffected SoundCloud users to make the leap, as Mixcloud and HearThis have found.
The player itself is fairly plain looking but sharp. It’s whitelisted in all the places it should be (on social media) and plays as it should play.
Audiomack does have a “pro” service (Audiomack Premium, or AMP) for monetization which requires a application for approval. It’s unclear what it consists of but earlier articles suggested pre-roll ads and a revenue split between the rights holder and Audiomack. Each upload also features a link to buy and follow to download options. You can actually link directly to a SoundCloud stream too.
The Audiomack Community.
Audiomack’s audience for electronic music is practically non-existent. I mean really: there’s almost nothing there. Look up any well-known figure in underground dance music and you won’t find much. There are a total of two results for Dennis Ferrer – a mix containing one of his songs and an unspeakably shitty remix of “Hey Hey.” How about Juke? DJ Rashad has one track and possibly a mix uploaded by an intrepid blogger who calls himself “Rap Rapist” representing “Rape’n U Records.” Welcome to the community, I guess.
Hip Hop dominates Audiomack’s community to the exclusion of almost anything else. But even accounting for the huge amount of Hip Hop uplods, the total catalog of tracks on Audiomack is microscopic compared to SoundCloud or any other streaming service.
They’re certainly trying to change this – hence Audiomack PR’s efforts at outreach to me. But without the possibility of adding sub-genre tags for Deep House, Techno, Soulful House, whatever, all dance music tracks and mixes are tossed in the same cheese-scented bag with Chainsmokers and other EDM greaseballs. Just about the only people I saw repping underground dance music were thirsty DJs and blogs who tried it and didn’t seem to stick around long.
Audiomack is a single-genre app. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that genre isn’t dance music.
Some will argue that there is a “first-mover advantage” on a new platform like Audiomack – that by planting down roots first, you can get the jump on every other Deep House DJ. This is a concept borrowed from business and doesn’t necessarily apply to music. It also doesn’t apply unless the platform itself eventually does become popular with other DJs from your genre. (Having registered a Facebook page called “Deep House” in 2008 was a genius move. Registering a Google Buzz page with the same name, not so much.)
Audiomack is usually described as a company “on the rise,” which is just this side of “getting a good buzz” in terms of bullshit things media industry types like to say. As of August 2015, Forbes claimed Audiomack had 7 million unique visitors per month – about 4% of the last reported SoundCloud figure of 175 million (and that was from December 2014).
You Wouldn’t Download a Mix…
Audiomack has downloading enabled (it’s also necessary to enable tracks for app users who want to stream them offline.)
Audiomack has both iOS and Android apps. The iOS app is ad-supported unless the user pays $0.99 to $1.99 for “Gold” or “Platinum” access. The app design is top shelf, and the trending, charts and playlists would be interesting if there was anything worth listening to on it. Quite a few reviews of Audiomack’s mobile apps mention the poor selection of tracks. And here’s where “streaming sites” for DJs and “streaming apps” for listeners diverge: as an alternative to Spotify, Audiomack isn’t there but kinda pretends to be.
Android lists Audiomack has having 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 installs – about 1% to 5% of the number of SoundCloud and Spotify.
Is Audiomack Really Worth It?
This is the price of free: any product that aids in popularity and distribution is worth the investment when the investment is actually zero.
I typically err on the side of telling people that if they have to ask if it’s worth it, it probably isn’t. Audiomack though is a bit of a weird duck. As small as the userbase is on HearThis, it still exists. There isn’t a userbase at all for House Music or Techno or anything you as a reader of mine possibly give a shit about on Audiomack.
As it currently exists, then, Audiomack really isn’t worth the investment of zero. For now, it’s a single-genre app. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that genre isn’t dance music. However, the low cost and robust data reporting are tempting for the future, should anything resembling a community ever appear.
Read more from this series on Soundcloud Alternatives.
Originally published first in 5 Magazine Issue 139, featuring Jerome Baker, Hanna Hais, David Mancuso, Surface and Karen Copeland & more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full Access to Real House Music.