I have been asked why I use play.fm for the sets that I post on Sweet Headache instead of offering them for download. Quite a few people prefer downloads over streaming services like play.fm, so it would seem logical for a music blog to offer those sets as a download.
To make this clear: I would also prefer to offer sets for download. I understand that many of you prefer listening to music from your MP3 player instead of having to have a browser window open all the time.
However, there is a very simple reason why I can’t offer downloads: It’s illegal.
Whenever a DJ records a set, he mostly uses other people’s tracks. If he wants to distribute this to the public, he must ask every single rights owner of each track (typically the artist or the label) for permission. This can be quite a lot of work, and it typically will also cost you. If you buy an official mix CD, it’s highly likely that this has happened before.
For streaming, this is slightly different: You can imagine an online streaming service like play.fm like a radio station. Radio stations play music all day, and it wouldn’t be feasible for them to get individual permissions for every song they play. That’s why there are special licensing institutions that sell the permission to broadcast music to radio stations. The artists then get paid by those institutions when one of their tracks is played on air. You might have heard the names of these institutions: The GEMA in Germany, BMI and ASCAP in the USA or PRS for Music in the UK.
play.fm has a similar license that allows them to stream DJ sets without having to ask every single artist for permission. Being located in Vianna (Austria), they have a contract with the local licensing institution. That makes play.fm a perfectly legal service.
For a small website like Sweet Headache, it would be economically impossible to negotiate a similar licence deal. There are special licences for “normal” web radios, but these also cost money and would not give me the same flexibility.
There are a couple of other nice things that play.fm does. I really like their embedable player that allow me to show a DJ set within an article. They have a nice search engine that makes it easy to find all the music I like. They have nice mobile apps. And not to forget, they have managed to attract a huge number of DJs so that I can find almost any music style.
While there are always opportunities for improvement, I have to say that play.fm solves quite a few legal and technical problems for me, and that’s why we are using it here.