Online Radio with DJ Mixes?

Here’s another idea I came up with.  We have online radio stations, like Spotify, Last FM, and Jango.  They stream songs based on our preferences, and they learn what we like.  Occasionally, these guys throw a new song at you for you to try out.

Then we have the Youtube, Reddit, 4Chan, Facebook crowd.  They take stuff from the internet, mess with it, and upload it.

Then you have all these “download Youtube as MP3”, “convert MOV to WAV” and all those guys.  Binary manipulation backend, website up front.

By putting these things together (“I am the weaver!”) we could revolutionise online radio.

Here’s How It Works

You sign up for your radio station, add a few bands like any other online station, and sit back and listen.  But there’s an extra option – “Mixed”.  You switch it on, and the station plays a steady stream of music, like a DJ at a club.  Not just dance music either.  Hendrix mixed into Beethoven, then mixed into Jamiroquai, and on and on…

These mixes, or links, could be stored separately as actions on the server, and applied to the audiotracks live, or they could be stored as two half-tunes (e.g. the last half of a tune and the first of the next).

If you’re a DJ, you can take two songs from the playlist, and you get a bunch of online tools like a crossfader, a scratching interface, tempo controls, a sequencer/drum machine etc to play with.  You mix one tune into the other as best you can, and you save your mix.  Mixes are “scrobbled” just like tunes, with users getting rated for the best mix.

If you can’t DJ, but you’d love two of your favourite songs mixed, you can click “request a mix” and it will show up on an inspiration list for DJs to scroll through.  The Beatles to Mr Scruff.  Mozart to Motörhead…

Of course, there are a lot more potential links than there are songs, and some simply won’t have mixes.  In this case, an automatic crossfade could suffice.  In fact, a few tools could automate mixes of songs that are drastically different – like a simple(!) beat analysis and a back-spin, or a prepared drum machine with a tempo change every sixteen beats.  Even a few Pink Floyd style tricks could be employed, like a “rushing wind” sound quickly fading in after a brief pause.  Users could rate the automatic mixes too, in case a really great mix happens automatically.

A station like LastFM could start out by hiring a couple of DJ’s to do a few mixes of random and popular tunes.  Then it could be added as a new feature for everyone.

Because all the mixing will be actions on online audio, rather than download/upload, there should be no problems with copyright holders on top of the ordinary streaming technology.  It could also be seen as a benign form of DRM – like when the a radio DJ talks over the beginning or end of a track so you can’t “tape it off the radio” as easily.

The inspiration for this idea comes from a few places.  One is the movie It’s All Gone Pete Tong, where the movie soundtrack, an operatic choiral classical thing gets mixed into a banging acid house track (it’s the “comeback” scene).  Another is a small piece of freeware I used to love, called MDJ, which was the first MP3 DJ software I’d ever seen (they also made an amazing 303 type machine called Rubberduck, but that’s besides the point) which had an auto-mixer.  Mixxx, the open source DJ tool is another reason why I think this will work.  Also credit has to be given to all the nights I’ve sat up partying to Youtube videos and Jango and would have killed for a decent mix.  Some of the hour-long uploads of mixes on Youtube and Soundcloud by DJ’s are great, but they always play songs you’d have banned yourself.

Could this be the new way to enjoy online radio?  Could it spawn a new generation of online radio DJs?  What do you think?