Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and others, take note: Tidal has made a bold move. The streaming service’s new Track Edit feature allows you to manipulate and remix songs. You can adjust the tempo of a selection, let it fade it in or out, save your edit to a playlist, and even share it on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
But, as fun as it is to hear Drake sing Hotline Bling at a faster tempo, there isn’t much else Tidal’s Track Edit can do … yet. Track Edit is pretty limited, but ripe with potential. This has us wondering: What else could Tidal add, and will other services like Spotify or Apple Music take note and give their subscribers some editing features?
What if you could cut tracks up, remix them, or combine elements of an artists songs together to create entirely new songs? We may be entering a new era where anyone can be more of a true DJ and make custom mixes for their friends.
Let’s let everyone be a DJ
True DJs are always going to want professional tools, but that doesn’t mean everyone can’t have a small crack at DJing in the future. Creating a list of personally edited songs is vital to DJ’ing and the major music streaming services would be smart to follow Tidal’s lead and turn Track Edit into a virtual DJ tool. They could add sound filters, reverb, delays, and other basic features found on modern DJ turntables and music production programs.
If you’ve ever dreamed of listening to Bob Dylan as an autotuned robot, you would have your chance.
Warped filters could let you create a Skrillex-ey spacey sound, and vinyl effects could let you scratch songs like DJ Premier. The streaming services could even add an autotune feature. If you’ve ever dreamed of listening to Bob Dylan as an autotuned robot, you would have your chance. Fans would tweak songs for months, giving the services more music, and earning the artists more fans, and money.
Spotify has inched toward this reality for years. In 2014, the world’s most popular subscription music streaming service partnered with DJ software company Algoriddim to integrate its mobile DJ app Djay with Spotify’s library. This allowed Spotify Premium subscribers to use features common on traditional DJ rigs such as crossfading between tracks, scratching, and even adjusting pitch with millions of songs on Spotify.
Unfortunately, Spotify’s features aren’t as integrated as Tidal’s Track Edit. For one thing, you can’t record mixes you make with Spotify songs on the app, so only hardcore users that seek it out will have any luck.
Editing tracks, and making a radio station
The first thing many listeners want to do after hearing a song they love with is hit replay; the next thing they want to do is share it. Currently, you can not share individual song edits you make with Tidal’s Track Edit. You can share a playlist of edits on social media, but non-Tidal subscribers will only get a preview of the original song. To fix this, those edits need to be as freely available (and sharable) as the original cuts.
Apple Music’s defining feature is its Beats 1 Radio service, which anyone can stream from iTunes. Apple could build off Tidal’s Track Editing idea and add a radio feature to let anyone stream their creations with others on social media. Apple could even designate a section in Apple Music for the most popular Track Edit stations to increase discovery.
Apple Music and Spotify both have “Radio” features that create a randomized list of songs based on a song or collection of songs you select. Why not add the ability to create radio stations based on custom tracks you build, and then make that radio station sharable with friends? Or maybe the systems can autogenerate edits of tracks for custom playlists that are more dancey or better for running or working out.
At the moment, Track Edit also limits you to simply playing around with one track at a time, and you cannot edit every song. Introducing multi-track capabilities would allow users to mix at least two separate tracks together. Artists could restrict the mashups to their own comfort levels. If Beyonce and Adele don’t want users mashing them up together, they could disable the feature for their songs.
The more creative users can get, the more rewards artists may reap, though. Social media platform Musical.ly allows users to create and share short videos that lip-sync popular songs and has more than 90 million users. It’s a haven for tween singers, and the company even signed a licensing deal with Warner Music Group last year, as the label saw it as a good revenue source. If Apple Music and Spotify allowed their 65 million-plus combined paid subscribers to edit/remix songs and add their own basic vocal tracks, a lot of subscribers would have a ball with the new feature. They could even upcharge for it.
More remixes = more plays
It is not clear if streams of tracks edited on Tidal are counted by Nielsen and Billboard toward chart placement, but the two organizations have counted every YouTube video using authorized audio towards a song’s placement on the charts since 2013 — and a lot of them are remixes of some kind. Billboard’s Director of Charts Silvio Pietroluongo also told Digital Trends last January that the way the charts are counted could change as soon as this year, so anything is possible.
Subscription music streaming is the primary method most people use to listen to music these days, but without practical innovations, it’s bound to hit a ceiling as CDs did in the early 2000s.
Letting people edit songs may seem farfetched due to the complicated way artist royalties and copyright agreements work. But less than a decade ago, so did the idea of charging $10 a month for millions of songs. Putting all of the songs in people’s hands was the start. Putting all the control in the their hands could be the next step.
The music industry should learn from the popularity of DJing and the prevalence of remixes on SoundCloud. Services like Spotify and Apple Music would benefit greatly from them, and we’d all have a lot more fun making mixes, sharing them, and joining in on the creative process … just a little.