CHAT SESSIONS 004: SPECIAL EDITION — PIRACY REDEFINED, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BIGGEST LIVESETS TORRENT TRACKER

Torrents. We are all familiar with them. And don’t give me that look, I am pretty sure you have used illegal downloading at some point. Just remember these times you used to get tracks from Soulseek or LimeWire, which you’d later use to practice beatmatching on your old Pioneer CDJ. A topic of P2P networks and piracy is very delicate. Piracy is not all bad, or all good, and is really subjective. Try before you buy is a concept widely used almost everywhere nowadays — look at Soundcloud, Spotify, Deezer — that is, if we talk about music area of expertise. Even your favorite software like Photoshop comes with 30 days trial, without any limitations. The goal is quite simple — to hook you up with the goods and make you pay for it if you like it. The latter is all about your honesty, legal consequences and of course your financial situation.

It is well known fact that not everyone can afford paying hundreds or even thousands for a piece of software, even multi-million EDM millionaires like Martin Garrix, Avicii and Steve Aoki. But let’s talk about us mortals. Say, you came up with the idea to produce electronic music, but life has been unfortunate enough that you can’t go and grab a license for your Ableton right away. Obviously, you are serious about your hobby, and trial time is not enough. What do you do? Go to your favorite source of warez and download whatever you are looking for. But does that really mean stealing? It really depends. If you just want to keep on using someone’s hard work, and make money out of it — of course eventually you will get caught, like these guys above. You don’t want to get your ass sued, aren’t you?

But it’s not all that bad. Say, you’ve been learning Ableton for months and had been learning to compose techno jams for quite a while. Then, at some point, you realize that you actually like what you hear. You put your tracks on Soundcloud and you actually get attention. You get an offer to get signed on label. You start getting comments and feedback which doesn’t suck. But then you remember that whatever you did is actually not exactly legal. Then, of course, you decide either you are going to be a good guy or a bad guy. Let’s stick with the first option. You inform the label that what you did is not for release, and you start collecting money to obtain a license for your DAW. You finally buy it, compose even more awesome beats and labels are interested in your persona more than ever. Everybody wins. Of course, from the side of the law it’s not all that easy — it’s a sneaky path to come through. But that’s just the reality — art hobby is not exactly the cheapest.

But enough of this monologue. Today, let’s discuss probably the most unusual piracy — livesets piracy! Is it as bad as, say, albums and EPs piracy? And is it really a piracy? You don’t exactly steal the recordings (unless you have someone who works in the club and hooks you up with their secret supply… lucky you!). They are getting aired freely on the radio, and not so free on some online radios — if you care about the quality. Like you used to record your favorite music on audio tapes, this hobby still lives in digital. It is really a grey area and is different on each continent. We are not by any means lawyers, but a quick research shows that it is indeed legal — at least within European Union. A Copyright Directive passed to European Union Parliament in 2001 says as follows:

Article 5–2/b
(b) in respect of reproductions on any medium made by a natural person for private use and for ends that are neither directly nor indirectly commercial, on condition that the rightholders receive fair compensation which takes account of the application or non-application of technological measures referred to in Article 6 to the work or subject-matter concerned;

In short, it should mean if it’s for personal use and artists receive a “fair compensation”, it is legal. But this “fair compensation” is not defied as good as we would like to. If big EDM artists get paid for that — something that is called performance loyalties. But what about underground artists?

We have reached to a guy who hides under nickname Slash — an owner of one of the biggest torrent trackers which focuses on sharing livesets, radioshows and podcasts with the community — Tribalmixes. Let’s find out what drives him to keep his project alive for more than a decade.

Good afternoon Slash! How are you doing?
Hello, Bassment, I am doing well. Thanks.
Apart from Tribalmixes, what do you do? Tell us about your offline life.
My offline life is not really for the public, cause I am not satisfied with it. I am married, have 3 cats, and drive for LYFT (a ride-share company like Uber) at the moment.. I like cars, and I like driving. So most of my jobs involve that (driving).. Tribalmixes and a dozen other online projects are for the soul..
Tell us about Tribalmixes. How and when did you come up with this idea?
Tribalmixes.com was formed in spring 2005 as an alternative source of DJ mixes, which were available via only 2–3 sites back then. On Tribalmixes everyone could share live recordings and DJ mixes as torrents, and back then apparently it was in high demand, cause other 2–3 sources only allowed select few to share mixes, which made me crazy, cause I had lots to share, and no one wanted me to do that on their sites and trackers. So I went with my own torrent tracker. It struck serious popularity back in 2006–2008, site was actually ranked top 15k in the world according to Alexa’s rating system..
What is your goal with Tribalmixes?
The goal is simple: to deliver good underground (and all other) sound to people for free, allow them share their own sounds and mixes and thus grow with the growth of community.
There are tons of other trackers online, however your tracker seems to stand out. You could see that a piece of heart had been put into it. Did you code the engine by yourself?
I originally based it on TorrentBits templates, but having vast programming background, I made it “my own” several times since (aka remade, redesigned, etc). At first it was only few PHP page templates, which I took apart, and studied, and learned… web programming was new to me. And now I am well versed in PHP, JavaScript & MySQL programming, and am thinking of remaking Tribalmixes one last time to attune to the nowadays requirements (by Google) to have mobile versions, so will be using bootstrap most likely. Mostly thanks to that, the site hasn’t been getting many new visitors last 4–5 years.. I think..
Over the time I must admit I’ve had lots of help, from most random people I call friends now. Graphics, design, advice. And am very thankful for Viktor1983, he’s been helping with Linux and managing hosting environment, speeding things up.. We do have 50k peers, which create crazy traffic of data exchange with the tracker, now it’s not an issue, but long ago it was, with slower server machines and such, always looking to speed things up, trying new technologies and methods. With his advice site’s heavily relying on memcache (caching server memory via special PHP commands) and Ajax (refreshing only parts of pages without full reload) technologies..
Tribalmixes.com has been my hobby and obsession for 12 years. You’re on the spot, — I and many others have put our hearts into this site and its community.
How do you keep your tracker alive?
I don’t. But community does. There are still altruist people wishing to share their favorite dj mixes with others, they keep the site alive. Some do it for a few weeks, others — months or years. I too of course share a good amount of new dj sets, when I can, and when others don’t and I have to step it up..
Do you consider what you do a piracy? What is piracy for you in the first place?
I don’t think this is piracy. Most DJ mixes we share are promos or shares taken from official sources, it’s just easier, I guess. Essentially it’s a group of people finding livesets and DJ mixes else where and bringing them all here to Tribalmixes and helping others easily find new music.. We do not deal with tracks, but rather DJs’ visions of those tracks, the way they were mixed into their sets.. We simply share stuff from radios and from clubs that is not a commercial product, you know… Most of our torrents can be obtained directly from official sources, so we are not stealing, and we are not using anything stolen, not offering anything commercial. In reality, we act as a TV DVR, only TV for us is the world of DJ mixes and live sets, and DVR is the community that stores those mixes on their computers and shares them. But if some label or lawyer’s office requests us to take down some mix or liveset, we do it anyway, from fear, I guess.. It is a gray area and has been such since I remember.
Ever got into any interesting stories because of your tracker?
I remember back in 2007 or so I’ve had my friends from the tracker (that I’ve never seen before) meet me at WMC in Miami at the last party that Steve Lawler played tribal house and bring me some ecstasy pills, cause I couldn’t get any after freshly moving to chicago.. I was really thankful.. Besides, nothing seriously exciting comes to mind now… I am warmly invited to visit many countries in the world with a free place to stay and unending tours of nightlife promised.. if i ever go travel. Also once SONY or their representatives tried to take down the tracker, but we outsmarted them.. Hehe..
What kind of music do you listen yourself? Your favorite festivals, music events?
I like underground dance music: Progressive and Deep House, Dark Progressive, Techno, Tech House, House too, but nothing of the electro EDM new age stuff. I’m stuck in the past, I also like Breaks, D&B, goode olde Jungle mix.. 10 years ago I liked Tiesto, though, so who knows what the future will bring.. I used to go WMC before, Movement in Detroit, but I loved the past-millennium events in New York, the BOO festivals, and other great underground events.. I did lots of drugs back then too.. now I like to listen to music from THE BPM in Mexico, Time Warp in Germany, Winter Music Conference in Miami, Amsterdam Dance Event, and so on..
Future of Tribalmixes — do you plan to develop it further and keep it running?
I have some plans in store, wanna make Tribalmixes more integrated with Soundcloud and Mixcloud, index official accounts off those sites and make the mixes easily obtainable via Tribalmixes, make site more “legal” that way.. Make it mobile friendly.. I will continue the site’s existence for as long as people show interest, even just a few hundred people. For many it’s another home, you know… 12 years with Tribalmixes, I myself will not know what to do without it.. =)

A big thank you for the community and Slash for so much work that has been done; for such a fresh way to look into underground; for such warm and supportive community. And of course for dedicating his time to answer our questions. Good luck with your journey, pal.

Visit Tribalmixes.