Dubset aims to distribute royalties to artists whose songs are used in DJ mixes
The war between record labels and streaming services is ancient history for many millennials who, thanks to services such as Spotify and Pandora, can’t really fathom why anyone would willingly purchase music outside of showing support for an artist. While it’d be nice if every music fan possessed such admirable morality, the truth is when it comes to royalties, rapidly declining record sales have forced artists to count more on performance plays than actual downloads.
The concept is simple: if Artist A plays Artist B’s song in his set during a performance, Artist B should receive a royalty much as he would if his song were played on the radio. In practice, however, things can get a little grey. What happens if Artist A samples only fragments of Artist B’s track, such as a vocal or a guitar riff? How about when Artist A mixes into someone else’s song just for the chorus before switching back into his own original track? What is the value of song fragments, and how much of a tune needs to be played for it to be deemed monetizable?
Not so simple anymore, huh? One New York City startup has been dedicating itself to addressing this complex and befuddling riddle of licensing and DJ mixes. Funded by Rhapsody, Dubset has spent the past two years developing and testing its MixSCAN technology, which identifies individual tracks played within mixes, measures how much of the track was consumed and determines the value of those fragments so it can accurately distribute royalties to the owners of those underlying rights within seconds. The company has recently earned the support of several electronic dance music heavyweights such as Tiesto, Afrojack and David Guetta. All three have started uploading their entire libraries to Dubset’s music registry.
Dubset CEO Bob Barbiere, said. “This program begins and ends with DJs. Rather than trying to ban their medium, we have a way to make it legal.”
Dubset estimates that the number of tracks sampled each year in mix and remix contests equals around 120 billion. If monetized, those samples could earn the recording industry an extra $1 billion each year.
The company’s royalty structure also promises to ensure labels, DJs and artists will be paid for each digital stream as well, increasing their incentives to upload mixes on streaming platforms rather than worrying they’ll have to send Soundcloud on a wild goose chase to take down illegally uploaded content.
Other companies have attempted to solve the royalty puzzle before. Pioneer’s KUVO box, which can be plugged into a mixer to track song snippets played in a live DJ set, debuted in October of last year. Creative Commons allowed artists to set guidelines for licenses with its copyright-management system. Dubset, however, is the first company to achieve the ability to clear digital assets with multiple owners in real-time. That means they can analyze everything about a song from production software to user consumption methods.
Dubset also plans to help the industry in handling takedowns of illegal uploads. “We’re not trying to be the police, but the folks who do police the industry will use our technology to continue their mission,” said Barbiere.
“Dubset is of a similar mindset and ilk to Rhapsody in that they want to help create a legitimate home where DJs can participate in the streaming music landscape without the fear of getting in trouble,” he said. “To have these prominent EDM artists getting behind the platform is a big deal, they’re setting an example. I’d say we’re just getting going.”
Dubset is currently engaged in late-stage licensing discussions with all three major labels.