For the last three decades, collecting royalties from DJ performances has always been a nightmare for songwriters and producers. Pioneer DJ has made a major step towards helping copyright owners by agreeing to share data collected from its KUVO system with performing rights organizations such as ASCAP and BMI in order to collect royalties from the public performance of songs in nightclubs.
The KUVO system essentially starts with a small black box that connects to media player decks and pushes track information onto an Internet server. Fans and other DJs can then look up what is being played at nightclubs all around the world through the KUVO website or mobile app and discover the latest and hottest tracks. To date, 289 clubs, 137,394 DJs, and 4,412 clubbers have joined the KUVO network. Pioneer has built its network around 80 percent of the world’s DJ booths.
The decision is part of the newly-formed Association for Electronic Music’s (AFEM) “Get Played, Get Paid” campaign, whose goal is to steer performance royalties into the hands of songwriters and producers by streamlining the methods used by rights organizations to track music played in nightclubs. AFEM estimates that about $160 million worldwide was lost due to misallocated performance royalties in 2013.
But what does this mean for the DJs? The free exchange and use of songs has long been the custom and practice within the industry.
“DJs will have to start treating what they’re doing like a business,” says Gordon Firemark, a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer, “if they expect to get paid for it.”
Should the nightclubs take up the burden of forking over the royalties for the songs the DJs play? Will the performing rights societies start setting the DJ in its sights for royalties?