Music startup Dubset is launching its new MixBANK platform for clearing and distributing licensed remixes and longform DJ mixes, bagging an impressive first client: Apple Music.
The company’s technology will identify music used in remixes and mixes, and clear its use via deals with labels and publishers, before distributing it to digital services.
Dubset is thus trying to solve one of the biggest headaches in music-streaming licensing. If it signs more streaming services, it could be presenting a challenge in turn for another company tackling the same problem: SoundCloud.
Precisely because they’re not available on licensed services, mixes and mash-ups have become a key part of SoundCloud, whose safe-harbour based model means they can live on its platform until someone files a takedown.
If Dubset takes that kind of content onto Apple Music, Spotify and other rivals, one of SoundCloud’s unique aspects might be eroded. But for now, it’s very early days.
Dubset chief executive Stephen White explained to Music Ally how MixBANK works, noting that it has been five years in the making – he joined in March 2015 from his previous job at Gracenote.
“We’ve created a platform that’s a technology solution first and foremost that pulls apart this content – remixes or long-form mixes – and figures out what content has been used,” he said. That means audio-recognition and pattern-recognition algorithms.
“That allows us at a high level to resolve who the underlying rightsholders are, then put a platform around those rightsholders being able to manage their rights, and how they want their content to be used.”
As rightsholders set their rulesets, Dubset then provides a distribution channel onto digital services, starting with Apple Music, but with high hopes that others will follow.
“Everyone realises the value of curation that DJs provide: that the types of content they’re developing is in high demand,” said White, citing a study from 2012 suggesting that 700 million consumers were listening to mixes and remixed content on a weekly basis.
(Think SoundCloud + YouTube + other platforms: the number sounds outlandish at first, and we’d love to see more workings, but the demand for user-generated content more generally is clear.)
“These folks are accessing their stuff from unlicensed sites that don’t provide monetisation opportunities to the original creators of the content, or the DJs that are mixing it,” said White.
“When you look at those numbers, it’s clear why the legal services are interested in this type of content, and want to bring those consumers into their services.”
“Everyone benefits here. The services get lots of great content that’s relevant to consumers. Consumers get access to this content. The artists get paid, the publishers get paid for the compositions, and then the creators get paid for creating the mixes. It’s really a win all around.”
Note that reference to paying the DJs who create these mixes and remixes. That’s been another challenge in the streaming world: figuring out a business model for this kind of creation. Perhaps MixBANK is one of the answers.
Is the drive to figure out licensing of this kind of music a new thing for music rightsholders? White said he prefers to think of it as a case of the technology finally evolving to a point where the labels and publishers feel it can do an accurate job.
“A lot of the approaches around this historically have been black-box revenue and distribution based on market share. That’s really not fair on the creators or the publishers who need to get paid for what gets played,” said White.
“That’s a big mantra for us. A lot of this content that we’re talking about in the dance-music space and the hip-hop space comes from independent labels. They deserve to get paid for what gets played.”
One important question: how does Dubset decide how to split the revenue for any given mix or remix? In the latter case, Music Ally can’t help but imagine a scenario where several labels and/or publishers are in a room arguing about why their track’s beat / horn sample / vocal is much more crucial to a song, and thus needs a bigger share.
It’s not a dialogue that would scale for millions of remixes going through a platform like MixBANK. White said that Dubset’s system is time-based: how much a given piece of content is used in relation to a mix. “If there’s a mix with half one song, half another song, then we split the revenues 50/50,” he said.
Today’s announcement focuses on the launch of the platform and the Apple Music partnership – as a side-note, Apple’s separate deal with Kobalt’s AMRA collecting society in 2015 suggests a willingness to get in early with new licensing entities – but leaves the actual content a mystery.
What rightsholders and DJs are signed up? Expect some news next week at the Winter Music Conference in Miami, although White notes that “over 900 of the top 1,000 DJs” are already using the platform, providing a pipeline of mixes and remixes.
“We believe that we’ll be able to bring high volumes of great remix content into Apple Music and into other services, and through that effort we’ll create a channel into legally licensed services that are doing the right thing in terms of paying artists, labels and publishers appropriately,” said White.