It’s the year 2025. You’re having dinner with a friend, and your phone vibrates with a notification — Charlotte De Witte is playing your record, right now, in a club in Tokyo. Through the app, you are presented with choices of what you can do next: watch your track being played live, favourite the moment to watch later on-demand, or follow De Witte’s DJ set to get notifications of the full tracklist, and save it to your own producer profile. Another notification pops up – because you registered with your local Performing Rights Organisation, De Witte’s play of your track has earned you royalties, which have been paid to you in real-time.
All the technology for this situation to be realised, right now, already exists. What doesn’t exist is the infrastructure or business model to make it a reality. We’re going to explore how the new data frontline might play out, the implications it may have for the DJing community, and what happens next.
To understand how we got here, we need to look at developments in DJ technology over the past 18 months. While streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music have been dominating consumer listening habits for almost a decade, the requirement for digital DJs to own tracks (to load on your USB, or play through your DJ software) has meant that downloads are the norm. That also means that, once a track has been downloaded, there’s very little data available to labels and artists as to how that track is being used.
Services like Pioneer DJ’s KUVO and Shazam may give you a very top-level idea of who’s playing what, but with only sporadic pockets of data from users on both platforms, it’s not enough to really inform concrete decision-making or strategy around a release.
Data around streaming, however – be it on YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music or any other platform – has gone on to not only inform countless release strategies, but also shape the way music is being made. The Guardian’s Sam Wolfson argued that “the intros of songs have become shorter to stop listeners skipping a track with a slow build-up. Albums have got longer, often clocking in at more than 20 tracks, simply because listening to a 20-track album generates twice as much revenue as listening to a 10-track one.”
But what happens when this data makes its way into dance music, and specifically, DJ booths? What if you could find out what track was being played in what city, in what club, at what time, and by whom, in real-time? What would be the implications for DJs, labels, producers and club-goers? Let’s explore the answers.