In July 2018, DJ Mag published a feature on why streaming in the booth will change DJing forever. It included this: “It’s an open secret that producers are not being accurately paid. Exact numbers are hard to come by, but the Association for Electronic Music has earmarked £100m they feel needs to be correctly allocated. That’s a lot of money the independent music landscape is not seeing.”
It turns out these predictions around streaming were accurate. At ADE that October, Beatport announced that their six million strong catalogue would soon be available to stream directly to DJ software, and into DJ hardware, thanks to Denon. SoundCloud have also opened up their catalogue and playlists to users of Serato, VirtualDJ, and more.
Streaming companies leaned heavily on the fact that, finally, DJs and producers could be paid what they’re owed by global Performance Rights Organisations (PROs). The theory is that, in the future, using a mix of Shazam-style fingerprinting and metadata, music streamed directly from the cloud would automatically be linked to PRS for Music, the UK’s PRO, and one we’ll be referencing throughout this article. In real-time, the stream will be logged as a play in that club or festival stage, with the rights holder (i.e. the creator of the track) receiving money each time their music was played by a DJ anywhere in the world.
The theory is sound, but the reality isn’t just far off, it may never occur at all. But when it comes to getting paid, DJs, producers, and labels share some of the blame. Before we dive into facts, figures and acronyms, you’re probably wondering, ‘Why should I care about this?’ Royalties are for major labels, radio play, and huge artists with millions of streams per month, right? You might be a DJ who’s playing the local weekend circuit, and have a basic home studio with some KRKs and a cracked copy of Ableton. PRS is something you’d consider way down the line, if at all.
To explain why that’s the wrong approach, and why you’re cutting yourself out of potential income, you need to understand how PRS and PROs generally work, how it relates to DJing, and why we’ve ended up with millions of pounds a year that should be assigned to electronic music producers, like you, being given to the wrong people.