A solution to the long-contested issue of nightclub performance royalties may
come in the form of a small black box. Leading audio-equipment manufacturer
Pioneer has developed a product -- KUVO, a play on kumo, the Japanese word
for cloud -- that is plugged into a mixer and tracks each song played through cloud
-based technology. And the company, supported by the newly formed Association
for Electronic Music, will share the data with performing rights organizations for free.
The move is part of AFEM’s “Get Played, Get Paid” campaign, which seeks 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.
“For 25 years, the problem has been a lack of granular data,” says AFEM CEO Mark
Lawrence, previously of the United Kingdom’s Performing Rights Society. “Now, we
have that.” Mark Grotefeld, Pioneer’s head of marketing in Europe, stresses that talks
with ASCAP and BMI are in the early stages, but notes that Australia’s performing rights
association has signed on and will offer boxes to clubs with membership. The U.K.
and Swedish rights societies also are in talks to use KUVO data.
Pioneer builds around 80 percent of the world’s DJ booths, so the decision to give
the data away wasn’t easy, says Grotefeld. “The immediate default position was, ‘
Data is money. Let’s monetize this,’ ” he says, “but the performing rights societies
aren’t our customers; the producers and clubs are. We’re bringing more money to
producers and ultimately our business.”
In recent months, Pioneer has been testing the technology in 500 clubs around the
world. It will continue to provide boxes to clubs for free so long as the program is
financially sustainable, says Grotefeld. For the initiative to work, the fiercely independent
dance-music industry will have to formalize, with producers and songwriters joining
performing rights societies and registering their songs. AFEM estimates that only three
of the top 10 songs on online dance retailer Beatport’s chart are registered with rights
organizations. Nightclubs, too, will have to acquire licenses.