DJ-Catalogue1-809x563If there was any question that DJs are artists, please direct your attention to TheFuture.fm. The site, which allows DJs to upload mixes and users to stream them as radio stations, has begun paying royalties based on streaming to its artists.

TheFuture.fm uses a somewhat complicated plan that includes royalties from subscriptions, royalties and live broadcasts to pay its DJs, treating tracks like original recorded works. Unless you’re a DJ on a record label like, say David Guetta, you’re not going to have tracks on Pandora or Spotify because you’re likely sampling too many songs and the legality of attributing those fee streams is tricky. See the controversy over Girl Talk’s “Fair Use” claims for proof.

TheFuture.fm solves the copyright issue with its MixScan technology, which identifies the songs being sampled much like Shazam. It then times them and pays the rights holders the appropriate amount. It’s surprising that, with the rise of DJ culture, as evidenced by the massive festivals they headline, no one else has built a tool to make DJ mixes legally shareable online. But they haven’t; TheFuture.fm has.

Users have played 2.5 million mixes since the site launched (initially as Dubset) a year ago. The site offers limited listening for free and unlimited for $25 a year. More than 8000 DJs, including Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia Umek, and Deadmau5 have created channels.

Now the New York-based startup is not just paying the original song makers but the mixmasters behind them. It’s just another argument in the debate over whether DJs are artists (Deadmaus5 argues they “just push play”). They get paid like artists when they perform, they’re now getting paid like them for their recordings.

[Image via A-blok]