Rights clearance startup Dubset has just inked a deal with Sony Music to allow monetization of its songs in DJ sets and of unofficial tracks that sample its artists. This means that artists could have their bootleg remixes and DJ sets legally cleared and distributed on Apple Music and Spotify, with every rights holder receiving a portion of royalties. This is the first major label Dubset has secured, and it’s a big step toward tackling gray area material that has proved problematic for platforms like SoundCloud.
The deal is a tangible move forward in the music industry’s ongoing battle with sampling and bootlegs. Dubset claims more than 35,000 labels and publishers are already using its services, but the Sony agreement will massively expand coverage for DJs, who often use recognizable radio songs for remixes and DJ sets. Sony can set rules to restrict some of its content, but Dubset CEO Stephen White says “the majority” of the label’s catalog will be available.
Dubset has platforms called MixSCAN and MixBANK, which work in tandem to identify songs and distribute royalties. After a track is uploaded on MixBANK, Dubset’s proprietary tech scans it for samples, identifies the rights owners, and clears the track for distribution on Apple Music or Spotify. Dubset also handles the royalties for each track uploaded, dividing the money between rights holders and DJs. “Sony was open to the deal because it not only opens up another revenue stream for them, it also revitalizes their back catalog,” says Alex Dias, a content manager for Dubset.
DJ mixes have historically proved to be especially difficult for monetized distribution. “The average mix is 62 minutes long and has 22 different songs in it, and those 22 different songs are represented by over 100 different rights holders,” White tells The Verge. Using Dubset’s technology, a 60-minute mix can be processed in just 15 minutes.
During that 60-minute mix, White says, MixSCAN will fingerprint every three seconds of audio. “We’re using a combination of audio fingerprinting technologies and fairly advanced algorithmic approaches to identify the underlying masters that are being used in a mix or a remix,” he says. Although MixBANK asks DJs themselves to identify the masters they use (as shown below), White says this is just to help validate MixSCAN’s results.
Dubset recently succeeded in clearing a full DJ set for Apple Music, White tells The Verge. A landmark achievement, this marks the first time a sample-heavy mix has appeared on the streaming service in its entirety. The DJ, H.O.S.H., hosts the majority of his live sets on SoundCloud, which currently only offers limited monetization through label-released SoundCloud Go songs and its invite-only SoundCloud On Premier program.
Dubset’s deal is also a blow to SoundCloud. Once a popular platform for DJ mixes and bootlegs, SoundCloud has in recent years struggled to appeal to creators while also trying to appease labels gunning for copyright takedowns. SoundCloud’s new CEO Kerry Trainor has said he wants to refocus the platform by bolstering tools for creators, but if Dubset can get other major labels on board, it might beat SoundCloud to a legal solution for sample-reliant music content. Should Dubset secure deals with Universal and Warner, there’s a good chance a hefty portion of remixes and DJ sets could be redirected toward Spotify and Apple Music. By alleviating copyright infringement fear for musicians and providing royalty payouts to all parties involved, Dubset could eventually succeed where SoundCloud failed.
“For artists, [this deal] means that the music being used in remixes and mixes is now being properly controlled, properly monetized, and they’re getting fairly compensated for the use of their works,” White says.
A source close to Dubset tells The Verge that the company is also working on similar deals with Universal Music Group and Warner Music.
Disclosure: Verge reporter Dani Deahl is currently working with Dubset to get one of her remixes cleared. She provided the screenshots above. This partnership has not influenced coverage.