Dubset isn’t licensed by the majors or Merlin… but says it’s working on it

Last week, US-based rights management company Dubset announced that it had struck a deal with Apple Music to bring ‘unofficial’ remix content to the platform.

The firm said it could ensure that the correct rights-holders would get paid for plays of these tracks.

The story caused celebration within a dance music community potentially left slightly bereft by SoundCloud ‘going legit’.

Superstar DJ Tiesto even called the agreement: “A huge step forward for DJs and dance music culture”.

MBW has since learned, however, that Dubset isn’t currently licensed by any of the three major labels – nor by independent label representative Merlin.`

Yet according to Dubset CEO Stephen White (pictured), the service is confident it will put pen to paper with these organisations soon enough, following deals with 14,000 independent labels to date (predominantly worldwide agreements, including direct contracts with members of Merlin).

Speaking to MBW, White said that, instead of signing far-reaching deals with the majors and Merlin, Dubset has initially targeted dance-specialist labels and publishers.

He said: “While a broad major label deal might not be in place right now, the folks we need in place to support the dance music community are. That includes deals with parts of the major labels as relates to dance music – labels they own [a stake in] or subsidiaries.”

He added: “We’ve been working with the majors and Merlin – everybody – for four years to put the appropriate licenses in place. We’re very hopeful we will have broad-based licenses very quickly that will support all content that DJs may use in remixes or long-form mixes.”

“While a broad major label deal might not be in place right now, the folks we need in place to support the dance music community are.”

Stephen white, Dubset

Dubset has created a piece of software called MixBANK – a clearance and distribution platform for mix and remix content.

White confirmed that Dubset will be announcing further MixBANK deals with digital music platforms in the coming months, adding to its Apple Music partnership.

He commented: “The concept behind this platform is that everybody gets compensated fairly. Companies have long been distributing [dance music] without licenses and without compensating the underlying rights-holders.

“[Dubset] makes sure everyone involved in the [remix’s] creation is paid fairly, and the underlying content is licensed ahead of time. I continue to find it amazing that we’re still seeing sites with a tremendous amount of unlicensed content being distributed to consumers, and that they’re getting away with it.”

If that’s a reference to SoundCloud – and it may well be – then the next few months will be particularly interesting.

Will the Berlin-based platform continue to host unofficial remix content on a free tier after its paid-for subscription service launches?

If so, how will rights-holders be compensated for technically uncleared copyrights underpinning this free remix content? Could a black box stack of ad cash be regularly distributed on a market share basis?

That would be a competitive headache for Apple Music and Spotify, who are only permitted to host fully-licensed content on their platforms.

White refused to be drawn on the possibility that Dubset could feasibly ask Apple or another distributor to clear licenses on its behalf, allowing it to evolve into a technology / rights administration partner for a particular platform.

“For us, it’s a process,” he said. “It’s a little bit chicken-and-egg; the labels want to see traction with distributors [from Dubset] and until the announcement with Apple, we weren’t able to show that.”

He added: “Those [major-wide licensing] deals are important to the future of what we’re doing. But we have initially focused on the labels that are important for dance music, for DJ culture, mix and remix culture. Really, that’s not the major labels.

“There are about 250,000 mixes in our system today, and of those only about 30% of the content is major label content.”

Merlin CEO Charles Caldas declined to comment when contacted by MBW.Music Business Worldwide

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