I am completely weak from Fashion Week pressures and some new tattoos…plus, I’m moving a little to the left of Brooklyn, toward Bushwick. Today I’m going to chat about Thefuture.fm which is "a patent-pending fingerprinting and rights tracking technology, which is the first ever turn-key solution to the legal monetization of DJ mixes, podcasts and mix tapes.” Are you still with me?
David Stein, who you used to hang out with the smart set at my smart clubs and even some smarter ones, is the founder and CEO of this internet radio platform. According to the press release, David founded Thefuture.fm "in an effort to allow festival-goers and club kids to relive the experiences created by the world’s best DJs on a daily basis, while discovering emerging music along the way. His passion to help DJs legally promote and monetize their music came when he realized the monumental challenges and setbacks of rights flow for mixed audio." You still here?
He used to book talent atthose smart clubs, and has a unique grasp on who’s-who and what’s hot. Now he’s gone digital. In April he launched an iPhone app, which is “the first to solve the industry’s long-standing copyright issue associated with mixed audio,” by accurately identifying the content of mixed audio. Thefuture.fm’s will also experience a complete overhaul of their platform, making it easy for users to revisit mega DJ performances, club events, and learn about future performances by their favorite DJ/performer. At launch, subscriptions will be free, with near-term plans for revenue streams in premium mobile and brand-supported offerings. Over 5000 DJs will participate.
I caught up with David Stein awhile back and asked him all about it.
Is this basically Pandora with really great DJs?
Thefuture.fm is basically internet radio, curated by the best DJs in the world. And we enable DJs to upload their mixed tapes to the platform and let their fans access them and listen to them via the platform on the web and via mobile on our iPhone application. It’s sort of the first-ever legal kind of entity to allow for this to happen. Really, the core of our business is that we’re a music technology business; we’re focused around this concept of how do we legally, scale-ably, and effectively monetize and extract value out of long-format music content? If you know the history of a mixed tape and the DJ industry, you know there’s never really been a solution in terms of how to compensate the individual artist and copyright holders whose music is being used and played by DJs. So we exist to solve that problem. And we create technology, IP tools, around that concept. It’s really the core of why thefuture.fm is able to be a legal internet radio that is curated by these mixed tapes.
The first, and really the basis of that business, is a technology and a concept that we created called Mix Scan. Mix Scan is a fingerprinting and rights core management tool specifically around long-format contract – mixed tapes, podcasts, live streams – that DJs make and play. Like Shazam on steroids. The way that it works is a DJ will upload a mix tape to our platform and we’ll run it through our algorithm of our software and we’ll pull as much metadata as we can so we’ll learn every artist, song, sample, song length – we know when one song ends and when one song begins. We timestamp that music file and create a unique set of metadata for the entire media file. That enables us to accurately cross reference against our analytics so we know every time within our eco system, our platform, each song gets played. Then we automate the report, these entities that exist to pay out to copyright holders. SoASCAP, BMI, etc… so that’s really the basis of how we operate a legal internet radio. We’ve been sort of operating as a free service while we build out our monetization models and we’re soon going to be launching pretty revolutionary ways where DJs can, for the first time ever, legally make money off of their mixes and podcasts. Who are some of the DJs that you’re involved with?
We represent music from 8,000 different DJs across all genres: From Bounce FX and DJ Scribble to your Mel Debarge and Cassidy, to your Dead Mau5, Tiesto, Skrillex. It’s all-encompassing. And it’s everything – rock, hip hop, dance…
So a person gets on and they have a choice, like Pandora, of different genres of music?
Yes, the platform is two-fold so you can get on the platform and get featured content that’s exclusive to the platform across all the genres. Or you can type in any DJ that you know you want to hear and we’ll give you all of their mixed tapes within their own profile. Or you can type in a song or an artist that isn’t a DJ and we’ll give you mixes that have those songs in them.
Are we going to see this in stores, trendy boutiques, hotel lobbies? Or in individual homes?
Well, the service and the platform is built for personal use, but people who aren’t supposed to be using it use it for whatever reasons they want. Eventually we hope to roll out services that are specific for business services, music-filing, those sorts of things.
Are you doing profiles on your DJs or feature DJs, stories about these guys, who they are, and why they’re important as well?
There are unique cases where we’ll cover DJs on our blog, but primarily it’s just the content. It’s mixes that you can’t really find anywhere else up on one platform. And it’s a combination of us allowing DJs to upload content themselves and then us partnering with different venues, nightclubs, and festivals and acquiring that content and then featuring it on the home page.
You used the word upload. Are you going to be able to download? If I hear something that’s pretty amazing and I want to be able to feel that DJ Thursday night, am I going to be able to download it?
There’s no downloading on the platform yet. It’s a streaming-only service and we abide by these rules that have been set in place by the copyright law that enables us to be a compliant web factor, and that means that we’re restricted to streaming only. It’s the only way that we can really quantify the function of the actual tracks within mixes.
But companies like Amazon and iTunes would love for you to link to them. Is that something you do?
Yes, so because we know what songs are in the mixes, there’s a pretty great discovery component to it. You’re able to learn and discover new music from your favorite DJ and you can see what songs you’re listening to.
Now all these DJs, including me, have management. If I’m listening to Mel Debarge, which you mentioned before as one of yours, does it refer you to his management? If someone’s saying “Wow, I’m listening to this at my home but I want him to play at my Christmas party, this guy is unbelievable,” is there added value like that?
Yes, there’s absolutely added value in that regard. We’re not looking to be a middleman and block interaction. You can put, as a DJ, any contact information you like. But on the back end, we get requests from different brands, different platforms, different websites, blogs, Eater, Curb, TechCrunch, to name a few, that we work with really closely in booking DJs that are on our platform – the right DJ for their event. And all we do is facilitate an introduction. It’s part of that added value we bring to the DJs that we work with what’s on our platform.Is there a comment, for instance, of your clients? Can they rate a mix and say this one’s great, this one’s 94%, this one’s 70%?
There’s no percentage, but there is a “like” mechanism. We’re very against, “Oh, we don’t like this mix.” If you like it you click the “like” or “favorite” button. There’s mixes with hundreds of thousands of favorites on them.
How many people do you think it’s gonna reach? Give me some numbers and goals.
So we’ve been operating and have gained a pretty substantial user base solely on the love of the DJ and their bands. We were primarily working within this context of the DJ and the brand and the different magazines and entities that have visibility on our profile as our evangelists. They promote themselves to their fans via our platform and then we show love back by promoting them via our own page.
Theoretically, if someone likes Mel Debarge as an example again, they come in and listen to what Mel Debarge has posted on your site, and while they’re there, they’re exposed to other DJs.
How do you put these DJs in categories, so that Mel is near, let’s say, Cassidy or far away from Steve Lewis so that the person coming in can see things that are similar?
It’s categorized by genre but specific to the individual mix, not the DJ.
There’s a great difference between DJ Tiesto and, let’s say, Frankie Knuckles.
So how does a person find exactly what they’re interested in, without having to randomly explore?
At the highest level, the mixes are tagged by specific genres that are pretty broad in scope. All the sub-genres of house music, EDM, sub-genres of hip-hop, sub-genres of rock. On a more granular level, if you’re looking to hear specific songs or specific sounds within a genre – a search for rock ‘n’ roll, for example – you could type in Prince or “Bohemian Rhapsody” and you would get mixes that have those types of songs in them.