So Richie Hawtin has announced he's now using Twitter to broadcast real-time playlists from his live shows using a plug-in developed for the Traktor Digital DJ software. The detractors will render it nothing more than a gimmick, but when you think about it, this has the potential to completely revolutionize how the music industry and DJs work together in the future.
In every city, town, village around the world DJs are playing music in clubs and bars. For the most part they are playing other peoples records, whether it be chart music or obscure underground electronica.
If they play the new Snow Patrol single, Snow Patrol have to get paid for that play. If they play the new Boxcutter single, Boxcutter has to get paid also. While the majority of reputable venues pay a PRS licence each year to cover live music and music performed by DJs, the size of the fee is determined mainly by the size of their venue, but no real reporting of the music played at each venue takes place, so royalty distribution becomes a wishy-washy affair with very little in the way of robust data to go on and the bigger artists get the biggest slice, with very little filtering through to smaller acts.
In an ideal world, every DJ would compile a playlist at the end of each set and post that off to PRS who would then log the plays of each individual record and dish out some royalties accordingly. It's never really going to happen though is it? In radio land, every single track is logged and sent through, which is great if you are Snow Patrol, but not so great if you are Boxcutter who would have very limited radio exposure.
The majority of underground electronica never makes it on to the radio, that doesn't mean to say people aren't buying it or playing it, but if PRS don't know people are playing it then how will the artists collect their royalties? Boxcutter will be played in clubs all over the world, but in terms of royalties, he'll make very little from these plays as PRS have no record it.
This is where the Twitter/Traktor collaboration has the potential to do what has never been done before, by collecting rock-solid data on the tracks which are being playing in clubs and bars all over the world. Not only that, but they can be distributed more accurately than they have in the past which was very hit and miss. It makes sense that if Richie Hawtin plays a certain tune at a string of gigs to a collective audience of say 50000 people that the artist who made that track should be compensated in proportion to the amount of exposure he's had, conversely if Richie played the same track to only 50 people at a gig, the artist would still get paid, but a lot less.
How difficult can it now be for PRS to now set up a Twitter account and start following every DJ on the planet who is blogging their fully automated real-time tracklistings, process this data and pay out accordingly? When you think about it, Twitter have inadvertantly saved the likes of PRS the huge costs they would have incurred setting up their own bespoke system and have handed them the perfect application to allow for a fairer more robust means of doing business in the fure.
The best ideas are always the simple ones, and this one would appear to be as simple as it gets.