Online music startup Thefuture.fm released an iOS app Wednesday morning, bringing mix sets from 5,000 DJs to the iPhone.
Thefuture.fm CEO and co-founder David Stein told me during a phone call Tuesday that the mobile app is just a first step for his company’s goal to distribute and monetize music mixed by famous DJs. Key to these plans is Thefuture’s own music recognition technology, which was developed with DJs and live events in mind.
Stein told me that he had been mulling over how to bring mixtapes and live events online for years; getting individual licenses for each and every track used by thousands of DJs seemed impossible, and the major labels asked for huge advances just to get started.
However, he also didn’t just want to take the easy way out and operate a service from a dubious web host out of Russia. “Once I understood what the problem was, I wanted to be part of a solution,” remembered Stein.
His eventual approach was to go with the same model that’s also used by Pandora.
Non-interactive music services don’t have to strike individual licensing deals, and instead simply pay compulsory licensing fees, which are then redistributed to the rights holders whose music is played on these services. However, even those deals require reporting of all the music played – and that’s where it gets complicated if your music regularly fades back and forth between two tracks, incorporates unreleased material or pitches vocals beyond recognition.
That’s why Thefuture.fm developed its own audio fingerprinting technlogy called Mixscan that listens in on any uploaded mixset in an attempt to recognize as many tracks as possible.
DJs can then add additional data, and even upload their own sound samples. Thefuture.fm keeps a tally of which song is played for how long, and how many people actually listen to each and every song — even if two songs are mixed together, playing simultaneously.
All of this is meant to ensure that rights holders are paid their fair share, and also help with music discovery: Thefuture.fm will automatically display a mix that uses a certain song if a user searches for that song title.
David and his team launched a first DJ mix site called Dubset a year ago; the site relaunched as Thefuture.fm this spring, and he told me that first freemium features and monetization options will launch in July. Thefuture.fm is also talking to various other music services about licensing its Mixscan technology, and the site is on the verge of closing a Series A round of financing. To date, it has raised $1.3 million.
Check out screenshots of the iPhone app below: