It’s been rough out here for DJs for a minute now. Like so many of us, they were cooped up inside for the better part of a year during a pandemic that forced the clubs, bars, and restaurants where they make the bulk of their money to shutter. Unlike the rest of us, working from home wasn’t particularly feasible, largely due to the fact that live-streamed sets tend to run afoul of most platforms’ community guidelines, which explicitly prohibit DJs from playing music they don’t own the rights to. The notices of copyright infringement booting DJs from their live streams were so ruthless that at one point, Questlove took to Twitter to complain that YouTube had flagged a set containing music he himself had created.
On Friday, Apple Music announced that, moving forward, it plans to use the audio-recognition app Shazam to identify and compensate all of the individual creators featured in DJ mixes. While the new system won’t solve the problem of DJs getting booted from platforms over copyright infringement, it will allow them—and other labels and artists whose music appears in their mixes—to get paid fairly for their work if and when it’s sampled.
“Apple Music is the first platform that offers continuous mixes where there’s a fair fee involved for the artists whose tracks are included in the mixes and for the artist making those mixes. It’s a step in the right direction where everyone gets treated fairly,” DJ Charlotte de Witte said in a statement on behalf of Apple. “I’m beyond excited to have the chance to provide online mixes again.”
Apple Music acquired Shazam—which uses fingerprint ID tech to identify exact songs, samples, or sets playing in a blended track—back in 2018. The tech has helped the platform to bolster its dance music offerings within the app in order to compete with Spotify, and so far, it seems to be working. According to Apple, the app has seen 300 million streams of DJ mixes so far, with engagement tripling in the last three months alone.
Although Apple says it’s working on commissioning even more mixes from major festival DJs, including Tiësto and Carl Cox, user-generated content—or UGC—is still currently prohibited from Apple Music’s DJ mixes. For now, smaller names and bedroom DJs will have to stick to Soundcloud—or to using clever workarounds to get their mixes out to people who want to dance.