Pioneer's CDJ-Zero Is An Obvious Hoax, But Could This Happen One Day?


Irish site Wunderground playfully teased DJs and our gear just a little in a fictitious piece about the 'Pioneer CDJ-Zero', which also highlights a 'six track sync button' - but could 'pay to play' music be coming? After all, it already exists online...

So Wunderground published a mildly amusing article on its site yesterday about a supposed new CDJ unit from Pioneer, called the "CDJ-Zero". The big idea is that you get the unit for free, but pay Pioneer for any music you play, as you play it, automatically via pre-swiped credit card. Go and look at it here.

While this is obviously an April Fool-style joke, there is the seed of something interesting here. What if music files could contain some kind of stamp, that "knew" when they'd been played and who had played them, and DJ gear could indeed then refuse to play "unstamped" tunes (I know, I know, it sounds like DRM rearing its ugly head again, but hear me out).

That could mean venues could pay micropayment fees for music played, direct to the artist, depending on the number of times a track is played and the number of people in the venue / its capacity etc. If your song is a hit, you get the micropayments, if not, well, keep trying. Of course, radio/internet plays already follow this kind of system with Spotify and the like - so why not clubs? A "festival play" could have an artist heading to the pub to spend his gains, since his song has just been played to 100,000 people!

Think about it… if this kind of technology were in existence, then theoretically DJs could have all their music for nothing, because the artists are being paid by public plays, not people actually buying the right to play. Imagine never paying for a tune again, and yet the artists still get paid fairly? In an age where people are streaming music more and more and buying it less and less, this could be where we're heading. And the "underground parties" - clandestine events playing non-protected music, on illicit, unchipped equipment - well, they'd definitely be worth seeking out, wouldn't they? 😉

So, while the Pioneer story is only a joke, do you think that paying-for-plays could be a better way of rewarding musicians and producers than paying-to-buy-a-file? If software, hardware and a micropayments system could make this possible, would it work? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Get access to all our free DJ training!

Join over 150,000 Digital DJ Tips members to get exclusive free DJ training videos, articles & resources plus twice-weekly emails with the best of our tutorials, reviews and DJ news. It’s free, and you can unsubscribe at any time!


  1. mr stiffy says:

    I really like the design of this a funky cdj .... Phil you should do what djtt are doing and bring out this as your own controller 😉

  2. I have to pay various licenses and PRS for alt music events I put on at the local Uni. I'm fairly certain the bands I'm playing never see that money, it just gets swallowed up by the various rights companies. I'd personally love it if that fee was divided between the acts I play. I don't mind buying the music as that's what I always do, but always felt it unfair that this situation persists, so something 'like' this would def be of interest.

  3. That as a midi/HID controller I'd get 4 of them and a 4 channel mixes the same tikness. but not going to happen.
    The concept does not realy appeal to me as getting this stamp in your file would need some payment, artists not signed or having songs on iTunes,Beatport, spotify ant the likes would not have much chance of getting played.

  4. Kwipper says:

    This all sounded believable until I got the Burst Sync mode part. After that I was like.... "Wait a minute. April Fools Day was a few months ago. The hell?"

  5. Even in prank form, they're one step behind Serato. Serato offers, a *free* service for DJs using Serato products. A metric ton of excellent, up-front tracks available on there as free downloads that only play at club quality when played through Serato gear. Did I mention free?

  6. I wish it wasn't a HOAX, as long as it have a usb connection from my thumb drive or HDD and midi capable, I'm sold. CD's have serve there purpose and very well, but how many DJ's on the pro level still use CD's when performing. I'm using Professional DJ's as an example mainly because Pioneers CDJ's are really priced for. Long as it's built with the same quality of any of the other Pioneer brand why not.

    • My bad this a pay to play deal being rumored in the music industry. I thought it was the next Gen of Zero CD media player but keeping the jog wheel for obvious reasons. I would be nice if Pioneer did decide to make it in addition to their other products.

  7. JimmyRushmore says:

    No. What would happen is regional restrictions, bootlegs and whitelabels being impossible, strict unbroken release dates... a complete and utter nightmare

  8. oviidio arce says:

    You would have to pay every time you practice your mixes. Not cool!

  9. F**K it stick with analog gear :)
    But you should be able to play any kind of music you want to in a venue, isn't that what clubs and concert halls pay ascap and bmi fees for?

  10. ASCAP and BMI are for-profit, private companies, and the actual artists and producers get but a sliver of what they collect. Their collections are often arbitrary and unfair, both to venues and artists. Although I don't see feasibility in this format, I would love to see some automated process where the artists and producers not only get paid individually per public play, but they also get the lion's share of the profits, with only a small administrative percentage going to others.

  11. Chuck "DJ Vintage" van Eekelen says:

    Let's not forget that you'd also be paying Pioneer a bit of money for every song you play! That can add up over the years ;-).

    I am guessing if you play a lot you'd actually be paying Pioneer even more money than you do now.

    And what would be the "threshold" for charging? 10 seconds, 30 seconds, 1 minute (I have spent playing over a minute of a record and just not getting it in the mix the way I wanted and not playing it at all, at this point Traktor marks it as played unless you set the duration to longer in preferences). If the period is too short, you'd end up playing every track you cue-listened to without it ever being played on the main stack.

    And are we saying that it should cost the same playing a song for 1 or 100.000 people? I am sure the Pioneer box won't do a headcount with every song played.

    And we'd have to have a DARN good offline working modus. I would not embrace any system that requires fulltime online access while playing (actually I don't want any of my gear online while I am playing, with the possible exception of my iPhone or an extra iPod/iPad).

    Basically an interesting concept, but prone to abuse both by user and supplier, source of endless discussions and most money probably still not ending up at the artist/composer as it should.


  12. Isaiah Furrow says:

    I would go back to my stacks of records and CDs exclusively if digital went to a pay-per-play situation... I totally agree that artists should get the main portion of the money... I like the possibility of all artists using online sites to put out their tracks... if they want physical albums/cds/etc.... then they let the labels make the dough, negotiate a livable contract, or put out their own albums themselves or through small labels... mainstream probably doesn't support this method, but if I buy a track, I should be able to blast it on my iPod, Diskman, Walkman(cassette), computer, home stereo, car stereo, youtube vid of my RC crawler, etc.... media giants are evil!!!!!!!!
    Peace, Love, Practice and enjoy... Isaiah

Have Your Say