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.