Pioneer has officially announced Kuvo, a bold initiative to get the world’s DJ booths online. Information about every track DJs play in clubs can be fed into the cloud, to be accessed by everyone from clubbers using Kuvo apps on their smartphones, to performing rights societies to better calculate royalty payments to producers.
Pioneer envisages clubbers using their app to see real-time what’s happening in clubs in their city to help them decide where to go and discover new DJs and music, and as the app will also offer the ability to preview, “like” and buy tracks, clubbers will be able to grab the music they love, too; assuming this happens in real time, it will be a dancefloor alternative to Shazaming.
From the DJ’s point of view, by having a profile on the system and embedding promotional messages direct in track information, it’ll be possible to market yourself straight to clubbers’ smartphones as they check out what you’re playing.
But will it be coming to a club near you soon? Pioneer says: “For the past year Pioneer has been working with clubs to populate Kuvo. The network now receives live information from DJ booths in cities including London, New York, Paris, Sydney, Tokyo and Vegas – with sets from the dancefloors of Ministry London, Mansion Miami and Space Ibiza. Pioneer will continue to work with the best venues around the world to build a rich store of content for the Kuvo community.”
The Kuvo hardware is required in participating DJ booths, and it only works with Pioneer-branded DJ equipment at present, but this looks set to change in the future, as Pioneer has stated it intends to provide a plug-in to allow Richie Hawtin’s RADR Twitter/Traktor playlist service to work with the new platform, making an initial inroad into non-Pioneer territory. No Serato word as of launch, though.
Anything that can put the right royalty payments into the hands of electronic producers is a good thing, and from a music industry point of view, if this system can provide more accurate information to performing rights societies to do just that, it’ll be welcomed.
However, this whole idea is going to feel mighty strange to some people for a couple of reasons. Firstly, should Pioneer be policing (and charging for) this? There’s a saying in internet circles that “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”. Being a DJ or clubber with this system on your gear/phone, will you end up finding yourself being marketed to in ways you’d rather avoid? Do DJs really want everything they play shared with the world? And of course, there are many whose vision of a vibrant club ecosystem definitely doesn’t include attention-challenged smartphone owners marching from club to club link on the strength of cloudsourced “what’s trending” lists.
But maybe the most practical consideration with any such system is take-up. It’ll need to hit “critical mass” to start being in any way representative of what’s really going on out there. The hardware is available by application to any venue, although the clubs will have to pay for the privilege after a trial period, which may limit take-up. Yet Kuvo will have to appeal to all music venues, DJs and clubbers – and that means everything from mobile DJs to festival stages, mainstream clubs to underground raves, and all formats including vinyl, CDs, Pioneer, Serato, laptop, Traktor etc. etc – if it’s to avoid becoming an elitist online club. It’s a big ask, and one does wonder what Pioneer’s motivation would be to move such a system beyond its own DJ gear or that of carefully chosen partners, and beyond the venues that fit its own brand values.
Still it’s a bold and interesting move, and after Kuvo’s initial launch at the Amsterdam Dance Event last year, Pioneer has seen sufficient promise in the system to bring it out of “beta” this year, so clearly the company sees potential in it. It’ll be interesting to see how it develops in the next 12 months.
• Learn more about Kuvo at its official website.