With Aslice, DVS1 is addressing the pay gap between DJs and producers
For an entire community of electronic music aficionados and online diggers, IDing tracks is the most vital part of musical consumption. Often, hours are poured into furrowing through mixes, live recordings and sites like mixesDB to procure the identity of an earworm; to find that missing jigsaw piece in the puzzle of a tracklist.
In addition to manual digging, it’s difficult to gauge how many producers send out tracks to DJs – or the oversaturation of the electronic music market, even. There certainly isn’t a shortage of music being made, and for producers the route to success – or any kind of monetary reward – is often unclear. For many, there’s a pile of unreleased music and they’re facing no real prospects of receiving royalty payments. Released music is also not a guarantee of financial success, particularly when factoring in the slight fraction of money that producers can earn from major streaming services. In short, producing music isn’t a lucrative profession.
Aslice is the new software tool that’s looking to restructure this. Pioneered by techno A-list DJ and producer DVS1, aka Zak Khutoretsky, this new technology ensures producers get a cut from the DJ’s fee. Born from the frustration of witnessing an increasing pay gap between the DJ and producer, Khutoretsky sought to decrease the financial inequity between the two professions. Forty percent of Beatport’s Top 100 tracks don’t result in any royalties, and stats such as this shocked Khutoretsky into action.
Aslice follows a simple process that allows producers to be paid a percentage of the DJ fee, which is donated (the software suggests a five percent donation). Tracklists are imported into the software and the fee is distributed equally among producers whose tracks have been played at a gig. Launched in March 2022, Khutoretsky has used his time during the pandemic to successfully launch this new software tool. We caught up with him to talk about the new software, the structure of the music industry, and why sharing is caring.
Courtesy of DVS1
How long have you been thinking about Aslice, and where did the idea come from?
The first incarnation of the idea came before the pandemic. I was sitting in my hotel room on New Year 2020 and had that moment at the end of the year when you think about what you post on social media to say thank you. I had this realisation that I don’t do a lot of mixes or podcasts, and I don’t do a lot to support producers via my social media, which is the one way I communicate. So I created this post that said my skills are one thing, but the music I play is really the other half of my success. I took a moment to think about this and said to Sebastian (Aslice’s PR), “Seb, I have an idea. I’m playing mostly digital now; I keep all my playlists, and I keep seeing the names of a couple of 100 young producers who aren’t making any money. If I give you a list of 200 people, could you reach out to them and offer them all $50 and a thank you from me.” He was like, “Amazing idea, but no way, man, that’s going to take so much time for admin, e-mailing, Paypal and comms.” So we shelved it. It was only when I got back into the studio that the idea came back to me, but on a much grander scale. I wanted to see if we could bypass all the admin and create an automated system that does it. We came up with the name Aslice, spoke to a few friends and everyone got excited.
Courtesy of DVS1
So there’s no outside investment for this?
Zero. This is all me. I had offers through friends and colleagues when I was doing focus groups at the start of the process, and I decided against it for multiple reasons – the main one being that I trust my moral compass. I have a clean reputation in this community and it leaves my trust at a clean level, which has opened up a lot of doors for us.
What is the timescale you are devoting to this alongside your DJing and production duties? How much has this transformed your working life?
I’m doing this full-time in between my other full-time duties. I’ve been working on this for two years. I probably have another six months of full-time work where I need to be a part of this, and then hopefully I can back out and stay in the advisory, decision-making level. The main perspective of how this works is transcribed through my vision. It’s a lot of work.
What is the main innovation USP with this project that sets it apart, beyond its altruistic core?
We built a machine learning technology that matches the music. The metadata that comes to us in playlists has nothing to do with audio, it’s just metadata. We built this algorithm that searches and scrapes other websites and brings us high-level percentage matches. So if you have an artist, track, BPM etc., we can search the world for that match and it will tell us the percentage accuracy of that particular match. If there are a couple of matches, a human can then look at it to decipher which one is correct. For unreleased tracks, we can do a human intervention to decipher the music, but crucially, that knowledge can be fed back into the system so it’s better equipped to make a correct match next time. With human intervention, we’re sitting close to 99 percent matches.
So what kind of money is coming in via the channels?
The minimum donation is $10, but our suggested amount is five percent of the gig fee, so the maximum we’ve seen is $500. There is a good amount of people giving in that $100-$200 range and a really strong amount of people giving in the $40-$70 range.
How do you feel about trying to appeal to a DJ’s moral conscience? Is this something you’re comfortable doing and have you run into any difficulties with anyone?
From the get-go, I very clearly saw the three types of reasons people would want to do this. The first one is the obvious one – it’s the right thing to do and I believe in this. The second one is people who do it for the social benefit which works on two levels. The DJ cannot only promote their good deed and be gratified for their good deed, but the producer whose track is being played is then notified and can cross-promote the DJ being like, “No way, Richie Hawtin played my track!” Then the third benefit is for someone who is a really high earner and realises this is a tax benefit for them. To be blunt though, it doesn’t matter to me why people do it because the end result is so beneficial.
Is it your hope that for any DJ earning over a certain threshold this becomes the norm?
In my eyes, the success of this is when it becomes the norm. The hope is a new generation grow up learning, this is what you have to do if you want to be respected. This is what you have to do if you want to be taken seriously. When it crosses that line, we’ve done our job. We are in talks with Pioneer, Serato and Traktor as the hope for the future is to integrate us directly into their software.
Courtesy of DVS1
Could the clubs become their own payment gateway? So as you are playing the track the money leaves the account?
We don’t want to replace collection societies, though we know collection societies don’t do a good job and are government-enforced. Let’s take Fabric for example. Fabric is super on-board to work with us as we build assets for them to use. Fabric pays a lot of money to collection societies, but they have no guarantee the money goes to the right people. Imagine Fabric has a tool to send the correct information to PRS. If we give them the tools to do this and they start asking every artist who plays there to support this system – that could change everything. We are building Aslice certification for companies who want to agree this is the right direction to go.
What kind of support have you had from your Berlin family?
Richie Hawtin is one of the biggest supporters of this concept. He puts his money where his mouth is. He did every gig from 2021, every gig from 2022 and has even considered past playlists. Right now, I’m not overly chasing or overly guilting anyone into doing this, because I wanted DJs in the first category to believe that this is the right thing to do.
Are there plans for expansion?
I’ve committed to funding it for a couple of years until it can stand on its own two feet. The biggest supporters have been in the techno scene because that’s my scene. But now we’re spreading into the house scene and now we’re speaking to people in the drum ‘n’ bass community, and the EDM community. I was needed to open doors to the techno scene, but the EDM and drum ‘n’ bass scene don’t know who I am, so I’m not needed to make that part of it work! So at that point, Aslice needs to stand on its own to sell itself.