Pulselocker, a music subscription service and storage locker targeting electronic music fans and DJs, has launched its service to the web, following an earlier beta as a native desktop application. The site is an interesting cross between something like Spotify and a cloud service with a desktop component like Dropbox, for instance. Users pay a monthly subscription fee in order to access the service’s streaming catalog of over 4 million tracks, but are limited as to how many they can save for offline listening and use in DJ’ing applications.
The idea for Pulselocker first came to its co-founders Ben Harris (CEO), Alvaro Velilla (President), and Josh Goltz (COO) a couple of years ago. Harris was then part of a house music trio called Dirty Vegas best known for their Grammy Award-winning song “Days Go By,” and Velilla worked for a European electronic music brand called Pacha. The topic of conversation at the time – as is often the case among artists and those in the industry today – is how difficult it is to make a living today as a musician, a producer or DJ.
Frustrated with music piracy, but also wanting to create something which would serve the DJ community, the co-founders came up with the idea for Pulselocker. Unlike competitive streaming services such as Spotify or Rdio, Pulselocker today is focused on a niche market – it’s a music service for DJs. The team began work in early 2012, and released a beta version on the desktop last November ahead of this week’s online debut.
Pulselocker is actually three services in one: an on-demand streaming service like Spotify, a subscription-based storage locker which lets DJs play tracks in their preferred DJ’ing apps while offline, and an online music store which lets you shop for tracks you can purchase outright and own forever – whether or not you have a current subscription.
Three Ways For Artists To Get Paid
Having been developed by those in the industry whose goal is to benefit both the artists and fans, Pulselocker is interesting because not only has it negotiated deals with the music aggregators to operate legally, but it also offers artists three ways to get paid on each track. For each of the above scenarios, artists receive a royalty.
The company has deals with around 60 different aggregators right now, which, combined, include over 27,000 independent record labels. But Pulselocker recently signed a deal with Merlin, the so-called “virtual fourth major. As the largest of the indie lot, Merline oversees 20,000-plus distributors and labels. The deal will about double Pulselocker’s catalog of 4 million, says Fred Han, a former DJ who now runs marketing and communications at the startup.
In addition, the company has began discussions with the major labels, too, including Sony, Universal and Warner. Sony’s talks are now in final stages, and likely closing next month.
For DJs, what makes the service interesting – and unique – is that unlike other subscription music on demand offerings, users can actually take the songs they “rent” and save into a special Pulselocker folder on their computer. From here, those tracks can be played with specific, whitelisted DJ’ing applications, like Traktor and Serato. (VirtualDJ works, but is not officially supported).
In order to make this work, the tracks themselves are not DRM’d (rights protected), but the folder they’re saved into is, so only specific DJ apps can access it. You can think of the folder sort of like a one-way Dropbox – it lets DJs download music into it, but not share or upload the files it contains elsewhere. The company has filed for a patent on its locker technology, Han says.
Subscription-pricing is based on how many tracks a DJ wants to save for offline playback, starting at $9.99/month for 25 tracks up to $59.99/month for 1,000. Unlimited streaming is included with all subscription plans, but DJs tend to want the hard copies of files – after all, gigs don’t always have an Internet connection available.
But how many DJs are there in the world, to sustain a service like this? “We don’t actually know how many DJs there are. It’s in the millions,” says Han. He does note, however, that technology advancements have lowered the entry to the market. “It used to be that a DJ had to buy a set of Technics 1200’s, a mixer, headphones and needles – a $2,000-plus expense. And now, a kid with a laptop and a controller you get at Walmart for $100 can technically be classified as a DJ,” Han adds.
“I read on a blog someone asked this same question: ‘how many DJs are there in the world? One of the comments was ‘too many,’ Han says with a laugh. “It’s hard to put an exact number on it.”
Pulselocker is open to sign-ups here. A free, limited streaming service is also available. The startup is angel funded by CEO Harris at this time.