Aslice: Creating A Fairer Music Ecosystem

While the festival culture remains integral to the dynamic and continually expanding realm of dance music, it is imperative to analyze the consequences that accompany its growth. The electronic music world has become a global phenomenon, attracting millions of fans to festivals around the world and as the attendance of clubs and festivals continues to increase astronomically, so do the DJ fees. Music sales and producers’ revenues have fallen rapidly since the early 2000s and notably, the majority of festival-performing DJs derive their livelihood from playing the music of others, leaving the artists who produce the music struggling to make ends meet. 

In early 2020, just before the world underwent a collective shutdown, DVS1, a luminary in the techno genre and a savvy entrepreneur, was fed up with the typical artists social media game where you can go viral on TikTok, earning substantial sums by playing music created by artists receiving negligible recognition and grappling with financial hardships. Speaking to Resident Advisor, Khutoretsky said the project was in response to the deficit in royalties awarded to producers despite the exponential growth of the electronic music industry, which was valued at $7.3 billion in 2020. According to Aslice, “the top 10 DJs alone accounted for $273 million of the 1.1 billion dollars earned by all DJs combined in 2019. Conversely, music sales have declined in the last two decades. Today it takes over 200,000 streams per month to earn the equivalent of minimum wage on streaming services like Spotify.” DVS1, or Zak Khutoretsky, perceived this system as flawed and in need of reform. Rather than expressing gratitude for his own success, he sought a way to appreciate the artists who had supplied him with the music that fueled his triumphs and generated memorable moments on the dancefloor. 

Photo of Zak Khutoretsky courtesy of Tailored Communications 

Zak Khutoretsky, born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1978, during the Soviet Union era, immigrated to America with his family at a young age. Active in the techno scene since the 1990s, he is acknowledged as a leading figure in the underground techno movement. Growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a location proximate to the influential music hubs of Chicago and Detroit where Zak was influenced by the music of these two cities as well as New York City’s hip hop scene. Not being from an influential musical city truly gave Khutoretsky the opportunity to define his own midwestern sound in whatever way he wanted. With a passion for music from an early age, Khutoretsky played the piano for eight years, immersed himself in synthesizer-based radio, and explored the rave scene as a youth. At 18, he initiated his own underground parties in unconventional venues, managing all aspects of event organization. Despite the success, a nightclub he co-owned, Foundation, folded in 2008, leaving Kutoretsky burdened with debt. This setback prompted him to focus more on his music. DVS1 has since released albums and EPs on renowned labels like Klockworks, Transmit, and his imprint, Hush, established in 2011. In addition, he launched a sub-label called Mistress, Recordings, catering to house, techno, and everything in between. 

Known for his compelling DJ sets that seamlessly blend old-school and modern techno, Khutoretsky is committed to preserving the art of DJing in an era dominated by digital music. He has performed at prestigious clubs and festivals worldwide, including Bargain in Berlin, Movement Electronic Music Festival in Detroit, Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in Florida, and Bassiani in Tbilisi, Georgia. 

Courtesy of Aslice 

Having experienced various facets of the music industry, from production and event management to being a touring DJ and producer, Khutoretsky empathizes with the struggles of everyday artists striving to make a living. In 2020, he introduced a groundbreaking innovation called Aslice, designed to give back to the artists who contributed to his success. Aslice, built by artists for artists, aims to address income disparities between working DJs and the producers whose music they play. The platform facilitates a simple and user-friendly workflow, providing a new revenue stream for music producers. 

Aslice provides a new revenue stream for music producers with an easy-to-use software. They empower working DJs to share a portion of their earnings directly with the producers they play at paid gigs. Compared to the music industries current model of streaming of paid music, Aslice is proving to be the fairer way. Here’s how a payment from a single DJ playing a song one time and sharing via Aslice compares the payment in the current model for music producers: An artist currently makes $0.50 per song bought on Beatport and $0.80 per song on Bandcamp while on Aslice an artist makes $1.42 per track played by a single DJ. That $1.42 is equivalent to the same song getting 650 streams on Spotify or 386 streams on Apple Music. According to Aslice, “Many professional DJs receive and play completely free music via promo and file share. While producers are surely happy to have their music played, the only “payment” they get in this case is potential “exposure”. Even if a DJ buys all the music they play, the existing model only pays a producer once for that sale. With Aslice, that same producer gets their fair share every time a DJ plays their music at a paid gig.” Aslice promotes a sense of community in the electronic music scene, shifting the focus from competition to collaboration. 

Courtesy of Aslice

With more and more artists adopting Aslice the electronic music community is putting more of an emphasis on being a community based on sharing rather than music being a competition. Lastly Kutoretsky wanted to also change how the current PROs (performing rights organizations) distributes money from unidentified songs stating that “to handle our unmatched music royalties, we founded The Aslice Foundation, a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit and sister organization of Aslice LLC. Unlike traditional collection societies, The Aslice Foundation donates any money accrued for unidentified songs in our system to charitable organizations, voted on by the Aslice users. Focusing on music education, creative arts education, and/or community social work for individuals in need. We’ve created a way to reinvest unmatched music earnings back into the global community, instead of paying the wrong people. In the first year of Aslice’s public beta, The Aslice Foundation donated to Underground Music Academy, which provides electronic music education and mentorship to young adults in Detroit.” 

This project is only two years old yet more and more DJs around the world are proving that they want to do the right thing. Producers are being paid through our service, some for the first time in their lives. No matter how big or small, new or experienced a DJ may be on their career path, Aslice is a tool for them and for the entire community. Aslice believes that if we can get our entire music community behind a culture of sharing, we will not only be creating a fairer ecosystem, we can truly change peoples’ lives. Zak Khutorestsky has truly recognized the music ecosystem to start becoming more fair with Aslice and this is only the beginning. 

– Hugo Francisco

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