After intense global speculation we finally saw Pioneer introducing its newest piece of gear, Kuvo, to the public during ADE. Their new invention is meant to be hooked up to every club’s DJ setup if it were up to them. Opinions on the Kuvo device have been divisive from day one, and Pioneer has made many media appearances to counter-attack any bad press on what exactly this little machine can and will do in the future. Let’s take a look at Kuvo, and what it can achieve in the future.
For those not yet familiar with the function of the machine, Rik Parkinson (Pioneer) explains: “So Kuvo is a play on words. “Kumo,” in Japanese, and we’re a Japanese company, means “cloud.” So we played on the word there, and basically all Kuvo is, is connecting all of Pioneer’s decks that are in clubs across the world together. And why can’t we share that information with the club and the clubber via an application? So it’s just a cloud-based system connecting to our decks and sharing the track information back to the end user”.
Improving Royalties System
Deals have already been struck with major labels across the world to have the system implemented into their DJ setups. The greater goal here, Pioneer says, is to achieve more clarity for labels and artists alike to find out where their music is being played, which is fair. Retrieving what is actually being played in nightclubs has been next to impossible up until now, even though it can serve as a great source of income for labels – most of which are already struggling to make ends meet. In the Netherlands you would hand such information to Buma/Stemra, a rights and royalties organization – also responsible for the organization of ADE.
Another plus point is that it can significantly reduce the ‘Shazamization’ on the dance floor, a growing annoyance in recent years for both clubbing purists and artists alike. Clubbers that have downloaded the accompanying Kuvo app can tap into last night’s DJ set to find out all the tracks they want, causing clubbers to relax when they hear that bomb on the dance floor and not having to pop out their phones and hold them in the air to see if Shazam knows it. On a sidenote: DJs do have a choice in what they want and don’t want Kuvo to pick up. As it relies on ID3 tags, an artist can choose to keep a certain track secret by simply keeping the ID3 tag hidden at the push of a button.
What is maybe of greater importance here is the long term effect of the Kuvo concept. Because with Kuvo, you can now check back every single DJ set in a club that is hooked up to Kuvo – and I suspect that there are going to be many, as there aren’t that many downsides to this product for club owners specifically: it’s free of charge and membership to the Kuvo system can create the idea that their club is ‘part of the scene’. What happens to the art, the craft of DJing when the aspect and mystery of track selection is even out in the open than it already was. That feeling of hearing that obscure tune for the first time during the peak hour on a Saturday night is one of those moments that can make a club night magical and memorable. That magic lies in the fact that the track you are hearing is unreachable to those on the other side of the DJ booth. It’s that shred of mystery that still lingers between the DJ and the crowd. Would it still be just as thrilling to you when you can look up that track within a matter of seconds?
Another serious point, noted in an interview with Pioneer by XLR8R last week, was that Kuvo could become a sort of Beatport on steroids, used not just as a valuable tool by labels and artists to rightfully earn their royalties, but as a commercial trick for the promotion of artists and their tracks. Imagine a track that is starting to become played regularly, would that be a motivation for other DJs to start playing it as well, as playing it is likely going to be appreciated by the crowd? Or could that higher-ranking artists on Kuvo get more bookings because they’re probably going to sell more tickets than others? The danger behind these kinds of self-fulfilling prophecies is that it creates a more superficial DJ market, giving those with a quick hit considerably more attention than other artists that deserve that attention just as much – a development already in place in the years leading up to the creation of Kuvo.
But assumptions are all we have for the moment, not facts. We haven’t seen the actual consequences of the Kuvo system yet, time will tell, and let’s hope that Pioneer will take the responsibility to let this piece of technology be used in such a way that is rewarding for all different parties involved and clubbing in general.