The case of the stolen tracks

on Sep 10 in News by

First of all I’d like to introduce myself, so people know who’s actually writing this stuff. My name is Michael de Kooker. I’m a DJ / Producer hailing from the Netherlands. My general musical styles are house, progressive and trance. In the past I’ve released tracks and remixes on labels such as Armada Music, Cloud 9 Dance, Beyourself and associated sublabels. If I’m not entertaining myself, my dog or girlfriend (in random order) I’m usually busy creating new music or checking out other great music.

Recently I became victim of someone that has stolen one of my already released tracks (in this case ‘Dear Daisy’) and released it under his own name on another label.

Now we all know stuff like this happens in the music business. And we accept that the fact that well-meaning artists and recordlabels are always one (or two) step(s) behind the people who are up to no good. But what I’ve found out last week troubled me so much, I’ve decided to write this article about it.

This article is about “artists” ripping off a song and releasing it as their own. This article is about a label that releases these tracks and also tens or maybe hundreds of other stolen tracks. But what this article is mostly about is the fact that most (if not all) major download portals offer the possibility for malicious persons to do whatever they want and get away with it, since apparently there is no form of quality control or double-check anywhere (audio fingerprint?), hereby doing harm to their loyal business partners, trustworthy recordlabels and artists, who are largely dependent on the sales of these download portals. To me this lack of safeguards at the download portals seems rather strange, since they owe their existence to these same business partners, recordlabels and artists.

As a small artist I’m hugely disappointed and demotivated by the fact that these download portals offer the possibility to just re-release my tracks under any other name, even resulting in copyright claims by these imitators on my original tracks and videos on YouTube, and possibly even more further down the copyrighting line.

And it’s not just me. I’ve discovered a big amount of stolen tracks on this earlier mentioned “recordlabel”; well-known records from big, established, artists. The release date of these imitation tracks are dating back to at least 2010, which means the artists of these tracks have been missing out on their well-deserved royalties for 2 years already because the download portals failed to do a simple check if the tracks were already in their database.

Funny (or maybe typical) fact is I used SoundHound on randomly picked tracks  in the malicious “recordlabel’s” catalogue (and their beatport top 10) and recovered most of the original titles of the stolen tracks. So please keep in mind how simple it would actually be for the download portals to keep an eye on the content they offer.  However; the lack of effort to change or implement any kind of control on their content seems to point out they don’t want anything to change. And with the ongoing growth of download (and streaming) portals revenue we can all imagine why.

My story started a few days back, when I checked out some of my old tracks on YouTube. This way I can keep (a loose) track of what my music is being used for and where (and by who) it’s played.

Now this time I noticed something strange. My track  ‘Dear Daisy’, released in 2011 on Pilot 6 Recordings, was suddenly copyrighted by an artist named “Zhao Kramer” (Real name: Adam Kramer). I figured it was probably a glitch, but just to be sure I checked a few other videos and got the same results. I then googled this “Zhao” guy and found out he had released quite a few tracks, so I decided to give his tracks a listen. Just after listening two of his tracks I came across a track called “Zhao Kramer – Fire & Forget” released on Red King Records. First thing that popped into my mind was “Awesome track”, the second thing was “Oh wait.. this is mine!”.

So obviously I was angry and disappointed. I decided to do some research on this “Zhao Kramer” and on the record label the track was released on. I checked out some of his other tracks, which sounded really familiar too. Found his Soundcloud account and also came across some videos he had uploaded on YouTube.

More interesting was the fact I found out his domain name was registered by an “Adam Kramer”, with a P.O box in Watford, UK.  Coincidentally (or not?) the domain name of Red King Records was registered by an Adam Khan, also living in Watford. I didn’t really know what to do with this information though, since the options of an independent artist against this kind of audio piracy are kind of limited. I decided to message Adam Kramer himself and of course send an e-mail to Red King Records.

Someone from Red King Records who called herself “Emily” replied real quickly, saying they would look into this, that they have dealt with this stuff before and would find a quick solution for me. However when I asked some more questions the answers became more vague and indirect, which kind of tickled my “spider-senses”.
I checked out the source of the e-mail and found out that the IP address of the computer this e-mail was sent from originated in, again, Watford

I then did some more research on the record label. Browsing through their Google history, website history (via the wayback archive) and their label catalogue on Beatport. While just randomly playing some songs there I came across a song called “Trackmasters – Keep Moving” which sounded really familiar. After some extensive brain crunching I knew why this track sounded so familiar. The original track was a big one in the Netherlands and in the trance scene worldwide when it was first released. We probably all know this track as “Ron van den Beuken – Timeless”.

Just half an hour later I had come across several stolen tracks. Tracks like DT8 – Destination, Tenth Planet – Ghosts, ATB – In love with the DJ, System F – Elevate, Major Boys – Panamerica, St Germain – Montego Bay Spleen, Chase & Status – TIME, and many more, all renamed and released on the download portals with just a different artist and trackname to them. I spent the next hours browsing through a lot of their tracks while running SoundHound on my phone. Most songs were recognized and identified as stolen tracks and I even discovered entire albums containing nothing than ripped off songs from other artists.

A thread I found on the Looperman forum showed me that even the few original songs released on this label left the artists of those tracks unhappy. According to posts in this thread about Redking Records, the artists did not hear from Adam ever again after signing the contract for their work. What I found particularly interesting is that some people in the topic say they have informed a few of the download portals already in 2010 of the scam business run by Redking Records. So they could have (should have?) known that there was something fishy going on with this label.

Now it’s all rather disturbing that these big download portals did not manage to filter out (already copyrighted) big records, suddenly released on a small label with just a different name. But what shocked me most is the fact this label has been releasing stolen tracks since at least early 2010, while at least some of the download portals were informed about the dubious practices of this so-called “record label”.

In my opinion it’s time for the download and streaming portals to take responsibility for their content and step up their game, preferably in close cooperation with music distribution services like label-worx. A basic content ID system based on audio fingerprinting is not that hard to implement these days. This simple change would already make a huge difference in how the real record labels and artists could protect their music they have worked so hard on, and put their heart and soul into. Also some more effort into recognizing and banning scam labels and artists would be welcome. And while I know you can never protect your music for the full one hundred percent, any form of control is better than none at all.

* When writing this article a new user initiative popped up called, trying to clean up the EDM scene from the bullshit. Which in my opinion is a great idea! Check out their website here:


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