Blockchain technology could be music industry’s savior
Ever since distributed ledger technology – or blockchain – debuted with the release of the world’s first cryptocurrency, bitcoin, in 2009, experts have believed that it is a perfect fit for a number of different industries ranging from banking to healthcare to even logistics.
True to that prediction, industry leaders have all begun approaching the technology in some way or another over the past couple of years, as is evident by the rising investor confidence and the market capitalization of digital currencies.
Given that blockchain technology is fundamentally immutable and trustless in nature, it may also be of significant value to the ailing music industry that is currently suffering due to digital piracy and improper rights management.
Blockchain technology to the rescue
A major problem affecting both, new and established music artists, is the declining revenue from record sales. The issue first presented itself in the form of Napster, a peer to peer file sharing service, almost twenty years ago, in the early days of the internet. Since then, the problem of piracy has only compounded, further hurting independent artists’ only source of income.
Even music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music that were originally designed to discourage piracy are now only sharing a paltry amount of their revenue with the content creators.
Blockchain technology can solve the monetization problem plaguing the music industry with its smart contract feature that has been pioneered by Ethereum within the past two years. Digital tokens created on the Ethereum blockchain can also support micropayments for an on-demand music listening experience similar to Spotify.
The key selling point of such a blockchain-powered platform would be the lack of any trusting authority or intermediary to take a cut of the revenue.
Such a blockchain-based reward system has already been developed for the video content creation industry by Brave Browser in the form of the Basic Attention Token. Viewers of a specific video creator can decide to contribute a fixed amount of money every month to them instead of being served with advertisements.
This way, content owners are rewarded with a fair, fixed share revenue stream and consumers have the choice of supporting them in a more direct manner. In fact, several technology startups have already designed blockchain based solutions for musicians to be paid through smart contracts.
Musicoin, for instance, boasts fair compensation, transparent contracts and no intermediaries for an artist of any size to distribute their music. To add to that, the company also boasts its content rights protection feature wherein the music data is logged to the blockchain to prevent copyright infringement or malicious profiteering.
Please join this revolution with us, to share, license music by yourself and be remunerated, pay per play.
— Musicoin Project (@musicoins) February 21, 2017
Musicians hail blockchain technology
Grammy-winning British musician Imogen Heap is also pioneering a similar music focused blockchain platform, Mycelia, after selling her song “Tiny Human” on the Ethereum-based Ujo platform in 2015. The Mycelia website explains that the project is an attempt to “empower a fair, sustainable and vibrant music industry ecosystem involving all online music interaction services” and “to ensure all involved are paid and acknowledged fully”.
As the cryptocurrency ecosystem matures though, it is clear that the music industry is not oblivious to the inherent advantages that blockchain technology brings to the table.
Nick Mason — drummer and founding member of the band Pink Floyd — famously penned a foreword to a report titled “Music on the Blockchain” in 2016, suggesting that the technology is implemented in the music sector sooner rather than later.
“The potential application in relation to music is of particular interest, as it appears to offer solutions to problems artists have highlighted for decades – around transparency, the sharing of value and the relationships with intermediaries that sit between the artist and fan, the central and most important relationship in music.”
More recently, American rapper Pitbull announced an international blockchain programming competition “Smackathon” in hopes that the technology will help disrupt the music industry and finally bring an end to technical roadblocks faced by up and coming artists.
The competition will require participants to develop an Ethereum based smart contract solution specifically for the music industry. All entries will be judged by the company Zeppelin, which Pitbull has also teamed up with for its open-source smart contract platform.
It's time for a major change in the music industry! Blockchain developers, we need your help to empower artists worldwide.
— Pitbull (@pitbull) April 25, 2018
Using digital currency as a payment method for music is not necessarily a new concept, especially considering that rapper 50 Cent and Icelandic pop artist Bjork both accepted bitcoin for album purchases as early as 2014 and 2017 respectively.
Pitbull’s smart contract competition, however, is the industry’s first formal leap into blockchain technology, which is the underlying technology powering such currencies.
While blockchain technology does suffer from a fair number of flaws by itself and has a few technical limitations that are being actively solved by the technology community, its implementation in the modern day music industry would stand to solve several issues at once.
In addition to fixing royalty and increasing transparency, it would also take away control from incumbent music platforms such as Spotify and iTunes that are motivated by little more than self-gain.