With the far-reaching impact that Blockchain has had in the online trading niche, it was only a matter of time before its influence was felt across other industries. One such niche is that of music – if you have a keen interest in Blockchain and are also an avid fan of music, then you must’ve noticed a wry smile coming on your face at the hint of blockchain changing the way the digital music industry operates.
It’s not breaking news that there are several issues that plague that have been negatively impacting the digital music industry since its advent. Through this article, we can take a look at how Blockchain can help us tackle them.
However, before we dig deeper into “the how”, let’s first explore “the what” a bit more:
Even though recent times have seen a surge of independent artists, the road to releasing your music independently is still long, treacherous and full of hurdles. The clout of Record Labels and similar middlemen is still very prominent in the music industry. And this often marginalizes musical talent who don’t have the financial and social muscle to get their music out.
It’s a very common feeling among musicians that credit is often not given where due. The spread of globalization and the emergence of digital music means that a piece of music can reach across oceans within seconds now. This also creates an opportunity for misuse of the piece by copying and re-sharing it with others without giving the deserved credit and royalty to the original creator.
No Centralized Records:
If you’re an artist who just recorded million “listens” on your latest piece of music and you’re told that you will only be paid for half of them, how would you feel? Not very happy, I guess. This is the reality that many artists face as there is no central database of information like how many records got sold, or how much airtime a song got. This means that there is often a discrepancy between the numbers that record labels claim and what they pay to the artists.
These are three of the most prominent issues that plague the music industry today. In the next section, we will explore how Blockchain can help the music industry tackle these.
Enters The Punk Rock of Technology – BlockChain
Punk Rock is synonymous with disruption. It emerged as a new way of making music and disrupted the classic rock wave of the 70s, in a good way. What followed was a wave of experimental music that spews forth several music gems that we still headbang too.
Blockchain is very similar to Punk Rock in that its influence festered slowly initially and then suddenly became the talk of the town. Like punk rock, Blockchain made people realize that there are better ways of storing and dealing with information, and made them challenge the status quo.
Now that Blockchain is on the verge of introducing revolutionary changes to several industries, we can take a look at how it impacts the three key issues that plague the music industry:
The reason why artists have to rely on middlemen like Record Labels is to ensure that their content gets to as many people as possible. Independent artists can only do so much to spread the word about their music. This is where Blockchain can pay good dividends by offering an alternate way of music release and distribution. Artists like Imogen Heap are already employing the technology to present new music to the fans. This new way of distribution means an equal level playing field for all artists and equal distribution reach.
In a nutshell, Blockchain can be thought of a “centralized” database, even though it’s actually decentralized. In Blockchain, each node has its own copy of the database which is always up-to-date and from where each block of information can be tracked. This means that an artist can track where his or her song is being played or used at all times. This is a great step towards preventing misuse of musical content and goes a long way towards giving musicians a control over how their creations are used across the globe. In a time when piracy of music is a constant and ever growing thorn in the sides of the music industry, this can be the elixir to soothe the pain of growing financial losses.
One other interesting aspect of Blockchain in the music industry is its ability to enforce micropayments which would mean artists will get paid every single time someone plays their song on services like Spotify. Instant payment – who wouldn’t like that.
As mentioned above, the defining characteristic of Blockchain is having an up-to-date database that is constantly synchronized so that each piece of information at each node is same through the network. As of now, artists rarely have accurate data of how many times their songs are played. This means that often they don’t get paid what they are supposed to – be it by record labels or by online services like Spotify, Pandora among others.
Blockchain’s database will mean latest updated records of such information that will enable artists to always be in the know of the airtime they are getting which, in turn, means fair and faster compensation for their art.
Even though the above seems like a great scenario for the artists, let’s not forget that bringing about a radical change, and that too, in an industry as resistant to change, as the music industry, requires a lot of initiative, drive and keen interest in technology.
The last time the music industry tried something like this – creating a standard database of all things music – it resulted in a spend of around $10 million and ended up crashed and burned because of a lot of arguments between stakeholders. However, there are a good bunch of existing blockchain solutions that are making waves in the music industry.
Mycelia is one of them – it’s mission statement being “To empower a fair, sustainable and vibrant music industry ecosystem involving all online music interaction services”. Other such examples include Opus Audio which is all about ensuring artists are able to generate the revenue they deserve from their music which is played online. Meanwhile, Choon is an online music streaming service not very unlike Spotify, and is based on the blockchain technology for playtime tracking and accurate revenue tracking for artists.
Transparency, accountability, and a faster way of doing things are three vital things that Blockchain brings to the table. It’s to be seen if the music industry and more importantly, the artists, are keen enough to change the status quo and bring about a change in the way things happen in their industry. Or are they willing to continue the current trodden path? The future will tell us.