Blockchained Melody

Image credit: iStockphoto/Atstock Productions

Sometimes blockchain seems like a technology searching for a function. The general public —  if they think about blockchain at all — views it as something to do with cryptocurrency.

But crypto is something a teenage cousin claims will make the banking system crumble — while enriching said cousin. Things like NFTs and CryptoPunks are often viewed as science fiction rather than useful technologies.

This isn't ideal, as blockchain is one of the more interesting technologies. Wikipedia: “Blockchain technology can be used to create a permanent, public, transparent ledger system for compiling data on sales, tracking digital use and payments to content creators, such as wireless users or musicians.”

Blockchaining the music biz

The rise of streaming has meant massive profits for the global music business. “The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has released its official year-end figures for the U.S. recorded music industry in 2021, and they show impressive growth,” says an article of musically.com. “The retail value of recorded music revenues grew by 23% last year to USD15bn, while the wholesale (trade) value for labels grew by 22% to USD9.8bn.”

Clearly, there's profit in streaming, but how do artists ensure their fair share of the proceeds? Ever since the day of payola in the 1950s, the business has had its share of shady practices and dodgy characters. The hits just keep on coming, but Fredric Dannen titled his 1990 music industry book “Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money within the Music Business” (it was rated second on Billboard Magazine's list: “100 Greatest Music Books of All Time”).

The industry has been leery of new technologies since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1908 that prerecorded player piano rolls weren't copies of the plaintiffs' copyrighted sheet music but instead parts of the machine that reproduced the music. Readers may recall the “Home Taping is Killing Music” campaign by the British Phonographic Institute in the 1980s, with its cassette-tape-as-skull logo.

There's profit in streaming, but how do artists ensure their fair share of the proceeds?

“Digital technology has always been a double-edged sword for the music industry,” wrote Accenture's Ariel Bernstein in a 2018 article. “The digital era made music easier to record and edit, made it accessible to almost everyone, and allowed thousands of songs to be stored on a single device. On the other hand, music became easier to copy; the line between sharing and piracy blurred, and each industry solution to protect licensing was quickly followed by a way to get around it.”

Pre-streaming, controversy raged around peer-to-peer distribution network Napster, which was opposed by heavy metal giants Metallica. Also in the mix was LimeWire, which folded in 2011, only to reappear in March 2022 as an NFT marketplace.

Audius on the 'chain

One of the newer kids on the blockchain, Audius, self-describes as: “a decentralized, community-owned and artist-controlled music-sharing protocol.” “Audius provides a blockchain-based alternative to existing streaming platforms to help artists publish and monetize their work and distribute it directly to fans.” They boast an iOS app.

Sometimes blockchain seems like a technology searching for a function

Audius published a whitepaper claiming that only 12% of the music industry revenue goes to content artists. “Furthermore, artists have minimal control over how their music is distributed and little visibility into who is streaming it,” says the whitepaper. “Audius allows artists to distribute to and get paid directly from their fans,” says the whitepaper.”

Number one on their list of components: “An efficient token economy powered by the Audius platform token ($AUDIO), 3rd-party stablecoins, and artist tokens.” Perhaps this cryptocurrency and its relative value are critical to the entire equation?

Selling online

A question on a user forum for Australia-based Emanate Live (another music platform with a token) reads: “I find blockchain and cryptocurrencies really confusing. How will Emanate make it easy for me to use the platform?

The response? “Emanate will provide users with a seamless user experience, users will barely even notice that they are using a blockchain platform. Users will be able to create an account by just providing their name & email address & purchase a subscription via a credit card payment.”

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are confusing, and given the wild fluctuations in crypto, perhaps it makes sense that credit cards in fiat currencies are preferred as payment gateways. The drive to credit content creators financially is a worthy one. Still, given the potential windfalls for any random skyrocketing cryptocurrency, there must be more to any given scheme than a proprietary token.

Emanate does have a manifesto of sorts. “The recorded music industry relies on paying subscribers! If you join the Emanate Music Lovers group for just [USD]6 per month, you get automatic entry to all community competitions and access to private chat groups of like-minded music lovers.”

Credit cards accepted.

Stefan Hammond is a contributing editor to CDOTrends. Best practices, the IOT, payment gateways, robotics and the ongoing battle against cyberpirates pique his interest. You can reach him at [email protected].

Image credit: iStockphoto/Atstock Productions