The struggling artist stereotype persists in part because starving artists have allowed it to. Technology may be the lifeline that helps common musicians obtain liveable wages.
Artists and their collaborators shouldn’t have to settle for puny royalty checks. Many musicians can’t afford court costs and are forced to accept scraps, fairness be damned. Blockchain technology can calculate royalties fairly and transparently so that payouts are based on metrics, not the whims of a record label.
This transparency could extend beyond the recording studio and airwaves. Concerts are a massive portion of music revenues. Festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo have become cultural mainstays, and they’ve inspired sleazy imitations. Low-rent concert promoters like Ja Rule and Billy McFarland embody the mistrust that plagues concert circuits.
Blockchain-powered smart contracts will protect both the promoter and the concertgoer. Ticket insurance, automated refunds when services aren’t delivered, and escrow-like payment services could help mitigate damage if a concert goes awry. Such failsafes would limit the liability of the promoter in case of litigation, too.
That’s not all blockchain could do for music. Collaborators often send files between studios, which can lead to leaks. Password-protected ledgers could connect artists more securely, ensuring the elements of a song or album aren’t compromised.
Talent profiles within a blockchain system could list someone’s skills, fees, and recordings. Such profiles could help independent artists earn a living without making compromises with record labels.
1. Vasja Veber, Co-founder and COO of VIBERATE
“Trust. The fact that it is impossible to change anything on the blockchain, brings a lot towards transparency. In Viberate's case of putting artist IDs and gig history on the blockchain, it means that artists won't be able to lie about where they played and the same goes to venues, when they are pitching booking agents and need to tell them who they booked in the past. Also, it can bring a lot towards fighting ticket fraud and scalping. Last but not least – a reliable distributed ledger can be a game changer in the cashless payment systems at festivals.”
2. Josh Tucker, Partner at Pillsbury LLP
“More value to rights holders and consumers. Vitalik Buterin, one of the creators of Ethereum, has helped popularize the idea that blockchain is one of the few tools that allows you to credibly commit to not turning into a monopolistic jerk. In many industries, some platform operators become more aggressive on terms after network and scale effects kick-in. Music is no exception. But with platforms built on blockchain tech, leveraging smart contracts, new platforms can be built that are decentralized, so there is no single, trusted party charging a toll to everyone trying to do business on the platform.”
3. John Wagster, Co-chair of Frost Brown Todd’s Blockchain and Digital Currency Team
“The number one benefit blockchain brings to the music industry is the potential to transform recordation of performance rights, the payment of royalties and direct music licensing from the artist to the consumer in an open, transparent and less expensive manner than the current system. Currently, streaming music services get away paying fractions of a penny to artists for downloads of even the most popular songs because artists have no alternative to those services. Blockchain technology capabilities could provide music directly and instantaneously licensed from artists (or labels) to consumers at negotiated prices and instantaneously route a portion of those payments as previously agreed royalties to composers, artists and musicians.”
4. Ricardo Porteus, Founder of Bleep.me and Dance for 1 Meter
“The trust and transparency layer blockchain technology brings to the table will be most beneficial in terms of artists royalty payments and calculations. The current 100+ year old antiquated, vastly corrupt and murky world of royalties and rights distribution and payment will be completely blown open by DLT technology once adopted.”
5. Stephen Glicken, Founder of Project Admission
“In short, blockchain is a new way to store data. The key aspect of blockchain is that it solves something called the Byzantine Generals Problem. While that sounds like a headache, it simply asks: How do you trust people when there’s no central authority to say who should be trusted and who should not?”
6. Nigel Rudlin, CEO and Founder of indieOn
“Blockchain allows artists to be paid directly (not through an intermediary), to be paid instantaneously and to at all time understand how much they will be paid and from what demography’s, geography’s and sociology’s they are deriving their revenue. That is the very essence of disruption. And there will be push-back from the old guard.”
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