This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Publishing series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and publishing.
In this interview we speak with Roneil Rumburg, Co-founder and CEO of Audius, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the publishing business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Audius? Why and how did you begin?
RR: While the music industry generated $42 billion in revenue last year, content creators only saw 12% of that. Most artists have minimal control over how their music is distributed and have little visibility into who is listening to it. As a big music fan, I knew creators deserved more.
I reconnected with Forrest Browning, a buddy that I mined Bitcoin with at Stanford, when we were both between ventures and we got to talking about this. Merging our backgrounds in software engineering, venture capital, music, and crypto, Audius was born.
Audius is addressing the problems in the music industry with the mission to give everyone the freedom to share, monetize, and listen to anything they want. We are creating a fully decentralized community of artists, service providers, and listeners collaborating to share and defend the world’s music. Since early 2018, we’ve been working hard to build that with public blockchain infrastructure and other decentralized technologies like IPFS.
2. Please describe your use case and how Audius uses blockchain:
RR: Audius allows creators to distribute to and get paid directly from their fans, and is comprised of the following components:
- An efficient dual-token economy, with one native staking/work token and one payment token backed by 3rd-party stablecoin(s)
- A decentralized storage solution for sharing audio and metadata
- A unique track encryption scheme paired with a payment mechanism to unlock user-specific proxy re-encryption keys for content
- A discovery protocol for users to efficiently query metadata
- A community arbitration protocol to fairly and efficiently resolve disputes filed by protocol participants
- A decentralized governance protocol, whereby artists, service providers, and listeners are individually and collectively enfranchised in decision making about protocol changes and upgrades.
With respect to blockchain specifically, we use it as a logically centralized coordination mechanism at the core of these protocols. By being able to maintain a single source of truth for what all the content listed on the Audius protocol is, how to find it, and how disputes and other issues are resolved, we can enable anyone to participate in a permissionless way without any central control.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
RR: We are currently in private beta and onboarding artists to the Audius protocol. Once the content catalog grows, we’ll create and expand our listener base. The Audius protocol will host a plethora of content ranging from remixes and mash-ups to podcasts, and foster a creative space where anything can be uploaded and shared. This will allow artists to be their authentic selves online, showcasing content they might otherwise have difficulty distributing elsewhere.
For listeners, they will benefit from the expanded content catalog that this free expression enables and have the opportunity to build a direct relationship with the artists that they care about. Issues like region locks and platform restrictions will also not exist in Audius – if an artist and their fans want to transact, they can do so without any 3rd party mediating or controlling that interaction.
4. What other blockchain publishing use cases are you excited about?
RR: In media, we’re very excited about content distribution mechanisms for video like Livepeer, ways to securitize future creator earnings (providing creators access to collateralized credit and liquidity they need today), and the ecosystem we can all create by making these primitives open and permissionless to use.
The future music economy will be decentralized and open to anyone to build on, in stark contrast to the current state of closed DSPs and data. It’s difficult for us to comprehend or anticipate what higher-level use cases will emerge atop basic primitives like content distribution tools and open content catalogs being available for anyone to integrate with. We’re all just in the infancy of this – lots more work to do!
5. Where will Audius be in 5 years?
RR: We hope that in five years the power is back in the hands of the audio content creators. In our eyes, we see this meaning they’ll have full control of publishing/distributing/monetizing their work, and will own the relationship with their fans in an unmediated fashion. We hope our decentralized community continues to grow to help artists defend their music and the world’s music catalog, where as an independent DJ, you can build a following, have a #1 track and still make money through the Audius platform.
As this new music economy matures, replacing existing constructs like advances and distribution with decentralized equivalents, there won’t be a need to sign deals with major labels; artists will be able to scale their reach and grow their fans without giving up the rights to their music.