11 June 2020

Music has, and likely always will be a massive part of society. Music is everywhere, even if we try to avoid it. We hear birds singing stunning melodies when we wake up. There’s music playing in all the malls and in all the stores when we go shopping. Like it or not, our lives revolve around music.

As much as we love music, it often is hard to understand how complex the music industry is.

Unless they are the biggest rock stars in the game, it is unlikely that the artists we love will make a significant living out of streaming—platforms like Napster and Tidal pay around 0.019 and 0.012 dollars per stream. But number-wise, they don’t compete with Spotify and Apple Music active users. These last two do not even pay a single cent per stream. The money for artists is all in the tours and the shows.

A musician needs around 230,000 plays on Apple Music to earn $1,450. On Youtube, the same artists need around +2.1M streams o get the same amount of money. That doesn’t even cover recording and production fees.

If the artists are indie, they have to pay all these fees with their own money. If these artists get signed by a major label, the label pays for most things – but the price becomes even higher. A big chunk of the little money collected via streaming is not even theirs, it is for the music label.

Yet, there might be a way out for musicians in the blockchain.

Blockchain And Music

Blockchain has been a synonym for innovation. From phonographs to today’s airpods, state-of-the-art proposals have filled the music industry. It seems like a partnership made it heaven. Many have noticed this before. That’s why blockchain solves one of the biggest problems of the music industry – the middlemen.

Middlemen and music labels limit the income of musicians in an unprecedented way. They make artists dependent on the direct input of fans who buy their merch or go to their concert to pay the bills.

The blockchain can create a more stable and fair space for musicians. That has been the motto for Ujo Music. Ujo connects artists and fans through Ethereum’s blockchain. People pay for digital goods and tip their favorite artists. Artists get 100% of their sales. This not only empowers the artists – but it also empowers the fans.

Some other platforms, such as Musicoin, have also gotten a lot of attention. Musicoin is a Chinese peer-to-peer streaming platform. Once somebody downloads or listens to a song, the artists get Musicoin’s tokens, MUSIC. The artists get these MUSIC tokens every time someone listens to their music.

Some big companies are riding this wave, too. This is the case of Music giants, eMusic. Founded in 1998, eMusic decided to reinvent themselves. With a blockchain-based platform, eMusic offers exclusive content for a lower price. Artists also have benefits with eMusic – instant royalties and fan-to-artist crowdfunding. All this while being 100% transparent with each transaction.

Blockchain For Fair Use

As great as the already mentioned platforms are, there is one that stands out for their efforts. The Open Music Initiative (OMI) is a nonprofit association. Their idea? Using blockchain as an open-source protocol.

OMI wants to use the blockchain to identify the rights holders. Once they identify the rights holders, they contact the artists. Then, artists can get paid every time someone uses their music. While blockchain would bring greater clarity, Smart Contracts would be the implementing arm.

Smart Contracts within the music industry would be of great use. For example, an artist sets the price and conditions for the usage of a song. People agree on the price and payment. The artist gets paid in the condition they established. Alongside this, Smart Contracts ensure that artists get fair royalty payments. This also provides greater insight into existing data.

Artists would know how many people have listened to or used their songs. Artists wouldn’t rely on platform numbers due to the decentralized nature of blockchain. What’s more, this grants the artists absolute control over their art.

Sony and Warner have joined the OMI proposal. Netflix, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Youtube are also OMI members. Having such big names as members shows the music industry acknowledges its problems and is willing to change direction.

Truth is – blockchain offers a more transparent setting for the music industry. The one musicians have been fighting for and deserve.

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Edmund McCormack
Tech industry veteran and blockchain technology investor. Simplifying cryptocurrency for almost a decade.

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