On March 3, 2017, an international workshop on “The Blockchained Music Business” was organized by the Department of Cultural Management and Gender Studies (IKM) of the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and the Music Information Center Austria (MICA). Carlotta De Ninni (Mycelia for Music Foundation, London), Peter Jenner (Sincere Management, London) and Benji Rogers (PledgeMusic & Dot Blockchain Music, New York) were the workshop supervisors focusing on different aspects of the blockchain technology’s impact on the music business. In this first part of the summary of the workshop, you can read the results of the workshop group led by Carlotta De Ninni that discussed the opportunities and challenges of blockchain technology for artists.
The blockchain as an opportunity and challenge for musicians: How musicians can benefit from blockchain technology?
Summary based on the notes by Mira Perusich
The workshop group supervised by Carlotta De Ninni (Mycelia for Music Foundation, London) – supported by Mira Perusich – discussed the question “How musicians can benefit from blockchain technology?” Initially the group summarized the new possibility blockchain technology provides:
- it is a decentralized database, which can be accessed by anyone
- it could be a way to write down information in a “common language”
- it is not hackable, because the information is shared in a network of computers (P2P)
- there are more blockchains than just the Bitcoin blockchain, which surfaced in 2008
Carlotta De Ninni was part of Imogen Heap’s team to put a first song ever on a blockchain – Heap’s “Tiny Human”. They collaborated with ujomusic, an application based on the Ethereum blockhain. Ethereum is not so secure than the Bitcoin blockchain, but it allows the use of smart contracts. Smart contracts are programmable transactions that allow a definition of a revenue share e.g. among artists. Since Ethereum is linked with the cyber-currency Ether, the shares are paid out to artists nanoseconds after a user paid US$ 0.60 for the song. The payment process is fully transparent, but anonymous and safe due to encryption technology. The “Tiny Human” project was an experiment and a proof-of-concept for blockchain technology.
What could blockchain technology do for musicians?
Smart contracts could favour a more transparent way of splitting the money without affecting the percentages – but payment happens a lot faster. However, the current issue lies in the fact that the technology in itself is not ready yet – things still need to be done technology-wise. Another issue regarding smart contracts is that certain players in the music business don’t want transparency- maybe also musicians.
The group also discussed the question what information should be included in the meta-data for a song put on the blockchain. Besides a minimal viable dataset (MVD), also information such as inspiration, lyrics, where the song was written, which kind of instrument was used, which microphone was used, which plugins, whatever influences song etc. should be included from an artists’ perspective. The more information is provided the better blockchain technology could be a system to share this information in a network with all the credits about an artist or a song. Thus, this extra information can also be monetized, because it is decentralized and accessible for everyone (compare it to the idea of an Instagram hashtag). Further, an artist has much more control over her/his work by adding more information. Within this network of metadata the decision which information is free and which is monetized can also be made. If we are able to link all this data, musicians/artists could create this network and raise the income for the whole community – not just for record labels and publishers.
Artists should know what’s going on and they also should be able to decide how and what to delegate.
Dagmar Abfalter (IKM)
Helmut Herglotz (sofasession)
Violetta Parisini (musician)
Martin Rotheneder (musician)
Angel Vassilev (musician)