You’re Twistin’ My Blockchain, Man


Speaking at the NY:LON Connect conference in London recently, Dot Blockchain founder Benji Rogers made this comment during a panel discussion about Blockchain: “This is the most extraordinary time to invest in music start-ups. I think the potential is absolutely huge, because of what’s coming”.

Rogers continued: “My prediction is we’ll be at $100bn a year as an industry in two years, but it’s going to be really painful to get there”.

A bold prediction indeed- but how much explanation has been given as to how we’ll actually get “there” or even where “there” is?

Lets start with the basics- Blockchain is the technology that powers crypto currency Bitcoin and is essentially a record of transactions- a ledger that can validate and register transactions without the need for a central authority.

Information stored on the ledger can’t be altered meaning that parties can securely make peer-to-peer exchanges of data or money. It is already making waves in other industries such as the financial sector but what are the possibilities for the music industry?

For a start, Blockchain could transform how publishing rights are administrated- lets face it, Performance Rights Organisations (PROs) globally are long overdue an overhaul of their systems and approaches to accuracy and transparency.  The argument is that building usage permissions into music files will speed up the licensing process, creating efficiencies and attracting investors back into the music space.

An additional advantage of such a ledger is that it can establish a more direct relationship between artists and fans. In theory, small artists will be able to cut out purchasing platforms and get direct compensation every time their songs are played. This would clearly be of particular use to independent artists who have a fanbase but not the backing of a label.

Just like the late Leonard Cohen, the music industry has been waiting for the miracle to come- will Blockchain rise on the third day and save us all? 

Frankly, the music industry is no stranger to trying on the emperors new clothes- see the furore around ‘social music’ platform Crowdmix, supposedly the future for some, nixed only by the fact that no-one, not even its founders seemed to be able to explain what it actually did. The platform spectacularly crashed and burned last year.

The tech world is full of such cautionary tales and we should approach any great white hope with a health dollop of scepticism. What is the real upside for artists? What would the cost of such an overhaul of systems across labels, publishers, PROs and digital service providers actually be (and do they actually want it)?

Are the Blockchain futurists right on the money (Bitcoin of course) or is it time to flush the chain?

 

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