For music lovers, the second decade of the 21st century is a wealth of opportunities. If you like to carry your music with you, there are Spotify, SoundCloud and other streaming apps where you can listen to any tune that matches your current mood. No more playlists that you listen over and over again – huge music collections are available for streaming anytime.
Yes, for users music is easy and not too expensive – the SoundCloud premium subscription plan is about $10 per month. However, it is not as easy for the other side – the artists who create the music we enjoy. Many of them face certain difficulties in getting their revenues from having their music played on public resources. And if we take into account that the revenue is not going to the artist alone but also to the managers, agents, record labels, the task becomes even harder.
At the same time, young artists often find it next to impossible to have their music heard by their would-be fans. They need to break through ranks of agencies, studios, labels to get to their audience, and that is sometimes discouraging.
And then, there is piracy. You may say that in the age of the global Internet there is no way to protect your art from uncontrolled sharing, that you should just accept it and be content with what you get from official sales. Sad but true…
At the end of the day, the challenges that artists need to overcome on the long and winding road of getting their music to the audience boil down to the following:
- High revenue shares going to middlemen – managers and agents
- A complicated system of property right holders – musicians, producers, record labels, and others
- The problem of protecting the property rights and fighting the piracy
- The challenge of launching a career for young artists with no connections or initial capital
All these together lead to artists being underpaid for their work and new music getting difficult to be heard. A system allowing a transparent allocation of revenues, tracking of property rights and monitoring music uploads and downloads seems to be the answer to all these problems. And such system exists already – we know it under the name of blockchain.
How can blockchain improve the music industry?
Blockchain, or, should we say, the distributed ledger technology, with its transparent network of immutable records and easy traceability of changes, makes a perfect platform for managing property rights and revenues. Blockchain can address many of the issues that the music industry is struggling with.
Revenue allocation with smart contracts
As we mentioned, with a lot of parties involved in the creation of a music piece, sharing the revenues becomes a complicated process stretched over time. Smart contracts built on a blockchain platform can make it much faster and more effective by automating a lot of functions.
The problem in revenue allocation is determining who gets what and how much is everybody’s share. When a track is played publicly or downloaded from a paid resource, it contains the so-called metadata including the information on the artist, the record label, the musicians and the rest of the property right holders. If, however, the metadata is missing or incomplete (and tampering with it is sometimes a piece of cake), assigning revenues becomes difficult.
Let’s project revenue sharing over the concept of blockchain. If all information on the right holders and their shares is written in a smart contract, all allocations become automatic. The beauty of smart contracts is in their self-execution – if event A occurred, event B is triggered. In the context of music revenues – if the song is played or downloaded N times, artist A gets 50%, musician B gets 30%, record label C gets 20%. The process is automatic and, thus, less costly. More revenue remains with the artists.
Common music database protecting property rights
Remember the metadata that can be easily removed or modified? Well, when the information about the track authors and owners is stored in a blockchain, modification becomes much more difficult, if not impossible. The main blockchain principle that each block is referenced to all those before it and cannot be modified without everyone knowing creates a perfect environment for property right protection.
Another advantage is that artists become closer to the results of their work. When they represent themselves without a horde of managers and agents, they are, on the one hand, better off financially (fewer middlemen – higher income) and, on the other hand, more independent as to when and where to play their music.
Blockchain provides a transparent channel of tracking each piece from the time it was first uploaded through all changes and downloads. Think how many plagiarism disputes can be avoided! Finding out who was the first to publish the track will be a matter of minutes and available to anyone.
Moreover, blockchains can implement access management mechanisms ensuring an even higher level of protection. Artists can be more confident about their music not getting into the hands of pirates.
Better opportunities for young artists
Anyone who ever tried to promote their music knows what a torture it is. The world of popular music is protected by tight ranks of record labels, producers, promotional companies who screen every piece that is trying to get on stage. A lot of brilliant artists lost this battle and remained known only in small circles of friends and relatives.
On the other hand, the listening audience is forced to listen to what the promoters and producers chose. Think of all the great pieces we never have a chance to listen to because someone thought so.
Blockchain can change that, and very dramatically, too. It is a truly democratic platform ruled by the community where what is good or bad is decided by the audience, rather than by promoters. A young artist can upload their music on a blockchain for everyone to listen and evaluate. If the music is really good, it will get its circulation and distribution naturally and start bringing revenue to the author quite soon. If the music is nothing to talk about, well, it will die its natural death.
Blockchain can become a sort of a social network connecting artists directly to their fans. By joining a decentralized network, artists get limitless possibilities of socializing and collaboration:
- Music ratings
- Event announcements
- Connections between different artists to form new bands and participate in events
In a blockchain-based network, communication becomes easier with artists directly reaching out to their supporters. With no central entity controlling the processes, the connections are quicker and more relaxed.
Crowdfunding, microtransactions, payments
Of course, we cannot omit the money matters. Blockchain has already earned the reputation of a platform for fast, effective and trusted payments, and this advantage can be used in a music network, too.
For fairness’ sake, we should say that many of the popular blockchain platforms do not show great results in the transaction processing speed or cost or both. However, such solutions as EOS, for example, display rather satisfactory performance-to-cost ratio, and, therefore, can be considered for music industry applications.
A lot of transactions on the music market are so-called nano-transactions related to the purchase of tracks. In such cases, the processing speed and low commission are critical, and blockchain can provide both. For the artists, blockchain is also a significant improvement, as they will be able to sell their music easier and get revenues faster.
At the same time, blockchain is a perfect environment for quick and easy crowdfunding initiatives (the 2017 ICO boom is a proof of that). For young artists, crowdfunding can mean the lifeblood enabling them to record their first album or hold their first concert. Indie artists having no large teams, no connections among producers and no capital to launch their careers may appreciate the opportunities that blockchain offers.
Recognizing all the pains of the music industry, we have designed a platform that can, on the one hand, give more control to the musicians and their fans and, on the other hand, ensure better protection of their art. We are building a decentralized social platform where musicians can distribute and sell their tracks and their audience can connect with their favorite artists and support their work.
We intend to make a comfortable space for young, independent artists that can become a springboard of their careers. The decentralized network structure and smart contracts create a transparent database for thousands of tracks, enable easy access and purchase and ensure fast payments.
Agopolis is designed as a social network, streaming app, and marketplace where everyone can find music to their taste, make friends and connect with artists. For musicians, it will be a place to post their tracks, get feedback and receive payments quickly and easily. Agopolis will become a place of equal opportunities, fair trade and interesting connections. Most important, it will be a place of great music.