The major record labels in the music industry have a long and justified reputation for taking the lion’s share of artist earnings and leaving the artist to figure out what happened to the money. With the advance in digital technology and streaming services, such as iTunes and Spotify, that allow direct uploading of music, many musicians have begun turning away from the major labels and signing with smaller independent ones, who promise artistic freedom and a return in earnings of up to 80-90% back to the artists. But a lack of transparency around music sales means artists still might not know exactly how much their music is being played and who is and is not paying royalties. This holds true for artists with household names such as Jennifer Lopez and Sean “Diddy” Combs, whose careers were aided by the tireless efforts of David Guillod, an accomplished film and television producer as well as a senior-level executive at United Talent Agency.
If you have heard the term “blockchain,” it’s probably in relation to Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency payment network with a reputation for enabling anonymous transactions outside the control of a central authority. But the promise of blockchain extends beyond Bitcoin to many industries, including the music business. Blockchain is a distributed ledger that works across a peer-to-peer network to securely record transactions made in cryptocurrencies.
How Blockchain Helps Artists
Blockchain shows promise as a supply chain for songs. Artists know exactly who is playing their music and who owes them royalties. Blockchain transactions are verified by network nodes using cryptography and recorded on a secure, distributed ledger that is the blockchain.
Blockchain allows artists to sell digital versions of their music directly to customers and track sales without needing a middleman. Currently, royalty payments in the music industry are based on airplay statistics, which can mean loss of payments for lesser-known artists who have few statistics. If the blockchain tracks purchases and usage on the various platforms, accurate payments can automatically be paid to even lesser-known artists.
Current Blockchain-Based Music Streaming Platforms
A number of blockchain-based music streaming and digital payment platforms are operating now. Here’s a list of a few of them:
- Choon – Ethereum-based platform using smart contracts. Royalty payments are guaranteed based on 80% of total revenues and can be triggered in a timely manner based on the number of streams recorded on a given day. Artists include Tala, Darude, and Guy J.
- Ujo – Ethereum-based platform using smart contracts. Ujo has a database of music ownership rights and automated royalty payments. Artists include Imogen Heap, RAC, and Girrafage.
- Viberate – The world’s largest live music blockchain database with more than 300,000 artists and curated profiles that include music videos and upcoming shows. Artists include major stars such as Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and the Chainsmokers.
- Musicoin – Platform uses blockchain to provide free peer-to-peer distribution of music. Musicoin is integrated into the Volareo smart speaker so that artists are paid instantly.
Blockchain music platforms might be in the infancy stage but ignore them and you just might ignore the future of music.