The digitization of the music industry from the late 90s-early 2000s was a revolutionary turning point for performing arts and artists. Musicians no longer had to rely on waiting for break-out concerts and radio exposure but could do this themselves on file and video sharing platforms on the internet. With this though, came a whole host of new problems that artists have been trying to solve for the past 20 years.
Being credited for work on a song or album has become a much more complex procedure with the advent of the likes of YouTube and Spotify, while file-sharing platforms like Napster and LimeWire meant that music could be copied easily by listeners for free. Therefore, musicians and artists have been seeking a new source of income and exposure through the use of blockchain.
Piracy Prevention with Blockchain
As with any artistic pursuit, the music industry has been riddled with issues of piracy. Innovations like Napster, LimeWire, which were peer-to-peer file sharing platforms in the 2000s and early 2010s, have meant that the product of musicians’ hard work was being shared for free, with no recompense for the artist. This sounds great for the casual listener but costs millions for the music industry. Still today, in the US alone, piracy costs the US $2.7 billion in earnings. The solution could be in integrating blockchain in the music industry.
Blockchain-based streaming platforms can completely prevent this, however. Musicians and artists can now tokenise their work, meaning that files are bound digitally to their owner and can not be copied without their consent. Not only this but the public nature of blockchain transactions means that any copy infringing files that do make their way onto a blockchain platform can be tracked and reported.
Blockchain: Solving Music Royalties Issues
One of the greatest problems for the streaming musician, second to piracy, is metadata. The digital music industry has been riddled with problems thanks to non-standardized metadata storage. Why is this a problem?
Metadata on streaming platforms and in music labels is essentially how musicians, producers, and writers get paid. If the data is incorrect or someone doesn’t get credited, they don’t get paid. It is estimated that publishers are missing out on up to 25% of royalties due to metadata issues.
Music streaming platforms like Spotify and iTunes have different databases in which metadata is stored, and these databases are different from those held by music labels. This is important because if the information does not travel well or fit neatly into each field of a database, then musicians can end up losing profits for their labor.
Blockchain solutions for the music industry, like Verifi Media, are looking to fix this with their music metadata tracking and management service. This compiles and stores proprietary data with a public database.
Blockchain’s Future Impact on the Music Industry
As blockchain becomes increasingly mainstream, more sectors are picking up the use of its technology to improve their fields and the music industry is no different. Blockchain has incited a global digital revolution and the implementation of cryptocurrencies and NFTs are proving to have lasting effects. Already, the art world has begun to capitalize on NFTs, solving inequalities in that field. With that in mind, we can predict that the music industry will quickly follow suit.
Audius, a music streaming platform created on the Ethereum blockchain, recently reached 5 million listeners and is one of the major players in equitizing the music industry through the use of blockchain. It was also announced last week that Audius is now partnering with TikTok, a video-sharing platform with over 1.1 billion users.
Not only do users control what happens with their music but they also get a much larger percentage of the profits than is offered by other streaming platforms, not supported by blockchain. Audius, which is not-for-profit, offers musicians 90% of what they make from their listeners while keeping only 10% to continue to support themselves.
At present, Spotify pays 52% of its profits to major record companies that can be attributed to its artists. This is distributed by tier, with the top 90% of streams receiving 90% of the money. While this may work for well-known names with millions of daily listeners, independent musicians were only making around $36 to $47 per quarter in 2018.
The implication of Audius’ growing listenership, alongside their partnership with TikTok is massive for the music industry, and not only this but for blockchain as a whole. Over the last few years, blockchain and crypto have been slowly creeping into the mainstream but this is a phenomenal turning point for blockchain’s place in the digital revolution. The true extent of blockchain’s impact on the music industry remains to be seen, but, certainly, it will not be short-lived.
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