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Is Blockchain Really Going To Save The Music Industry?

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In a single word? Nope. But it might invent a new music industry, which is a more exciting prospect for unsigned artists. The common consensus of many artists is that uploading your music to the booming number of new crypto-streaming services will enable them to earn more quickly and transparently than through traditional record labels. The self-administrative nature of the process is also appealing, putting the power to channel revenue in the hands of bedroom producers. Not everyone is in agreement about how exactly this will happen. But blockchain-powered music platforms like Choon, Ujo, Musicoin promise direct fan-to-artist financial transactions using crypto tokens, which can be converted into fiat currency if required. There’s no wonder artists are signing up to blockchain-powered music streaming platforms. 

No small change

As secure as blockchain seems for the music, medical and real estate industries specifically, transacting in cryptocurrency faces a problem: the status quo. Detractors of the technology are currently reacting towards its development like a grandfather who still thinks tattoos are for prisoners and criminals. Making crypto converts out of what Don Tapscott calls a the ‘feeding frenzy of middlemen’ and what Beyoncé calls an ‘old boys club’ in the $16-billion recorded music industry will take patience. Recorded music is simply too established and historically reluctant to welcome new technologies.

Infographic by Statista

Screaming Services

Big artists have been getting vocal about how little they’re being paid through Spotify. Around 95% of revenue around the sale and production of music (and products related to it) is a result of streaming today, according to Billboard. Music streaming revenue jumped 53% in 2017, according to Billboard. Pretty good business, considering how poorly paid the artists on these platforms are. Even Elon Musk has been saying so (ever since he started dating a musician). That makes streaming the most lucrative way of earning on your recorded music. It appears as if artists are in a period between being able to earn from CD sales and being able to earn fairly from digital distribution. Artists need to once again become motivated by a competitive alternative to using streaming as their primary earning stream. For this to happen, overheads at distributors like Spotify either need to be severely trimmed or an alternative system needs to be adopted by the majority of listeners. One that reduces the number of profiting intermediaries.

Base of the pyramid

This isn’t just about what major artists make. The number of unsigned musicians with no radio play far outweighs that of pop superstars. The problem? Major labels don’t disclose figures. Why would they? Neither does Spotify. For artists, this is why using blockchain technology makes sense. It holds the promise of lubricating transactions between them and their fans and by lowering transaction fees while putting the artists in control of their own reports. If nothing else, blockchain will offer an technical alternative to a royalty payment system that is, unbelievably, still run on scanning, signing and emailing PDF contracts with no clear indication of royalty splits across territories. It’s confusing and outdated. Content creators at the base of the pyramid seem cautiously optimistic. Some believe blockchain’s growing popularity is an imminent revolution. Others see it as a work in progress. Time will tell.

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