Blockchain is a database that was used as part of the virtual currency Bitcoin and, with enough support, could change how the public stream, buy and listen to their music.
Blockchain is essentially a ledger which removes the record label so no one owns the ledger and everyone (artists, publishers, songwriters etc.) gets paid fairly, whereas now only artists like Taylor Swift or Jay Z have enough power to remove themselves off streaming sites like Spotify and not need them.
Two main companies using this software at the moment are UjoMusic and PeerTracks and pride themselves on only taking a 5% fee where as Apple take 30%. Eddie Schwartz, head of the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC) put into perspective for me how unfairly people behind the making of a song are paid with this quote “In the latter part of the 20th century, if a song of mine sold a million copies, I would receive about $45,000 in mechanical royalties, and I was awarded a platinum record. Today, a major music service pays me an average of $.000035 per stream, or about $35 for a million streams, thus reducing a reasonable middle class living to the value of a pizza.”
The software works as a wallet and creates a smart contract which would issue a license to the user – you can buy different licenses such as the right to play in a bar, in a YouTube video, or just when sitting at home with friends and then the money would be sent directly to the artist – whereas now it can take up to two years for the artist and everyone involved in the song to receive their payments, having no idea what is happening in between with it being left to the major record labels.
Artists using Blockchain can see who is using their music and what it is being used for, then the artists can use this data to see who their biggest supporters are and then offer them perks such as free concert tickets or early previews of new work – a Toronto based rock band, 22Hertz has already embraced the software, the band’s online store is currently running a promotion where fans pay half price for CDs and t-shirts if they go direct and pay in Bitcoin.
In 2015 Imogen Heap released her single Tiny Human was released on UjoMusic – people could download the song itself or all the vocal and instrumental stems of the song for commercial or non-commercial use, then via a smart contract all the musicians were paid immediately to their personal wallets and now Imogen is actually trying to create her own streaming platform, called Mycelia which uses Blockchain.
Words by Paige Talbot