Is the future of music distribution really Blockchain Technology?

Blockchain the past year has been extremely intriguing. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin made early investors billions of dollars and the technology powering these coins became the focal point of the future of music digital distribution. I was all in a year ago, now I am having my doubts on when or if this technology will be able to become convenient enough for the general user to engage with. Convenience is king, and unless Blockchain Technology becomes a topic that can be easily taken in, I foresee a long time before the tech is utilized on a daily basis as it pertains to the consumption of music.

So what is Blockchain Technology? Wikipedia is an example of how the internet has decentralized information, the Blockchain will possibly decentralize everything else, in theory.

Bitcoin: The first major Blockchain innovation was Bitcoin, a digital currency experiment said to be created by a person (or a group of people) under the name Satoshi Nakamoto. Bitcoin can essentially be looked at as a decentralized peer-to-peer electronic cash system.

Blockchain Technology: The second innovation was called Blockchain, which was the realization that the underlying technology that operated Bitcoin could be separated from the currency and used for all kinds of other inter-organizational cooperation. An incorruptible digital ledger (information going in, information going out) of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.

  • A distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of ordered records, called “blocks.”
  • Every 10 minutes the Blockchain gets updated with a new block on transactions from a pool of 6k computers.
  • Miners are competing against each other to figure out a complex mathematical problem.
  • Once it’s figured out, and 50% of the blocks confirm, then that block is completed.

Smart Contracts: The third innovation on this new technology is called the “smart contract,” embodied in a second-generation blockchain system called Ethereum. Within a Smart Contract, an enforcement of the contract is executed by the Blockchain.

  • Ethereum, constructs little computer programs directly into blockchain that allowed financial instruments, like loans or bonds, to be represented, rather than only the cash-like tokens of the bitcoin.

Miners: The fourth major innovation, is called “Proof of Stake” run by a group of digital Miners. Miners operate vast data centers to provide this security, in exchange for cryptocurrency payments. Mining is the only way to release new cryptocurrency into circulation.

  • Bitcoins are mined in units called “blocks.” As of the late 2017, the reward for a Miner completing a block is 12.5 Bitcoin.
  • What equipment do you need to become a Miner? Either a GPU (graphics processing unit) miner or an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) miner. These can run from $500 to the tens of thousands.

Blockchain Technology & the Music Industry

The music industry adoption of Blockchain Technology will possibly disrupt how we deliver music to consumers. Or will it???

The digital distribution direct-to-fan model utilizing Blockchain Technology will have:

  • Audio file(s) stored across a decentralized network
  • Consumers paying in a cryptocurrency enabling them to consume the music files directly
  • This process will remove any need for third party middlemen

CASE STUDY

Imogen Heap has been an advocate for Blockchain Technology in the music world since 2015, when she released a song called “Tiny Human” with the Blockchain startup Ujo Music.

Fans could choose to pay for the song using the Ether (Ethereum) cryptocurrency

  • A smart contract automatically split the revenues between Heap and her collaborators

Imogen Heap’s “Tiny Human” is neat illustrations of the three main areas of focus for applying Blockchain Technology to the music industry.

  1. Cut out the Middlemen
  2. Transparency
  3. Higher Financial Rates

This really sounds amazing except for the fact that the general user, in a case like this may, have to purchase the Ethereum crypotcurrency by signing up to a platform like Coinbase, creating a digital wallet that will house the Etherium crypto, then go the Ujo Music to purchase the record. This doesn’t sound like an ideal user experience and why I believe the Blockchain won’t succeed at scale within the music business if the start to finish process isn’t streamlined. I believe the Blockchain will scale when the process for a user becomes as convenience as signing up for Spotify or Apple Music and hitting the play button.

What are your thoughts?

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CEO - futuremgmt / Professor @UArts and @DESU / Curator of relevant music business news / www.stephencirino.com

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Stephen Cirino

Stephen Cirino

CEO - futuremgmt / Professor @UArts and @DESU / Curator of relevant music business news / www.stephencirino.com

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