The case for an ‘Open Rights Portal’ for Independent Music.
In 2016 our company Bittunes was invited to take part in a ‘Blockchain Incubator’ based in Switzerland. We entered into the program with optimism. However, my conviction that the only logical Blockchain for music would be an open non-proprietary public resource was met with expressionless stares. Finally when all the different groups were asked to come up with an ‘Exit Plan’ for their blockchain projects, the penny dropped.
The organizers simply did not understand (or were not willing to honor) the implicit idea behind Blockchains.. Openness, Transparency and the deeper implications of Decentralization.
Decentralization is not just a buzz-word, it has a political as well as technical meaning. It also implies decentralization of ownership and control.
Blockchain technology, like the primary example provided by Bitcoin, suggests the opportunity to develop radical innovations or to totally transform the way things have been done previously. It gives us a chance to cut through decades or centuries of conditioning and path dependence to create generically new systems.
To understand why the Music Industry is primed for massive disruption, consider all the music it excludes..
Many people still (perhaps unconsciously) confuse ‘The Music Industry’ with Music.. as if the only possible incarnation of a piece of music would be as an item of corporate property and as if music somehow only comes into existence when it ceases to be fully owned by the Artist who created it.
This would be analogous to saying that Art Galleries contain most of the World’s Artworks. Which is plainly ridiculous.
Writers self publish, and Artists all over the world exhibit their works freely. So, the statement by the Economist only makes sense if we believe that music is somehow inherently different from literature or Art..
However, here’s the thing.. Music is actually very different,
and this is why that statement is so telling. Music is a highly contested battleground at the moment, and there is a lot at stake.
Music is uniquely suited to being packaged as a digital commodity..
This has made it a commodity worth fighting for, with Billions of dollars at stake. Just ask Kim Dotcom how seriously the Rights Collection Agencies, the Music Industry (in cooperation with various Governments) view the control of the distribution of digital music and media.
The exact characteristic that makes music so suited to being such a prized commodity is also equally available to the songwriters and bands who create the music, because they hold something very precious, but often misunderstood.. Primary Ownership.
If we could design an optimum distribution model based on today’s technology, would it allow Corporations to push repetitive formulaic music, created by a small percentage of the world’s musicians, and then allow those Corporations to control 78% of the music revenue? Clearly not.
The answer is simple, decentralize control.. and push monetization down to the network
Unless we change how music’s money is distributed, big music corporations will continue to hoard it in ever increasing percentages. That is the corporate way.. To create meaningful change, we need a total re-set for music. Bittunes does this by sharing revenue with fans as a new widely dispersed distribution channel. However, such a system can only work by completely stepping outside of the music industry, and allowing Artists to ‘self publish’.
If the Artist assumes this primary right, all sorts of problems are potentially solved. The Artist can then theoretically self publish to the world. We have had the technology to do this for years, but we do not yet have the widely accepted foundation to underpin a new trading paradigm.
The world needs a universal simple rights (proof of ownership) platform for content producers, as the basis for new commercial trading models that are based on the primary rights of Artists, before 3rd parties like Publishing Companies and Record Labels get involved.
Solving this problem is crucial for a healthy global music ecosystem..
The Bittunes team is proposing to establish such an ‘Open Rights Portal’, as a non-profit organization to manage a global blockchain for music. However, it will not only be based on Blockchain technology, as it will include a distributed storage component for the storage of dynamic meta information pertaining to Blockchain records. Operationally, it should be completely separate from Bittunes, and have open API’s to enable other Organizations to use it’s core features.
The role of Bittunes in relation to the open rights portal.
We want to create such a system, but we definitely do not want to own it. We believe that the only way for a system like this to achieve wide spread acceptance is for it to be independent, open and non-proprietary.
Establishing an open global system for simple ownership rights has always been a priority for us. Once this aim has been realized this will also allow us to operate Bittunes as the first client of this system. Sitting on top like a filter mechanism for the potentially large volume of content coming in to the Rights Portal system. Other companies should be able to utilize this resource too and create new innovations. Bittunes will just pave the way, and do everything we can to make sure that this primary system remains open and cannot be controlled by Corporate interests.
See also: Why we started Bittunes..