Newsworthy — “Imogen Heap wants to use blockchain technology to revolutionize the music industry”
In our prior post on Rights Management, we discussed the tension between the blockchain’s role as a disintermediating force and its potential to provide even more robust tracking and accounting for digital content. We also talked about how some first movers in the blockchain world are trying to empower individual artists and creators, and how that might be viewed by the existing major players in the industry.
In an article published today on Quartz, these tensions are on full display. The article begins by saying that Heap “is building what she calls a ‘fair trade’ music industry that aims to sidestep middlemen like iTunes and Spotify . . .” But it then quotes Heap as saying that”[t]he traditional music industry doesn’t have to be cut out of the process” and further reports that Heap has been discussing her Mycelia project with Spotify, and that her aim is not to compete with streaming services or labels but to act as “the source of the music.”
Interestingly, the article also touches on what we mentioned at the end of our last post, that existing industry players may have to accept disruption to some parts of what they currently do, and focus on the things they do best:
Artists would turn to record labels for things like marketing and promotion. “It’s about trying to take away the power from top down and give power, or at least a steering, to the artist to help shape their own future,” Heap told reporters.
Of course, most technological disruptions shift power from some players to others. Heap appears to be placing a flag in the ground for artists and creators to (re?)claim some control over their works. Whether this will translate to a major power shift remains to be seen.
Likely it will be some of both: the existing industry itself will adopt the blockchain for some purposes (just as appears to be happening in the financial market), and the technology will at the same time disrupt the industry by eliminating or reducing many intermediary functions, and thereby change the dynamics between participants in ways that we cannot yet predict.