Employing Blockchain For A Fairer Distribution of Royalties

Weimin Teng
Mar 29 · 4 min read

We all love the melodies from the Sound of Music or the heart-thumping beats from Linkin Park. Of course, there are the indie musicians who have dedicated their heart and soul hoping to heal the world with music. Music is the soul to some, but how many of us actually bother to know how we consume music. We might think we are supporting our favorite artists by hitting the repeat button on Apple Music or paying a premium to get the very best seats in all their concerts. In actual fact, most (and I mean the vast majority) of these aspiring musicians only make a fraction of a fraction of what we thought we were paying for that hefty musical consumption. Of course, many will point to the advent of blockchain as the Saviour Of My Soul (by Jonny Patton, btw).

Understanding General Music Industry Licenses

We can better appreciate the deeply entrenched issues within the industry by first learning more about their licenses and copyrights. Generally, it can be divided into licenses for Songwriters and Performers, where songwriters generally have more control over performances per se. This is pretty much done by registering with a Performing Rights Organization (PRO), that assists these musicians in collecting royalties and protecting their rights. Then on top of all those, there are On-demand Streaming License, Master Recording Rights, and a few more specific licenses.

By now, it is not hard to see where the loopholes are; there are no universal standards (or ledger) that allows artists and managers to adhere to, and there are multiple middlemen at play in this sector. Under-reporting, non-reporting, bias, you name it — seems like a trust issue ultimately. Which boils down to why many think of blockchain as the solution to The Final Countdown. But really?

You see, the issue with blockchain is one of when, and not what. Blockchain is here to stay and serve — the real question is when will blockchain be able to revolutionize the music industry? This is because of the sheer volume. No viable blockchain till date is capable of handling 1.2 billion songs per day or even 750,000 songs per minute streaming on Spotify. That throughput is simply too humongous at date. But give it some time, this issue will definitely be resolved by the engineers hard at work as we read.

Employing Blockchain For A Fairer Distribution of Royalties

Apart from the technological bottleneck, there are still major issues with the governance and administration processes to overcome. Chiefly, the music industry has largely been covered with a mysterious shroud, making it hard to navigate. There are lots of hidden ‘costs’ that musicians find it hard to manage, and this is where the ‘marketeers’ thrive. These recording and production houses have much to lose to migrate to a more transparent platform. Ironically, they are the ones with the most significant influence and authority to initiate progress.

Still, there is always a beacon of light in the darkest night. The French government has initiated an ‘Agreement for A Fair Development of Online Music,’ with protocols and standards defined to regulate the industry better. Other countries should follow suit. And there are already firms out there trying to apply blockchain to disrupt this industry, including Hyperledger Fabric teaming up with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers. Apart from resolving the issues of royalty collection, blockchain still possesses excellent potential in the fields of collectibles and ticket sales, where the major problem is scalpers consistently bogging the hottest concerts.

Now back to the technological front, there are already third-generation chains capable of the speed and stability required to fuel the musical revolution. And with greater scalability via Delegated Proof-of-Stake (DPoS) and state-of-the-art sharding, we can definitely expect the greater application of blockchain technology streaming through the earphones of each avid listener.

About the author: Weimin Teng

Thinker+Wanderer. Can be found somewhere between the mountains and sea snapping photos when not thinking about finding the best solution to solve a social problem.

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Weimin Teng

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Empowering the Decentralized Future (https://dexon.org)

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