The Dot Blockchain Music Project — “Growing up in public with your pants down.” (dotBC Update #3)

(Nov 2016 update — for more articles or to follow the project please go to the project is now live and on — you can Sign up for the email list or request slack access here. Thanks!)

This has been quite a ride.

At my last look “How the Blockchain & VR Can Change the Music Industry” (Parts 1 & 2) has been read by more than 5,500 people according to my Medium Stats. Since November 24, 2015 we have journeyed together from a rather obscure idea about a new music codec containing a Minimum Viable Data Set that would create a globally distributed database of music rights to an open source architecture and user interface, a Github repository, and a working alpha version of the App. It’s second incarnation sits on my desktop as I type this.

At no time has the whole team all been in the same room. With a minimal budget coding began six and a half weeks ago, and our initial version of this is to hopefully be made available the week of August 22nd, 2016, if not before.

A lot has changed since the initial post went live last November. The codec, as I explained in part 2, is now a wrapper (like a zip file), and we have been able to iterate and refine the workflows and architecture of the system based on the generous feedback we have received from key members of the music industry, whose work this will directly affect, and for whom we are building this in the first place.

For the music industry skeptics reading this, I have been stunned by the generosity, time, willingness to engage, and overall positivity that this idea has received. The team and I have been invited to speak with the heads of major and independent labels and publishers, as well as their technical teams (often multiple times), as well as with Performing Rights Organizations, Musicians Rights Organizations, Trade Bodies, Digital Service Providers, Artists and Songwriters, Governments, VCs, Lawyers, Journalists and Blockchain Tech Companies of all shapes and sizes.

Not only has this idea met with almost no resistance, but these meetings have often resulted in offers to help and participate.

So now with all of the above said, it’s time for Ken, Bill, Chris, Allen and I to show up. As such, I wanted to share a little of what will be in this first Alpha release, and perhaps most importantly what will not.

“If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”

— Reid Hoffman

  1. Protocol (The Rails not the Trains) — The best analogy I can think of to describe what the Dot Blockchain Music Projects Protocol will do is to compare it to email. I’m sure that most of you reading this use either Gmail, MacMail, Outlook or various other clients to read your email. These are what I would call the trains. The underpinnings of these programs are protocols, called things like IMAP, SMTP & POP3, and these are what the aforementioned programs are built on. Let’s call them the rails. These rails are standardized, yet flexible enough to allow gifted developers to add to, customize, and build out amazing features like snoozing, spam filtering, send later, and archive, but don’t delete, as well as the ability to add pictures and videos etc. onto the basic architecture that sends your messages to their recipients. What will be released late this month will be our first stab at a set of the rails upon which much of the digital music trains will be able to run. A way of working with the raw data of music that will allow for not only the birth of a globally distributed database of ownership rights, but also the trains and engines that will allow fast and fair commerce to scale for all who participate in the system. To be clear, it’s not just going to be raw code. There will be an interface that we also intend to open source, and a plugin framework, API docs etc., but this is not intended to be our version of (to carry on the analogy) Gmail, Outlook, or Mailbox. We are releasing this with the intention of getting feedback and to learn, while at the same time empowering others to be able to build on and or to integrate their own apps and systems at an industrial scale.
  2. Statements Of Truth — On July 13, 2016 at 10:13 p.m. I made several statements of truth about a song I wrote called “A Few More Days” and using the Dot BlockChain Music Alpha App. I Broadcast those statements into a Blockchain Test Environment. Amongst other things I stated:
  • The Songs’ name and that what I was uploading was a copy of that song
  • That I was the writer of the song (adding my ASCAP number to the recording and metadata)
  • That I was the performer of the song (with label information) and used Spotify’s API as a lookup.
  • That Nicholas D’Amato, Matt Beck, Sarab Singh, Emily Zuzik and others all played or performed on the song and that it was engineered by Dave McNair

Which all lead to this:

(Dot Blockchain Interface)

(Note: this is Monegraph’s Interface showing that I am the owner of this work)

then this:

(Also Monegraph’s Interface where you can identify the hash on the Bitcoin Blockchain )

and finally this:

(The Bitcoin Blockchain TestNet environment where people can search and view the registry)

Next week with the new user interface I will repeat these same few steps that took no more than a minute to complete, but adding in the ISRC code and whatever other information I choose to add, and it will be all be affixed in there, permanently, immutably, and squashed into a unique string of capital and lowercase letters and numbers in a public blockchain for all to see.

All parties listed in the song, from the musicians and engineer to ASCAP, label and publisher, can then become parties to the song and it’s ownership, hardened with each addition and link to the source. And so in theory from this first song each track added afterward begins the journey to the authoritative database of musical rights.

3. Who Has The Keys (and who doesn’t ) — The system works by a series of Plugins to the song and its data. So if for example a song were co-written by myself and my fellow teammates, Ken, Allen, Chris, Bill and I would all be listed as co-writers and all parties to the file and its data.

To carry on with this line of thinking, if for example our record labels were Sony in the US and XL recordings for the Rest of World, with each of us having a different publisher and performing rights organization, e.g. Ken (Kobalt/PRS), Allen (Downtown Music Publishing/BMI), Chris (Universal Music Publishing/AMRA) Bill (Imagem Publishing/SESAC) and me (Ben Rogers Music/ASCAP), then each of the parties involved can claim or be given access to the file bundle. Each can verify or dispute the info within it and can choose to use companies like Auddly, Songspace and Revelator (to name a few) to add in rules, splits, etc. or said companies can choose to build and maintain their own gateways.

It also needs to be said that we (the aforementioned Ken, Allen, Chris, Bill and myself — as the founders of Dot Blockchain Music) won’t have the keys to anyone else’s work. We won’t have a back door, or any ability to pull things down as a more traditional and centralized authority would. In other words, once the boat is pushed out there’s no rope with which to pull it back in, and this is most definitely a feature and not a bug. Users could add Dot Blockchain Music as a party to their files of course, but this would not be mandated and we do not view ourselves as arbitrators, a governing body or the framers of rules. We are laying the foundation, not building the house.

4. Getting Your Keys — During this beta testing period it’s vital that we can get as many verified owners into the system as possible, and as such if you are a stakeholder we would like to get you verified access into the system as soon as possible. While in closed beta, Dot Blockchain Music will look to verify identity at signup and by request. If you would like to claim your Artist, Songwriter, Musician, Engineer, Producer, Label, Publisher, PRO, Manager, Digital Service Provider, or other entity, you can do so here and we will work to get you access. Note that we will only be doing this during this closed beta/iteration period (anticipated to be about three months) and as such will not provide this service once the system comes out of closed beta. It should be noted that our assigning access does not give us control over what you or anyone else enters into the system whilst in the closed beta or beyond.

Next Steps

We are raising money to complete the next phases of the system, a deck for which can be requested here and we are inviting technical partners to contribute, should they wish to by getting in touch here. The scope of work undertaken and completed so far can be viewed below:

The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as released will not yet have a few of the features listed above, such as The Gracenote lookup, and some of the Identity Services that we were not able to get to in this sprint, but these will be the first things implemented post-MVP.

Much like I imagine the BitCoin Blockchain and other systems that are open sourced and collaborative have done before us, the Dot Blockchain Music Project has been “Growing Up In Public.” Personally this is the first time that I have ever been involved in building a product out in such an open and public way, and it is equally both terrifying and amazing. From the embryo of an idea to what I would call its current awkward toddler phase as it gets ready to walk, I could not be more grateful to my teammates, the engineers and designers, and all of my fellow music industry friends from whom I learn more and more each and every day for all that they have brought to the project.

We still have a lot of work to do, I’m sure that we will get a lot wrong as we roll this thing out and that we will have missed some things along the way, but the mission is good, and what we are seeking to do will, when grown up, lead to a scale-able and lasting change for the good of all who create or work with the extraordinary music that we know and love.

See you on the other side!


For more info please get in touch and get involved!

Please also make sure that you help us with our Minimum Viable Data Survey as we’d like to get to 1000 responses and we are now at just over 300 the initial results of which are here.