Bonus Q&A from our SXSW 2019 “Artists in Control” panel members
As a special addition to our SXSW summary, we reached out to our panelists to find out what happens when you combine people from various roles in the music business to discuss all things blockchain.
1) You all hailed from very different vantage points of the music industry — legal, technology, artist, and management. What takeaways did you get from the panel and Q&A that gave you a different perspective on blockchain as it could be applied to the music industry (impact discussions with artists you work with)?
Hayley Rosenblum: I’ve had many conversations with music industry professionals and artists alike that seem to be intimidated by blockchain as they barely scratch the surface in learning what it is, how it works and how it can be applied in the world of music. Through our panel discussion, I think these walls were knocked down and it became clear that there are so many possibilities for musicians to use blockchain and cryptocurrencies in engaging ways as part of their businesses and community building. I appreciated Shelita Burke enthusiastically sharing her experience and advice in using this technology to not only sell her music, but to connect with her audience and offer them unique ways to support her and build upon the trust they have with her and her digital offerings. I also valued Tamir Koch’s insights in how eMusic is approaching this from the platform side to make it easier for artists to use this technology, streamlining the way for musicians to get started with it and offering features that make it easy for them and their fans to use. And of course, there were many takeaways from Jeff Leven in his wide breadth of experience and knowledge, but I found it interesting to hear about his experience working with so many unique artists over the years and the challenges he faces when artists come to him seeking to immediately replicate the success of those other artists.
Shelita Burke: Blockchain technology could be an amazing resource for artists and give music lovers insight on how they’ll be able to support their favorite artists as smart contracts and cryptocurrency becomes more popular, however we still in the early stages of adoption and education. I believe that blockchain technology is the future of the financial markets, the future of exchange. Everyone thinks of this money as a transaction, but there’s an exchange happening between two human beings. And that exchange — if you use the blockchain — changes the entire landscape because it’s the first time you can see everything transparent in real time always. In today’s music industry when you create a piece of music and put it out to the world it takes around nine months to a year for any of your writers and anyone that worked on the project to get paid. When you use blockchain technology you get paid instantly when the consumer buys the product because direct to fan, direct to consumer model. When more artists understand what they can do with the blockchain we will see more and more innovation happening. We are living in exciting times.
Jeff Leven: It was interesting for me to see the ways in which early adopters are already using blockchain with their fans — I didn’t fully appreciate the degree to which “the future is now,” so to speak. It’s good to see that the model of how to do it effectively is already being iterated. I also think I have a better understanding of the artist-to-consumer proposition that blockchain offers — a lot of how I had previously thought about the technology was in the context of the back-end transactions and data for industrial scale ticketing and the like. I certainly also have a more clear idea of what emusic specifically is hoping to accomplish with blockchain, and I’ll be interested to see how that fits into the evolution of that end of the business.
Tamir Koch: During the panel, both Hayley and Shelita validated an important insight I’ve heard from other artists about the direct connection between fan and artist that has immense social and economic value. The beauty of blockchain is that it can create that direct and personal relationship between artist and fans without the risk of intermediation by labels, DSPs and social platforms. Smart contracts enable fans and artists to collaborate directly and efficiently on production, promotion, feedback, or economic support. By enabling these direct relationships, blockchain-based platforms like eMusic will directly impact artist’s’ ability to make more music and more money from their artistic efforts.
2) If we reconvened the same panel in a few years, what do you think we would be discussing?
Tamir Koch: Bottom line, I believe in the power of blockchain to create that fundamental shift where artists will realize and exercise their power and control in the equation. In the next few years we need to nail the education piece and improve some of the user experience fundamentals, to get to a place where we can support end to end services. Along the way we can and should be supporting accessible low hanging fruit such as digital fan collectibles and crypto subscriptions. This will pay forward the momentum and engagement we need as we build toward a full-fledged royalty management platform and eventually enable decentralized marketplaces with fan-funding platforms, and production, promotion and distribution services that compliment or amplify their own efforts. And that’s where it really gets cool, where we will be able to test and prove new retail models, like a stream-to-own service that automatically manages rights and payments based on the number of times the fan streams a given song. I also think we will see blockchain music projects merging together to combine strengths and build momentum in the movement.
Jeff Leven: My hope is that I can’t even quite see that short term future from here, but in practice I suspect we’ll still be talking about if and when and how some of the legacy players will incorporate blockchain into their businesses, and then simultaneously discussing the ways that certain artists are already using whatever the then-current new methodologies are.
3) Are there any other companies or initiatives using technology in the industry that you are watching with particular interest?
Shelita Burke: I follow infrastructure plays, which gives other visionaries the tools to innovate in action. I think what IBM is doing with providing Blockchain as a service is interesting. What they are doing is based on open source Hyperledger Fabric technology and I am a huge supporter of open source. They are providing cloud services to help others setup and deploy their own blockchain networks.
Hayley Rosenblum: Over the last 10 years especially, we’ve seen so many incredible music technologies and platforms take shape, changing how the music industry operates, offering more tools than ever for independent artists to get their footing. With the work that I do in my day-to-day, I’m constantly seeking ways to build an audience and bring fan communities together to each other virtually and in unique live events. I think we are starting to see some really interesting platforms and data sources to help us approach the live music space in smart and creative ways.
In particular, I’ve been following a company over the last year and a half called Artery which aims to bring tools for music listeners and fan communities to connect with each other in real life events in non-conventional event spaces. It’s been great to see their product evolve, and I just recently worked with them on a project to set up simultaneous fan-hosted album listening parties, all organized and hosted by fans in dozens of cities around the world. Without a technology solution for this, the organizational task let alone all that goes into the execution would have been too cumbersome to manage. I’m excited to see how they continue to grow, but also how other platforms approach live events, fan community building, and meetups beyond the virtual walls of the internet and translate it into things that can be monetized in ways that make both artists and their fans very happy.