ASCAP Panel Examines Blockchain in Music

Photo by Derek Truninger

On May 7th, RightsLedger CEO Ray Young appeared on the panel, “Revolutionizing Rights Management for Artists” at this year’s ASCAP EXPO, to discuss how blockchain is changing rights management in the music industry. The panel was moderated by Transparence Entertainment Group Chairman Dennis Dreith and also featured music industry consultant Dae Bogan, OpenPlay Founder & CEO Edward Ginis, and Transparence CEO Shari Hoffman.

The panel highlighted the positive features that blockchain brings to the rights management space: transparency, verification, ease of tracking and robust security. They also discussed some of the challenges that blockchain faces in trying to integrate with the existing structure of rights management while, at the same time, using it as a catalyst for change.

Blockchain Can’t Solve Every Problem

The introduction of blockchain can help the process, but it also serves to highlight some of the deficiencies of the current rights management ecosystem. The blockchain can verify the information about ownership attached to a song, but the process relies on having good information to start with, a problem that carries over from the current structure.

One of the biggest problems facing the music industry when it comes to rights management is surrounding metadata. Having fragmented services for managing different parts of the process and different artists without a standardized format for collecting the information, as well as the failure to share that information once it’s collected, leads to inevitable mistakes that makes for incomplete or incorrect metadata. And that bad or mismatched metadata can make it hard to make royalty payments to the correct rights owners. And many artists aren’t informed or even interested in the business side of the music business, so getting them to take an interest in blockchain and their metadata remains an uphill battle.

Changing the Existing System

While blockchain can be tool for change in rights management, it might be overly optimistic to think of it as a total revolution. The process will still need some intermediaries like distributors to handle the business end of things and to more easily reach audiences around the world. What creators need and want is transparency to see who is using their work so they can know what they’re owed, something that is missing in the currently existing structure; the introduction of blockchain is a clear message to the industry of the need for change.

Changing the model for music rights management and fixing the problems in the system requires immediate action, even if you can’t undo past mistakes. Introducing solutions like blockchain and standardized requirements for metadata that is shared amongst all parties can have an immediate positive impact industry-wide. Failing to implement changes because of concerns about fixing the existing metadata for decades-old work allows those problems to continue to compound for the sake of a issue that unfortunately can’t be fixed.

The Future of Music Rights Management with Blockchain

The world of music rights management can move forward provided that the participants in it are willing to change how they do business. Any major change is going to require the participation of all the biggest players in the space, from the performing rights organizations to the collective management organizations to the publishers and artists. And it will require unity and uniformity; the data need to meet standards that are universal across the industry, and each entity should be working from the same set of data that is distributed to all parties in the industry to avoid mistakes or miscommunication. And these and other changes are contingent upon the transparency and accountability that are the backbone of a blockchain-based ecosystem.

New technology enables greater interconnectedness and tracking, and this affords the industry the chance to expand across borders and boundaries that once prevented many distributors from expanding into new areas both physical and technological. The ever-expanding avenues by which we consume our media offer new opportunities to reach audiences and consumers. Just as your mobile phone service provider is able to track your calls and texts and whom you’re sending them to, they could track your monthly streams of music for royalty payments.

Blockchain in and of itself can’t be a panacea for what ails rights management in the music industry, but what it can provide to parties on all sides and the changes it portends offers the promise of a new and better way forward.

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