The effects of blockchain on music publishing | Features | MN2S

If music publishers embrace the blockchain, the industry’s future could be very different.

So far, professionals in the music industry have had no real need to pay attention to blockchain technology. This might all be about to change. New blockchain-based ways of handling intellectual property rights are emerging, and the effects of these could transform music publishing for the 21st century.

What is blockchain technology?

Most people, if they know of it at all, know blockchain as the system that underlies Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies. It is often described as a kind of digital ledger book that stores information on a global network. But that doesn’t really do it justice. The unique selling point of blockchain is that its ledger records cannot be falsified. With Bitcoin, this means that no two people can attempt to spend the same unit of currency. With music, it could mean something different.

Companies have already started using blockchain for purposes other than Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. It’s been used to track medical history and marriage records. It’s even been used to facilitate voting in shareholder meetings. Needless to say it was only a matter of time before people started to think about how blockchain technology could be applied to music.

How could blockchain affect music publishing?

Publishing is one of the most complicated areas of the music industry. Every recorded song has several layers of copyright. Namely the copyright for the actual recording (usually owned by a record label) and the copyright for composition (usually owned by the songwriter or songwriters). With the rise of online streaming, those copyrights need to be accessed far more frequently.

In the CD, cassette, and record eras, publishers and rights owners would only need to get paid whenever a unit was sold. Now, they are entitled to more frequent, smaller payments every time a user taps ‘play’. Unfortunately for rights owners, this involves waiting for services like Spotify to aggregate and send data before royalties can be processed. With so many different ways fans can listen to music, this can be a complicated process.

One startup, JAAK, has come up with a blockchain-based way to make all of this as smooth and accurate as possible. JAAK’s blockchain database allows rights holders to add information to their songs, making sure an accurate record is always kept. Music publishers are taking note, with BMG, Warner Music and others backing JAAK in its efforts.

Another startup, Musicoin, has a program that at the moment is on the smaller side (since it doesn’t have backing from BMG or Warners), but could have the potential to be even more revolutionary.

Artists who make their music available on Musicoin’s streaming platform will be directly compensated every time a user plays one of their songs. Listeners will also be able to tip artists and purchase tickets to their concerts, all through Musicoin’s $MUSIC cryptocurrency.

Both of these systems lead to changes in the way music publishing works, but it’s a combination of the two that will truly have an impact on music publishing, and even the broader music industry.

How could blockchain affect the music industry as a whole?

Rather than simply streamlining the process of intellectual property rights, Musicoin aims to create a new way for artists and fans to interact. Purchasing tickets, merchandise and giving tips will all become part of the listening experience.

The live music industry could hugely benefit from blockchain. Several artists have been making headlines recently for their methods of beating ticket touts. If ownership of tickets was recorded by blockchain technology, it would mean no one could buy a ticket from a secondary ticketer. And with blockchain technology ensuring direct payment to artists and rights owners, artists will be properly compensated for their work.

No doubt the people behind startups like these will come up with even more ways for this nascent technology to change the way the music business works. Blockchain could have a huge impact on the music industry in general. This is just the beginning.

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