By Ronald Zvendiya
Blockchain technology is defined as a decentralised, distributed ledger that records the provenance of a digital asset. By inherent design, the data on a blockchain is unable to be modified, which makes it a legitimate disruptor for industries like payments, cybersecurity, and music.
Music piracy can simply be explained as the act of copying and distributing music recordings to which the rights owner has not consented. The rights owners usually constitute the artists involved, composers, or a record label. Independent artists are usually the ones who face the biggest loss as they are unable to make money out of their limited resources.
Music copyright is the right of musicians to control what they have created. It includes the right to perform, transmit, reproduce, claim authorship and protect the integrity of works. Copyright allows creators and their business partners to use these controls to make a profit.
Piracy is one of the biggest problems the music industry faces and any optimal solution has not been on the table for decades. This problem continues to rip off artists of their well-deserved earnings.
Artists as creators of content sometimes do not receive fair compensation for their work because the system for intellectual property was broken by the first era of the internet. Twenty-five years ago, a hit song could give songwriters royalties of about US$45 000.
Today a hit song with one million streams or views gives them around US$36 (only enough to buy a blanket).
If the music industry can combat piracy, then there can be a lot of benefits within the community.
Economically, it can encourage people to not just join the music industry as musicians but also in several other fields. Blockchain in the music industry can reshape the entire economic structure.
Blockchain technology can put a stop to music piracy in the following ways:
Smart contracts are another application of blockchain technology. In essence, a smart contract is an agreement that is very secure and hard to be manipulated. Smart contracts also include which percentage of the revenue goes to each member of the band, the music label, the manager, and pay artists immediately.
The popularity of smart contracts is unprecedented in the financial sector because it provides a secure way of doing business. The music industry can benefit from smart contracts especially when a musician signs up with a record label.
Putting music on a blockchain ecosystem, giving a name for identification like “My Sweet” and having a smart contract surrounding it protects the intellectual property rights.
When one listens to the music a few micro cents flow into the owner’s digital account. Thus, blockchain music has a huge potential to drive hardly needed revenue to artists, especially to independent artists.
Putting the song on a movie also allows the artist to benefit since IP rights will be specified.
So the songs will become a business since there will be a payment system in the form of a digital bank account, thus allowing money to flow back to the artist and they will have control over the industry.
Once legislation is in place in Zimbabwe and virtual assets are allowed in the country then a win-win scenario for musicians and listeners can be structured through the adoption of musicoin.
Musicoin is one of a handful of streaming platforms with its cryptocurrency, $MUSIC. When an artist publishes music on Musicoin, the artist receives compensation on a pay-per-play basis. Musicoin listeners can listen to ad-free music at no charge but are encouraged to tip their favourite artist or purchase merchandise and concert tickets with the $MUSIC currency.
Blockchain technology also provides a direct link between artists and their fans. When an artist’s smart contract includes a parameter that pays a percentage of the revenue generated to fans who share their songs, it creates a powerful referral programme. Fans can spend their acquired tokens on merchandise or tickets, or even exchange their tokens for fiat.
Blockchain technology is centred on a distributed ledger. The ledger is decentralised and records all kinds of transactions that are taking place. Using this technology, blockchain can be used to create a proper channel where copyrights are maintained and if needed traced.
Theoretically, this can be used as evidence in a court of law if your music is being used in a commercial capacity by a third party. Copyright claims can hence easily be negated with the help of blockchain technology. It can further enable music rights owners to get paid when someone wants to use their music in a professional capacity. For example, film studios often need music tracks and blockchain can ensure the copyright process remains intact and one is paid for their music.
Cutting out third-parties
Blockchain technology could also weaken the hold that music companies have over distributing the music or even eliminate the need for distribution companies. One of the primary selling points of blockchain technology is cutting out third parties. In regards to cryptocurrency, for instance, this has usually meant cutting out bankers.
In the music industry, blockchain technology can bring artists and fans closer together, allowing listeners to pay micropayments to artists for listening to their songs directly. This is something that has already been suggested for other types of media, such as content marketing, where readers pay a micropayment to read the article.
Some companies are already ahead of the crowd and launching similar services for artists. These companies include:
Mycelia – Founded by British musician Imogen Heap, Mycelia calls itself a research and development centre for musicians. It aims to make the music industry fairer by ensuring that all those involved are paid and acknowledged, and seeing that ethical and technical standards are put in place. They plan to use blockchain technology to make this a reality.
Musicoin – Created by forking the Ethereum network, Musicoin is designed to be used as a pay-for-play platform where users can make payments for listening to songs. It utilises the smart contract feature of Ethereum and those involved in the network can build their own distribution network for revenue.
MediaCoin – A cryptocurrency that aims to be a secure place to publish music and videos, and provide a streaming service for these mediums that is paid for by a token. Its primary focus is on security, so if anyone tries to download music or anything else from them, they will simply get a file they cannot open.
Ujo – This is another platform that is attempting to create a transparent database of ownership rights for musicians and pay them fairly in royalties. They previously worked with Imogen Heap and their platform is built on the Ethereum network.
In conclusion, blockchain may not be able to solve all the music industry’s ills, but it can bring the tired-out industry into the 21st century for artists and those who make a living from it.
Musicians who are struggling to make it in the industry can make their music more profitable with blockchain solutions.
- Zvendiya is a research and innovation analyst at Insurance and Pensions Commission (IPEC) — email@example.com. These weekly New Perspectives articles published in the Zimbabwe Independent are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past president of the Chartered Governance & Accountancy Institute in Zimbabwe (CGI Zimbabwe). — firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile: +263 772 382 852.