Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Imogen Heap is a rare example of someone in the music industry who knows what she is about. As does cellist Zoe Keating.
A music event, with a little music.
Imogen Heap used the event to release Tiny Human into the wild with the help of Mycelia, a blockchain for tracking and cataloguing music.
This one action, release of Tiny Human, could change the face of the music industry, and at a stroke, eliminate the middle men who for years have been parasites on artists and music lovers.
I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I could decide what I wanted to do with my music?. I might decide, today’s my birthday, I’m going to give all of my music to everyone for free today. At the moment, I can’t do that. Because it’s out there, and once it’s out there, I don’t really have a say in it any more.
I can imagine a ledger of all that information and an ecosystem of killer apps to visualize usage and relationships. I can imagine a music exchange where the real value of a song could be calculated on the fly. I can imagine instant, frictionless micropayments and the ability to pay collaborators and investors in future earnings without it being an accounting nightmare.
It feels as if the music industry is a complete mess, a rusty, overstretched, tired machine. Grappling with a lot of old crooked contracts that don’t reflect our times, music services that run on greed to please shareholders smothered in buy-buy-buy adverts, dated accounting setups favouring anyone but the artist thanks to gross inefficiencies, confusing royalty statements and delayed payments… plus patchy copyright databases. It is almost impossible to find out who REALLY gets what.
Artists create the music, but if signed to a record label, have very little control.
We hear all the time of artists being owed millions. The latest Sly Stone, living in a van.
Bandcamp enables artists to put their music out there. Fans can decide if they like it or not, if they do, they can download, choose to pay the artists some money. The artists also get the data.
Zoe Keating distributes her music on bandcamp, for example her album Into The Trees.
Zoe Keating is unusual in that she publishes her earnings on-line for all to see. Contrary to the rubbish we hear from the major record labels, piracy and sharing is not a problem, it is services like spotify that are screwing everyone.
I initially published my digital music earnings because the dominant story in the press on artist earnings did not reflect my reality, nor that of musical friends I talked to. None of us were concerned about file sharing/piracy, we seemed to sell plenty of music directly to listeners via pay-what-you-want services while at the same time earn very little from streaming.
On bandcamp, music is offered at a low price, or pay-what-you-think-it-is-worth. Far from seeing this as an opportunity to rip artists off, fans will often pay more than the asking price.
Interesting comment from cellist Zoe Keating on the number of times her music appears (unauthorised) in youtube videos.
… other than hit songs, it is near impossible to know what the real popularity of a piece of music is. Nielsen recognized this and added streams to SoundScan rankings, but the internet is far more interesting than that.
What about popularity by “use?” To use myself as an example again, there are to date 15,000 videos on YouTube with my music in them, none of them by me. The videos are other people’s unlicensed dance performances, commercial films, TV shows, student films, experimental films, art projects, soundtracks to gaming session, etc. But currently there is no way to leverage that kind of enthusiasm. Only YouTube knows how popular my music is for unauthorized soundtracks.
With blockchain and Mycelia there would be a means to track, and to pay for that use.
There is a need for change, for the simple reason as Imogen Heaps says, the record businesses was founded on unscrupulous practices, screwing the artist, greed writ large.
It’s time to turn the music industry on its feet. I say that, as it’s always been topsy-turvy. The record industry built its foundation upon the blues and jazz of predominantly African American artists, who were not given the best deals for anything at the time… never mind record deals! Their pockets were the last thing on the deal makers minds. Lawyers and accountants made the decisions, and built contracts entirely around bringing in the big guns the most amount of money and the artists the least; if, indeed, any at all. These founding artists were given a shockingly bad deal, and ever since artists have been struggling to have their voice heard.
Combined with this, the industry wasn’t birthed in our digital age where online databases and flow of information are the norm. It’s adopted technology in various forms along the way, that invariably didn’t fit with what came before, and as a result, it’s become more and more fragmented and ultimately gotten itself into a right tangle.
Now it feels as if the music industry is a complete mess, a rusty, overstretched, tired machine. Grappling with a lot of old crooked contracts that don’t reflect our times, music services that run on greed to please shareholders smothered in buy-buy-buy adverts, dated accounting setups favouring anyone but the artist thanks to gross inefficiencies, confusing royalty statements and delayed payments (if any at all), coupled with the music itself not always being tagged effectively, and thus leading to mistakes… plus patchy copyright databases. It is almost impossible to find out who REALLY gets what. I’ve lost sleep in the past, scratching my head over the small print, with an icky feeling maybe I was selling my soul to do what I love. And, at the end of it all, more times than not, we are listening to seriously degraded quality sound files, on tinny speakers or trendy hyped up headphones lacking quality sound. Artists and music, deserve better.
Mycelia and blockchain offer the opportunity for change.
Who owns Mycelia? This is critical. It cannot be a high tech death star. It has to be an open common, to which we can all contribute, all draw from, part of the sharing economy.
Who owns the top level domain domain name .music? At the moment Amazon and Google are in the bidding. They should not be allowed to control .music, it should be in the global commons, there for artists and music lovers.
Distribution of artistic material, payments, gaining information, is not simply knowing where the material has ended up and obtaining due payment, it may even be as fundamental as deciding will it be released. Artists too often find material they would not wish to see released, is released, or conversely, material they wish to see released is not released.
Depressing, health care companies monitoring us, what we are listening to. Big Brother writ large and a serious infringement of privacy.
This is what was discussed at Europe is Kaput last week. If we are being monitored, are aware we are being monitored, does it change our behaviour, is this the world in which we wish to live? This is a world controlled by death star apps. But illustrates information can be used for good or bad. Artists want transparency, see where their music is going, but we do not wish to create a society in which our every thought, movement, action, is monitored, logged, manipulated by death stars.
This article could be added to the block chain for Tiny Human.
Can Bitcoin and the blockchain help independent artists make a living?
Bitcoin and the Arts: An Interview with Artist and Composer, Zoe Keating
Why use spotify when there are far better alternatives?
The Cryptocurrency-Based Projects That Would Pay Everyone Just for Being Alive
Bitcoin Can’t Save The Music Industry Because The Music Industry Will Resist Transparency
The Bitcoin Blockchain Just Might Save The Music Industry…If Only We Could Understand It
Imogen Heap’s Mycelia: An Artists’ Approach for a Fair Trade Music Business, Inspired by Blockchain