In November, Icelandic singer, songwriter, actress, record producer, and DJ Bjork began selling her latest album via the Bitcoin platform and three other alternative digital currencies.
Meanwhile, the first major artist to accept Bitcoin appears to be American rapper, actor, businessman, and investor, 50 Cent
, in what seems to be a logical step.
Dennis Coles, better known by his stage name Ghostface Killah
, the American rapper and member of the Wu-Tang Clan
also got on the bandwagon issuing his own cryptocurrency. In early December, a group involved in the Monero cryptocurrency announced Project Coral Reef, which allows consumers to buy recordings and merchandise from Fall Out Boy, G-Eazy, Mariah Carey
, and other musical acts that have deals with Global Merchandising Services. Now, English electronic dance music producer and DJ Gareth Emery has plans to release music, sell, and pay royalties for it using digital currency and the blockchain technology that it typically runs on.
For all their 'ghetto' and 'street' credentials, it is hip hop artists that have been ahead of the pack, with many already amassing decent portfolios. Some have had big hits, most recently including massive trade in Robinhood – a zero-commission stock trading platform, which already counts US rappers and hip hop stars Nas, Jay-Z, and Snoop Dogg
among early backers.
So how deep does the relationship between the music industry and this rapidly emerging technology go? To answer this question, we looked to the Crunchbase data on startup investment among famous musicians. Looking at both pop and hip hop stars, and selecting carefully we narrowed it down to a list of 21 artists
who are either actively investing or have signed up for one or more rounds in recent times. How the music industry is getting on board
Generally, music artists are dealing, raising more capital and backing more companies embracing this new wave of technology.
Putting content on blockchain platforms, and having the ability to connect via peer-to-peer (p2p) transactions, through a digital currency such as Bitcoin, or via a smart contract system such as Ethereum - allows for complete transparency and automation of transactions, as well as direct payments to right holders. With all these factors in place, new players in the industry such as Revelator and Musicoin propose using blockchain to simplify the process of digital-right management by passing by the usual intermediaries, enabling for micro-payments from fans who buy music from recording artists directly.
An early innovator in this sphere is Grammy-winning UK singer/songwriter Imogen Heap, who in 2015 made use of the Ethereum blockchain-based Ujo to launch her song "Tiny Human" for $0.60 for each download. She is now working on her own blockchain-based offer, Mycelia, a fair-trade music business that will give artists the ability to have more control over how their songs and associated data circulates among fans and other musicians.
While blockchain offers a new way of distribution, there are a few other ways it could quickly scale and become a major source of disruption across both the media and entertainment industries. This could easily happen if several major artists decide to leave their current arrangements with major labels and shift to a blockchain-based solution.
I other cases, the blockchain revolution could be led by streaming players or digital retailers themselves. If Netflix, Spotify, YouTube, Alibaba
, and Amazon
chose to move their content distribution to blockchain platforms, it would open up blockchain to a broader set of users and content generators, and in the process slice through the complex intermediation process.