Music and Blockchain: The Future of Decentralized Streaming Music
April 22, 2022 — NEAR Team
As the decentralized economy expands, it’s no surprise that musicians are turning to the blockchain. NFTs, digital autonomous organizations (DAOs), Metaverse events, and more are transforming artistic visions into new and immersive experiences. On NEAR, decentralized streaming music platforms will be one part of the future music industry landscape.
Community-driven instead of centralized like Spotify and YouTube, these platforms give artists more freedom to express themselves with built-in legal infrastructure support. But what does this decentralized streaming future look like for musicians?
Establishing better streaming rights for musicians
In a Web3 world, artists have more control over what they create. With decentralized streaming music, that will mean fewer intermediaries taking a cut of a musician’s revenue.
“Artists who release through DAOrecords hold 100% of their IP—meaning that they can do anything they want with it,” says Jason “Vandal” Schadt, CEO at DAOrecords.
“We have acted primarily as a distributor, helping to facilitate the release of Audio NFTs through our storefronts across a variety of chains,” he adds. “What I find very exciting is that we’re able to minimize the friction and need for legal contracts through the use of automated royalty splits built into the smart contracts we deploy.”
DAOrecords has begun designing smart contracts with an approach similar to artists registering their songs officially, then sharing the revenue like they would with the performing rights societies that distribute royalties.
“As we do this, it’s important that we only work with the rights holders directly in order to ensure that there is no infringement happening,” says Vandal.
And if artists are part of DAO-based labels, like DAORecords, other interesting possibilities emerge with decentralized streaming.
“The artists under the DAO label would actually own a slice of the label and have voting rights in where the [streaming] money goes,” says Amber Stoneman, CEO of Minting Music. “The label hasn’t ever been transparent, so blockchain is a way for that to happen on the ground level with producers and label owners.”
At its core, decentralization is about using smart contracts to create the platforms, tools, resources, and legal structures for art to flourish on its own terms. This vision inspired Stoneman to create Minting Music, which brings blockchain to the music industry in a practical way.
“I saw a lot of flaws in the platform transparency and gatekeeping that connects fans and artists,” says Stoneman. “After diving into NFTs, Web3 and crypto, I started to see how blockchain could solve a lot of music industry problems.”
One of Stoneman’s goals is to enable a world where fans can buy and trade music via NFTs to create long-term revenue for the artists.
“I see streaming being on-chain, payments being made to artists based on actual listeners and streams instead of the current Spotify model,” she says. “We see real royalty payments happening in real time.”
Bringing transparency to royalty splits
Clarian North, Founder of Tamago, a decentralized streaming music platform building on NEAR, also sees blockchain tackling royalty transparency.
“Transparency is a big problem musicians and content creators are faced with when it comes to royalty payouts,” says North. “The digital age has made it exponentially harder for artists, managers, and labels to track every play and purchase.”
For North, it’s clear how smart contracts can play a pivotal role in the streaming music future. Musicians will be able to track all transactions related to material in a transparent and immutable format. This will help to fairly balance and unblock the monetization flow back to content creators.
Remix royalties will be no different. When a producer takes on a remix, North says, it creates a different perspective, audience, and sound than the original recording. Remixers generally earn a flat fee and occasionally get a royalty, although this is rare. The more hands original material goes through, the better chance it has to be consumed by larger audiences. But then tracking the royalties becomes more complex. Smart contracts could change this by simplifying royalty payments.
“Having a network of data which is universally accessible and cannot be manipulated is therefore extremely beneficial for keeping exponential and viral pathways clean and unblocked in terms of making sure the content creators of the original material get their fair and transparent share,” he adds.
Strangeloop Studios, which just launched Spirit Bomb, a label for decentralized virtual artists, is also hopeful about royalty transparency. Ian Simon, Co-founder of Strangeloop Studios, believes that NFTs will be a key ingredient in decentralized streaming music.
“I think we’re still in the early stages of seeing all the ways that Web3 could disrupt some of the anachronistic practices of the music industry,” says Simon. “A lot of very smart people are focusing on royalty structures and overall transparency, and forcing a lot of obfuscated backroom deals out into the open. The NFT space assumes co-ownership, which is a philosophical sea change in acknowledging the value of all creative contributors, and one I’m very excited about.”
Dismantling the artist-fan divide
When music isn’t completely dictated by centralized forces, like major labels, mainstream media, and Web2 streaming platforms, artists are free to pursue the aesthetics that matter to them. This gives birth to genres and cultures like Hip Hop, Techno, Indie Rock, and more. As such, it forms the basis for collaborations, remix culture, and continued creativity into new media and forms.
This thinking led to the inception of Endlesss.fm, a music software platform with NEAR integration. Endless enables artists and audiences to connect in a more spontaneous and visceral way.
“Endlesss transforms media from a product we consume alone into a journey we undertake together with those we resonate with,” says Tim Shaw, also known as Tim Exile, who is a passionate, lifelong musician. “Immediately this will provide a more lean-forward engaged experience for fans.”
“In the long run, this will dismantle the artist-fan divide,” he adds. “We will all become participants in communities. Some will be more involved in cultural production than others. But, we won’t think of it as a metaphorical barrier between the crowd and the artists.”
Web3 will also enable musicians (and other creatives) to own and control the way their work shows up online.
“Web3 inverts the relationship between platforms and individuals,” says Exile. “In Web2, we all rent our relationship with platforms. Platforms can throw us out at any point and we lose everything with no recourse. In Web3, platforms rent their relationship with us sovereign digital individuals. If platforms cease to add value to our digital lives, we can take our identities elsewhere.”
Ultimately, Exile envisions a future in which Web2 and Web3 co-exist.
“The streaming model works very well in a Web2 world where you pay for convenient access to media,” he says. “In Web3, the value proposition for media is about association. Which media do you choose to put your time, effort, and money into creating, collecting and trading? What does the aggregation of all the media you’ve associated with say about you? How can you experience the visceral sense of who you are by experiencing the things you’ve decided to align yourself with?”
Supporting an expansive and authentic music industry
The pandemic and other global crises have triggered a shift in the way humans engage with the physical world. This transition inspired the formation of Muti Collective, a Portugal-based community that helps artists blend the digital and physical worlds. Co-founded by Tabea and smokedfalmon, but operated collectively as a DAO, one of the group’s objectives is to incentivize a cultural movement in rural Portugal.
“Given that most venues closed during the pandemic, it was the main resource to promote arts in the digital space,” says smokedfalmon. “It brought up a lot of questions regarding streaming revenues and how little the creators are actually paid on [Web2] streaming platforms.”
By using Web3 spaces like Cryptovoxels and NEARhub, people can actually interact with the event while seeing the stream. DAOs give the group a better handle over collective finances, transparency, and democracy within the community.
“People are generally skeptical in the beginning but curious, and need 1:1 onboarding to really get into it,” says Tabea. “Once they receive support for one of their projects, they engage a lot more.”
“Also, the system of a DAO is not very common yet in the groups we are working with,” she adds. “But, once they understand how it works, they get more engaged. They discover more of the ecosystem and create their own path.”
The road ahead
Music in Web3 is all about creating, experimenting, and pushing boundaries. It’s also about pursuing long-term visions and continually manifesting the infrastructure to get there. With NEAR, musicians have a super fast, low-cost, and secure platform to get them to where they want to be.
What artists and musicians need most is the power of ownership, which creates choice and enables self expression. Beyond decentralized streaming music’s freedom, it empowers creators with the tools they need to release their works on their terms.
Blockchain, and DAOs in particular, facilitate an ecosystem experience in which parties can collaborate fairly and specify terms. Participants ranging from artists to record labels, fans, buyers, and secondary buyers are all welcome in this space.
Decentralization has the potential to bring the music industry into a more enhanced state. The future of music on the blockchain is already in motion.
Check out the complete series on Blockchain Music:
Part 2: Music and Blockchain: Building a Record Label on the Blockchain
Part 3: Music and Blockchain: The Rise of the New Musician
Part 4: Music and Blockchain: The Future of Decentralized Streaming Music
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