This article originally appeared on Forbes on May 29, 2020.
It’s been some time since I’ve written about Blockchain tech in this space. I felt that upon the publication of my book, Everything In Its Right Place: How Blockchain Technology Will Lead to a More Transparent Music Industry, that I had said what needed to be said about the potential for blockchain tech’s ability to help musicians create and maintain sustainable careers on their own terms. In the ensuing time I’ve continued to work actively in the space; inclusive of working to develop a music-licensing platform for Berklee students that is a student-led outgrowth of the Open Music Initiative that records transactions on a blockchain, in order to create more opportunities for students to monetize and promote their works, and that I, as a professor in the Music Business Program, use as a pedagogical tool in my classes to show rather than tell with respect to both technology and copyright.
Honestly, the lack of being able to show rather than tell that has kept me from writing about other blockchain-based music initiatives. Like all emerging technologies, at the early stages, there is often equal measures of excitement and lack of understanding. Stir in the always-present bad actors, add more than a soupçon of hype, and you have a recipe for a lot of talk and not much action. Many startups who were “ever on the edge” of utilizing blockchain to “change the world,” have apparently fallen off this edge and dissapeared into the void. I’ve laid out precisely why I believe many of the startups in this space failed in two separate articles that define what I believe to be the four dominant points of failure with respect to adoption/product-market fit of blockchain-based firms.
It is therefore tremendously exciting for me to now have the opportunity to write about not only the above-mentioned Berklee project, but another blockchain-based music project that is actually improving musicians’ lives. Revelator, a company founded by longtime music and technology expert, Bruno Guez, is a music business administration platform that has developed a blockchain-based wallet and smart contract platform that vastly expedites payment to artists.
Revelator utilized this technology to develop a working prototype with the Finnish performance rights society, Teosto and the music monitoring service, BMAT, that tracks, identifies, and pays out monies due to writers for their works played on the radio — so called, “performance royalty payments” — within 24 hours of the songs being played. This is in part accomplished via Revelator’s development and usage of a blockchain-based technology known as a “smart contract” in conjunction with Revelator’s wallet technology, which as Mr. Guez explains:
Automatically and immediately disseminate the payments to the Wallets of the rights holders. There is a wallet for each of the rights holders involved; payments are made in Original Works tokens, which rights holders will be able to convert to the fiat currencies of their choice once the project reaches the production stage.
It is difficult to overstate the significance of this accomplishment. The typical time from a song being played on the radio to money ending up in the songwriter’s bank account is typically measure in months or years....not hours.
As Turo Pekari, Senior advisor, innovation and business insight at Teosto states:
“After endless conversations about block-chain and smart contracts, it’s finally time to take advantage of the technology in real use cases, this time with a simple goal: to pay songwriters and publishers faster. In fact, very fast.”
Obviously, these are still early days, but we’re beginning to see little green shoots that are not in fact poison ivy, but rather the beginning of what I believe will soon be actual tools, technologies and businesses that materially impact artists’ ability to build and sustain their careers in a more efficient and transparent manner.
It is a testament not only to Mr. Guez’s experience and entrepreneurial tenacity (Revelator is one of the early blockchain based music companies), but also Mr. Pekari, Teosto and BMAT, all of whom spent their time building and taking risks and ignoring the detractors in order to put purpose ahead of product, and actually create something that can have an impact.
My hope is that this and the above-referenced Berklee project are the beginnings of an incoming tidal wave of these types of beneficial tools for artists. We’ll know that’s the case when we finally stop using the word “blockchain,” and just enjoy its benefits.