Back on the Blockchain Gang!

Welcome to the weekly article looking at the current music industry, its challenges and overall why and how SHOUT4's RevShare model works so well for the independent music industry. Written by SHOUT4 Chairman, Ric Yerbury.

I don’t know about you but I sometimes have the feeling that if you live in a world without blockchain you might be missing out! Blockchain in music has become a mantra for some, particularly with the increasing desire for artists to retain their rights and get faster access to the money they generate through their work. Certainly the pioneering efforts of people like Imogen Heap and her company Mycelia made clear statements of intent.

So why does it remain so hard to get this to gain proper traction? We have seen some brilliant work by the likes of JaaK, ultimately floundering on the rocks of the industry despite developing amazing solutions within blockchain. Someone said they tried to ‘boil the ocean’. From this I assume they meant that a total change in mindset was required by the industry and difficult to deliver. Problem seems the same each time, the industry itself or at least the willingness of the industry to consider other business models to the tried and tested ones that have prevailed over the past decades. Why change a model which has delivered massive profits to their shareholders? Except of course this largely boils down to three companies. The rest and in particular the independent and DIY artists and labels are left to wonder how they ‘swim’ in this ocean.

So I will admit, three years ago I really had no clue as to what blockchain meant, why it could be important and whether there was any role within the shared revenue model that we were developing. I am absolutely not a blockchain expert now but I have gained some knowledge and have increased my experience as to the whys and wherefores. BTW I should give much thanks to Consensys running ‘Blockchain House’ at SXSW in Austin in 2019. There the light started to dawn on this subject and would also give thanks to John Wolpert and his team for making this easier.

First lesson was that the current infrastructure that supports the music industry is not an easy or obvious fit for this type of technology. Parts of it are and we are seeing some interesting new platforms come through in terms of royalty management such as Vezt.  However because of the diverse nature of the industry in terms of copyrights and the contractual relationships, the traditional record label deal does not fit.

Where to start? Well as we have seen with Mycelia and JaaK in the past, by scrapping the way the industry works may take time and volume of adoption. Whilst I think this has to be the future, I wonder how far into the future will we have to go to see smart contracts adopted as standard? Certainly technology can allow it but intent, trust and commitment are other matters.

However, there may be a way. Yes, I am back on my soapbox again. Let’s start by making sure artists retain their rights, don’t assign and look to reward those who support them, finance them and help them get to a sustainable position. This of course lies at the heart of the SHOUT4 model and yes we are looking very closely at how the inclusion of smart contracts and distributed ledgers in the delivery of our service can help. By keeping the relationships far simpler than the industry currently favours offers us the potential to properly leverage the value and opportunity working with these emerging technologies.

So yes we will be getting ‘on the blockchain gang’ but taking baby steps to ensure we continue to deliver the sort of product that works for the DIY and independent artist. 

Until next time when we are ‘Thinking about money’

Ric Yerbury

Ric has a background in music as an artist, manager, label owner and promoter. He has combined this with a career away from music as CEO within SMEs and PLCs. As the architect of SHOUT4's Revshare model he is a strong advocate for artists retaining rights and providing legal and financial solutions to the DIY market which reflect the way the world is now and not the past.

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