“Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for.”
- Taylor Swift
Entertainment news is buzzing with reports of Taylor Swift’s controversial decision to pull her music from online streaming site Spotify. We have reached a tipping point where artists are beginning to rebel against both legal and illegal downloading and the resulting shrink of their bank balances.
The Music Industry Today
In the process of standing up for the value of their work they do, however, risk an upsetting backlash from fans. The value of online content is top of mind right now, and as it will in many parts of our lives, digital currency can contribute positive changes to the music industry. File sharing is not going away and no amount of diva-tantrums will change this (ask Lars Ulrich). No one is 'making it.'
Welcome to 2014, what looks to be the first year of zero platinum-selling records. The money generated by the music industry used to be big. Being such a big pie, everyone wanted a piece and there was certainly enough to go around. The record executive, the band and tour managers, the public relations team, the stylists and any other associated specialists could all be comfortably supported. Fast forward to today and the record stores are closing, the record companies have shrunk and even the ‘successful’ musicians are trading their guitars for a 9-5 cubicle gig.
This week Google and YouTube announced their music streaming launch Music Key. The release has been plagued with reported threats to pull independent artists from YouTube and the bullying of independent labels. The Netflix of music is not off to a good start. Music Keys main competitor, Spotify, has admitted paying on average less than a penny to the record companies per song play, so this is the abysmal industry standard that has been set. As expected the trickle down to the artists is minimal.
Decentralization and Music
There is one word we hear over and over again in digital currency circles: decentralization. In centralised structures everything must pass through the central authority which takes its piece of all transactions. In music they deal through managers, promoters, record companies, YouTube, streaming sites, and numerous other vultures.
“In this digital age musicians need a record deal about as much as they need a Blockbuster video loyalty card.”
In this industry your dollar has so many hands to pass through that the artists end up with cheques less valuable than the paper they were printed on. The benefit of peer to peer transactions through the blockchain is the avoidance of these middlemen. In this digital age musicians need a record deal about as much as they need a Blockbuster video loyalty card. Online promotion, website design and maintenance, booking of venues and even international tours can all be done online by the band members themselves.
Adding Bitcoin as a payment option for merchandise, accepting tips online in an array of cryptocurrency options and looking at new ways to increase income-generating content can help artists of all kinds stand on their own feet. Rewarding fans that participate in your new model with anything rare, from limited edition merchandise to pre-sale concert tickets will prove to them your value.
Offering exclusive material through independent channels with direct payment while reducing bank and credit card fees can slowly reduce dependence on these platforms and the hefty costs associated with being heard. This may not buy every rock star a Lamborghini but it can help us re-establish music as a true career option for more than just a lucky few.
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