✘ A DAO is a tool
And: Water & Music bootcamp on global music rights; WMG's Rhythm City in Roblox; How blogs broke the Web; Rosie Sherry on growth; Nick Cave on AI songwriting; RBMA still haunts us
DAOs don’t seem to work. There’s plenty of things that we call a DAO. There’s also plenty of groups of people working together who call themselves a DAO. However, none of these are actually fully decentralized, autonomous, or sometimes even an organization. Some of them maybe be partially one of these three indicators, but the full combo doesn’t yet seem to exist. Maybe that’s okay, but then we need to redefine how we look at a DAO. Instead of using it as a form of organization, let’s understand a DAO as a tool to affect culture.
A note from Ada Lovelace
Let’s talk about Ada Lovelace. Once forgotten, Alan Turing helped propel her back into our collective consciousness because he coined the ‘Lady Lovelace’s Objection’ to indicate that any basically artificial intelligence cannot originate anything. Let’s have a look at Lovelace’s quote in full, which refers to the very early computational program by her and Charles Babbage - The Analytical Engine:
“The Analytical Engine has no pretensions to originate anything. It can do whatever we know how to order it to perform.”
As Stephen Wolfram points out, Lovelace “seems to have understood with some clarity the traditional view of programming: that we engineer programs to do things we know how to do.” And yet, she goes further than this basic view, as Wolfram also points out. “[A]ctually programming something inevitably lets one do more exploration of it.”
When we think about DAOs in the true sense, the ‘autonomous’ part stands for things like automated decision-making. In the 2014 definition from Vitalik Buterin, for example, the autonomous part stands for the ideal situation where there’s no humans involved in the decision-making. And yet, that is the most difficult to sustain, precisely because of what Ada Lovelace already figured out in the mid-19th Century - programs don’t work like that. What they do allow us to do, and perhaps what they effectively make us do, is to invite a more thorough exploration. Precisely because you implement something into the reality of a programming language, making decisions along the way and then reflecting on the results.
A note from Kei Kreutler
There’s a way I’ve looked at DAOs up until now, which is heavily influenced by an essay by Kei Kreutler called A Prehistory of DAOs. In it, she weaves the story of how a DAO is an organizational form that evolved from history with a strong heritage coming from the fundamentals behind the Cooperative.
“In 2021, a DAO could be described as a voluntary association with the operating principles of digital cooperativism. As voluntary associations, they are a cross-jurisdictional way for strangers, friends, or unlikely allies to pseudonymously come together toward common goals, supported by a token model, incentives, and governance. Members of a DAO can have representative ownership of its digital assets through a token, which often simultaneously acts as a governance right and network utility.”
That digital cooperativism is the protocol, Kreutler says. In other words, the way people within most DAOs work together is based on the primitives of the way cooperatives already established themselves in the late-19th Century. In a report from Water & Music, the authors point out that
“DAOs offer flatter organizational structures, which are a powerful social force for music communities to mobilize against the backdrop of Web2 music-industry concerns around financial transparency, equality and data collection practices.”
What’s developing here, then, is two lines of thinking - the history of cooperatives and the reaction of independent musicians and labels against Web2 platform power - that allow us to think about DAOs as simply a tool to help a group of people learn and grow together. It’s centred around the idea that this is better done in a decentralized and transparent manner, especially when it comes to decision-making and collective treasuries. These two elements also reflect back to the two points highlighted here: decision-making connects to cooperativism; collective, transparent treasuries connects to countering the Web2 money and data silos.
Culture before structure
Hopefully, it’s becoming clear why I think that DAOs are simply tools to use if and when it makes sense to help organize a group of people in a certain way around a shared goal or incentive. One of the things that’s important to consider in this choice is whether you want to focus on culture or structures. If you focus on the latter - which I see happening a lot throughout many crypto music projects - then a DAO becomes pretty much useless. It will always be a thing in name only. Focusing on structures over culture means that you let go of the elements of programming that excited Ada Lovelace the most - the moments of exploration. Focusing on structures also provides the least effective way to move against existing power dynamics. Instead, if the focus is on a specific culture, then it could be that the DAO as a tool could be an engine to propel groups of people to learn from and through their curiosity. I hope to see more examples of these projects where the focus sits firmly in, for example, bringing culture on chain. It’s a move against the inherent financialization attached to crypto, and a move towards the power of doing it with others. A DAO is a mindset brought to life as a tool.
Water & Music bootcamp on global music rights
I’ve been able to help put together another Water & Music Academy project. This time on one of the most important topics in music: rights. We take a global view, going deep into the markets we don’t usually default to when we speak about music rights. It’s the first time it’s not just for Water & Music members, but being a member does give you a discount, so hit me up if you haven’t seen that yet. Hope to see many of you there.
What will this Academy enable you to do next?
Plot your next release strategy and business deals in some of today’s fastest-growing international music markets
Build business acumen that will allow you to better navigate the global music landscape — including more insight into industry power dynamics, consumer behavior, etc. on a regional level
Bore people at parties :)
Full Course: $200 non-members / $150 members:
A La Carte: $40 non-members / $30 members
🌇 Warner Music Group Expands Metaverse Presence with Rhythm City on Roblox (Nicholas Kitonyi)
“Rhythm City blends elements of gaming with music to create a metaverse experience that allows artists and audiences to define and contextualise their communities. This experience is part of WMG’s web3 strategy to create new ways of engagement for music artists and their fans.”
✘ The first major label to create a persistent world in Roblox. The fact that they teemed up with a developer who has experience in building worlds in Roblox could suggest a healthy path forward to new discovery models for WMG artists.
🪞 The only answers to your growth are the ones you find yourself (Rosie Sherry)
“What people also seem to miss out on is how this growth obsession destroy spaces. How they create extra work, noise and waste. How communities get bombarded and drowned out with all the ‘marketing hacks’. How we waste our one precious life sifting through growth stories just so we can hope to get in on it too. How we’re made to feel inadequate because we have not quite achieved those numbers.”
✘ I love telling people that they need to choose their own metrics to judge their success based on what they want to do and why they want to do it. What Rosie teaches us here, is that we need to see roads for the bumpy things they are. Nothing is ever a straight line into a hockey stick - it’s a road filled with potholes, some deeper than others.
❤️ I asked Chat GPT to write a song in the style of Nick Cave and this is what it produced. What do you think? (Nick Cave)
“What ChatGPT is, in this instance, is replication as travesty. ChatGPT may be able to write a speech or an essay or a sermon or an obituary but it cannot create a genuine song. It could perhaps in time create a song that is, on the surface, indistinguishable from an original, but it will always be a replication, a kind of burlesque.”
✘ Nick Cave puts it beautifully, capturing what it is that human creativity brings to the table in the face of endless semi-creative reproductions. Also check out his response to another question about AI and songwriting in his Red Hand Files from 2019.
♉ Red Bull Music Academy Still Haunts Us (Chris Monaco & Joshua Glazer)
“In other words, if a brand want to maintain a legacy as a cultural driver, it best put as much care into it’s archiving as it does in identifying the smart place to place dollars in the first, erm, place.”
✘ A good reminder of what RBMA meant and also how important it is to: a) be in it for the long run to have actual cultural impact; b) make sure you archive what you create.
🪅 How the Blog Broke the Web (Amy Hoy)
“The Internet at the time was largely populated by academics, professionals, and college students. Not everyone had the desire to publish their angsty poetry, sexcapades, or surfing habits on a daily basis; the other limiter on chrono-content was the sheer time and energy it required. Diarying was a helluva lot of work. First you had to have something to say, then write, edit it, format it, add clip art, edit your index.html, edit any prev/next links, check those links, and lastly, upload the files.
It was boring, tedious, and involved.”
✘ I always talk about this stuff when I try to ‘explain Web3’ so it’s good to read it from another perspective. The Internet in the 1990s was seriously not for everyone yet.
Quite hot off the press, and a new discovery for me, this is Mexican artist Iñigo Vontier’s second EP on Optimo Records. It’s got a lot of groove and is very dancefloor-ready. The order of the tracks on the EP isn’t quite right on Bandcamp, because the opening track should be Setsi, but Mental Letal is my favourite of the bunch anyway.
I like the concept of DAOs. But the idea of “getting cultures on chain” has a yucky vibe to it. And it seems hard to separate the incentive of getting ones DAO token up in value over the genuine pursuit of creating cool stuff. But I am willing to change my mind if something comes along that seems to be the genuine article.