✘ An invitation to dig into what crypto music means
And: The Onchain Era; We still don't understand the Attention Economy; Westworld and how TV series travel; When fandom and finance converge; K-Pop - the rise of the virtual girl bands
A slightly different newsletter this week. I had started to write an opinion piece based on recent discussions happening around crypto and music, but I don’t think the world needs another opinion. For those of you who haven’t followed along, here’s the short(-ish) of it. Artists have been releasing their music as NFTs for a while now. When they put their music on chain it becomes part of the permissionless blockchain that is fully composable. What this means, is that everyone can build on what others create. This is fantastic when it comes to tech and devs being able to quickly iterate on what others have done. It’s how Ethereum will become the world computer that some people envision. But not everyone was aware of this when they minted their music NFTs.
Then, as more and more people started minting NFTs we ran into discovery issues. Just a few weeks ago I wrote about how we need to start something I called ‘very disco’. The whole idea around that play on words was that discovery in crypto music will require us all to dance together. Sometimes this will happen in synch, other times we’ll dance on other parts of the dancefloor but still to the same beat. Of course, sometimes it looks like we’re at a silent disco where various groups dance to totally different music. That’s what it felt it like a lot over the course of the past week or so. The reason is that certain dApps who aggregate music NFTs to a UX that feels like what we know from streaming services. These aggregators live up to their name, they scrape the permissionless blockchain for the data to bring the information around the NFTs together. It’s great, and I love using Future Tape, spinamp and Ooh La La.
Often, when you build new tech around music you run into issues surrounding copyright and licensing. I’m not personally a fan of how Collective Management Organizations such as Performing Rights Organizations mostly operate, but they serve a purpose. To oversimplify things here, they allow large scale use of music for personal use and public use. What’s difficult is how it would be necessary, as a start-up without perhaps even a product-market-fit, to get fully licensed upfront. No company would have the cash for that. This is why big tech companies like Facebook, Twitch, TikTok, etc. didn’t start out licensed, but only did so as they matured.
So there’s a catch-22 here. On the one hand, we have a crypto music movement which is trying to steer away from this ‘old world.’ Then, we have artists who rightfully need to protect their IP for unfair use. But some of the ‘old world’ solutions won’t fit and we’ll need to come up with new solutions. Now, when I say ‘new’ here, I don’t mean we have to start from scratch. Back in May 2021 I offered two roads for NFTs and blockchains:
A world without copyright as we know it. No CMOs. Instead, everything is organized through blockchains.
A world where NFTs and blockchains get incorporated into the existing copyright structures.
Neither of these options are easy, or perhaps even feasible. Both options could be achieved, but like Bas already wrote in 2016 the second option would be “a transparency conversation, not a blockchain conversation.”
So where does this leave us? How can we continue to move forward? What’s clear to me is how we need to try and better understand how we got here and then consider what we can do to move forward. We need better alignment, and to start I invite you to dig into the following:
Crypto Music History by Mighty33. This covers you from the start in 2008 and takes you right into 2022.
The case for a post-royalties music industry by Dan Fowler. If you want to understand what it could actually mean to move crypto music beyond our existing copyright structures, this is where you can find it.
Water & Music $STREAM Season 1 report on the state of music and Web3. We released this just over a year ago now and it is still so relevant. It covers everything from the growth of music NFTs, music NFT ownerships, the state of tooling, onboarding strategies, and fan sentiment.
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to chat more about this. My DMs are open.
⛓️ The Onchain Era (Yancey Strickler)
“The convenience and sovereignty of onchain systems for consumers are the killer app, not a currency someone pumps promising it might one day be worth something if everything goes right. In the Crypto Era, the point of all the noise was to increase the adoption of cryptocurrencies. In the Onchain Era, the point will be far more practical and useful: making information more durable and permanently accessible.”
✘ For those of you who’ve been following MUSIC x for a while now, you know how important I think theories like Carlota Perez’ technological revolutions are. Yancey fits our current moment in this broader historical framework of the development of the Internet. Like him, I’m excited about this next phase we’re just entering now.
💭 We Still Don’t Understand the Attention Economy (Justin Murphy)
“Everyone knows today that “attention is the hottest commodity,” attention spans are decreasing, and many people feel they are drowning in distraction. But why? What are we really saying when we make these claims?”
✘ I’m one of those people who talk about attention a lot. About how we have more and more to give our attention to and how it diffuses more, almost by the day. So it’s good to be reminded that it’s also natural to let our attention drift from moment to moment and object to object.
📺 ‘Westworld’ and other titles may soon be removed from HBO Max (Lauren Forristal)
“Note that if the series is removed, it’s likely it’ll move to another platform, but nothing is confirmed. One potential new streaming home could be WBD’s free ad-supported streaming service, which CEO David Zaslav previously mentioned was in the company’s future plans.”
✘ This, of course, has nothing to do with music, but it allows me to highlight how different ‘content’ behaves when it comes to series/films and music. It’s just unimaginable for an album or a specific artist’s music to only be available on one of the DSPs and then, upon poor results be removed and taken to another platform with a different business model.
❄️ When Fandom and Finance Converge (Yash Bagal)
“Intermediaries will be crucial for this new model to see mainstream adoption. They will act as the capital inflow and royalty outflow interface connecting artists and fans/investors. They will help us prevent complex rights management BUT ensure we retain the social aspect of music, which is very important. Ideally, these intermediaries would be sufficiently decentralised to ensure the collective interests of all micro-invested fans and artists are represented democratically.”
✘ Now that the whole music-as-an-asset-class hype has died down, is this the time to seriously look at what to build again here? Is there a captive audience of retail investors who want to put their money into music they think will do well or music that they love?
🪞 K-pop: The rise of the virtual girl bands (Julie Yoonnyung Lee & Amelia Hemphill)
“With the explosion of artificial intelligence (AI), deepfake and avatar technologies, these pop idols are taking their fame into a whole new dimension … But the virtual world can also be an unwelcoming space for K-pop stars and fans alike, with regulations to prevent cyberbullying or abuse lacking or rarely being enforced. The industry has been rocked by online bullying and smear campaigns waged against successful stars.”
✘ Great to see a major publication like the BBC giving attention to this and doing so in a measured way. There’s a lot of opportunities but also A LOT of pitfalls, especially when it comes to issues around copyright and ethics.
⛺ What if we quit touring? (Beatriz Negreiros)
“So returns that persistent idea; what if we quit? We’d need to figure out what comes after, and how the industry can swerve the mistakes of the past, present, and future in this next stage of being. Lack of accessibility, for instance, is a concern to be addressed.”
✘ You will remember Beatriz from her excellent four-part series on touring a month ago. She’s done this follow up in the latest issue of EQ, which is worth diving in front to back.
There’s a resurgence of jungle and drum & bass music. I was very big on this and never quite understood why it moved out of the spotlight. What’s even better is that the current hype is lead by two amazing women: Nia Archives and Sherelle. They’ve both released amazing tracks, but they’ve also been ‘on the scene’ for a good while now. To showcase this, I’m putting Nia Archives’ first RinseFM show from 2021 here.