✘ Blockchain fundamentals, alternative models to funding & Onboarding
And: Appetite for Distraction podcast; Community predictions for 2023; Experiments in DAO governance; EU report on wellbeing of musicians; Everyone hates games; AI Generative live set
When I first heard about crypto, I didn’t get it. When I heard about NFTs, I immediately understood that this could be a new revenue driver for artists. What I didn’t understand at the time, was how this could benefit fans and more casual listeners. Perhaps, of course, there’s no need for that either. The supply side of the music industry is well taken care of, because we have practically all the music ever recorded at our fingertips for ten bucks a month. There’s a strong argument that there’s no need to disrupt that side of the music business. The demand side, however, is more ripe for disruption - distro services, labels, etc. And that is, in a way, what we’ve seen play out in the last two years. If we listen to Dan Fowler, who runs product at HiFi Labs and who’s been around crypto music since 2015, what we’ve seen is a first wave of crypto music that focused on trying to fix the whole music industry. People, Dan among them, tried to change how metadata worked, got stored, and how to get access to it. That didn’t work out. The second wave, however, has been more about artists experimenting with the tools available to them. This has been NFTs, but also other tokens.
Since this recent wave of crypto music hasn’t focused on supply-side disruption, what we now have is basically a new vertical for recorded music. There’s more artists coming into the ecosystem, and perhaps there’s not currently enough collectors to support them all. Most of what’s been built in the past years has been focused on creating great ways for artists to take control and disrupt the demand side. And maybe that means that now we need to focus more on bringing some of the product development towards finding more fans and music lovers to come into the ecosystem and start to collect. Going back to Dan Fowler again, that might just lead people to create the next Soundcloud, but on Web3 rails. And, we don’t need that.
There’s another thing that the second wave of crypto music has laid bare, which is that with more artists in the ecosystem, some of the fundamentals of the blockchain have started to shift. Of course, going on chain means permissionless building, self-sovereignty, and transparent processes. The first wave of artists - which to be fair were probably not many - all got this ingrained into their ethos. More recently, onboarding hasn’t always included a deep level of understanding of the tech.
And this is natural as more people come in, but it also creates friction and crypto tends to bare everything and pull stuff to the surface. When that happens, it all plays out for everyone to see and hear. It won’t change the fundamental nature of a blockchain, but it will change the culture around it.
The above was inspired by a conversation Yash Bagal and I had with Dan Fowler for our new-ish podcast Appetite for Distraction. I’d love to invite you all to listen to it as Dan has great insights both from traditional licensing and from building in Web3.
🤫 Levellr's Community Predictions for 2023 (Tom Gaynor)
“Unlike socials where creators & brands often focus on scale, communities are about quality conversion of superfans. And guess what happens when you offer products to your most engaged fans who are now congregated in one space and unfiltered by fickle social algorithms?”
✘ There’s 10 predictions, and they’re all interesting. Community, moving beyond the buzzword, is the thing to focus on in the coming year.
⚗️ Experiments in DAO governance (Linda Xie & Derek Hsue)
“Crypto governance mechanisms are still nascent, and it is one of the most active areas of innovation. In this piece, we’ll explore several governance experiments worth paying attention to and summarize key takeaways from each of them.”
✘ This is an excellent overview of various experiments around DAOs and their potential. If you are interested in what a DAO can be or mean and how decentralizing governance can be effected, this is a great place to start.
🫁 The health and wellbeing of professional musicians and music creators in the EU: insights from research for policy and practice (Hella van der Jeught, Marjan Meeuwssen, Dries van Herreweghe, Lode Vermeersch)
“Creating and performing music professionally requires physical and psychological resilience. Professional musicians and music creators operate in a rapidly changing context where music is created, produced, distributed, consumed and monetised in completely new ways. This new landscape puts extra pressure and stress on professionals who, to stay afloat, now need a range of other skills (such as digital and business skills), additional to their virtuosity and proficiency. The recent crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, made things worse … The study shows that the health and well-being of musicians in the EU is vulnerable to a number of risk factors and that action on many fronts is needed.”
✘ This is a very timely report by the European Commission and I’ll be curious to see what or if policy can have positive impact on the health and wellbeing of artists.
😤 Everyone hates games and we don’t care (but we should) (Gina Jackson)
“Research done by the Mental Health Foundation in 2022 discovered that players felt a sense of guilt or shame based on a perception that society doesn’t see their hobby as worthwhile. Players believed others saw their hobby as unproductive, a waste of time, for isolated young men or nerds, bad for your health or, ultimately, something you should grow out of.”
✘ For everyone who thinks the future of music is gaming - me included - this is a must-read to keep our feet on the ground. It’s important to look beyond the headline grabbing comparisons of revenues and look at the deeper cultures behind it. Not just of the games and the players, but of the studios and societal perceptions, too.
🤯 AI Generative Live Set / Improvising with Spectrogram GAN Models (Noa Tokui)
✘ It’s so cool to see how quickly developments are going right now with AI implementation in music. This is an awesome example of what that results in, in practice, in conjunction with AI-generated visuals. At the ever innovating MUTEK festival, this time in Japan.
✘✘ If there’s a new hype, there’s a new market map by Antler.
Copy-pasting from the Meduza website (check it out for more reflections from the artists involved) where this album premiered:
A hundred years ago, in the fall of 1922 and winter of 1923, the Bolsheviks expelled hundreds of artists and intellectuals from Russia, forcing them to leave the country on what became known as the “philosophers’ ships.” Many of the exiled writers and poets continued to write in Russian, destined never to meet their readers back in their home country. A century later, Russia’s artists are once again leaving, this time because of the war in Ukraine and political persecution at home. To capture the echoes of Russia’s tragic history in the present, director and music producer Roma Liberov invited newly-exiled popular musicians to revisit the poetry of the “obscure generation” of Russian poets who wrote in exile, after leaving Russia 100 years ago. By setting their words to music, artists — including Noize MC, Monetochka, Nogu Svelo!, Pornofilmy, Naive, and others — probed their own experience of exile and how it “rhymes” with the lives of émigré poets the revolution scattered across the world. The resulting album, “After Russia,” got its name from a collection of poems published by Marina Tsvetaeva in 1928.