Discover more from MUSIC x
✘ Routines, pervasive technologies, and music collectives
And: Stationhead launches live commerce tool; Fixing streaming through policy; Web3 music artist management; Warner Music price too high; Stop smoking the algorithm
Blockchains were, and perhaps still are, a new and radical technology with a focus around self-sovereignty, composability, transparency, and accountability. They are, however, part of a larger technological revolution that is the Information Age. This is why we should look at Carlota Perez’ theory about technological revolutions to understand how Web3 fits into a much larger developmental change. Within that narrative, and as it unfolds through myriad innovations, failures, and experiments, Perez argues that it’s those technological applications that build routines that will cause the revolution to surge. Let’s look at this from an Internet standpoint again.
Web1 = read only
This is the Internet of the 1990s up until the dotcom crash. Some people made websites, most people just read them. The biggest innovation is actually the hyperlink which sets up the routine of linking things online together.
Web2 = read-write
We move into the platform economy. Instead of making a website, people create profiles on websites. Everything revolves around the centralization of data and the routine is about scale and instant communication.
Web3 = read-write-own
Through blockchain technology we found an opportunity to move against the centralization of data - by decentralizing it again. This creates an Internet where we all own our own data and where transparency exists by default.
The problem of decentralization
What Perez teaches us about this way of thinking about Web3 is that it’s a process, an evolution. Crypto was never going to push everything aside. Instead it lives inside the end of the technological surge that is the Information Age. And if we take Perez’ 50-60 year life cycle for these surges, then the current Age will soon come to an end. Looking at it that way, Web3 is either a final stage before we usher in the gestation period of the next surge, or it holds the first elements of that gestation.
If we go back to the routines argument, it means that decentralization is still a challenge. It's not that people don’t want to own their own data or use blockchains, it’s that there’s still a lack of widespread adoption when it comes to using them for basic online activities. For example, decentralization requires routines that allow people to take charge of their data, identity, and digital assets. This means that users must be empowered to actively make use of the technologies available, to access their content and to have control over it. However, the challenge is two-fold: the user must trust the technology and the technology must adapt to actual use cases.
And in that trust lies a major issue right now. It’s even worthwhile to ask how much has actually been decentralized. We have Ethereum, the global supercomputer, but most dApps on Ethereum are very much centralized - even if just because of the VC money that started their development. When we look at crypto it’s even worse with centralized exchanges and banks toppling throughout the last year. And yet, Perez teaches us how important the connection between capital and innovation is. One simply doesn’t exist without the other.
Music and the collective
The peer-to-peer technology that the Bitcoin blockchain was built out from stemmed from music piracy. In the early 2000s so many of us around the world thought it was the most normal thing to download a song through a hash and get 1.2% from one computer and the rest of the MP3 file from a number of other computers. Most of us also shared that same song back to the system again for others to download. This was The Pirate Bay, this was BitTorrent. There was a routine that people didn’t think about, but that drove the uptake of the innovation of sharing music and accessing music digitally.
In the past couple of years, Web3 has tended to be put forward as a major disruptive force. And yet, now - in the middle of bear market - the true innovation comes forward: Web3 has further allowed us to connect people together. It can help them organize around a common cause - with or without a treasury. An oft-cited example is Songcamp, but there are many small collectives who squad up to make something happen. This can be the production of music, establishing a creative identity, or creating a hub for knowledge exchange. We all need to keep working to make sure those ideals of decentralization, self-sovereignty, accountability, and transparency stay afloat. It’s about the collective, the squad, the group, the network. From those, new routines will help shape the next surge of technological change.
“Stationhead, which launched out of beta in 2021, has garnered over seven million total users across 200 countries. Artists like Nicki Minaj, Coldplay, Bruno Mars, Cardi B, BTS and more have use Stationhead to release their music and engage with fans.”
✘ Stationhead is one of those apps that fans started using and which artists then jumped on because someone on their team saw the power it could have. For me, however, this is all about the power of fandoms.
💔 The Streaming Market Is Fundamentally Broken. It’s Time To Fix It (Meredith Rose)
“This isn’t a question of a few bad actors. This is a systemic problem created by the combination of copyright law and economics. If left unchecked, any music-like market (with its micro-monopolies, non-fungible goods, and free market negotiating power) will inevitably collapse into anticompetitive behavior. It’s as close to a law of nature as you can find in economics.”
Read the full policy report by Meredith Rose here.
✘ I truly hope everyone will read this full report, or at least the blog. There’s so much to be said for policymakers to step in and force more transparency around the music business.
👩🏾💼 As Web3 Music Evolves So Does Web3 Music Artist Management (MacEagon Voyce)
“The unique wherewithal needed to mint across various music NFT platforms – like Sound.xyz and Catalog – and then navigate token-gating, airdrops and a bevy of messaging and social platforms – from Discord to Telegram, Lenster to Twitter – can be intimidating. So, let’s add web3 savvy to the “get your shit together” toolkit of the new artist manager.”
✘ I often think about what the artist team of the future will entail. Certainly, Web3 has sped up the shift for what a manager needs. Three of the most forerunning artist managers around Web3 are interviewed here and they all show that it starts with the basics, but quickly shifts into what’s termed Web3 savvy in the above quote.
📉 Warner Music Group: The Price Is Too High For What You Are Getting (Tangerine Capital)
“Apart from that, if you look at the EV/EBIT and sales growth rates or the reverse DCF, the actual valuation is not in line with reality. So I would not say that Warner is a better bet in the music streaming market than either Spotify or Universal at this point in time.”
✘ One of the main arguments the author puts forward besides the above economic issue, is that more and more artists and going it alone. It’s an interesting take from an otherwise purely financial perspective.
🚭 Stop Smoking The Algorithms (Simon de la Rouviere)
“That’s the frustrating crux of the matter. The “middle class” of creators are missing. It’s part of a larger thesis in how the web completely changed how status games got played around culture. And frankly, I don’t know how to solve this problem? Should it be solved even? I think we’re still better off having a longer long tail at cost of bigger big creators. But, can it be better? One solution that reappears is to go back to reinvigorating local communities alongside algorithm. Move away from mostly online, platform-mediated relationships, and back more to human-curated, personal communities.”
✘ This one resonated a lot with what I wrote two weeks ago about the future of music curation. We will need these two things to live and flourish besides each other.
Sometimes someone pops around who makes a track that sounds like it could’ve been Prince. Josh Caffe is the latest one for me, and it’s so good that I desperately wish Prince could’ve heard this. He marries the wonderful Chicago House vibes with the soulful style we know from Prince. Enjoy.