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Blockchain technology: a revolution in music payments?

Blockchain – the technology underpinning digital currency bitcoin – explored by music lecturer in new report out today

Nick Mason playing the drumsNick Mason, from Pink Floyd, believes the report to be a valuable contribution to the music industry.

Middlesex researchers have today (7 July) published Music on the Blockchain, a report exploring whether blockchain technology could offer a fairer deal for musicians.

Simply explained, the blockchain is a digital ledger of all bitcoin transactions that have ever taken place. Advocates argue that it is the most important IT invention since the internet and could shape the entire way we manage our society.

“Since the turn of the millennium, people trying to make money from recorded music have struggled with significant challenges,” explains Senior Lecturer in Popular Music and lead author, Marcus O’Dair.

“We have set out to summarise the key arguments, and to present something more nuanced than what can be a black-and-white argument between the ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps. It is not a case of one-blockchain-fits-all.”

The report explores how blockchain could transform the music industries by acting as a single, networked database for music copyright information – rather than the many, not-quite-complete databases maintained at present.

“If blockchain technology can help the commercial and contractual relationships in music keep pace with technology and the communication between artists and fans then it could be truly revolutionary,”  writes Nick Mason, Pink Floyd band member, in the report’s foreword.

“This report is a valuable contribution and I hope can help inform the debate and take us forward.”

Currently, music can be streamed and downloaded at the click of a button but payments to the people who actually make that music can be slow and opaque. There is also a major problem with copyright data.

Blockchain technology offers transparency through the value chain, allowing musicians and their managers to see exactly how much money they are owed, as opposed to a culture of non-disclosure agreements and ‘black boxes’.

“Though some of the claims made for blockchain technology are premature, it does appear to have at least the potential to transform the business,” says Marcus.

Music and digital experts will meet in London today to discuss the report and the impact of blockchain technology on the creative industries.

“We’re delighted to be working with the Featured Artists Coalition on this, and to be launching the report at Sonos Studio in Shoreditch with leading figures in music, tech, media law and academia,” adds Marcus.

Access the full report.

Learn more about music at Middlesex.

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