Are You a Musician and Confused About This Whole “Blockchain” Thing? Here’s an Explanation

One of the more interesting intersections of music and technology has been the concept of “blockchain” connections. But what is that? And why should musicians care? Andrew points us in the direction of this article at Forbes.

A Blockchain Overview

In short, Blockchain technology could facilitate the use and tracking of so-called “smart contracts.” These smart contracts would be a set of rules (and related costs) that an artist could – via Blockchain technology – permanently and (if they choose) transparently ascribe to their musical works.

These smart contracts would be “machine readable.” This means that vast numbers of people/companies/institutions (from music streaming services, to television networks, to small webcasters, to restaurants, to anyone who wants to use music) could make requests for music – via their own “machines” – that would seek out tracks that fit their needs from the perspective of price, genre, usage types, etc.

The analogy I always use is that of the small taco shop who has a budget of $1000 per year and really only wants to play the music of the Texas Tornados. Currently, to do that, the taco shop would have to purchase a blanket license from the various Performance Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC). These blanket licenses would allow the Taco Shop to legally play the Texas Tornados, but would also give them the rights to play virtually every other piece of recorded music as well – 99.9999% of which the taco shop neither wants to play or pay for.

The technology I described above – utilizing blockchain technology to facilitate music usage vis machine readable smart contracts and utilizing an alternative currency (bitcoin, for instance) that allows for fractional payments – can facilitate this approach.

Continue reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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