The music industry has gone through countless changes over the years, from vinyl to cassette to CD and, now, downloads and streaming. But one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s the way artists are able to make their money.
DJ Gareth Emery spoke to CryptoNewsReview about how he wants his new company Choon – officially launched this week – to transform the music industry into a fairer, more democratic one.
Choon is a blockchain-based music streaming service created to facilitate a fairer distribution of profit by cutting out the unnecessary intermediaries, lawyers and middle-men from the process. Everything from music contracts to licensing and payments are simplified through the service, with Choon then storing information securely on the blockchain.
Emery said of his passion for cryptocurrency and blockchain: “I’ve been involved in crypto for the last five years. I was an ‘original’ Bitcoiner I guess. I was making an album so I was doing everything I could not to finish it. It was that thing when you’re on deadline and, in an eight hour studio session it’d be six hours trading Bitcoin and two hours of music.
“It was the original vision that I loved – peer-to-peer digital cash, but I then fell out of love with it over the next couple of years. It never became what I thought it was going to be. I guess I thought of it as a bit of a failed project, even though now it’s had this second coming.”
It was when Ethereum came about that Emery realised what blockchain technology could do for his industry and artists within it, just as streaming services such as Spotify were being criticised for their skewed payments system. In an age of unlimited digital distribution and frictionless payments, he saw that decentralised cryptocurrency could be the key.
Fixing the ‘broken systems’
Despite streaming services overturning almost everything about how things are done on the consumer side, the architecture for how contracting and royalties are dealt with is still based on the “days of jukeboxes and sheet music”, he told us.
“Even when there are new technologies, we bolt them on to these grandfather systems that are fundamentally broken in the first place. It takes years for artists to get paid, and then the amount is pitifully low. Almost all of the money goes to intermediaries and middle men.
“We’ve lost so many people over the past twenty years – music was one of the first industries to really get disrupted by the internet and we’ve dealt with it really, really badly. TV and film, just because of how much larger those files are, had an extra decade to prepare. Companies need to finish actual things that actual people can use, not just put out a whitepaper and take a load of money for it”.
Touring brings Emery the majority of his income, he admits, but he also realises that a lot of artists don’t want or are unable to travel for up to 200-days a year. Whether it’s those just starting out or people who were pushed out of the industry, this could offer a solution.
It’s this understanding of those who will benefit most from Choon that gives it an edge over competitors, he said, with co-founders and advisors including both blockchain technologists and music professionals such as Grammy-winning DJ André Allen Anjos aka RAC.
Anjos said: “I am in no doubt that Ethereum-powered decentralised applications will fundamentally change the music industry. The ability to try new models such as streaming as mining are baked into the system. The entire record contract can be codified and automatically pay out each participant. In the current system, it can take up to an entire year. It’s 2018, it’s about time the music industry caught up.
“I love all the tech behind it but most people won’t care about the decentralisation and cryptography. Fair reward for artists is what it comes down to, and I think people will be on board with that.”
Artists first, tech second
Emery told CryptoNewsReview: “Most blockchain projects are completely impenetrable for the general public, and it’s cool and people are building protocols, but at some point normal people need to understand this stuff. The thing that blew our minds is how few blockchain projects you can actually use. Companies need to finish actual things that actual people can use, not just put out a whitepaper and take a load of money for it.
“The cool thing about what we doing is, just firstly on a tech basis, there’s nothing that can’t be done right now. We’re not relying on some future implementation of the tech that many never exist. There’s no high cryptography theory going on. It’s all stuff ethereum can handle right now.”
Transparency is the key ambition for Choon, especially because the company is initially relient on artists coming to them for a better financial deal. As such, the service will only accept direct applications from artists, with record labels effectively barred. Independent artists with sizeable followings have reportedly signed up already.
Once artists join the platform, goes the thinking, the fans will follow.
“As long as the problem of the music industry gets solved and money gets paid directly from consumer to artist rather than from consumer to intermediaries taking 95 per cent of the profit, then I’ll be happy,” Emery said. “Whether Choon itself becomes that leading platform, I’m not that bothered about. For me, success is this problem getting solved, not necessarily this problem getting solved by us.”