Embracing New Technology Could Finally Put the Music Industry Back on Track

Regardless of how you feel about the internet now being more of an active part of our daily lives than ever before, there’s no doubt that it has brought upon things we wouldn’t imagine. This immense melting pot of trends, unprecedented real-time interaction and accessibility of information has meant that many things have changed – but also that there’s more inspiration and opportunity than ever before.

In the case of music, the internet has been a double-edged sword. The older ones amongst us can’t forget the Metallica vs Napster case, but music itself has certainly survived. One less-explored way online developments have influenced the music industry has been linked to the cryptocurrency called Bitcoin – and the technology behind it, Blockchain. And it may be the one ingredient that was missing to make the music industry thrive in the 21st century.

Artists vs Labels

CD sales peaked in 1998 and 1999. However, since the 90s, reports of artists being unhappy with their record labels have been getting increasingly common. From Prince to Johnny Cash, not forgetting ‘N Sync and LL Cool J, singers and musicians have been famously unsatisfied with their labels, often resulting in lawsuits. The rise of the internet didn’t help things at all. Although Pink Floyd had been with (now defunct) EMI for more than forty years, the band went to court over their rights to choose whether their tracks should be available for download individually rather than part of an album. For the record, the British progressive rock supergroup lost.

Learning from Others

It’s true that music is one of the very few industries which the internet hasn’t yet helped to propel forward but instead caused problems for. Why that happened is a complicated question, but one thing is for sure: the music industry could learn from the adaptability and inventiveness of other sectors. A case in point is casino gaming, a powerhouse whose rise has been dramatic since the start of the century, resulting in $159.71 billion annual revenue globally. Instead of being suspicious of the digital landscape, some of the savviest casino providers were quick to embrace it and find ways to make it work for their customers.

To make the playing field more balanced, some casino providers decided to trade exclusively in the global currency of Bitcoin, which ensures that players all over the world can bet and win regardless of their local currency. In addition to providing a wide variety of online casino games in Bitcoin, companies such as VegasCasino have invested in state-of-the-art tech by employing live streaming technologies. Click here to see how fast internet connections allow you to connect seamlessly to a live casino table and interact with a real-life dealer to enjoy a game of live blackjack or baccarat. Just one example of the adaptability of an industry resulting in success.

New Payment Models

In terms of total revenue, though, things have started to look up in recent years. As Bloomberg reported recently, online streaming grew to $195 million in the first half of 2016, in what they call “a fragile recovery” of the music industry. User penetration of digital music should be at 43.9% in 2017 and it’s expected to reach 47.2% in 2021, according to a Statista dossier.

Although services like Spotify and Pandora charge clients monthly subscription fees for access to music, Amazon, Beats Music, iTunes, the Play Store and many more also offer the option to buy individual mp3s for small amounts. That’s where experts estimate that the potential of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin can help. Payments in real time at a micro scale are a feature of Bitcoin and constitute an ideal model for buying such tracks.

Hopeful New Start-ups Investing in Blockchain

The reason Bitcoin can exist as a currency is a smartly set up digital ledger that tracks payments and ensures they are unique, non-traceable and can’t be messed with. This ledger is called Blockchain, and in addition to checking Bitcoin records and transactions, it’s able to do much more. Brands such as PeerTrack and PledgeMusic recently hit the news as they promise to leverage Blockchain technology to manage digital music ownership and royalties. Perhaps the most famous example is Imogen Heap’s Mycelia for Music concept. The singer-songwriter released her single “Tiny Human” on Ujo Music through this Blockchain-based model. Although the experiment was far from a clear success, the capacity to purchase individual “stems” of the track – just the drums, or vocals, or string section, among others – is certainly an interesting suggestion for DJs and producers.

Overall, these fairtrade-type initiatives show that the music industry indeed has something to gain from harvesting the power of Blockchain, Bitcoin and new technologies in general. It’s all a matter of finding the right way to do it. The first major player in the famously rigid (at least until recently) music industry who finds the right way to embrace the Bitcoin and Blockchain opportunities is bound to revolutionize music as we know it. One thing is for certain, though, for such a model to be successful, it has to work for all parties: artists, labels and certainly consumers. 

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Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University. I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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