For years we’ve accepted taking a reactionary response to technology and disruption in the music business. I see this all the time across many industries & I’m always forced to ask if there is there a better way? Historically it seems that disruption in the music industry has not been in the artists or songwriters favor. From the early days of Napster to the present, all of the ‘disruption’ has been focused on distribution and aggregation of music. The unintended consequences of all of this have been the constant devaluation of music. As a community I’m disappointed. Disappointed in the responses to each denigration of value, each massive (platform) copyright infringement and more to the point, disappointed in our focus on the present and the future.
Let’s go back and start at the beginning. Technology will continue to develop, creating new challenges and opportunities. I’ve worked in the Silicon Valley and have witnessed emerging, disruptive technology at it’s infancy. I’ve listened to people explaining how streaming was the future long before streaming existed. Everyone knew the concept of the cloud before there was the cloud. The issue these days is who exactly is seizing these opportunities and what their intentions are. I’ve watched tech company after tech company enter the music space with absolutely no knowledge or concern for how artists are compensated or sustained. They position themselves as advocates trying to help artists and fans get closer. Let us be honest & admit that tech is about market share, subscribers, and user data.
But I digress. This is not another post complaining about change in our industry or technology. This post is a call to action. Why, as a community, do we not do more to prop up and support those that are developing disruptive technology that might work in our favor? I get it, change is scary, but it’s also inevitable. It’s happening at a rapid pace on every level of this industry. Royalty rates, artists that refuse to sign with a major but achieve major success, the list goes on.
Most people know about the notorious misses by the industry. If you don’t, the mp3 format is the best example. This was pitched to every label and passed on. The term didn’t exist then but in today’s vernacular it would have been viewed as “vaporware”. Really?! How’d that work out for you? Which brings us to 2016, blockchain and bitcoin.
Bitcoins relevance to this is really only the proof of concept. When bitcoin came out everyone tried to do what we always do and pretend it wasn’t a real thing or that it wouldn’t last. Well, it’s lasted, and thrived, and gave way to an entire new ecosystem of entrepreneurs, businesses, and services. It’s here to stay! So why is it that we as a community continue to ignore what that could mean for us. There are theories, concepts and companies like Tao, Ethcore and IPFS out there right now that utilize blockchain technology in innovative new ways and could legitimately bring some semblance of balance and stability to all of this madness. They could virtually eliminate piracy and allow creators, publishers, and labels to retain more control and protection over their assets and intellectual property in the technology space. But it’s new, it’s a different platform. It’s uncharted territory so we remain resistant having learned nothing from the last 30 years.
Let’s be open minded, look to the future, and stop trying to put a band-aid on the gaping wound that is the current state of things.