The music business is plagued by paradox. Quick to change in the face of new media and tech, the industry is tough to crack in terms of power structures. Even in a digital age, there are critical imbalances at hand. It’s easy to see why disruption is a priority for so many innovators working in this space – and why it lends itself so well to attempts at upheaval.
Web3 and Music: What’s Good
But not everything needs to be disrupted. Digital music is on the right track in many ways. A question worth asking: what is worth keeping as we push the industry forward?
Quantity. Between major players like Soundcloud, Spotify, Apple Music and a whole world of indie platforms, there’s a practically endless supply of music available to casual listeners and deep divers alike. On Spotify alone, available data suggests that as many as 60,000 new tracks are uploaded each day.
Quality. No longer is the major label studio the only chance for decent sound. Today, everyone from DIY home producers up to big stars can get a hold of the right sonic tools to make good music, and it sounds great streaming through your AirPods. At this point, there’s hardly any perceptible difference between listening online and listening to a piece of physical musical media for most listeners.
Accessibility. Reliable internet access is certainly not universal, but it’s a much lower barrier to enjoyment than constantly having to buy new gadgets. Today, a decent connection means access to almost anything in recorded music history, and unlimited, ad-free listening is available for a monthly cost equivalent to that of a single CD – and maybe even less.
What Needs to Improve
For all the doors streaming music has opened, though, there’s still plenty of room for much-needed growth and change, especially around a few key pain points:
Ownership. Most creators do not own all the rights to their creations. The revenue from streaming this music does not benefit the creators, reinforcing the unfair power structures that have long been part of the recording business. How do we rectify this imbalance and give credit where credit is truly due?
Costly intermediaries. Hand in hand with that issue is the average 30% cut that the streaming services take. We’ve come to accept that as an industry norm. It’s time to ask why and how we can upend that model.
Experience. The question of how to curate a digital musical event as enjoyable and inviting as a live, in-person concert or festival remains largely unanswered. Livestreams are often relegated to background noise. How can artists truly put on a show that will engage with and immerse audiences as events in general continue to move to virtual platforms?
Each of these issues represents an opportunity for intervention that Web3 communities are prepared to offer. By taking the strengths of digital music and online decentralization and applying them to industry needs, Web3 platforms have the potential to disrupt what needs to be disrupted without throwing out music’s successes.
Web3 and Music Ownership
The most obvious starting point for web3 is tackling the ownership opportunity/challenge. Music ownership platforms based on web3 have the power to leverage what blockchain does best: granting ownership on the internet. Enabling more people to participate in music rights has a number of advantages:
Diversification. Allowing the average music lover to invest in music rights would mean decentering the whole industry, taking power from corporate hegemony and giving it to the people who actually love and value this music. By allowing those who consume music to benefit from its popularity, Web3 platforms can engage their audiences on deeper levels than ever before in the history of the recording industry.
Equity. Artists and creators will be able to fund their music directly through these platforms rather than dealing with business models that undervalue their work and send the benefit to outside investors. Web3 models have the power to break the cycle of exploitation so rampant in the music business and let artists understand the true value of their rights as workers.
Web3 and Music: The Future
Ultimately, decentralized platforms allow digital music to keep what it does best, letting artists keep ownership of and benefit from their own work while fans have the freedom to join in and truly help shape the market based on what they want to hear, rather than what middlemen tell them they like. By tapping into Web3 models, music tech companies can move the needle on long-held problems within the industry while sticking to the strengths already in place, a perfect match.
I love seeing the creativity and projects popping up in the music NFT space (and if you have a project you’re working on, get in touch). The projects I get the most excited about are the ones that try to fix what is broken. We can use the powers of web3 to solve problems like ownership, as well problems with legacy systems we have yet to see.
About the Author
Michel D. Traore is co-founder and CEO of anotherblock, a community of music lovers building music rights catalogs. Michel, along with entrepreneurs Sebastian Ljungberg and Filip Strömsten, founded the company in 2021 upon the idea that accessing music rights should be easy and democratic. By connecting music rights to NFTs, anotherblock creates a smooth and easy way to both buy and sell music rights. It is a community of music lovers building music rights catalogs together with artists. The company’s founders created anotherblock to increase the value of music by introducing it to a free and open market. This will solve the institutionalized imbalance of power within the industry.