Blockchain could have huge ramifications for both the music and film industries across the globe.
The concept of the starving artist is about to change bigly – at least, in the film and entertainment world.
Take Joel “DJ Deadly Buda” Bevacqua, for instance. About 20 years ago, the rave DJ and graffiti artist recorded his music on CDs and other physical formats and got some money. In the 2000s, streaming platforms like SoundCloud, Spotify, Mixcloud, and Pandora emerged touting their distribution services. These work on a peer-to-peer sharing (p2p) network where files of one computer are open to others on that network so that users of that network can easily get any file they want. In the process, entertainers lose their copyright, IP, and royalties, while legal disputes show movies losing money. Batman Dark Knight producers Michael Uslan and Ben Melinker were paid, in an out-of-court settlement, “two popcorns & two cokes” despite the franchise grossing over $2 billion.
According to a white paper on the 21 Million Project written by Ayton, 15 actors sued New Line claiming they were never paid their 5% of the revenue, while the Tolkien estate insisted they were owed 7.5% of gross receipts from the smash Lord of the Rings movies. That’s without middlemen grabbing their piece of the pizza, too. (For instance, the blockbuster 1983 film Return of the Jedi never made a profit, despite earning $475 million at the box-office against a budget of $32.5 million. All proceeds from its revenue went to its distributors).
Blockchain works on a p2p chain, too. The difference with blockchain is that details like ownership, names of artist and producers, as well the timestamp of the product and its geolocation are embedded in the smart contract that details your digital distribution terms. So, every time someone plays your music or downloads your video, you, the legal owner, get some money. These smart contracts are also immutable, meaning no one can alter them without your permission, pirate your invention, monopolize your creation, or shortchange your terms. The fat cats keep their paws from your productions. (In fact, the metadata also halts piracy since it tells you if someone is distributing your film without your permission).
Here’s Bevacqua‘s story, as told to the online newspaper, LA Weekly.
Last year, the musician uploaded his “Speaker Creature” to the Musicoin system and in four months earned 137 Musicoins – a total of $5.48, after he converted them to Bitcoins and then to cash.
“For comparison’s sake, I looked at my mainstream streaming reports (from Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc.) for “Speaker Creature” from [that period] January to April 2017. From a measly 22 streams and downloads, I made a total of $0.83 from the big services.”
In other words, “DJ Deadly Buda” was getting four cents from Musicoin to half a cent per stream from the big platforms.
Blockchain, also, helps you, the copyright owner, program your designs, so that anyone involved in the creation of the work – like singer, guitarist, bassist, drummer, manager, and distributors – gets paid, too, according to the percentages embedded in the contract.
Strangely enough, about 30 years before the advent of Bitcoin, Alvin Toffler predicted the “end of money“ in The Third Wave. He also spoke about the rise of “prosumerism,” where the producer and the consumer are the same and where political and economic structures are significantly altered by the impact of new technology. This technology, he wrote, would be produced by a more open, democratic, decentralized style which he called “anticipatory democracy”.
This brings up another aspect of the blockchain’s relation to the entertainment industry.
A few months ago, someone pseudonymously called “Freedom Streaming” (F.S.) turned to me for a white paper for his ICO. As he described it:
The problem today is that live streaming services and social media sites are becoming more censored and strict by the day. They limit your freedom of speech and action and fall prey to information leaks and privacy violations. Government entities subpoena email providers, social media accounts, and streaming services to obtain your personal data. In addition, your data stored on these sites are also susceptible to hackers and data extraction.
What blockchain gave “Freedom Streaming”, and, in turn, his users, is “a full live streaming platform that allows you to stream from anywhere in the world, uncensored, safe, and anonymous”. It can do so because, unlike competitive online models, the blockchain is decentralized, meaning under no central authority, and so F.S. gives his streamers anonymity. In this way, streamers all over the world can “reach an international audience, build a community, and promote their cause, without fear of being punished by their governments or harmed.”
In short, blockchain allows you to spread your wings and become more of the untrammeled artist you’re born to be. It does so by giving you the money you rightly deserve and by removing impediments that block your creativity. You no longer need to live out of your trailer and subsist on someone’s leftovers. You can actually charge your own price and receive it as well.
Of course, these decentralized services for entertainers (see examples in the Resources following this article) with their meager spate of participants are still way off from disrupting centralized platforms with their millions of users. But every revolution has to start somewhere and the blockchain’s potential for the way music and movies are produced, distributed, and consumed is clearly there.
As Bevacqua writes: “Various independent groups and organizations are trying to solve this problem [of making more money from the digital distributions of their work], as well as the music industry itself. Most have come up with the same basic solution: The blockchain”.
The Open Music Initiative. “We are creating an open-source protocol for the uniform identification of music rights holders and creators.”
The 21 Million Project. “Decentralised film production is an entirely new concept, and 21 Million will be the first show in the world to be made this way.”
The Dot Blockchain Media. “DotC is a new dynamic file format… designed to modernize rights management of media files globally for all participants.”