Report Suggests Bitcoin Could Be the Way to Fairer Music Industry Payments
Major labels and streaming services are easy targets when it comes to zeroing in on why, exactly, payments can be so dismal for artists and creators in today's shifting music industry. But the truth, as with anything, is more complicated.
A report published by the Berklee School of Music and commissioned by Kobalt, an independent publishing company that aims to revolutionize the music industry by simplifying it, worked to untangle the mess. They also endorsed a solution for getting fairer payments: Bitcoin, the international digital currency.
The complicated nature of music industry payments -- the middlemen that stand between the makers and the money, outdated methods of calculating and delivering royalties, the secrecy of record label contracts with streaming services -- is the chief reason for low payouts, the report finds. Artists don't know how much they should be getting paid, or where the money is going.
“Unfortunately, the adage ‘follow the money' leads only to a dense thicket of micropayments and ‘black boxes’ where relationships among rights, royalties, processes, and participants, in the eyes of many, are deliberately obscured or, at best, have become hopelessly complex and outdated,” the researchers wrote, according to Bloomberg.
Bitcoin -- which relies on technology called blockchain -- works as a potential solution to the dilemma because it keeps a public accounting of all transactions -- meaning all parties are privy to info on where the money is going, and how much is getting paid out.
The report is essentially cosigning an idea first proposed by D.A. Wallach, an investor and Spotify's artist-in-residence, who published an essay called Bitcoin for Rockstars last December.
A few startups are taking on the work of developing blockchain-based technology for the music industry, but the process, Wallach and others say, is likely to be an arduous, years-long endeavor. In the meantime, as conflicts between artists and easy targets continue to make headlines, the truth, it turns out, is vastly more complicated.