Bjork: the new kid on the blockchain
Written by Samuel O'Toole on 08 November 2017« Return to Reading Room
The Icelandic singer, songwriter and DJ, Bjork, is very well known for being a “restlessly experimental creative force” and is releasing her new album, Utopia, on the blockchain. She has announced that the latest album will only be available for purchase by way of cryptocurrencies.
Blockchain, at its core, is a decentralised distributed ledger that registers and validates transactions without the need for a central authority. Further, the information that is stored on the blockchain is virtually tamperproof because of cryptographic hashes. This all means that two parties are able to exchange currency, data, or almost anything else in a secure way.
Bjork has teamed up with British start-up Blockpool to put blockchain on the centre stage for the new release. Fans will need Bitcoin, Litecoin, DASH, or AudioCoin if they wish to purchase the album. In fact, it will not be possible to purchase the album with usual currency. Further, whilst fans will need cryptocurrencies to purchase the album, they will also receive cryptocurrency for doing so. Fans of Bjork will be given 100 Audicoins, a cryptocurrency designed for the music industry and currently worth around $0.19 each, when they purchase the album.
Fans will also have the chance to earn more Audiocoins and other “crypto rewards” by attending Bjork concerts and interacting with her online.
Kevin Bacon of Blockpool has explained that: "This really isn’t a marketing strategy with Björk. This is a decision to be a leader. In fact, it’s just the obvious thing to do for her. If I wasn’t involved in this project, I’d expect Björk to be a leader in this area, and for her team to be doing creative things with crypto.”
But this isn’t the first time that blockchain and cryptocurrencies have featured in the music industry. In February last year British pop artist, Imogen Heap, announced that she was working on a decentralized music distribution service that would run on the blockchain and would be linked to Ether, a upcoming cryptocurrency.
Imogen Heap’s single “Tiny Human”, was available for purchase with Ether. The singer has a plan to develop a more fair way for artists rights to be distributed and ensure that payments for sales of copyrighted content was also kept fair for the artists.
The British singer explained that: “When someone buys a piece of music or plays a piece of music, ultimately in the future there will be no need for a middle, centralized service. The fan will be immediately paying the artist”
Imogen Heap’s plan revolved around smart contracts, these are contracts that work on rules written into code on the blockchain. This allows for the code to determine what happens with the money received on specified events. For example, a non-commercial stream may generate £1 and this would go straight to the artist, but if an individual wished to use the track in a commercial record the smart contract may allow for the individual to be given 50% of the rights in the recording in consideration for the payment of £x.
It is easy to form the opinion that many artists and content creators are not fond of middle-men, such as streaming platforms, making vast sums off the back of their work. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies no doubt have the power to revolutionise the way that music is distributed and artists remunerated.
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