Will Blockchain Technology Give Creators Absolute Freedom?

Will Blockchain Technology Give Creators Absolute Freedom?

If you look at history, you’ll see that most of the characters we look forward to are the ones who changed the rule. From Martin Luther King, who fought for civil rights, to Bob Marley, who conquered the world through his music, these individuals opened minds and changed the world.

Web evolution

  • Web 1.0 = read
  • Web 2.0 = read and write
  • Web3 = Read, Write and Own

I explored the world of music as I felt it was the land of the free. For me, being an artist was the opposite of the world of education which follows structure and is therefore somewhat radical. Working in the industry, I’ve experienced firsthand that this isn’t the case. At 19 I was offered my first record deal, and the highlight of it was a document length full of rules and regulations, which included that the record label had complete control over my image. My initial thought was, “So I don’t control how I look?” As a young man at the beginning of my independence, this was a huge turn that eventually led to the rejection of the deal. I saw the industry in a new light. I realized my favorite musicians all had contracts and were slaves to terms and conditions.

Constant listening to the radio and watching music videos raised multiple questions: “I wonder what deal they’re signed to? What regulations are you subject to? Are they happy?” I remember reading an article about musician Prince, who went so far as to change his name in 1993 just to avoid Warner Bros. retaining his career.

The Prince didn’t stop there: He wrote the word “slave” across his face during performances, showing the world that when he signed the wrong contract that’s exactly who you are. Musicians and labels have ended up in legal battles for a number of reasons, from unpaid royalties to unscrupulous business practices. I watched one of my favorite R&B groups, TLC, go bankrupt while their music made millions. At the same time, I learned that many signed artists end up in record label debt.

More about music and technologyHow NFT Music is changing the recording industry

Social media influence

Then came social media, which has been a great tool for creatives. This seemed like freedom: By 2008, Myspace and Facebook had reached 115 million users. YouTube has taken over video consumption, the industry has gone digital, and we can finally share our content directly to the consumer. Content went viral without being tied into a knot – Artists like Justin Bieber and Soulja Boy rose to fame from simple camcorder videos. For a while, record labels struggled to compete with the emerging trend of independent artists and musicians who didn’t need record deals to become famous.

Many have gone on to sign deals but have been in a much better position by already having a fan base online. Others have remained independent by expanding into commodity and independent tours to fund their careers. A transformation has occurred. Ratings no longer have the power they once had to control creators. With music going digital, labels have also lost their grip on the product. It was a double-edged sword: musicians became viral sensations but their content was being digested for free via online torrents and the ability to download illegally.

After a while, we saw the rise of streaming platforms by the likes of Napster, Apple (which acquired Napster), and Spotify, to name a few, bringing some value back to what had become the free music industry. It wasn’t long before the consumer devalued the idea of ​​it going viral. Attention spans were shortened and after a few days not many people cared if you had a million views. Social media and streaming platforms like YouTube are starting to exploit their positions, making the most money but paying the least as creators are forced into paid ads in order to appear. According to Statista, in 2020 Meta generated 97.9 percent of its income via digital advertising. The introduction of algorithms that affect views has made it difficult for creators who are less engaged than popular artists who share a post at the same time. Ironically, the schedule no longer has anything to do with time.

Behind the scenes, music industry executives like Lyor Cohen have secured influential positions at platforms like YouTube, showing me that social media is slowly becoming what record labels once were by firmly controlling musician success. Spotify has started signing creators exclusively in exchange for access to them. Recently, after signing a two-year deal, Joe Budden mocked Spotify for undervaluing his number one podcast while offering others like Joe Rogan $200 million over three and a half years.

The emergence of Blockchain and non-fungible tokens

As the digital age matured, a decentralized network developed in the background. This became known as blockchain. It started as a revolutionary way to send and receive digital currencies in the form of tokens, while being pioneering bitcoin. For the first time, we didn’t need a centralized entity to make transactions, and we no longer needed permission from a group of individuals to transfer wealth. These transactions were open and transparent and required consensus from random nodes around the world. Anyone can create a node to verify the currency sent from one person to another while earning rewards known as mining.

The transaction lies at the heart of all business, and now that we have the ability to trade without the need for a gatekeeper, disruption has begun. In 2014, Ethereum was launched as the second public blockchain. In addition to what Bitcoin initially offered, Ethereum offered a faster and more advanced network that gave us the ability to build websites and software around the original element of decentralized transactions.

This gave birth to a new generation of music platforms that essentially cut off the middlemen, providing artists with more revenue per stream than traditional Web 2.0 platforms. One of the first to do so was Audius, which provided 90 percent of the income to artists while the remaining 10 percent went to contract operators, without the need for a record label. Finally, the idea of ​​communicating directly with the consumer started to swirl around my hunchbuilder’s mind. Freedom from the point of creation to distribution is now possible.

During 2020, a new trend occurred on the blockchain in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). This was not a new concept as the first NFT was created in 2014 by digital artist Kevin McCoy. It was originally a pixelated image of an appraiser but eventually became a way to digitize assets. Art was the first industry to be disrupted by NFTs. The art industry has faced a number of issues, the first being accessibility as selling artwork has always been a niche market. Proving the authenticity of art can also be expensive, as buyers rely on other entities to verify their legitimacy.

As a programmable asset, artists now have the ability to attach an royalty fee to ensure that the creator receives a percentage each time artwork is sold, in perpetuity.

NFTs are tokens on the blockchain that are not much different from tokens like Bitcoin or Ethereum. The amazing thing about a token on a blockchain is that it cannot be replicated: once copied it becomes a whole new asset. You will never come across a fake bitcoin; All data is open, transparent and recorded. This also applies to NFTs. If an artist minted 100 copies of a painting (like an NFT), there would only be 100 in all. This sparked interest not only from art collectors but art collectors in general. By simply right clicking to save an image, you are not the owner of the asset as you do not own a token, you simply got a JPEG with no value.

By contrast, because NFTs are digital, the world now has access to your art, which opens up the market to buyers from all over the world. As a programmable asset, artists now have the ability to attach an royalty fee to ensure that the creator receives a percentage each time artwork is sold, in perpetuity. This does not apply to traditional art, which has led many artists down the rabbit hole of coding.

New creative ideas

While artists have made millions, other types of creative arts, including the music industry, have eagerly watched from the sidelines. Individuals like me had the idea of ​​coining sound as symbols. Minds are starting to tick: what will this look like for us? In 2020, I sketched several ideas, one of which is fragmented ownership of songs in the form of NFTs. What if fans shared ownership and profits with musicians; Will this stimulate a loss of emotional connection between the musician and the consumer?

With the introduction of reality television and the saturation of available music, I personally felt that musicians were no longer larger than life. The days of a superstar Michael Jackson fan swooning at a concert are few and far between. People enjoyed their favorite music but are no longer deeply attached. In 2021, a platform called Royal, created by DJ 3LAU, accomplished exactly that. Fans can now share ownership with music artists via NFTs. American rapper Nas was one of the first to take advantage of this.

In late 2019, a friend of mine, Greg, taught me about the Internet Computer Protocol (ICP), a new blockchain developed by Chastity Foundation. Although there are other chains in between, ICP is considered the third generation in blockchain development, with Bitcoin and Ethereum being the first and second. In June 2020 I had the pleasure of joining one of DFINITY’s online events. For the first time I experienced what it felt like to be able to store assets 100 percent on-chain.

Although NFTs were previously minted on networks such as Ethereum, the media associated with them were not – they were only linked to previous NFTs via a unified resource identifier. Media was previously stored elsewhere on alternative decentralized storage networks such as the InterPlanetary File System (IPFS) and Filecoin, which exist to store files that cannot be stored on linked blockchains. It currently costs $20,000 to store 500KB on Ethereum. I realized I was now part of a deeper disturbance – building on ICP, we were now working on broken items. What can I do with this technology?

I already had the idea of ​​protecting digital copyrights and intellectual property (IP). Content creators currently store their digital IP on hard drives, computers, and centralized clouds, all of which come with risks of losing access to your content one way or another. If you lose, how will you prove ownership? Storing your files 100 percent on-chain is the perfect solution as there is no risk of hardware corruption, timestamp is transparent, authenticated and stored in the most secure way yet.

This idea gave birth to what was to become canistor, which is a social media platform with a licensing protocol at the core. Canistore allows creators to upload, generate, license, and store content directly on the blockchain, while boasting the usual functionality and sharing of familiar Web 2.0 platforms like Instagram, Spotify, and Facebook. ICP opened my eyes to the most disruptive aspect: judgment. Platforms like Canistore are now community owned and community run.

Further reading in music and technologyBlockchain in Music: 17 Examples Reshaping the Changing Industry

And now, Web3

Token holders now have similar voting power to equity shares. Users in general have a say in decisions made about the future of the platform. The days of Web 2.0 platforms like YouTube making decisions without the community are coming to an end. We are in the world of techno-democracy. You will no longer receive an update on your app that has not been requested by the community. We build apps and services for the community and community. Web 3 is the future and it is already changing how we interact and digest content; If you are a content creator, I urge you to explore.

The days of Web 2.0 platforms like YouTube making decisions without the community are coming to an end.

I’d like to share with you a breakdown of the evolution of the web as first explained to me by a good friend and code specialist, Mo Ezeldin. Web 1.0 = read. Web 2.0 = read and write. Web3 (blockchain) = read, write and own. In true blockchain fashion, I am available and currently building with the community. Feel free to contact me for a chat about anything from blockchain to music. Don’t be shy, I don’t always bite.

Excerpted with permission from Secrets of the success of the unemployedEdited by Mindy Gibbins-Klein. First published in Great Britain in 2022 by Panoma Press Ltd.

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